Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Small Arms and Light Weapons

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
October 6, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President for calling this important Security Council briefing. Thanks to High Representative Nakamitsu and Mr. Lochhead for your presentations. Thanks also to Lieutenant General Abdelgadir from the Regional Center on Small Arms for your remarks. The United States has enjoyed a longstanding and excellent partnership with the Center to combat the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons in the Horn of Africa and the African Great Lakes region.

Mr. President, peacekeeping operations presents unique small arms and light weapons management challenges. We welcome the Council’s attention to this issue. Many peacekeeping operations manage large caches of weapons seized from former combatants, especially those PKOs with mandates that contain disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration components.

For example, in a series of attacks in early 2000 on the weapons stores of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone, the Revolutionary United Front captured more than 5,000 arms previously surrendered to the UN by demobilized RUF fighters. The UN Peacekeeping Operation in Côte d’Ivoire and the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali also suffered losses of weapons seized from former combatants.

Peacekeeping operations with mandates that include the protection of civilians face a particular challenge, as the peacekeepers may be more heavily armed. Small arms and light weapons losses from operations in these environments provide more advanced weaponry to armed groups, which enable those groups to further escalate hostilities.

While the UN has made important strides concerning small arms and light weapons management within peacekeeping operations generally and in DDR programs specifically, in-mission protocols remain unevenly applied. As history shows, this can result in active combatants reclaiming and redeploying armaments against both UN personnel who seized and held that weaponry previously and against the civilian populations the UN personnel are mandated to protect.

Looking ahead, the UN should expand the use of best practices for small arms and light weapons management and implement them across peacekeeping operations. This should include operationalizing and continually updating the protocols outlined in the Effective Weapons and Ammunition Management in a Changing DDR Context manual, the second edition of which was just published this year.

Regarding illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons generally, the United States reiterates our call for UN Member States to comprehensively implement the UN Program of Action on small arms and light weapons and its complementary International Tracing Instrument. The United States remains committed to their implementation as well as to assisting others in doing so.

In the Great Lakes region, the United States has partnered with the Regional Center on Small Arms to support national weapons marking and tracing campaigns that improve accountability of government-held stockpiles. The United States has further improved stockpile management capacity by training 500 storekeepers, using instructors from within the Great Lakes region.

We have also complemented training efforts by building new armories, providing 1,500 weapons lockers, and supporting the destruction of 36,000 excess small arms and light weapons and 560 tons of ammunition. This assistance helps ensure storage facilities are physically secure, have proper oversight, and only contain serviceable munitions, creating a buffer around insecure areas to prevent stockpile leakage, and improve combat readiness.

We pledge ourselves in continue urging all Member States to combat the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons as a primary way to mitigate the continuation and escalation of hostilities in conflict-prone areas around the world.

Thank you.