Archive | March, 2012

2012 Substantive Session of the Disarmament Commission: Eager for Consensus

30 Mar

The United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC) is hailed as the ‘sole, multilateral deliberative body’ mandated to make recommendations on two or three specific issues related to disarmament, one of which must pertain to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. At the 2011 session the US delegation referred to the UNDC as a “deliberative think tank on arms control.” The UNDC, universal in its representation, a significant characteristic to note in contrast to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) that does not include the participation of all member states, is tasked to formulate consensus-based recommendations to be delivered to the General Assembly prior to the start of the First Committee such that those recommendations will be considered and integrated as part of the Committee’s agenda of work.

Unfortunately, the UNDC has been unable to agree upon and subsequently adopt any recommendations in more than a decade’s time. The conclusion of the 2011 session, without adoption of any substantive recommendations, marked the twelfth year of no agreement on any of the agenda items– nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, a declaration of the 2010s as the next disarmament decade, and confidence-building measures around conventional weapons. After three weeks of plenary meetings and working groups, many delegations were outspoken about their discontent, disappointment, and frustration. The Mexican delegation noted that this continued failure is unacceptable when the world is “threatened by nuclear weapons and excessive accumulation of destabilizing conventional weapons” stating that the only tangible result of the UNDC has been the expenditure of resources by taxpayers.

Frustration around the multilateral disarmament fora is not unique to the UNDC. The other obvious point of contention and frustration is, of course, the CD that has fought since 1998 to agree on a programme of work. The seemingly intractable stalemate in the Geneva-based body has become an alarming concern for member states, civil society, and the Secretary-General himself who has publicly stated that the CD is “no longer living up to expectations.”  Proposals for working outside of the CD have come to bear among delegations, particularly in terms of negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).

Nonetheless, arms control and disarmament are not without their elements of optimism. The forthcoming Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations, although wrought with its own set of complexities and challenges, represent a majority opinion that arms transfers should be regulated by a set of common international standards. There is little doubt that such a treaty should exist, although the strengthen and scope of the future treaty remain unclear. Similarly, the Programme of Action on small arms (UNPoA) is a consensus-based framework, adopted by all member states in 2000, for national, regional, and international provisions for preventing and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALWs). Implementation of the PoA has had a mixed record overall, but the review process has nonetheless had marked success and continues to seek ways of strengthening implementation, most recently with last week’s Preparatory Committee for the August Review Conference. The Prep Com was able to achieve its goals of setting an agenda of work, adopting rules of procedure, and endorsing a Chair for the Review Conference (Ambassador Ogwu of Nigeria).

The 2012 session of the UNDC will begin a new three-year cycle and will meet for three weeks in both plenary and working group sessions chaired by Ambassador Enrique Roman-Morey of Peru. Consensus on its provisional agenda remains elusive. Some delegations have expressed interest in including an agenda item that includes an “introspective look” at the Commission’s role in the broader disarmament machinery and examines its working methods. However, there is no consensus on this point as some member states contend that the obstacle to adopting recommendations is not in the working methods, but rather the political will of states. There have also been calls for more specific subjects to be vetted rather than the generic and repetitive discussions often held in the UNDC rendering it irrelevant to the wider international security discourse.

The UNDC has the unique opportunity to deliberate disarmament and arms control issues in a universal forum prior to the start of the First Committee in the fall. Recommendations offered from the UNDC could help streamline and focus the vast spread of issues that need to be covered in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) as well as underscore issues that are most important to member states. Moreover, as the CD has garnered much of the attention of the international community, albeit exclusively negative attention because of its current state of stalemate, the UNDC has the flexibility to arguably work with less politicization, and “fly under the radar” of sorts, while enjoying universal participation.

The UNDC must use this new cycle as a point of departure from the methods and habits of the last decade (such as generic statements of support for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament) to tackle the obstacles to consensus that have prevented the formulation of any principles, guidelines, or recommendations. In order to do so, it is important that member states address both the political will and the working methods issues. The stalemate is surely due in part to the lack of will of governments to commit to recommendations (even non-binding ones as they are). Likewise, the work of the UNDC has also been impeded by its methods insofar as member states continue to discuss the same issues in the same manner, ultimately leading to the same results year after y ear. It would be logical to explore alternative methods of work. It would be worthwhile to explore other ways of deliberating, such as inclusion of expert panels, NGO statements, or other specialized presentations that could contribute to the conversation.

Many member states identify disarmament and arms control, related to both weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms, as among the most pressing priorities on the international agenda. As such, the UNDC’s path towards irrelevance must be altered if these priorities are to be genuinely addressed in all forums available to the international community.

–Katherine Prizeman

PoA on Small Arms Prep Com Wrap Up: Looking Forward to August

26 Mar

As the Preparatory Committee (Prep Com) for the second Review Conference for reviewing the progress made on the implementation of the Programme of Action on small arms (PoA) has come to a close, member states are prepared to meet again in August to take a more detailed look at the successes and failures related to combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALWs). The small arms process is a critical forum for discussing the many human security-related implications of the proliferation of illicit arms as well as the diversion of arms from legal sales. Small arms are indeed an issue to be dealt with in multiple security discussions from sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict to the commission of mass atrocity crimes. Therefore, regular and transparent reviews of the PoA are a vital component of improving security on the national, regional, and international levels.

The second Review Conference for the PoA to be held in August is based on a universally-accepted General Assembly resolution (66/47), thus granting the process a healthy degree of credibility and consensus. Although controversies exist around expansion of the PoA, such as granting it a legally-binding status and expanding its scope to include ammunition, there is little argument that the PoA’s provisions, if adopted according to national needs and conducive to individual challenges, can and will prevent the illicit trade in SALWs and its dire consequences for international peace and security. Successful implementation of the PoA, as it is not legally-binding and puts forth a comprehensive blueprint of national, regional, and international measures to combat illicit small arms trade, requires robust trust and capacity building among member states and other relevant stakeholders such that national implementers have sufficient capacity and investment levels to adopt these measures.

This week’s Prep Com provided member states with the opportunity to adopt rules of procedure and an agenda as well as hold an exchange of views, in light of the time constraints of just five days, on potential elements for discussion in August. Substantive discussion was focused in large part on the need for more robust and comprehensive international assistance and cooperation for full implementation of the PoA. Additionally, member states addressed the follow-up mechanisms of the PoA, in particular the role of future meetings such as Meetings of Governmental Experts (MGE) on technical implementation capacities such as marking, tracing, recordkeeping, and activities around border controls. However, as noted by several delegations during the week, the Prep Com and subsequent Review Conference also provide for a valuable reaffirmation of commitment to strengthening and enhancing implementation of the PoA and the fight against the scourge of illicit weapons.

A Final Report was indeed adopted, although it is entirely procedural and technical in nature. Several delegations also submitted helpful Working Papers over the course of the week that enhanced the exchange of views during the week as well as for future deliberations. These papers included one from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on international assistance and cooperation, one from Japan on follow-up mechanisms, and two more comprehensive papers covering all aspects of the PoA’s implementation from the European Union and Germany, respectively. These Working Papers will certainly add to the bounty of documents to be used during the inter-sessional period between the Prep Com and the Review Conference as the Chair and member states hold informal consultations to determine the best way forward in more effectively implementing the PoA’s provisions. Background documentation for the Review Conference will also include the Chair’s summary from the MGE from May 2011, from Ambassador Jim McLay of New Zealand, representing the first of its kind. Many delegations expressed interest in more meetings of this nature to dissect in more technical terms how implementers from capitals can better adopt the PoA’s measures in practice. The Chair’s summary, under the authorship of Chair Ambassador Ogwu of Nigeria, laid forth views expressed by member states during the week according to the structure of the PoA itself—measures to combat illicit trade at the national, regional, and international levels; international cooperation and assistance; follow-up mechanisms to the Review Conference; and review of the International Tracing Instrument (ITI). The summary was not a consensus document, but did its best to summarize views and recommendations made by member states to improve implementation and does serve as a beneficial starting point for discussions both in informal consultations and in August’s Review Conference.

In looking forward, it is important to bear in mind the significance of the PoA. The PoA directly addresses the scourge of illicit weapons and seeks to garner control over their proliferation by concrete measures including stockpile management and disposal, border control mechanisms, and firearms marking and tracing. This is an instrument, accepted by the international community on the whole, that can in fact prevent and eradicate human suffering associated with armed violence and other forms of conflict committed with SALWs, which is no small contribution to international security.

There are many aspects of the PoA that require further elaboration and information exchange among all member states to deal with this complicated and comprehensive challenge. However, there are several issues that, in our view, merit particular attention:

  • Developing national action plans (NAP) on SALWs would serve as an excellent confidence-building measure, although not without its difficulties given the example found in the women, peace and security framework.  Such NAPs have not been entirely successful in the context of Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 as most states still have not formulated a NAP in the almost twelve years since the Resolution’s adoption;
  • Focusing on the need for peacekeeping operations to address safe storage and disposal of SALWs as part of Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) programs;
  • Discussing SALW issues in other UN frameworks  and mandates including 1325, the Special Representative on children and armed conflict, and the Special Representative on conflict-related sexual violence, among others;
  • Setting up and institutionalizing other MGEs in the PoA small arms process such that there are regular gatherings of national, technical experts directly responsible for implementing the PoA’s provisions;
  • Identifying which of the PoA/ITI commitments will require further elaboration in a diplomatic setting and setting up meetings and agendas to address them in the appropriate forum

The Prep Com offered much hope for addressing the deadly consequences of illicit SALWs. It accomplished its procedural goals as well as initiated a substantive discussion that, although will require much more diplomatic wrangling in order to identify points of viable consensus, was wrought with important security themes. Diplomats and non-governmental stakeholders alike must use the inter-sessional period to prepare in the best way possible for the Review Conference by vetting proposals already presented as well as formulating new ones.

–Katherine Prizeman

Discussion over Chair’s Summary at the Final Day of the PoA Prep Com

23 Mar

The final day of the Prep Com was devoted to a review of the Chair’s Summary, which incorporated much of the previous days’ discussions and seemed to find considerable informal and formal support by states. There were objections of course. In some cases, delegations both lamented the lack of time needed to digest the Draft and then provided very specific criticisms of its contents. This seems incongruous on the surface but perhaps not as much as initially assumed.

While the Chair acknowledged the problem associated with diplomats having to respond to a Draft without sufficient guidance from capitals, it is assumed (by us at least) that most of the controversial matters would already have been vetted with diplomatic colleagues back home. The Draft, after all, is intended to provide guidance not (as some delegations seemed to imply) to create a controversial or preemptive blueprint for summer negotiations. Our view is that, as a rule, objections not raised are more toxic to a consensus disarmament process than those put on the table. In the case of the Arab Group and others, objections should be seen both as an effort to keep consensus options fully in play and as a statement of willingness to be fully active at the summer Review Conference.

As Mexico noted, the Draft is not a consensus document. It is useful as a guide to the Review Conference but does not seek to bind the hands of delegations. For us, this seems to be a document with contents largely consistent with the PoA process itself – implementation that is hopeful but incomplete, effective but not fully binding. When Pakistan spoke of the need to consolidate implementation in local and regional contexts, this is of course the core value of this endeavor. And nothing happened this week to jeopardize future progress. No funding was pulled off the table. No objections were raised that were deal breakers for delegations. No existing commitments were dismantled. No irreparable rifts between stakeholders took place.

It wasn’t perfect. It didn’t solve all problems. But it did no harm. And it reinforced for many delegations the degree to which illicit small arms are, indeed, the true weapons of mass destruction. This Prep Com represented another opportunity for delegations to learn how to work together to enhance what is for now an effective process with no legal standing, but with much creativity and generosity with which to conduct its work.

Moving forward, delegations have at their disposal a Draft that can both organize and promote a successful meeting in August. This is not a Draft to dodge, but a draft to use as guidance to build a new generation of PoA related commitments.

–Robert Zuber

Reviewing for the Purpose of Strengthening the PoA on Small Arms

23 Mar

After a week-long session of the Prep Com for the August Review Conference on the Programme of Action (PoA) on small arms discussing thematic issues such as international assistance and cooperation, follow-up mechanisms, and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI), member states must now channel their efforts towards concrete preparations for a successful second Rev Con in just over five months time. A key discussion among member states on Thursday was determining what exactly the mandate of the forthcoming Rev Con stipulates—to review progress made on the implementation of the PoA or to also strengthen its implementation in addition to reviewing it. The discussion over what on the surface may seem to be a small difference in wording is critical to the long-term success of the PoA and, ultimately, combating the deadly effects of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALWs).  This distinction is also crucial to the formal small arms review process at large. Reviewing and strengthening cannot be decoupled activities as they both, in tandem, contribute to controlling the spread of illicit SALWs.

The discussion initiated around wording contained in the introductory paragraph of the Draft Report describing the mandate of the forthcoming Rev Con. The discussion began when the representative of Algeria stated that the mandate of the Prep Com does not explicitly include a reference to strengthening or enhancing the PoA and, therefore, member states should only consider the strengthening task if the mandate explicitly indicates this function. A solution was found by including the direct quotation from General Assembly resolution 66/47, which states: “…at the second review conference, to review progress made in the implementation of the Programme of Action, and, subject to the agenda of the conference to be agreed by the preparatory committee, encourages them to explore ways to strengthen its implementation…”

Although a way was found to move forward on the Draft Report, the larger question of ‘reviewing’ versus ‘strengthening’ deserves more attention.  Concerns by members states over expanding the PoA, such as seeking coverage for ammunition or to make it a legally-binding instrument, is a separate and potentially larger and more animated conversation. Furthermore, reviewing implementation of the PoA is not an end in and of itself and, therefore, cannot be conducted in a vacuum. The review process must serve a larger goal—the goal of strengthening implementation of the PoA’s provisions in national contexts so that all member states, in the context of their individual national constraints and unique needs, can more robustly prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit trade in SALWs.  As was stated many times by delegations over the course of the week, particularly during the debate on international assistance and cooperation, the Rev Con and relevant meetings (including possible future MGEs) should serve as forums to review PoA implementation in order to better exchange information and views on best practices and lessons learned to strengthen its implementation.

The concern of some states that the PoA will ‘overstep’ its bounds and become a different type of instrument, whether due to its shifting legal status or its expanded scope, is a valid one that merits a robust and productive discussion among diplomats. Although there were calls this week by some delegations to have ammunition included in the PoA and ITI, there was clearly no consensus on this issue. Moreover, this Prep Com was not necessarily the appropriate forum for vetting such proposals given the time constraints and the distinct mandate to prepare the agenda for the August Rev Con. As such, as it stands now, the work of the upcoming Rev Con must focus on improving and strengthening what already exists in the PoA and ITI—a strong set of provisions and comprehensive frameworks at the national, regional, and international levels for eradicating the illicit trade in SALWs.

The hope is that the PoA would at some point become a legally-binding instrument or that it might also include ammunition such that the multi-dimensional, disastrous consequences of the illicit trade in SALWs would be more effectively prevented. Advocating for an expansion of the PoA is important and should not be overlooked in the Rev Con. Nonetheless, this ‘separate, but equal’ debate should not cloud the purpose and mandate of the August Rev Con, which is to review progress made in implementing the PoA in order to identify ways in which member states can strengthen their national implementation practices and better prevent the illicit trade in SALWs.

–Katherine Prizeman

Prioritizing the UNPoA on small arms

14 Mar

As member states gather next week for the Preparatory Committee for the August Review Conference to assess progress made on the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA), there is much work to be done on evaluating the ‘successes’ and ‘failures’ of implementation of the PoA and the separately adopted International Tracing Instrument (ITI). As more than a decade has passed since the adoption of the PoA in 2001, member states must be serious about using 2012’s forums—the Prep Com as well as the Review Conference—to thoughtfully and thoroughly identify where weaknesses remain in the implementation of the PoA and promote strong and transparent measures to address these weaknesses through information exchange, international assistance, and solid reporting measures. The PoA offers the unique opportunity to tackle an issue that affects all member states—whether as manufacturer or importer of arms, in post-conflict or conflict-laden societies, or as supplier or consumer.

Following a very successful Meeting of Governmental Experts (MGE) in May 2011 under the leadership of Ambassador Jim McLay of New Zealand, member states must now fight the ‘negotiating fatigue’ that is sure to be a factor this year with the PoA Review Conference held just a few weeks after the month-long ATT Negotiating Conference in July. It is significant to highlight that the MGE was both a success for the PoA and a breakthrough achievement for arms-related processes on the whole as it was the first of its kind. The hope is that this type of meeting will be institutionalized and made to repeat in the PoA process and perhaps other arms control processes as well. The technical discussions held among national implementers who directly apply these methods in their capitals was a true value added as member states could share best practices and lessons learned in marking, tracing, and record keeping with regards to the PoA and the ITI. It is hoped that this positive momentum will be carried through into next week’s Prep Com, now under the able leadership of Nigeria’s Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu.

The importance of the PoA ‘blueprint’ for international, regional, and national action on preventing, combating, and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALWs) cannot be understated. It important to note, as has been pointed out by many in the diplomatic and civil society communities, that the PoA lays the groundwork for drying up existing stockpiles of weapons as well as those weapons already in circulation, something that the hoped-for, future ATT will not have the ability to do. Therefore, it is crucial that the PoA be robustly supported in concert with the current work on the ATT. It is critical that this Prep Com—in addition to the Review Conference—be prioritized as an important opportunity for progress on the PoA’s implementation. Moreover, as the PoA is a non-legally binding document that lacks clear benchmarks for success, it is vital that member states use the Prep Com as a means of evaluation to push forward implementation mechanisms in the most vigorous way possible. Furthermore, it is imperative that member states discuss a wide expanse of SALW-related issues in evaluating the illicit trade, including border controls, ammunition, intermediary brokers, and civil society cooperation in addition to the technical aspects of marking, tracing, and record keeping in order to improve implementation. These issues provide a valuable context for devising a comprehensive strategy for the control, prevention, and eradication of trade in SALWs, but also a strategy that is realistic in its implementation related expectations.

A key element of the success of the PoA, and thus also of tracking the progress on implementation, is honest and reliable reporting—something that is still starkly lacking among many member states. More than thirty member states have never submitted a report and others have only done so once or twice over the 11-year period since the PoA’s adoption. Although many states are, in fact, implementing the lion’s share of PoA undertakings, the lack of official and comprehensive reporting makes for a difficult process of analysis of progress made, which is the very goal of this Prep Com and subsequent Review Conference. National reports allow for better matching of needs and resources so that adequate international assistance can be provided to those states that need support in adopting measures in line with the PoA commitments. As such, it is important that this Prep Com encourage those states that have been remiss in their reporting duties to recommit to doing so. Moreover, the lack of benchmarks and of a formal monitoring system is often perceived as a major weakness of the PoA. Improvements in national reporting would certainly help curb the negative implications of the limited oversight mechanisms that exist within the PoA framework as well as help generate greater public awareness around the small arms process.

Illicit trafficking in SALWs is at the forefront of minds this year as many in the diplomatic community are set to tackle this issue through both the PoA and ATT processes. It would be wise to bear in mind the distinctive importance of the PoA in addressing the current challenges of communities awash in weapons and suffering severely from armed violence and other abuses committed at gun point. Illicit SALWs are a true blight on the security of communities by limiting and often preventing the ability to create and sustain a robust security sector with implications for the participation of women, the education of children, and much more. Building on the positive energy of the MGE, the Prep Com must continue its work of evaluating where weaknesses in implementation exist and, in turn, providing the support and pressure necessary to fill those gaps.

–Katherine Prizeman

UN discusses the Role of Women as Mediators

13 Mar

The theme of the role of women as mediators was in air around the UN, in the latter part of last week, with two back-to-back meetings addressing this topic. The missions of the UK and Portugal hosted the Arria Formula, while the Mission of Finland and the UN Department of Political Affairs hosted roundtable workshop to discuss guidance for effective mediation, based on Resolution 65/283 on Strengthening the Role of Mediation in Peaceful Settlement of Disputes, Conflict Prevention and Resolution.

As the first panelist to present at the Arria Formula, Minister Betty Bigombe, drawing from her experiences from Uganda with the LRA, addressed common excuses often surrounding lack of women’s participation, such as women are too emotional to handle war lords or they are constrained by family obligations. She also addressed the limited political will of governments and regional organizations to increase women’s ability to participate in mediation. Involving women early in the process is necessary in the overall design of the rules of procedure as a way of ensuring their participation in the process is effective.

Turning the focus a broader gender theme, SG Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, stressed women’s human rights are not subject to compromise, and that both men and women mediators need to promote UN standards and norms, and both have an obligation to ensure gender expertise is mobilized. The last panelist was President of the Aceh Women’s League Shadia Marhaban, who spoke based on her experience from the Aceh Peace talks. Ms. Marhaban noted the lack of psychological support available to her, and recommended that mediators get briefed from women’s organizations to make sure that the gender expertise is available to negotiating teams.

The NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security opened a round of questions, asking the panel for recommendations on how women’s issues can become nonnegotiable, while Canada, as Chair of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace, and Security, asked the panel to rank the top three practical steps for the international community to take to increase women’s participation. Recommendations from the panelists included government accountability; more involvement by regional organizations; training available to both men and women mediators; and better coordination between member states and women’s organizations.

Security Council Member States also took the floor, with Pakistan noting that peace agreements are a great place to begin promoting the role of women as mediators, while France encouraged the Secretariat to appoint more women mediators because the UN itself needs to set a better example of including women mediators. Finally, Morocco noted the limited amount of women representatives in the Security Council, while the US encouraged more collaboration with the civil society members to create a group of qualified women mediators, ready to be sent to missions.

Touching upon the themes and recommendations of the Arria Formula, the roundtable discussion held at the Finnish Mission focused more on the challenges of the process, from how to include women in mediation to the lack of political will, among many others. Emphasis was placed on laying out a good process for integrating more women in mediation roles/processes. A task simpler in theory than it is in practice, some of the practical steps identified to achieve it include- positioning gender issues so as to make them more political; addressing the fear of failure and defeat found among many women in their hesitations to take on the mediation challenge; and empowering women to enter in diplomacy. Discussion also revolved around the standard of evaluation for men mediators versus women mediators, and the tendency to set the standard much higher for women; and bringing out a gender perspective early on in the process.

Overall, in a week with attention on a wide range of women’s rights, attention on their role as mediators was timely to emphasize the various lenses of women’s participation. Both events were insightful, the recommendations were resourceful, and left a sense of activism in this area.  The discussion and the attention of women as mediators were not new by any means, as the Security Council held an Open Debate in October 2011 on Women’s Participation and Role in Conflict Prevention and Mediation. One can only hope that the energy around this topic continues and we see more similar events and small opportunities to begin to foster change in the system.

-Melina Lito

A Review of the New SG Report on the Support Mission in Libya: Urgent Security Challenges

8 Mar

On 1 March 2012, the Secretary-General issued a new report on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) detailing the major developments in the country since the release of the previous report from 22 November 2011 as well as the activities undertaken by the mission under its mandate from Security Council resolutions 2009, 2017, and 2022. The report outlines the major challenges facing Libya in its political transition as well as recommendations for the future for both UNSMIL and Libyan authorities.

The report offers a recount of the political developments in the country from the announcement of a new interim government by the National Transitional Council (TNC) on 22 November 2011 to the intermittent struggles with the revolutionary ‘brigades’ in Tripoli and beyond. It is clear that the security situation remains highly precarious. The issue of the call for semi-autonomy by local tribal leaders in the oil-rich eastern region has also recently come to the forefront for the TNC among other security sector challenges such as proliferation of weapons, trans-border challenges posed from porous movement across neighboring borders with Chad, Niger, and Mali among others, skirmishes between rival brigades, and attacks against internally-displaced persons (IDPs). Welcome references in the SG’s description of the increasingly active political discourses are youth and women who, according to the report, represent groups that “seek to transform their role from freedom fighters to nation-builders through engagement in making decisions on Libya’s political, economic and social future.”

Among a variety of mandated-activities, UNSMIL is focused primarily on providing support for the upcoming electoral process; protecting human rights, transitional justice and rule of law, in particular addressing the detention of conflict-related detainees and interrogations; securing public security including border security, landmines and explosive remnants of war, and small arms proliferation; and supporting socio-economic recovery in coordination with other international assistance. The Secretary-General has asked for the Security Council to extend the mandate of UNSMIL for another 12 months as an integrated political  mission to help ensure the best possible transition in the post-Qadaffi era. The SG has highlighted the importance of maintaining the Libya mission as a “relatively small special political mission, joining forces with the work of agencies, funds and programmes,” as such a model thereby limits the budgetary requirements.

Most especially in light of the upcoming Preparatory Committee for the Programme of Action on small arms in just two weeks, it is important to underscore the specific references to arms proliferation in the SG’s report. As has been referenced on this blog before, the issue of uncontrolled weapons across the whole of Libya has been a significant challenge in the post-revolution period as Libyans seek to secure their nation and embrace democracy in an extremely tenuous security environment. The report explains that visits to 123 weapons storage sites have been conducted jointly by Libyan officials and international counterparts such as the UN Mine Action Service and have revealed a total of 5,000 registered man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and their components, although the fear of missing MANPADS is still a viable concern. Most alarming is the lack of detailed records of weapons in pre-conflict stocks and weapons used and transferred during the conflict. As such, currently there is exploration of a registration system of weapons– including MANPADS– as well as ammunition and its storage and management. For this type of system to be successfully implemented, it is clear that all those that manage and possess weapons participate, including those tribal brigades that are still engaged in their own internal power struggles. The issue of landmines and other explosive remnants of war has also been addressed by the Joint Mine Action Coordination Team, although the operation has struggled due to a lack of funding. A total of 126,155 mines and explosive weapons have been cleared as of the end of January 2012. The Ministry of Defence has also established the Libyan Centre for Mine Action with this mandate.

The primary challenge of the arms situation in Libya is the lack of transparency and access to the stockpiles controlled by the rival brigades that are still very much a factor in the difficult political situation. Therefore, it seems the most urgent need related to the brigade fighters and their large number of unaccounted for weapons is the integration and unification of these revolutionary fighters into national security institutions. The first step must be adequate demobilization in solid coordination with halting small arms proliferation through a transparent registration system of weapons in circulation. Obviously this will be no easy task. One of the most difficult challenges of small arms is just that– they are small, mobile, and easily collected, traded, and hidden. The same cannot be said for other types of conventional weapons such as tanks, helicopters, or missile systems. Many of these revolutionary fighters are unwilling to forego their weapons due to the weak security sector, which, in turn, remains weak in part due to the wide circulation and hoarding of weapons. It is a dangerous and vicious cycle that must be broken. The Libyan authorities themselves have recognized that their foremost challenge is to address the wide circulation of weapons and the armed brigades fighting for control of territory across the country. Furthermore, these weapons are undoubtedly finding their way across borders fueling conflict and violence in neighboring states such as Sudan wrought with its own set of very difficult internal conflicts.

Libya has a difficult road ahead as it transitions to a new government and seeks to integrate a country fraught with regional and tribal divisions. To do so will require a stable security situation without which the transition will be impossible and such stability in the security sector requires control of arms proliferation.

–Katherine Prizeman