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The 2018 Preparatory Committee

This week, we at Nonviolence International New York will be participating in the UN Preparatory Committee and we wanted to explain a bit about its importance.

The Preparatory Committee is an event that precedes the Review Conference for the UN Programme of Action on small arms and its International Tracing Instrument. The 2018 Preparatory Committee, or PrepCom, takes place only three months before the Third Review Conference, which will be presided over by France’s Ambassador Jean-Claude Brunet. In these three months, UN delegates and representatives will have the chance to discuss the developments at PrepCom with their national leaders and tailor their positions for RevCon. The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) will be facilitating and planning many side events and will be Nonviolence International’s major partner for this event.

The Programme of Action was adopted by all UN member states in 2001 and the International Tracing Instruments were similarly adopted in 2005. Since its passage, the UN has been trying to implement the PoA at international, regional, and national levels. Member states agreed to meet every six years for review conferences, and successfully met in 2006 and 2012. However, no substantive changes were made to the PoA in those meetings. Between each of the Review Conferences, leaders also came together for two Biennial Meetings of States and one Meeting of Government Experts. Since every Review Conference is preceded by a Preparatory Committee, there have been a total of 9 meetings specifically focused on the PoA before the 2018 PrepCom. However, this does not include sessions of First Committee debate at the United Nations where the PoA is a common subject of debate and meetings. The last official UN-level meeting on the PoA was the 2016 Biennial Meeting of States.

Rose Welsch at the UN General Assembly First Committee

The Preparatory Committee will address areas of concern for government, UN, and civil society leaders as they make ready to debate in the Review Conference. Some prominent areas of concern are the continued misuse of small arms reserves by governments, the need to strengthen stockpile management, and the flow of illicit arms to ongoing or possible conflict zones. During First Committee, Rose Welsch, the UN Representative for IANSA addressed her network’s concerns with the PoA and the areas she believed needed to be strengthened in the agreement. These areas were:

  1. the need to include language on ammunition in the PoA,

  2. addressing armed crime in addition to conflict,

  3. including gender-based considerations in the document,

  4. connecting the Sustainable Development Goals to the PoA, and

  5. promoting synergies between the PoA and other tools and agreements, specifically including the Arms Trade Treaty.

In Welsch’s speech she noted that during the first two Review Conferences, the UN did not improve upon the existing framework and in fact did not change a single word of the agreement

PrepCom and RevCon will coincide with the publication of scholarly research from many non-profits as they release information on their projects around the world involving small arms. Many of these research papers will be coupled with side events at PrepCom during which, civil society groups and other concerned parties will have a chance to address their concerns and suggestions before the Review Conference. This is important as Ambassador Brunet has already released the Proposed Elements for discussion at RevCon, but IANSA and partner organizations have already expressed several areas of concern, including:

  1. there is a lack of attention to illicit ammunition trade,

  2. more attention needs to be given to the destruction of weapons seized after conflict or armed crime,

  3. the Proposed Elements does not fully address the problems of corruption in the illicit arms trade, and

  4. there needs to be more of a tie in to human rights and humanitarian law.

Expect these issues to be prominent features of discussions at PrepCom as civil society leaders push for their inclusion in RevCon3.

PrepCom has the capacity to be one of the more influential acts of civil society this year as the illicit trade of small arms continues to exacerbate many conflict areas around the world. The goal of PrepCom is to encourage substantive debate and modification to the Programme of Action during the Review Conference in order to address evolving concerns. While there are some national and civil society groups who may wish to weaken or narrow the Programme of Action, Nonviolence International and its partners remain invested in its continued development and broadening.

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