• Nonviolence NY

Examining Synergies Between the UN POA, ATT and SDGs

By Danny Kleschick

As part of First Committee discussions, and in preparation for the 2018 Program of Action Review Conference, the permanent mission of Trinidad and Tobago in conjunction with the NGO Control Arms hosted a side event on synergies between the UN Program of Action on Small arms and Light Weapons, Arms Trade Treaty and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)as part of the 2030 Agenda. The meeting convened representatives from the permanent missions of New Zealand, Argentina and Bermuda as well as officials from UNODA, Control Arms, the Small Arms Survey and SIPRI. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Charlene Roopnarine, permanent representative to the UN from Trinidad and Tobago.

The main topic of the discussion regarded the understanding that the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and UN Programme of Action on small arms (PoA) provide support to the SDGs in a larger scope than what is contained within Goal 16.4. Goal 16.4 explicitly states the necessity to control and limit the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Panelists emphasized, however, that the ATT and PoA must be understood as contributing to sustainable development in general. As Maria Paula Mac Loughlin, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Mission of Argentina to the UN, said, “there can be no sustainable development without peace, and there can be no peace without sustainable development.” The understanding that instruments aimed at greater oversight on both the illicit and legal arms trade improves nation’s abilities to implement their respective sustainable development procedures was re-enforced by each presenter. Cindi Ebs of Control Arms presented a case study of how and why the ATT is interlinked with the Sustainable Development Agenda titled “Goals not Guns.” Daniel Prins of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) stated his belief that small arms control must be viewed not only as a security matter, but as a factor intrinsically related with the economic and social stability of nations, and discussed the necessity to include arms control measures within the budgetary scope of sustainable development.


Also thoroughly discussed during the conference was the measurability of the implementation of the ATT, POA and SDGs. Ms. Ebs spoke extensively of Control Arms’ ATT Monitor, a statistical measurement instrument used to measure the implementation of the treaty at a national and regional level. Likewise, Glenn McDonald of the Small Arms Survey discussed how his organization measures implementation, specifically focusing on Goal 16.4.2 which regards the seizure and destruction of small arms and light weapons. The Small Arms Survey examines, among other factors:

  • Seizure data

  • Illicit market prices

  • The supply of new weapons systems to conflict zones

  • The rates of SALW use in homicides and other crimes such as robberies.

Mr. McDonald also outlined the ways in which seizure data can fall short, specifically in cases where it is not made public, or when data does not describe whether seizures were or illicit or legally owned weapons. Mr. McDonald and Mr. Prins emphasized that while the ATT and SDGs contain sufficient statistical infrastructure to measure their implementation, the POA falls short in its measurability.



Mark Brownly, a representative of SIPRI, discussed his organization’s own efforts towards surveying coordinated efforts of NGOs, nations and UN agencies in implementing the ATT. Mr. Brownly introduced an online and publicly accessible database that measures and records the coordinated efforts of various actors across the globe. The data is separated by nation and region, and easily accessible to organizations that wish to partake in efforts to strengthen the treaty. Mr. Brownly stated that the goal of the database was to maximize the efficiency and coordination of efforts, so as to “avoid duplication of efforts,” as well as greater planning and research abilities. By providing the information for free online, SIPRI permits organizations to examine past efforts in each nation, and thus plan their own efforts around those that have previously succeeded and failed.


The topic of including ammunition in the PoA was brought forward during a Q&A session following the main discussion. Mr. McDonald of the Small Arms Survey commented on the ambiguity of the PoA’s language when pertaining to ammunition. He emphasized that while the PoA does not explicitly state that ammunition is included, neither does it state it is not included, something in clearly states in the International Tracing Instrument. Thus, he claimed that nations can implement the control of ammunition into their own plans to enforce the POA.

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