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Synergies Through Different Lenses

On Wednesday, June 8, the International Action Network of Small Arms (IANSA) hosted a side event at the United Nations headquarters during the Sixth Biennial Meeting of States on the UN Programme of Action (PoA) on the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. The event focused on achieving synergies for effective implementation of the international instruments for small arms control. Speakers included Dr. Natalie Goldring from the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy and Georgetown University, Brian Wood from Amnesty International, Laura Spano from the Pacific Small Arms Action Group, Anna MacDonald from Control Arms and Frank Gargon from Armag Corporation.

Opening the event, Dr. Goldring presented her briefing paper, The Programme of Action, the Arms Trade Treaty, and the UN Register of Conventional Arms: Seeking Synergy and Overcoming Challenges, focusing on two core arguments: that the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the PoA are collectively and individually part of an arms transfers regime, and that they can and should be used to strengthen each other. Dr. Goldring’s paper provides a detailed analysis of core elements and synergies among the PoA, the ATT, and the UN Register. She also stressed the importance of including ammunition in the implementation of the PoA.

Amnesty International representative, Brian Wood, followed Dr. Goldring’s presentation and talked about ways to prevent diversion in the context of illicit transfers of small arms and light weapons to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Wood stressed States Parties’ legal obligations when transferring conventional arms. Each exporting state shall assess the risk of diversion of the exports. Wood’s presentation addressed the process that small arms and light weapons go through, from the time they are manufactured until their end use by non-state actors.

Laura Spano, representing the Pacific Small Arms Action Group (PSAAG), spoke on the challenges the Pacific Islands face, even though they have low rates of firearm ownership. Many of the Pacific Islands are still developing countries and are affected by the use of arms for crimes, intimidation, and undermining of the state. Armed violence impacted the GDP causing a 25 percent reduction rate that took Solomon Islands over a decade to recover from. The region prides itself that 12 out of 16 island nations are patrolled by unarmed police and 10 island nations have no military. Although the region does not represent a big manufacturer of firearms, its vast ocean provides the path for illicit trade of arms. Spano recognized the effectiveness of the implementation activities carried out by the region at both national and regional levels as well as the important role of national workshops.

Next to present was Anna MacDonald from Control Arms. MacDonald acknowledged the role the ATT can play in strengthening the PoA. MacDonald described the key points of the ATT, including the treaty’s coverage of diversion, prevention and eradication of illicit trade. The treaty mandates states to assess the risk of diversion and to act when risk is prominent. Coming back to Brian Wood’s remarks, MacDonald stressed the importance of sharing information between states to more effectively implement the ATT.

Last, international business director to the Armag Corporation, Frank Gargon, presented on the issue of stockpile management and the development Armag has done in manufacturing secure arms vaults. Gargon spoke about the faults many current vaults have, such as no ventilation which causes weapons to become damp and then rust. Current unsecured vaults are poorly locked making them vulnerable to theft and increasing the risk that weapons will be used in illegal trading. The corporation has created portable and strong vaults that can be easily placed and are extremely difficult to damage or break into. Each vault is made with 6.3 mm of A-36 steel to prevent sawing through or breaking down the walls to steal arms.

Throughout the side event, Dr. Goldring, Wood, Spano, MacDonald, and Gargon touched upon the importance of synergies. While each presentation came with a different viewpoint, each enabled the audience to look at the issue of small arms and light weapons through different lenses. The speakers made it clear that synergies are crucial components to effectively implement international instruments for control over small arms.

Amanda Coppa -

Catherine Santos -

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