16 July 2008

Conference Highlights
Michael Spies, Arms Control Reporter and Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will

Procedural matters

Reacting to a procedural point raised by Iran during the fourth meeting, the Chair explained that all draft language for the outcome document is open to ongoing negotiations and consultations but that the short time-frame of the BMS does not allow for a complete negotiation of the text. He encouraged states to cooperate actively with the facilitators to ensure their interests are addressed in the draft language.

The Chair released his draft language on “The way forward” on stockpile management and surplus disposal.

Highlights from the thematic discussion on other issues and identification of priority issues or topics

Stockpile management and surplus destruction

Ghana argued that police and security sector stockpiles are often more insecure than military stockpiles and require increased attention when implementing the PoA.

Illicit brokering

- South Africa said that while the principle of an international instrument on illicit brokering is good, it is a very grey and vague area and would therefore be very difficult to develop.

Connections with development and human security 

- Ghana argued that the PoA is an instrument to promote human security and development.

- South Africa said that SALW is a cross-cutting issue that has an impact on stability and security but does not have a direct link to development and so, there should be no conditions on international assistance regarding links between implementing the PoA and development.

Responding to South Africa, Jamaica argued that the issue of SALW is intertwined with human security, human rights, and development.

Responding to Jamaica, South Africa clarified that SALW is a development issue but that it isn't only a development issue and therefore donor countries should not be allowed to make their financial support for PoA implementation measures conditional on the simultaneous and integrated implementation of development programmes.

Role of civil society and international organizations

- Iceland emphasized the valuable role of civil society and research institutions in helping states implement the PoA
- Ghana agreed that civil society members are valuable partners in combating the illicit trade in SALW, especially at the community level.
- Norway, New Zealand, and Canada all expressed support for the broader inclusion of civil society in the small arms process.
- Pakistan said that while it does not object to civil society participation, there needs to be a distinction between member states and civil society organizations.
- Jamaica said civil society is extremely valuable in combating the illicit trade of SALW, especially where the issue intersects with development issues, as civil society members work closely with communities where the effects of illicit trade are felt.

- Iceland emphasized the need for member states to include gender considerations in their work on implementing the PoA.

National reporting
- France suggested that member states adopt provisions or a template for national reports, available in electronic form for easier consultation.
- New Zealand agreed a template would help smooth the reporting process and help relieve the burden on states with limited capacity.
- Pakistan said that while it is important to convey assistance needs through reports, reporting should not be made overly important, given capacity considerations of different states. Instead, the option of seeking assistance should remain open on an ongoing basis, which is where UNODA assumes the most importance, to connect states and donors.

Working Group on the BMS: “Geneva Process on Small Arms”
- Australia gave briefing on the “Geneva Process on Small Arms,” which is an initiative of the Geneva Forum that involves governments, international organizations, and NGOs in regular informal consultations to promote and monitor implementation of the PoA. The working group prepared a food-for-thought paper on how to strengthen the PoA beyond 2008, to refine the process for implementation of the PoA. The paper contains six options for strengthening the BMS process:
Item 1: Setting future dates and future themes, which can focus discussions; each BMS should also retain one open and flexible session to allow exchange of views on emerging issues
Item 2: Intersessional global or regional meetings of experts
Items 3–6: cover cost-effective ways to improve the BMS process, such as national reporting and increased civil society involvement.

Japan expressed support for the first two points of the working paper and said the next omnibus resolution in the UNGA (which Japan co-sponsors with Colombia and South Africa) will try to establish the date for the next Review Conference.

Pakistan said the working paper did indicate any central coordination body and suggested that drafting states specify that it would be done by UNODA.

Colombia welcomed the paper.

South Africa questioned whether the intersessional meetings recommended in the working paper would be UN mandated or mandated by the members of the Geneva Process, pointing out that if they are to be mandated by the UN they should be included in the omnibums UNGA resolution on SALW tabled each year by South Africa, Colombia, and Japan.

South Africa also pointed out some logistical problems with setting the dates and themes early for the next BMS, pointing out that the Chair would have to be appointed well in advance in order to create the themes in advance and that setting the dates for a UN conference is up to the Secretariat.

New Zealand supported the idea of having focused themes for each BMS but wants states to be able to raise issues of importance to them.

The Philippines expressed support for the paper, especially on its points regarding experts meetings and implementation challenges.

Mali echoed the Philippine’s support for experts meetings between the biennial meetings of states. Mali also called for a PoA review conference in 2011 as well as for work to continue within the UN General Assembly.

The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs indicated that if it where asked to convene intersessional meetings on SALW there will be budgetary considerations but that the issue could be discussed further at the upcoming UNGA First Committee. Regarding regional or subregional meetings, ODA emphasized the regions must ask for such meetings themselves. Regarding the early appointment of a chair for the next BMS, ODA indicated this would be feasible and could start to be organized at the First Committee.

Other issues
- Iceland expressed hope that necessary elements on small arms can be included in an Arms Trade Treaty
- CARICOM emphasized the need for a holistic approach to implementing the PoA, saying that any discussion on illicit trade must include all its aspects. CARICOM also argued that there are limits to regional cooperation and that states need an international effort centered in the United Nations in order to make their work most effective.
- Mexico said states to need to strengthen their assistance to victims of gun violence.
- MERCOSUR said the PoA should include ammunition and explosives.
- Russia indicated a number of measures it is interested in, including:
- Terminating completely the practice of SALW manufacturing under expired foreign licenses or without a lcense from the original producer;
- Strengthening controls over the re-export of SALW;
- Denying supply of MANPADs and other types of SALW to non-state actors;
- Tightening control over MANPADs in the context of combating international terrorism; and
- Introducing tough state regulation of brokering activities related to trade in SALW, including a possible limitation of the number of such brokers.
- Canada gave a brief report of the meeting in Geneva in August 2007 on controls on international transfers of SALW, which Canada believes offered a valuable opportunity for sustained and in-depth focus on one aspect of the PoA. It also helped raise awareness about best practices and challenges.

Canada highlighted additional priorities it is interested in, including:

  • Special needs of children;
  • Factors that lead to increase demand of SALW;
  • Maximizing the value of the BMS process by establishing a forward-looking framework, including setting dates and themes as early as possible; and
  • Encouraging regional meetings to maintain momentum and serve as catalyst for implementation.

Iran encouraged the promotion of a culture of peace to counter the culture of hegemony and dominance.

Iran also said the PoA should be approached from both supply and demand aspects and that root causes of demand must be addressed.

Congo emphasized the importance of the security of borders to prevent the illicit trade of SALW and called for financial assistance for this issue.

India said the PoA must include ammunition at some stage.

Colombia outlined three priority issues, including:

  • Transfer of SALW to non-state actors;
  • Implementation of a follow-up mechanism; and
  • Convening a review conference in 2011.

ECOWAS expressed unreserved support for the establishment of instruments related to the regulation of the arms trade.

Highlights from the presentations by international organizations

Regional organizations

A number of regional organizations reported on the nature of SALW-related problems in their respective regions and on the progress of programs undertaken to combat illicit trade in SALW, including the League of Arab States; the African Union; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; the Organization of American States; Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe; the Regional Centre on SALW in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa, and Bordering States; the East African Community; the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region; and the Central American Integration System.

International organizations

Interpol reported on its development of information tools and database, information collection sharing, and expertise sharing, related to combating illicit brokering in small arms.

The World Health Organization urged governments to move beyond consideration of the supply dimensions of SALW and to focus on prevention of armed conflict through available conventional policy tools.

Highlights from the presentations by non-governmental organizations

Former child soldier Emmanuel Jal from the Sudan rapped a song, "Forced to Sing," which told his tragic story.

Representatives from a number of NGOs spoke to argue that the legal possession and use of guns by citizens should be respected by any international action combating their illicit trade, including the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities; the National Firearms Association (Canada); the British Shooting Sports Council, who argued, “the British are very good at shooting;” the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action; the Firearms Importers Roundtable; the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia; and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturing Institute.

Presentations from the International Action Network on Small Arms were delayed until tomorrow morning.

Side Events
International Small Arms Control Standards
Ginny Schneider, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Representatives from Coordinating Action on Small Arms Mechanism (CASA) gave a brief overview of implementation tools they are developing. This week, they kicked off www.poa-iss.org, which is a one-stop shop on the PoA. The PoA-ISS provides an online small arms network for all PoA stakeholders, country profiles, and information on national legislation.UNIDIR is also designing a web-based program to match country needs with resources available from donor countries.  It allows countries to enter data on the assistance they require and donor states to enter the assistance they provide.  It is due out in a couple of months and will be accessible through CASA's website.

Patrick McCarthy of the Geneva Forum is the new coordinator of the International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS), which is similar in form to the International DDR Standards. ISACS will be developed in modules, which will be released as they are completed.  There is a consultation process associated with ISACS, which will reflect best practices and lessons learned. The hope is to complete ISACS by the 2010.

In addition, UNDP issued two reports: one on SALW legislation and the other on national commissions. UNODC is working on model regulations.

Other News

Global SALW Negotiations Study
Ginny Schneider, Master's candidate at California State University in the Negotiations, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding Department, is completing her thesis research on global SALW negotiations. Due to funding and thesis deadline requirements, the study is not comprehensive. Despite these limitations, the study summarizes basic negotiation and conflict resolution (NCR) theory and strategies. These are juxtaposed with negotiation practices that have or have not occurred during global SALW negotiations since 2001. Schneider has read peer-reviewed literature and some other materials in addition to conducting interviews with a number of participants in the negotiations during this time period. She provides analysis of NCR practices used and absent from the negotiations as well as suggestions for approaches to the global SALW negotiation process.

International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) Women’s Network
Domestic violence and firearms possession is the focus of the IANSA Women's Network at the BMS. The Women's Network has developed a position paper that is being used to raise awareness about domestic violence and firearms possession and about laws and policies that separate perpetrators from guns. IANSA women are also developing a Clothesline Exhibition—a visual display of clothing with messages or illustrations that represent women affected by gun violence. The clothes will form a mobile exhibition as testimony to the problem of gun violence against women.