UNITED NATIONS -- The Security Council on Thursday approved its first-ever resolution calling on U.N. members to do their part to stem the flow of illicit arms around the world.
The resolution builds on the historic arms trade treaty, adopted in April by the General Assembly, and signed by Latin American and Caribbean leaders this week.
“The issue of small arms and light weapons has been addressed more broadly within the General Assembly, but we think that this does not prevent the Security Council from playing an active and complementary role,” said Guatemalan President Otto Molina, during the high-level council meeting.
The resolution adopts several recommendations from the Secretary General’s August report on small arms, including a call to U.N. members to strictly enforce Council-mandated arms embargoes and to sign the treaty. The accord, aimed at keeping illicit arms out of the hands of terrorist or organized crime groups, will be enforced through the creation of a Register of Conventional Arms that’s intended to make information about arms transfers between countries transparent.
“Along with strict compliance to arms embargoes, it is necessary to prevent transfers to a country where they can be used to commit human rights violations and violate international humanitarian law, as currently in Syria,” said Ambassador Marita Perceval of Argentina, which first brought a resolution on small arms to the Council in 2006.
But even without the embargoes, countries in the region grapple with illicit arms violence.
“Our own internal conflict was resolved seventeen years ago, but we still suffer the violence, insecurity, crime and organized crime associated with, in part, illicit weapons that are often purchased legally, before being diverted to the illicit market,” Molina said.
The annual number of deaths caused by armed violence globally ranges from 280,000 to 378,000, according to an Oxfam America estimate. About 875 million small arms are in circulation worldwide, produced by 1,000 companies in 100 countries, according to the Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms.
“These are the weapons of choice when men, women and children are deliberately targeted, raped, and forced out of their homes, and their property is destroyed,” said Christine Beerli, vice president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
“We urge the Security Council to call upon all United Nations member States to promptly sign, ratify and implement the Arms Trade Treaty,” Beeril said.
Leaders here for the annual general debate did just that. Colombia, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago were among countries that signed this week. Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Jamaica have also signed the treaty.
Although slow to embrace both the resolution and the treaty, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the arms trade treaty on Wednesday. Ambassador Samantha Power said the U.S. would not have supported the resolution if it encroached on American rights to bear arms.
“Our concerns arise when legal controls break down and — through weakness of governance, corruption or other lawless activity — deadly weapons fall into the wrong hands,” Power said.