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

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
December 15, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President, and to all of today’s briefers for your efforts to call attention to the detrimental effect that diversion and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons has on international peace and security.

Responsible state use of conventional weapons contributes to global and regional security and stability and directly impacts several other areas of concern for this Council, including our efforts related to counterterrorism. However, in the wrong hands, these tools threaten the global disarmament apparatus and the protection of civilians, while also having a disproportionate impact on women and children.

The United States is, therefore, grateful to be part of a strong global coalition actively engaged on this issue.

The current framework of instruments at the global and regional levels, such as the Program of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and its complementary International Tracing Instrument, offers a range of measures to reduce the risks posed by illicitly trafficked small arms and light weapons and related ammunition.

The challenge facing us is how to improve the implementation. Last year, at the 8th Biennial Meeting of States on the Program of Action, numerous Member States and the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs underscored the problem of uneven implementation. The Security Council has similarly undertaken a number of general and conflict-specific measures over the years that continue to be critical to addressing the issue of small arms and light weapons. But the same principle applies – all Member States must be working toward full implementation for the Council’s resolutions to be effective in this space.

UN reporting on the implementation of arms embargoes has helped identify areas in which diversion of and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons fuels conflict. For example, the Council adopted a territorial arms embargo to prevent violent gang leaders in Haiti from committing small arms and light weapons trafficking with impunity. Due to cooperation from Member States with the Haiti Panel of Experts, the Committee was just able to designate four gang leaders.

Unfortunately, the issue of small arms and light weapons impacts every region. As we look to other conflicts in need of the Council’s attention on this issue, the United States looks forward to working with all Council members to address the illicit sale, transfer, and diversion of arms to Myanmar, in order to prevent further violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights.

Regular reporting by the Committee’s panels is an integral component of our efforts and we urge all Member States to support their work.

Turning to the issue of ammunition, the United States actively participated in the Open-Ended Working Group on Ammunition and endorsed the OEWG’s final report and its recommendations for establishing the Global Framework for Through-Life Conventional Ammunition Management. These efforts make clear Member States remain committed to the goal of reducing the risks created by ammunition being diverted into the hands of unauthorized recipients, such as terrorist groups and criminal organizations.

Colleagues, small arms and light weapons, as its own Security Council agenda item, is not raised frequently. But we cannot talk about counterterrorism without discussing the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. We cannot talk about Children and Armed Conflict without discussing diversion of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. And we cannot talk about Women, Peace, and Security without discussing how the impacts of the diversion and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons are felt acutely by women and girls.

Indeed, several reports by the Secretary-General have noted that illicit small arms and light weapons have been used to facilitate conflict-related sexual violence. This issue clearly continues to prevent peace and development across many Council priorities, and instead fuels conflict in many regions of the world.

The United States looks forward to working with all Member States to carry out our commitments to combat illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons and related ammunition, and is prepared to assist with implementation.

Thank you, Mr. President.