UN chief lauds move to limit proliferation of small arms

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has praised the adoption of a strong outcome document at the end of a conference dedicated to combating illicit small arms and light weapons worldwide, saying it is an important sign of progress. The proliferation, diversion and misuse of small arms and light weapons continue to undermine peace, security and sustainable development around the world fuelling conflict and armed violence and causing devastating human costs, the UN chief said in a statement. He congratulated member states on successfully concluding the Fourth Review Conference, welcoming the setting up of an open-ended technical expert group to address developments in small arms and light weapons manufacturing, technology and design. Mr Guterres also recognised the commitments the states have made to strengthen international cooperation and assistance and to implement gender-responsive policies. He expressed hope that the progress will help strengthen our collective and national efforts to combat illicit small arms and light weapons until the next review conference in 2030. The UN chief added that he hoped the commitments regarding small arms would inform discussions at the ‘Summit of the Future’ in September to find forward-looking and action-oriented solutions for a more peaceful future. Earlier in the month in a statement to delegates, Guterres noted that the conference was happening at a difficult and dangerous moment for humanity with new conflicts placing millions of people in the line of fire, where light weapons play a major role. Small arms are the leading cause of violent deaths and are the weapon of choice in nearly half of all global homicides, according to UN figures. The Secretary General’s New Agenda for Peace policy brief recognises the importance of small arms control in preventing conflict and building peace. It makes recommendations to strengthen regional, national, and global control efforts on both the supply and demand side. During the debate, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram voiced serious concern at the acquisition and use of modern and sophisticated small arms by terrorist groups such as TTP, a UN-listed terrorist organisation — which reportedly uses safe havens in Afghanistan to launch deadly cross-border attacks inside Pakistan. “Terrorists and criminals do not manufacture these arms,” the Pakistani envoy told delegates, pointing out they acquire them from illicit arms markets or receive them from entities that want to destabilise a particular region or country. “It is essential to investigate how terrorist groups and criminal organisations acquire such sophisticated weapons,” Ambassador Akram said. “It is the responsibility of all states and the UN to take measures to prevent illicit trade, transfer and diversion of these arms.” He also said that the illicit proliferation, excessive accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons continue to exacerbate conflicts, fuel terrorism, threaten peace and security and erode sustainable development. Hundreds of thousands of human lives lost each year, terrible suffering inflicted on civilians, and economies and societies devastated, he added.