On Thursday, September 26th, 2013, the Security Council held a high-level meeting on small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their threat and disruption to the maintenance of international peace and security. This marked the first formal Council meeting in five years on this issue, and by a vote of 14 in favor to none against and one abstention (Russian Federation), the first ever Resolution (S/RES/2117) adopted by the Council on small arms and light weapons.
The meeting was chaired by Foreign Minister of Australia, Julie Bishop, who opened the discussion, followed by a briefing from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Following the opening remarks, a statement was delivered by the Vice-President of the International Red Cross Committee, Christine Beerli, in addition to statements by each of the 15 Security Council Member States.
A substantial gender perspective was largely overlooked. The discussion was limited to SALW and their threat to international peace and security. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referenced sexual violence as a human rights violation that results from uncontrolled availability of arms and weapons. Similarly, the few Security Council Member States that did acknowledge women, such as Guatemala, Luxembourg, and the United States of America, only did in the capacity of women being targets, especially in armed conflict, and neglected the role of women as active agents in conflict prevention and resolution.
Only four Council Members, including Argentina, Australia, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom, made meaningful references to women. In the cases of Argentina and the United Kingdom however, the context was limited to the connection between the proliferation and misuse of arms and weapons with crimes related to sexual violence. However, Australia made significant contribution by being the only Security Council Member State to make explicit reference to the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda, noting the issue of small arms and light weapons was one that cut across much of the Council's work, including their work on WPS. Further, Australia was also the only State to note the crucial role of women's participation in transition processes such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR). In this regard, the Republic of Korea stressed that the protection of civilians, particularly women, in armed conflict, requires improvement in DDR and SSR programs and processes.
Resolution 2117 recognizes the interrelationship between Small Arms and Light Weapons, Women, Peace and Security, and Human Rights. It recognizes the disproportionate impact of SALW on violence against women and girls and how SALW exacerbate sexual and gender based violence (PP 10). The Resolution also stresses the importance of integrated approaches to SALW in line with SCR 1325 which recognize women's rights and provide for women's full, meaningful, and effective participation (PP 14, OP 12). It also urges further measures be taken in facilitating women's full and meaningful participation and access in all policymaking, planning, and implementation processes, including through consultation with women's organizations and civil society, as well as in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR) processes (OP 12). In addition, Resolution 2117 demands that parties to armed conflict comply with international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law obligations (OP 13) and reaffirms the responsibility to protect civilians (PP16). It also urges states to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and encourages capacity building to enable fulfillment of treaty obligations (OP 19).
However, gaps remain in the text,- gender was not integrated throughout the resolution but instead is primarily restricted to three paragraphs (PP 10 and 14, and OP 12). Consequently, issues such as sanctions regimes and arms embargoes are addressed without critical gender considerations.
Council Members were in wide agreement that governments need to respect their obligation and responsibility to comply fully and effectively with Council-mandated arms embargoes. In this regard, a few Council Members, such as Argentina and China, emphasized the importance of enhancing national capacity-building which would aid governments, who hold primary responsibility, in arms control. However, China, in addition to Luxembourg, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom, also stressed that because the transfer, proliferation and misuse of arms is done in violation of Council sanctions, the Council is therefore responsible to ensure effective implementation and provide the necessary support to Member States in enforcing arms embargoes.
Several Member States, including Morocco, Russia, and Australia, highlighted how SALW are in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, in addition to being a serious disruption and danger to the maintenance of peace and security. However, many Council Members also noted and agreed that the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was a positive development towards arms control and protection of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Member States who spoke at the meeting included representatives of: Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, China, France, Guatemala, Luxembourg, Morocco, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Togo, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
UN and Civil Society representatives at the debate included: Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, and Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Christine Beerli.
*States and representatives who referenced gender are in bold.