How can disarmament contribute to saving lives? What are innovative solutions to break the cycle of armed violence? How does disarmament contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals?
These questions, and many more, were addressed during the #Youth4Disarmament event that took place at UN Headquarters on 26 November. Youth advocates engaged with officials from the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and civil society representatives on a range of disarmament related-topics, with a focus on the impact of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) and the proliferation of conventional weapons.
These weapons are “everyday tools of violence”, said Ivor Fung, Deputy Chief of UNODA’s Conventional Arms Branch. Describing the far-reaching impacts of armed violence on peace, security and development, he pointed to the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament that includes concrete ways for States to take action to stem the illicit circulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition.
Speaking on the issue of prevention of armed violence, Ms. Fiona Simpson, Political Affairs Officer in UNODA’s Conventional Arms Branch, said that greater social inclusion, especially with respect to youth and women, and local-level efforts and reforms, are needed. She highlighted the connection between disarmament and development, making the case for strengthening the integration of disarmament and development projects to tackle the issue of illicit SALW. The recently launched Saving Lives Entity (SALIENT), she mentioned, aims to meet this goal.
Mr. Martin Nihlgård, Secretary General of Swedish NGO Individuell Människohjälp (IM) introduced a tangible and creative ways to tackle the issue of illicit SALW, promote social inclusion and contribute to sustainable development. He talked about his organization’s Humanium Metal project, a supply chain that distributes metal from destroyed firearms, making it available for commercial production. The products made with Humanium Metal by IM create new sources of funding for victims and projects aiming to rebuild conflict-torn societies, thereby contributing to Sustainable Development Goals 16 and 17.
Ms. Jacqueline Duerre, Programme Manager at IM, addressed the connection between violence prevention and youth development and empowerment. Ms. Shivani Somaiya, youth representative at the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), echoed the need to empower youth in conflict-affected countries. Local activists, she said, are crucial in efforts aimed at reducing occurrences of unpredictable violence between and within communities.
Following the event, youth representatives were amongst the first to see the new Humanium Metal display (consisting of a watch, bracelet and an ingot) during a special inauguration ceremony to welcome the addition of Humanium Metal products to the UN Permanent Disarmament Exhibition at UNHQ.
Text and pictures by Martin Desbiolles