Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

The human cost of illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons

NEW YORK, 13 MAY 2015

Statement by H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

Thank you, Madam President,

[Introduction]

Let me start by thanking Lithuania for the initiative to organize this important open debate on “the human cost of illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons”. I would also like to thank the distinguished speakers for their valuable contributions earlier today.

The excellent concept note served as valuable guidance to us Member States and rightly underlines the importance that the international community addresses this issue at the highest political level. 

The availability and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons constitutes a threat to peace, justice and development in many regions around the world. The Kingdom of the Netherlands therefore welcomes this open debate and would like to encourage the Security Council to adopt the draft resolution that is under consideration. This would build on the momentum of resolution 2117 – as well as the recent SG report – and help affected countries to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in a systematic way. 

The Kingdom of the Netherlands aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union. In addition, I would like to emphasize three points in my national capacity:

the human cost of small arms and light weapons; 

the importance of the Arms Trade Treaty; 

and the need for a comprehensive approach. 

[Human cost of small arms and light weapons]

Firstly, the human cost of the illicit trade, accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons is tremendous. Illegal small arms and light weapons are, on a global scale, responsible for 90 per cent of all deaths during armed conflict and for 60 per cent of all violent deaths outside of armed conflict. This makes small arms and light weapons the most deadly weapons worldwide, thereby justifying their qualification as a ‘global public bad’.

Moreover, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons increases the risk that both smaller and larger conflicts give rise to mass atrocities. As the Security Council acknowledged in Resolution 2117, the misuse of these weapons can result in grave crimes and can thereby pose a threat to international peace and security. In this respect, the Kingdom of the Netherlands would also like to underline the importance of the protection of civilians in armed conflict and the Responsibility to Protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. 

[Importance of Arms Trade Treaty]

Secondly, I would like to stress the great importance of the Arms Trade Treaty. The entry into force of the ATT in December 2014 is a great step forward. Especially the obligation for the Treaty’s State Parties to setup an export control system for small arms and light weapons could greatly benefit our efforts to reduce the human costs of the illicit trade, accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons. And we are not only talking about the weapons themselves. The inclusion of ammunition in the Treaty is vital, as it enables the weapons to be used.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is proud to have been an active participant in the drafting of the Treaty. The ATT is now signed by 130 and ratified by 67 Member States. In July 2012 and March 2013 the Kingdom acted as the vice-president of the preparatory conferences, organizing preparatory seminars and speaking extensively to NGOs and the industry. The current challenge is to effectively implement the ATT and work towards its universalization. The Kingdom of the Netherlands therefore calls upon all State Parties and signatories to the treaty, as well as all other stakeholders, to make the first Conference of State Parties in Mexico City a success. 

[Comprehensive approach]

Madam President,

Although the ATT is an important milestone, it alone will not bring an end to the human cost of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. This brings me to my third and last point: the need for a comprehensive approach to address small arms and light weapons issues. Such an approach is of the utmost importance, as the effects of illegal small arms and light weapons touch upon many different policy areas. 

Fundamentally, the availability and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons feeds political instability and conflicts, and threatens the conditions for social, economic and human development. The presence of large quantities of such weapons in societies, especially in fragile states and ‘under-governed’ areas, may cause social tensions and fuel violence. Therefore, small arms and light weapons issues should be approached in an integrated manner, addressing good governance, strengthening the rule of law and providing alternative livelihoods initiatives. 

Considerations on how to deal with small arms and light weapons should also be part of broader security programs, such as Security Sector Reform, as well as United Nations Peace Operations. Moreover, such considerations should be part of anti-terrorism efforts, as my Moroccan colleague just stated. In that regard, I would like to mention the cooperation between Morocco and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the fight against terrorism. Our countries have just been elected to co-chair the Global Counterterrorism Forum from 2016 onwards.

[Conclusion]

Madam President, 

In 2001 Secretary General Kofi Annan stated the following while addressing the Security Council : “Small arms are easy to buy, easy to use, easy to transport and easy to conceal. Their proliferation exacerbates conflict, sparks refugee flows, undermines the rule of law and spawns a culture of violence and impunity. This is not just a question of disarmament; it is also an issue of development, democracy, human rights and human security.” 

Earlier today Secretary General Ban Ki-moon starkly reminded us that “ the world has been afflicted by over 250 conflicts” and that “the widespread availability of small arms and light weapons, and their ammunition, is common to all”.

Madam President, 

Let these words serve as a rallying point for action.  For its part the Kingdom of the Netherlands looks forward to continue to work with its partners for peace, justice and development, and end the devastating effects of the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons for peoples and societies worldwide.  

I thank you, Madam President.