Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Chargé d'Affaires of the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, Mr. Petr Illiichev, at the Security Council meeting on small arms

We thank Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, for introducing the report of the Secretary-General on small arms and light weapons (S/2017/1025).

While the report in general covers the broad scope of the issue under consideration, it also contains a number of questionable points, to which we would like to draw attention.

Russia has consistently supported the enhancement of the United Nations role in coordinating the efforts of the international community to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. 

The illicit weapons trade remains the main source of financing for terrorist and extremist groups and a major factor in the proliferation and deterioration of local conflicts and armed violence. Despite some progress in a number of areas, we have not yet seen a significant improvement in the fight against the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons in the world.

The pace of implementing the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects remains inadequate.

We have also seen slippage in the implementation of the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons. The black and grey markets in which such weapons are traded continue to fuel the activities of terrorists, extremists, illegal armed groups, organized crime and street crime, as well as various types of conflict.

It is therefore long past time to reinforce the Programme of Action with provisions such as the following that will enable it to significantly reduce the risk of weapons moving from legal into illegal circulation.

The first would introduce a universal ban on the transfer of any type of small arms or light weapons to entities that are not authorized by the States to which they are sent.

Secondly, States should be required to enact strict regulations and exercise direct control over arms-export brokering activities in areas under their jurisdiction and limit the numbers of brokers themselves to the absolute minimum.

Thirdly, there should be a ban on re-exporting imported small arms and light weapons without the written consent of the initial exporting State.

Fourthly, the manufacture of small arms and light weapons on expired licenses or without licenses from the countries that own the rights to the manufacturing technology should be banned. Such measures could be based on the relevant best practices of States, including Russia, which has highly refined legislation in this area.

For our part, we stand ready to help States interested in learning from Russia’s experience so as to strengthen their legislation and law-enforcement activities in every area related to the control of small arms and light weapons. In the context of establishing criteria for assessing the effectiveness of the Programme of Action, it has not escaped our notice that the standardized electronic format for providing annual national reports does not allow for potentially significant information for other States Members of the United Nations regarding advanced developments in the implementation of the Programme of Action, or, on the contrary, about existing problems with it.

Unlike many other countries, Russia has consistently made its national report on its implementation of the Programme of Action available as a separate document, which provides a comprehensive overview of the full range of that implementation. From a substantive point of view, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is frankly a weak document that is not capable of fully enabling the implementation of its own provisions.

For example, it does not include a direct ban on unlicensed arms production or transfers to non-State actors, and it has no provisions regulating the re-export of items intended for military use. The risk of weapons falling into the hands of criminals and terrorists therefore remains, along with potential threats to the further destabilization of situations in various hotspots.

The Treaty’s practical implementation also raises serious questions. In our view it is unacceptable that individual parties continue to supply goods for military use, directly or indirectly, to areas dealing with internal armed conflict. In that regard, we are particularly concerned about the transfer of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine during the period from 2015 to 2017.

On the one hand, we have been encouraged to accede to the ATT as soon as possible, since it is designed to establish general standards for regulating international trade in conventional weapons and promote transparency and responsible behaviour in that area on the part of States parties. And yet in practice we have been given to understand that those standards can be interpreted selectively. In that context, for example, how should we understand the Canadian Government’s decision of 13 December to include Ukraine on a list of countries permitted to receive supplies of lethal weapons?

The process of universalizing the ATT has now been stalled for some time. To date, only 93 States are parties to the Treaty, less than half of the total number of States Members of the United Nations. The number of State signatories to the Treaty is still stuck at 131. It has been hard to miss the significant decline in the number of observer delegations at the ATT’s annual conferences. Not does States’ discipline regarding annual reports stand up to criticism. Of the 80 States that were supposed to submit national reports on the transfer of military goods abroad this year, only 49 complied. The number last year was 51.

The Russian Federation shares the international community’s concerns about the uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons and advocates the continued consolidation of international efforts to counter it, under the auspices of the United Nations.

In that regard, we view the Third Review Conference of the Programme of Action on Small Arms, scheduled for next year, as very important. We hope that it will make a practical contribution to resolving the acute and urgent issue of small arms and light weapons ending up in illegal circulation.