On 25 October 2018, the Regional Disarmament Branch (RDB) of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) held a side event on strengthening the role of the United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament within the framework of the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, “Securing Our Common Future”. The panel featured Ms. Mary Soliman, Chief of RDB; Dr. Nancy Robinson, Director of the UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC); Mr. Anselme Yabouri, Director of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC); and Mr. Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD). The discussion was moderated by Mr. Tsutomu Kono, RDB Senior Political Affairs Officer.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Soliman noted the Disarmament Agenda’s emphasis on partnerships as a means to promote multi-dimensional approaches to disarmament, share expertise and directly tailor support to the needs and requirements of the Member States.
Following this, Mr. Yabouri explained the post-Cold War shift in African conflicts, which were previously predominantly State-driven but which are now increasingly driven by non-State actors, such as armed groups and criminal networks, and fuelled by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW). As a result, terrorist activity has gradually spread southwards from the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea, contributing to the number of internally displaced persons, refugees and migrants who are easy targets for recruitment by armed non-State actors. In this context, UNREC has aimed to address how the illicit SALW trade exacerbates issues in other areas, facilitating conflict and making certain groups, such as youth and women, especially vulnerable to armed groups. The Centre’s activities in this area include legal and technical assistance, institutional support, and cooperation with both the UN system and external partners. In a changing world, business as usual cannot continue, something that the Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda is intended to address, Mr. Yabouri said. In view of this Agenda, he pledged to enhance coordination with the African Union and subregional organizations on practical measures for SALW control, tracking, tracing and destruction.
After this, Dr. Robinson outlined the three thematic areas of UNLIREC’s support to Member States: the agenda for Women, Peace and Security; the issue of firearms in academic settings; and firearms marking projects. Gender mainstreaming is essential to tackling a culture of impunity, she said, noting that up to 90 per cent of femicides in the region go unprosecuted. UNLIREC supports mainstreaming in part through cross-referencing legislation on SALW and domestic violence; issuing its “Forces of Change” publications to highlight the role of women in peace and security as agents, not just victims; and supporting the use of gender-disaggregated data to enable policymakers to generate best practices. Gender perspectives similarly inform UNLIREC’s approach to firearms in schools; the Centre accounts for how these weapons deter girls from accessing education and for their disproportionate impact on women as teachers. Finally, UNLIREC provides technical assistance and training to Member States for adopting tracing technology that helps them counter the illicit SALW trade. She noted that UNLIREC has adapted its practices to meet the needs of Member States, implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and adopt a specifically Latin American approach to subregional partnerships.
Finally, Mr. Kryvonos addressed the need for practical assistance bringing tangible results for regional Member States. He spoke across the breadth of disarmament activities undertaken by UNRCPD in the areas of weapons of mass destruction; gender and SALW trafficking; and the agenda for Youth, Peace and Security. He noted UNRCPD’s role in the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) to prevent the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons to non-State actors, such as terrorists, especially in Central and South-East Asia. Like Dr. Robinson, he noted the importance of implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda by explicitly addressing linkages between gender and SALW. In addition, he noted that UNRCPD enhances coordination between Member States to tackle SALW trafficking in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda, including by supporting the implementation of international treaties and legal instruments, such as the Arms Trade Treaty, to help curb SALW trafficking and gun violence. He added that UNRCPD has supported the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, seeking both to enlist young people as allies in maintaining peace and security and to promote an active role for civil society in peace, disarmament and sustainable development.
At the conclusion of the presentations, the floor was opened to questions and statements. Mr. Dilip Kumar Paudel, Under Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, delivered a statement expressing his gratitude to UNRCPD and its donors and highlighting the Centre’s work in promoting the importance of youth, gender and education issues in disarmament. He further affirmed that Nepal, which hosts UNRCPD’s main office, has a special commitment to the United Nations as a partner to support peace. A representative from the Permanent Mission of Jamaica expressed her gratitude to UNLIREC for its wide range of activities in supporting Member States in the region, and she discussed aspects of the Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda pertaining to data collection and research in the context of Jamaica’s transition towards evidence-based policy. A representative from the Permanent Mission of Trinidad and Tobago then expressed her gratitude to UNLIREC for its past support; expressed backing for future collaboration to implement international instruments; and welcomed the Disarmament Agenda’s acknowledgement of the relationship between disarmament and development.
Drafted by Mark Duncan