The UN Role and Efforts in Combating the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons a Jamaican/CARICOM Perspective

Article excerpt

The proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in various parts of the globe continues to pose a systemic and pervasive threat to the long-term social and economic development of many nations, particularly in small developing states.

No nation, region, or sub-region is immune from the dangers posed by the illicit trade in and the proliferation of SALW. As we have witnessed time and again, events in one localized area can have far-reaching implications in many areas throughout the global community. The wide circulation of these weapons is oftentimes the catalyst that transforms localized incidents into global events.

SALW are indiscriminate and their effects are devastating, regardless of age, gender, religion, or ethnicity. Our efforts in combating their proliferation must therefore be viewed as contributing to the global good, rather than a zero-sum game.

The right to life and the right to live in freedom and dignity are rights that all Member States uphold in various fora. The daily reality for many men, women, and children is the opposite, and their lives and freedoms are curtailed by armed militias or criminal gangs which, through their possession of powerful SALW, hold the power over life and death.

Over the years, the United Nations has significantly enhanced the global efforts to combat the proliferation of SALW. In 2001, the adoption of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (PoA), the subsequent, adoption of the International Tracing Instrument (1) and the Firearms Protocol of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, (2) have established an overall framework within which Member States and regional organizations have, both individually and collectively, enacted numerous legislative and administrative measures to combat the proliferation ol these weapons. Of these, only the Firearms Protocol, which entered into force in 2005, is legally binding. However, this fact does not purport the political commitment and action by Member States to implement the provisions of these various instruments.

The success of implementation by Member States in this respect is dependent on many factors, including the lack of available resources. Small developing countries, such as those of my own region, the Caribbean, face particular financial and human resource constraints. As a demonstration of our commitment to the people of our region, Member States of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) have pooled their efforts to fight the scourge of SALW proliferation, and have established a regional mechanism known as the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS). In early 2011, CARICOM Heads of State and Government adopted the CARICOM Declaration on Small Arms and Light Weapons, a politically binding agreement reinforcing our joint commitment to fully implement the PoA, and look all necessary measures to combat the proliferation of SALW. The efforts of CARICOM Member States to tackle this problem in a coordinated manner are mirrored in other parts of the globe, particularly in Africa.

Regional efforts, such as those being undertaken within CARICOM and in other parts of the globe, form one tier of global action to combat the proliferation of SALW, and we count the United Nations as one of our main partners. The United Nations, and in particular the Programme of Action Implementation Support System, has been instrumental in assisting Member States in identifying their priority implementation needs and in recognizing those in a position to help meet these needs.

The year 2012 holds the promise of a turning point in our efforts to combat the illicit trade in and the proliferation of these weapons. Member States and the international community as a whole will convene to examine the gains made since the adoption of the 2001 PoA, as well as to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty. …