First ever United Nations Security Council resolution on small arms to be adopted tomorrow

Campaigns and Advocacy, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 26 Sep 2013

A landmark, Australian-led resolution to tackle the devastating impacts of small arms and light weapons is expected to be adopted by the United Nations Security Council tomorrow, signalling a major step forward in international cooperation on arms control, international aid agency Oxfam Australia said.

The Security Council resolution is likely to be adopted on Thursday in New York (Friday AEST) at a high-level meeting on small arms hosted by Australia as part of its Security Council presidency, and presided over by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Advocacy Coordinator Steph Cousins, in New York for the meeting, said the resolution was critical for improving how the Security Council acts to prevent conflict.

“One person dies every minute because of armed violence, and small arms and light weapons are used in more than 60 per cent of human rights violations. The Security Council has a responsibility to prevent these weapons from threatening international peace and security, but to date it has not done so effectively.

“Nowhere is this more obvious than in Syria. There is abundant evidence that the conflict in Syria is being fuelled by arms sourced from outside the country. Small arms such as assault rifles and ammunition are a major part of this, and yet the Security Council has taken no action to curb their transfer or misuse.”

The resolution will consolidate a broad range of tools and actions for the UN Security Council to use to prevent the destabilising accumulation, illicit transfer and misuse of small arms and light weapons.

These include provisions relating to improving the use of arms embargoes, mandating peace operations to conduct disarmament programs and calling for nations to ensure the strong involvement of women in disarmament activities.

The resolution also urges nations to sign and ratify the recently agreed Arms Trade Treaty – the first ever legally binding agreement obliging countries not to transfer arms where there is a risk they will be used to commit war crimes, serious acts of gender-based violence and other human rights violations – which Australia has also played a key role in negotiating.

“This historic resolution, combined with the Arms Trade Treaty, could signal the beginning of a new era of international cooperation around arms control. Australia has played an instrumental role in achieving this positive result,” Ms Cousins said.

The anticipated adoption of the resolution will come just one day after the number of countries signing on to the Arms Trade Treaty reached 107. The latest signatories included the United States, the world’s largest arms exporter.

But Ms Cousins said the Security Council resolution would only be effective if there was political will to implement it. “The first step for Australia should be to use all its diplomatic powers to persuade governments to cease any further arms transfers to any warring party in Syria.”

For interviews or more information please contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0412 560 584 or