On 24 October 2019, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations hosted a side event to mark the launch of Saving Lives Entity (SALIENT). This new facility, established within the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, will serve as a comprehensive, cross‑sectional and multi‑year approach to addressing the challenge of illicit small arms and armed violence in most-affected countries. Japan and New Zealand have stepped in as two early contributors to the SALIENT fund.
The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, was joined by Assistant-Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Crisis Bureau, Ms. Asako Okai, Ambassador Ibrahim Toure of Côte d’Ivoire and Deputy Permanent Representative of Jamaica Ms. Diedre Mills. Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Japan, Mr. Koro Bessho, gave opening remarks.
Ambassador Bessho began the discussion by emphasizing the need for the international community to take dramatic action to reduce the illicit use of small arms and light weapons (SALW), and underlined the high priority that Japan places on addressing the SALW issue, particularly in post-conflict environments. As such, Japan has committed $2 Million in funding towards SALIENT, he announced.
High Representative Nakamitsu referenced the high priority the Secretary-General places on transitioning away from traditional “siloed” measures for small-arms control, and the importance of moving towards multidimensional approaches. She reiterated that Member States’ have previously called for a more integrated and coordinated programmatic approach to tackling the SALW issue, with interventions at scale, and that the SALIENT fund represents “an answer to this call.” Emphasizing the heavily gendered nature of the causes and impact of armed violence, the High Representative stressed that SALIENT’s activities will be supported and informed by solid gender analyses.
Assistant-Secretary-General Okai stressed the indispensable role that communities must play in developing program activities and solutions that contribute to their own safety. This, combined with evidence-based programming and inclusive and gender-sensitive approaches, will serve as core pillars for UNDP’s operations in relation to SALIENT. “National policy only matters in as much as it meets people’s needs”, Ms. Okai emphasized.
Ambassador Toure referenced the political and social crisis in Côte d’ Ivoire from 2002-2011, recalling the difficulties in controlling the flow of illicit small arms across the borders and noting that national efforts cannot be effective absent coordinated international efforts and actions. In this way, he sees SALIENT as a step in the right direction – one that brings together ongoing national conversations on SALW control, and links different national approaches.
Deputy Permanent Representative Mills of Jamaica brought attention to the lived reality for many citizens of Jamaica, with a homicide rate of 47 per 100,000 individuals. “We are not at war, nor do we have a history of civil war or armed conflict, but there is a feeling of being at war due to the proliferation of SALW”, she stressed. Ms. Mills noted that SALIENT is providing a tremendous platform for coordinated support, by addressing the issue at the cross section of disarmament and development.
In concluding remarks, Ambassador Toure emphasized the need for SALIENT to empower youth, in the area of job-creation in particular, to ensure they do not fall victim to armed groups or radicalization. Ms. Mills reiterated the importance of continued partnership, coordination and international support in order to ensure the success of SALIENT. Ambassador Bessho concluded the event by underlining the value of this side event – noting that conversations such as this serve to bring the meaningfulness of programmatic initiatives to life.
Text prepared by Tanvir Deol