By Lucas Musetti
Today, Wednesday October 11, Rose Welsch delivered a speech to the First Committee of the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations on the topic of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). Welsch is the UN liason for IANSA, the International Action Network on Small Arms, which is Nonviolence International’s main partner at the First Committee. The speech covered some concerns civil society will look to address in the Third Review Conference on the Programme of Action next June.
The Programme of Action, or PoA, was first adopted in 2001 and review conferences have taken place every six years or so. The PoA was constructed as a framework to fight unlawful trafficking of small arms and light weapons and was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly. The Third Review Conference will be preceded this March by a preparatory committee.
As Welsch notes, the past two review conferences did not result in any substantive changes. “The purpose of the Review Conference is to review – and improve – the PoA. The first two RevCons did not manage to improve it, or even to modify a single word.”
Welsch’s speech was supported by a fact sheet and addressed five specific areas of review for the conference. The first area was ammunition, with Welsch noting that this topic was not covered in the PoA. The second was moving the PoA to address armed crime in addition to conflict, which it currently does not. The third area places an emphasis on gender-based approaches to combat arms proliferation. The fourth key issue was stressing the link between the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the PoA. As Welsch said, “Armed violence creates a breeding ground for organized crime, trafficking in drugs and minerals, terrorism, corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion that cost developing countries around $1.26 trillion per year. That money is diverted from health and education, thus undermining development.” The fifth and final priority for review was finding synergies in implementing the PoA and other tools. Welsch specifically noted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and recommends finding ways to combine approaches to maximize efficiency and close loopholes.
Welsch closed with a call for governments of the world to work closer with civil society. She also stressed to the chairman that IANSA will continue to work on the issues of small arms and light weapons and address issues including corruption, survivor support, and promoting a culture of peace. Nonviolence International, along with its partners in the civil society, will also continue to work to ensure that the Programme of Action is only strengthened in the years to come.