Security Council Examines Risks of Illicit Weapons Exports, Hears International Instruments Are Paramount, in Debate on Arms Control
The Security Council today discussed the risks posed by the illicit and unregulated export of weapons and military equipment during an open debate convened by the Russian Federation on that theme, as some members traded barbs on the supply of weapons to States in the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
At the outset, the 15-member Council was briefed by Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, who outlined the risks posed by illicit and unregulated arms transfers, and enumerated the international, regional and bilateral arms control treaties, agreements and frameworks put forth by States to tackle such threats, regulate the international arms trade and promote transparency in weapons transfers. Those include the Arms Trade Treaty — which marked its tenth anniversary on 2 April — as well as the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, the International Tracing Instrument and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, known as the Firearms Protocol, she said.
Calling on all States that have not yet done so to join the Arms Trade Treaty, in particular, she went on to note that — in line with international norms — any transfers of arms and ammunition should include pre-transfer risk assessments and post-shipment controls, such as on-site inspection and end-user verifications. She also underlined the need for cooperation and information exchange between importing, transit and exporting States, as well as appropriate accounting practices, safeguarding and customs and border control measures. Stressing the importance of transparency in reducing tensions and misperceptions, she encouraged all Member States to participate in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, by reporting on exports and imports of equipment that fall within its seven categories of major conventional arms.
As Council members and other delegates took the floor, the representative of the Russian Federation asserted that his country has higher national standards than those of the Arms Trade Treaty and called on signatories to the latter to fulfil their legal obligations. Observing that the crisis in Ukraine has become a clear demonstration of Western countries’ insincerity on responsible behaviour in arms control, he noted that his Government has repeatedly convened Council meetings on the dangerous consequences of pumping Ukraine full of weapons. Instead of combating violations of bilateral agreements, the United States and its allies have pressured third countries to increase arms supplies to Ukraine, in direct violation of fundamental international norms, he said, adding that baseless accusations about other States providing arms to the Russian Federation have not been supported by any evidence.
Responding, the representative of the United States countered that in Ukraine, the issue is not a matter of the diversion of weapons export systems. That country was invaded, and the international community has the right to provide aid. The United States is working closely with Ukraine to limit the loss of arms; however, the Russian Federation has never let facts interfere with its false narrative and spreads disinformation about the diversion of arms. In fact, the greatest risk comes from the battlefield capture of weapons by Russian and pro-Russian forces. Further, he pointed out that Moscow has acquired weapons from rogue regimes — such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — in violation of Council resolutions, adding that Iran has also transferred arms to the Russian Federation, including prohibited drones, for use in the conflict.
Echoing such points, the representative of the United Kingdom observed that the Russian Federation has taken up the Council’s presidency while it fails to meet the most basic obligations of a United Nations Member State. Moscow is violating the very sanctions it helped to draft as it sources weapons for its war, she said, adding that it has also sought to undermine the organ’s work by opposing new texts and consistently abstaining from various relevant resolutions. If Moscow is serious about strengthening international peace and security, its first action should be to end its illegal invasion, she emphasized.
The representative of Ghana, noting that four of the world’s major weapons-exporting States are permanent Council members, underlined the need to strengthen regulations for all aspects of export processes, backed by effective monitoring and enforcement action, to improve compliance. It is regrettable that, of the five major arms-exporting countries, the two most significant have opted not to be members of the Arms Trade Treaty, he added.
The representative of China also noted that one country, representing a major military Power, has a long, lax regime of military exports and has transferred military goods to non-State actors. In 2019, that nation withdrew from the Arms Trade Treaty, while in 2022 its arms exports accounted for 40 per cent of the global total. Such actions lead to instability and provoke tensions, he said, calling on all countries, especially major military Powers, to fulfil their obligations and stop using arms exports to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
Meanwhile, the representative of India said that while the export of weapons in violation of international law exacerbates geopolitical tensions and cannot be ignored, preventing the unregulated trade in conventional weapons and related dual-use goods and technologies cannot restrict States’ legitimate rights to engage in arms trade for self-defence or to pursue foreign policy and national security interests. “It is important to strike a balance between the obligations of exporters and importers without unduly hampering legitimate trade in conventional arms,” she said.
Also speaking were representatives of Malta, France, Gabon, Switzerland, Mozambique, Brazil, Ecuador, Albania, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Indonesia, Poland, South Africa, Mexico, Iran, Pakistan and Lebanon.
The representative of the Russian Federation took the floor a second time.
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 12:32 p.m.
IZUMI NAKAMITSU, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, observed that illicit and unregulated arms transfers can instigate, fuel and prolong conflict, armed violence, terrorism and crime; destabilize entire regions; contribute to and enable human rights abuses; and lead to violations of arms embargoes. To respond to such risks, she enumerated a number of international, regional and bilateral arms control treaties, agreements and frameworks put forth by States to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade and diversion of conventional arms, regulate the international arms trade and promote transparency in weapons transfers. Those include the Arms Trade Treaty — whose tenth anniversary was marked on 2 April — as well as the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, the International Tracing Instrument and the Firearms Protocol. Her Office has been supporting States in the full and effective implementation of those instruments, she said, urging Member States to comply with their international obligations under the agreements to which they are parties.
Against that backdrop, she emphasized that regulating the international arms trade and preventing the illicit trade of conventional weapons and ammunition requires robust frameworks for the effective control of the export, brokering, import, transit, storage and retransfer of weapons and ammunition. Emanating from any arms transfer is the inherent risk of equipment diversion to unauthorized end users, she said, adding that measures to counter such potential diversion also contribute to international peace and security — particularly to conflict resolution and prevention efforts. In line with international norms, any transfers of arms and ammunition should include pre-transfer risk assessments and post-shipment controls, such as on-site inspection and end-user verifications, she said, also underlining the need for cooperation and information exchange between importing, transit and exporting States, as well as appropriate accounting practices, safeguarding and customs and border control measures. She also emphasized the importance of tracing weapons and ammunition, including through the physical marking of weapons and their ammunition, record-keeping and putting in place protocols for international cooperation.
Turning to transparency — which can serve to reduce tensions, ambiguities, and misperceptions between Member States — she noted that the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms remains a key tool in that regard. She encouraged all Member States to participate in this transparency mechanism by reporting on exports and imports of equipment that fall within the Register’s seven categories of major conventional arms, as well as small arms and light weapons and procurement through national production. She also called on all States that have not yet done so to join the Arms Trade Treaty, and on all States to consider the differential impact of the illicit trade of arms and ammunition on women, men, girls and boys.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity, spotlighting his country’s emphasis on controlling military supplies, national legislation and support for the initiatives in regions whose inhabitants know first-hand about the devastating consequences of illegal arms diversions. His Government is actively contributing to the work of existing international mechanisms, and views the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms as a universal tool for increasing transparency. It also pays special attention to the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, and has proposed a number of measures to facilitate joint efforts to curb illegal trafficking in such weapons. Citing its significantly higher national standards than those in the Arms Trade Treaty, he said signatories to the latter must fulfil their legal obligations and warned that entire countries and regions end up drowning in illegal weapons due to the absence of appropriate agreements. For its part, the Security Council — in part to avoid duplicating the General Assembly’s functions — should only respond to emerging threats to international peace and security when certain countries violate their obligations.
The crisis in Ukraine has become a clear demonstration of Western countries’ insincerity on responsible behaviour in arms control, he said, noting that his Government has repeatedly convened Council meetings on the dangerous consequences of pumping Ukraine with weapons. Instead of combating violations of bilateral agreements, the United States and its allies have pressured third countries to increase arms supplies to Ukraine. Regardless of what their purposes are, those actions are direct violations of fundamental international norms. Ignoring universally acknowledged international practice to provide end-user certificates leads to black markets and can result in weapons ending up in the hands of organized crime and terrorists, he warned. “When weapons are provided to a regime that for many years has been using and continues to use them to fire on civilians and civilian infrastructure, then you can’t talk about these obligations being complied with,” he said, adding: “This contempt for your own obligations — setting aside the moral part of the question — creates significant risks that the unchecked provision of weapons will take place in other conflict zones.” Western countries are not interested in stopping their increasing military industrial complexes, he said, adding that baseless accusations about other States providing arms to the Russian Federation have not been supported by any evidence.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) said his country has helped other nations to adopt laws to control unregulated arms transfers. Transparent laws which allow countries to work together are necessary. Noting the United States policy alignment with international treaties, he said that with strong laws and wise policies, the risks of arms diversion is limited. The United States assesses the risk of possible losses of weapons in the battlefield environment. In Ukraine, the issue is not a matter of the diversion of weapons export systems. Ukraine was invaded, and the international community has the ability to provide aid. The United States continues to work closely with Ukraine to continue to limit the loss of arms. However, the Russian Federation has never let facts interfere with its false narrative and continues to spread disinformation about the diversion of arms. In fact, the greatest risk comes from the battlefield capture of weapons by Russian and pro-Russian forces. He added that Moscow has also turned to rogue regimes — such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — for its acquisition of weapons, in violation of Council resolutions. Iran has also transferred arms, including prohibited drones, to the Russian Federation for use in Ukraine. The most obvious path to peace is for the Russian Federation to end the war and withdraw its forces, he said, urging Moscow to act now.
DARREN CAMILLERI (Malta), voicing his strong support for export control mechanisms and agreements, noted that his country is a committed member of the Australia Group, the Nuclear Supplier Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. Malta also strictly implements the European Dual Use Export Control Regulations and its relevant annexes, he said, adding that the country signed the Arms Trade Treaty as soon as it opened for signature in 2013, and underscoring the need for its universalization and full implementation. Pointing out that the European Union has some of the highest standards of export controls in the world, he noted that the bloc’s member States have also committed to prevent and curb the illicit trade in such weapons and their ammunition through a strategy put in place in 2018. For its part, Malta’s Sanctions Monitoring Board adopts a rigorous approach towards implementing arms embargos and supports the United Nations Programme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, as well as the International Tracing Instrument. Any provision of arms to State- or non-State actors that violates Security Council resolutions is an affront to the organ’s authority and integrity, he stressed, calling for such violations to be investigated.
ALICE JACOBS (United Kingdom), noting that the Russian Federation has taken up the Council’s presidency while it fails to meet the most basic obligations of a United Nations Member State, stressed that Moscow is violating the very sanctions it helped to draft as it sources weapons for its war. Arming the aggressor State is fuelling global instability, she underscored, calling on countries to cease their assistance to the Russian Federation’s forces. To preserve the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the United Nations Charter, Member States should assist Ukraine to protect itself from this aggression. In that vein, the United Kingdom has provided a wide range of equipment and will continue to do so. It operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world and remains committed to all relevant United Nations mechanisms, including appropriate Council measures. The Russian Federation, on the other hand, has regrettably sought to undermine the organ’s work by opposing new texts and consistently abstaining from various relevant resolutions. If Moscow is serious about strengthening international peace and security, its first action should be to end its illegal invasion, she emphasized.
ALEXANDRE OLMEDO (France), voicing his regret over the Russian Federation’s blatant attempt at manipulation, said that if Ukraine requires weapons today, it is because Moscow amassed tons of military equipment along its borders before launching an invasion. It is Moscow that violates the Council’s resolutions to make up for its dwindling ammunition reserves, uses combat drones delivered by Iran and acquires missiles and ammunition from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. France and the European Union will continue to provide Ukraine with all the support it needs to exercise its right to self-defence and preserve its sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, he pledged, emphasizing that the only way to achieve a return to lasting peace is to thwart the Russian Federation’s aggression. He underlined Moscow’s cynicism in referring to instruments to which it has not acceded, while spotlighting France’s own obligations and encouraging all States to adopt control measures on arms recipients, final use and non-re-export. “The best way to prevent illicit trafficking is to put an end to the conflicts that fuel them,” he underscored, calling on Moscow to do so immediately.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said today’s international crises have meant arms proliferation has emerged at the forefront of global security concerns. The issue of mass arming has resurrected the trauma of the two World Wars and the cold war period. Meanwhile, the international community has strayed from its aim of curbing and limiting the proliferation of the most lethal weapons. “It is as if the blood spilled was not enough,” he stressed, adding: “Humanity is suffering from a pathological amnesia.” Against that backdrop, he urged the global community to take stock and look at possible ways to strengthen the fight against arms proliferation, including the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons. The people of the world have pinned great hopes on international weapons control treaties and the establishment of zones free from nuclear weapons, but the credibility of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is being eroded. Now there are increasing links between the proliferation of arms and terrorism, some States are renouncing their commitments, and terrorism is escalating. Many countries do not have control over the stockpiling and export of arms. The Council must bolster the authority of international instruments, he said, stressing its responsibility to fight arms proliferation, promote the full enforcement of treaties and impose sanctions against States that do not honour their obligations.
ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland) underlined the need for the adoption of rules regulating the transfer of conventional weapons at the international level and their full implementation. He called on all States to adhere to the Arms Trade Treaty and to implement the provisions of the instruments to which they are party, noting that the Treaty — as well as other measures, such as the Wassenaar Arrangement and the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms — strengthen transparency and confidence, contributing to peace, security, stability and the reduction of human suffering. Pointing out that the United Nations Charter authorizes the use of armed force in specific cases, he underscored the need to adhere to international law and applicable rules for such weapons acquisitions by States to be legitimate. Further, he underlined the need for measures to prevent the use of such weapons for attacks on civilians, civilian objects or other crimes prohibited under international law — including gender-based violence — through risk assessments prior to transfers, the use of end-user certificates and post-shipment verification. He went on to voice concern about breaches of resolutions imposed by the Council, noting that conventional arms shipments in violation of those provisions can destabilize already fragile contexts and undermine efforts to resolve and prevent conflict.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique), noting that the proliferation and illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons have mostly affected the world’s most vulnerable regions, including Africa, stressed that all Member States have a collective responsibility to prevent violations of agreements and regulations on the transfers of conventional weapons and military equipment. All States must control their national weapons storage and management systems to prevent such weapons from ending up in the hands of illicit users. They must also enforce existing international standards whereby weapons produced within their borders may only be traded with legitimate partners, and those States with the capacity to acquire advanced military technology and nuclear weapons must refrain from engaging in competition in the global arms trade. Countries should also implement national initiatives to harmonize national legislation with their international obligations, he continued, stressing that new technologies should be carefully managed and legislated so as to not worsen humanitarian situations. Efforts such as the African Union’s “Silencing the Guns” initiative must be nationally owned with support from regional and international partners, he insisted, calling for more action to prevent and combat all forms of transborder illicit weapon trafficking. Information-sharing, accountability and safeguards are also of paramount importance, he added.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said that, as a party to the Arms Trade Treaty, Brazil abides by its principles, which offer valuable guidelines for arms transfers. It highlights the importance of ensuring respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law — regardless of military objectives or security concerns — and urges States to effectively regulate their arms trade, so as to prevent diversion, through systems of effective national control. His delegation is encouraged by recent General Assembly efforts to improve the through-life management of conventional ammunition, including in the Open-Ended Working Group on Conventional Ammunition. The Council is now back to discussing the issue of arms transfers as the war in Ukraine continues unabated, with larger arsenals and a growing humanitarian toll. Brazil strongly believes that the increasing flow of weapons into the conflict in Ukraine will only fuel more violence, instead of contributing to its end. While arms exports must be subject to strict regulations and guiding principles, there is no alternative to the negotiation of a ceasefire as a first step to resolving the present crisis. “We must do more than abide by rules that limit damage by weapons in conflict situations, we must engage in proactive diplomacy to wind conflicts down where they exist and to prevent their occurrence where they are likely,” he stressed.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) deplored all violations of agreements involving disarmament and non-proliferation, including the violation of the Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons/the Budapest Memorandum; arms embargoes and sanctions regimes; and arms exports to countries that carry out hostilities and military occupation operations in violation of the United Nations Charter. The Council must join multilateral efforts to ensure that the main producers and exporters of conventional arms do not favour their industries over global stability. Voicing concern over the threat posed by the destabilizing accumulation of firearms and their unrestricted flow — including the flow of large-scale arms and ammunition into any situation of armed conflict — he underscored the need for efforts to counter the risk of such weapons’ diversion and circulation, particularly export control measures. Calling on the Council to beef up efforts to support the integrated management of weapons to reduce violence around the world, he stressed the need to reinvigorate efforts to implement resolution 2220 (2015) on small arms and light weapons. Voicing alarm that global military spending in 2022 will exceed $2 trillion, a trend which will continue to deteriorate this year in the context of the military aggression against Ukraine, he urged the Russian Federation to end its occupation and hostilities.
ARIAN SPASSE (Albania), underlining the need to further strengthen disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control instruments, stressed that the faithful implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty is a humanitarian imperative to prevent serious violations of international law. However, a number of States — such as the Russian Federation, through its purchasing of weapons from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran to feed its illegal war and destroy Ukraine — have worryingly moved away from their obligations. Since illicit small arms fuel armed violence, organized crime, global terrorism and conflict, all States — especially major arms exporters, importers and transit States — must ratify or accede to the Treaty without further delay. Countries should also implement the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument; implement and enforce arms embargoes; strengthen monitoring capacities; and support the United Nations relevant expert groups. He went on to stress the importance of cooperation among regional and subregional organizations in the fight against arms trafficking and diversion, emphasizing that transparency measures such as arms export controls contribute to the strengthening of mutual trust between nations.
GENG SHUANG (China) said geopolitical jostling is becoming more intense, with the global arms trade and regional arms races growing in scale, and an increase in the irresponsible export of arms. International peace and security faces enormous risks, he said, calling for the full implementation of legal instruments — especially United Nations treaties — for arms control. Today’s meeting gives fresh momentum to the Council’s efforts to control the illicit trade in weapons. It is important to give the utmost attention to the export of weapons into war-stricken zones and post-conflict areas, he said, adding that once a war ends, the weapons remain in local hands. Recent events in Afghanistan and Iraq show that the transfer of weapons into conflict zones must be carefully handled. Council sanctions must be designed with precision, and arms embargoes must be enforced with care. Meanwhile, efforts must be made to prevent the transfer of arms into the hands of terrorists. He called on all countries, especially major military powers, to fulfil their obligations and stop using arms exports to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Noting that one such country has a long, lax regime of military exports and has transferred military goods to non-State actors, he said that, in 2019, that nation withdrew from the Arms Trade Treaty, while in 2022 its arms exports accounted for 40 per cent of the global total. Such actions lead to instability and provoke tensions. In contrast, China has always taken a prudent approach to arms exports and does not provide arms to non-State actors, he said.
SHINO MITSUKO (Japan) voiced deep concern about civilian casualties resulting from the unlawful use of conventional weapons, urging all Member States to effectively implement international agreements and commitments related to the control and disarmament of conventional weapons. To that end, she spotlighted the Arms Trade Treaty, calling on all Member States that have not yet done so to join it. She went on to echo growing concerns over reports of weapons from Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea being transferred to the Russian Federation in violation of relevant Council resolutions. The organ should support efforts to investigate and clarify these cases to ensure the full implementation of its resolutions. She went on to highlight Japan’s efforts to stem the spread of such arms, including its co-sponsorship, since 2001, of General Assembly resolutions to promote the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action. Turning to alleged concerns about the transfer of defence equipment to Ukraine, she declared: “We must look at the fundamental cause of the issue — Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.” Underscoring Ukraine’s right of self-defence against aggression, she said that it is ironic that Moscow — which has been hesitant to support the Arms Trade Treaty, despite repeated international calls to do so — is accusing other countries of violating it.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) cautioned that global military expenditure could rise even higher if trust among major Powers continues to be eroded. Although States have developed international norms and best practices on the manufacture, trade and possession of conventional arms and weapons needed for self-defence while also addressing the risks of illicit trade and diversion, serious challenges nevertheless remain. Greater arms control effectiveness notably demands a strong emphasis on tracking and tracing systems, which are key for assuring that weapons do not end up in the wrong hands — namely those of terrorists. In that vein, weapons stockpiles must be carefully managed, he underscored, noting that the lack of effective controls risks the safety and security of populations, especially as women and girls are usually the first to experience negative impacts. As chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons pose some of the most significant and existential threats to the world’s survival, all Member States must join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other relevant agreements. “Until this is done, the proverbial sword of Damocles remains poised over our heads,” he stressed, urging the international community to do everything it can to mitigate the risks associated with the use and transfers of arms around the globe.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said the direction, trends and upsurge in the international flow of conventional weapons between 2018 and 2022 correlate with armed conflicts around the world. They also manifest in conflicts involving non-State actors, including political militias, criminals and terrorist groups. While asserting every State’s right to legitimately use force within its territory, he noted that the influx of weapons into any conflict aggravates the situation. Exporting countries, particularly the major weapons-exporting States, need to strengthen regulations for all aspects of export processes, backed by effective monitoring and enforcement action, to improve compliance. Noting the responsibility of such major exporters — four of whom are permanent Council members — he said it is regrettable that of the five major arms-exporting countries, the two most significant have opted not to be members of the Arms Trade Treaty. Turning to the Council’s use of sanctions to stem the flow of arms to conflict parties and settings, he said such tools require recalibration to ensure that arms embargos do not undermine States’ legitimate efforts to defend their territory. Sanctions should target armed groups and others who exploit opaque trading and transfer arrangements, in order to make a business out of war, he said.
The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor again to respond to the unfounded accusations against his country, pointed out that the Council is not discussing the situation in Ukraine. His country had notably hoped to have a depoliticized and substantive discussion on the concrete risks posed by violations of international agreements on military equipment deliveries. The response of Western States to the crisis in Ukraine clearly demonstrate that such risks exist and are not at all Moscow’s fault. Despite the lack of evidence substantiating the baseless assertions that deliveries to his country are in contravention of the Council’s resolutions, Western countries continue to make these claims. It seems that such States have no other way to conceal their role in fuelling the conflict, he observed. Offering several concrete examples of those Governments’ violations of their obligations, he spotlighted their pumping of Ukraine full of weapons, their expanded military supplies to Ukraine and their lack of reasonable limits, among others. While the United States and its allies are well aware of the severe consequences of using toxic armour-piercing shells with depleted uranium, this notably did not stop the United Kingdom from announcing plans to deliver such ammunition to Ukraine. Ending the crisis in that country is not something the West is interest in, he asserted, noting that the confluence of interests of Governments and arms producers have artificially prolonged conflicts. It is peaceful citizens that suffer first and foremost, he stressed.
YURI G. AMBRAZEVICH, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, noted that, according to the United Nations, firearms kill a quarter of a million people annually. The unchecked flooding by States of such weapons under the “noble pretext of ensuring security” breeds modern armed conflicts, fosters the destabilizing stockpiling of weapons and leads to the militarization of regions and the escalation of tensions. Despite the international community’s toolkit for weapons export control, such measures do not always work, in part due to the deliberate violation by States of international agreements and national laws concerning end users and the targeted use of such weapons. He also voiced concern over the selective interpretation of export criteria in service of political goals, noting that loopholes could lead to the diversion of arms to unauthorized non-State actors. Belarus has put measures in place to prevent military goods from being illegally trafficked, he said, asking importing States to verify that weapons are being used for their stated purposes. The unchecked flow of weapons to conflict zones must be prevented, even if such areas are not subject to Security Council embargoes, he said, underlining the need for the Council to examine such issues. Noting his country’s proximity to the epicentre of the conflict in Ukraine, he voiced concern over the ongoing actions by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries to step up their supply of weapons to Ukraine, as such arms might end up in the hands of non-State actors and terrorists and might eventually be used against Western countries themselves.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia) voiced his concern over the global rise in military expenditures at a time when the majority of the world’s population is fighting to recover from a pandemic and facing various development challenges. As the world should not be adding fuel to a potential conflict that may be simmering, the international community must intensify international cooperation to prevent the diversion of arms and military equipment. States must support the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons and ensure that it is implemented in a balanced, full and effective manner. They should also facilitate capacity-building for developing countries, as well as information exchange and database sharing to support arms tracing efforts. Regional mechanisms to address the transboundary flow of arms should also be strengthened, he continued, spotlighting efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in that regard. He also underlined the need to boost national capacities, as the responsibility to address illicit arms flows or transfers ultimately rests with individual countries, while nevertheless cautioning against a one-size-fits-all approach.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) said his country fully supports and complies with all arms control regimes and transparency measures meant to lower the risk of military conflicts. The international community must tackle the challenge of illicit arms flows to terrorist organizations and private mercenary groups operating in foreign countries as their actions are extremely harmful to global peace. Yet, in line with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, any country aggressed by its neighbour has a right to legitimate self-defence, including through military force. Assisting such a country is not only admissible, but legally substantiated and morally right. Citing the example of Ukraine, he said Poland has provided humanitarian, financial and military assistance, “and we will continue to do so until just peace is restored, international law obeyed and perpetrators brought to justice”. Recalling that Poland’s policies are motivated by a history marked by numerous examples of the horrors of war — including those stemming from the Russian Federation — he drew attention to the death of former Polish President Lech Kaczyński, and 95 other people, in a fatal plane crash 13 years ago in the Russian Federation. Officials in that country are still withholding crucial evidence from Polish investigators, including the plane’s remains and flight recorders. He called on the Russia Federation to release that missing evidence, return the plane wreckage — which belongs to Poland under international law — and to fully cooperate with Polish investigators.
XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa) said his country’s conventional arms control policies and positions, including those concerning the transfer of such arms, are strictly governed by its national Conventional Arms Control Act. He also highlighted South Africa’s active participation in global conventional arms control as a State party to legally binding instruments such as the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Turning to the Arms Trade Treaty, he said that while some States — including some present today — might view that instrument as having shortcomings, there is no clear reason why this should be an obstacle to any United Nations Member State becoming a State party to the Treaty. As a global instrument, there is “currently simply no alternative to it as far as arms trade is concerned, in furthering respect for the United Nations Charter, particularly the implementation of the Principles of Article 2”, he stressed. He therefore called on all Member States committed to the responsible regulation of arms export controls to ratify or accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, without further delay.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), encouraging the Council to continue to seriously analyse the negative consequences of small arms and light weapons trafficking and diversions, underlined the need to strengthen measures to effectively implement the organ’s decisions. Violations of the Council’s embargoes means that more weapons are available, and consequently increases the suffering experience by civilian populations, he pointed out, spotlighting his country’s promotion of Council resolution 2616 (2021) and that text’s various provisions on capacity-building, assistance and collaboration. All countries that are party to the Arms Trade Treaty must abide by its provisions, especially on opposing transfers that would otherwise be in violation and on the application of rigorous risk analyses. Countries which have not yet done so must commit to complying to strict precautionary standards — beyond any geostrategic interests and those of private companies — in their transfers. It is the responsibility of all States, especially weapons-producing ones, to strengthen existing international frameworks to ensure effective control through the weapons and ammunition life cycle, he underscored.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said the unravelling of the global disarmament architecture and landmark arms control agreements raises deep concerns about the structures built over several decades, as well as future uncertainties. The export of weapons in violation of international law exacerbates geopolitical tensions and cannot be ignored. The quantum in these threats multiplies when certain States, with dubious proliferation credentials, collude with terrorists and other non-State actors. The international community must condemn such behaviour and hold those States accountable, she said, adding that, as a responsible member of the international community and a significant importer and exporter of arms, India is a party to such major international agreements as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, among others. India also supports the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Noting the country’s strong and effective national export controls governing the transfer of conventional weapons, she nevertheless said preventing the unregulated trade in conventional weapons and related dual-use goods and technologies cannot restrict — and should not prejudice — States’ legitimate rights to engage in arms trade for self-defence, or to pursue foreign policy and national security interests. “It is important to strike a balance between the obligations of exporters and importers, without unduly hampering legitimate trade in conventional arms,” she said.
SATTAR AHMADI (Iran), responding to “baseless assertions” against his country by certain members of the Council, including the United States, said the export of weapons and military equipment is a highly sensitive issue that requires Member States to uphold their commitments to prevent arms from falling into the hands of terrorist and criminal groups. Iran strongly condemns and categorically rejects the baseless allegations levelled by the United States and certain other speakers against his country, which has always upheld its obligations under international law. Iran has repeatedly denied unfounded and unsubstantiated claims that it has transferred weapons for use in the Ukraine conflict, including unmanned aerial vehicles, he said, adding that such allegations have nothing to do with Council resolution 2231 (2015). Instead of indulging in such “unprofessional” behaviour, he advised Council members, including the United States, to comply with their respective legal obligations under that resolution.
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan), urging all States to fully implement such mechanisms as the United Nations Programme of Action, called for stronger international assistance, cooperation and resources, especially for developing countries. While enforcing arms embargoes, enhancing arms controls, improving standards and increasing cooperation on weapons tracing are all essential, such efforts are notably focused on regulating the supply side of the equation. To address demand, the international community must mobilize political will, evolve current mechanisms and address the unresolved disputes, root causes of conflict, breeding grounds for terrorism and factors behind organized crime. A lack of global accountability, the widespread supply of advanced weapons and the availability of technology from multiple sources have strikingly emboldened States turbo-charged by extremist ideologies to follow aggressive courses of action, impose regional hegemonies and promote great power aspirations. Against that backdrop, he proposed initiating a new global debate on the links between excessive arms production, trade, use and societal impacts.
MOHAMMAD ALI JARDALI (Lebanon) voiced his grave concern over the exacerbation of challenges linked to noncompliance with arms transfer obligations and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Many of the conflicts in Lebanon’s region, and neighbouring ones, are linked to such transfers. Noncompliance with arms transfer obligations escalates and prolongs local conflicts, destabilizes regions and intensifies violations of human rights by both State and non-State actors. It also enables terrorist groups and negatively impacts the economic and social development of affected countries, he said, urging the international community to work harder to strengthen existing international treaties and agreements and provide more technical assistance and training to Member States. Meanwhile, countries must respect and implement the Security Council’s sanctions and arms embargos. On a national level, the regular updating and strengthening of national legislation is needed and should include such measures as stricter licensing requirements and mandatory end-use monitoring. “The Security Council has a very important responsibility within its mandate to ensure that arms embargoes are respected and enforced,” he said, calling for unity among Member States.