Statement delivered by Ms. Véronique Christory, Senior Arms Control Adviser for the ICRC Delegation to the UN, during the Seventh Biennial Meeting of States to consider the implementation of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
Thank you, President.
In many contexts where the International Committee of the Red Cross works, our delegates witness first-hand the grave human suffering caused by the widespread availability of arms and ammunition. Poorly regulated or inadequately controlled arms flows can lead to grim humanitarian consequences and violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, among them the loss of life, injury, mental suffering, including from sexual and gender-based violence, as well as attacks on or interference with medical and humanitarian services, population displacements, and impediments to life-saving assistance.
The ICRC welcomes this meeting’s focus on preventing and combatting the diversion and the illicit international transfer of small arms and light weapons to unauthorized recipients. Diversion to unauthorized end-uses and end-users can have serious adverse humanitarian consequences and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Over two decades, a solid foundation of rules and commitments has been laid. The PoA, together with the Arms Trade Treaty, the International Tracing Instrument and other relevant instruments establish a principled and rules-based order for the control of conventional arms. However, the ICRC is concerned that a gap persists between commitments expressed in political and legal instruments and the practices of too many States. From a humanitarian perspective, it is imperative that States redouble their efforts to realizing the goals of the PoA. Finding effective ways to take account of progress achieved in terms of improving lives and livelihoods and identifying remaining challenges is critical to the effective implementation of the PoA.
To this end, establishing and maintaining strong national licensing and control systems, effective stockpile-management procedures, and adequate border controls are essential. States involved in any aspect of the arms transfer chain should bolster these diversion-prevention measures including by fostering cooperating and information sharing.
From the perspective of reducing human suffering, strengthened control of ammunitionshould also be a priority for States in their efforts to implement the PoA and related instruments.
The willingness to consider the implications of the developments in small arms and light weapons manufacturing, technology and design is also important. Keeping under review and, if need be, responding to technological developments is critical to ensuring the ITI’s and PoA’s relevance into the future.
Various stakeholders, including survivors, civil society organizations and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement make valuable contributions to preventing, combatting and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The ICRC too, has a role to play in this. We are offering our assistance to States to promote respect for IHL by arms bearers, improve national control systems and legal frameworks, and to identify, share and apply practices that lead to better humanitarian outcomes.