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Lithuania's statement at the adopton of the UN Security Council Resolution on small arms
The draft text in front of you today is the product of months of work of our mission, which culminated in week-long intense negotiations among the 15 members of the Council as well as multiple bilateral exchanges. I thank all those who helped and guided us along the way, and the Council members for your cooperation in producing this far reaching draft.
We appreciate the comments and criticisms received which we view as an important part of the broader debate on small arms and light weapons (SALW). Critical thinking and good faith engagement are in order to be able to advance in our common efforts aimed at reducing and limiting the horrendous human cost of the uncontrolled, illegal spread of SALW around the world.
We value the strong support for the draft resolution that many delegations expressed during the open debate last week. As we submit the draft to a vote, we bear in mind the passionate call from Karamoko Diakite, an arms control activist from West Africa, not to let down the victims of armed conflicts and adopt this resolution. He spoke from the depths of his personal experience. And through him, spoke the personal experiences and suffering of countless others, for whom the impact of the illicit small arms flows on their fates and hopes as well as the fates and hopes of their kin is not just a matter of wording but the very real harm, the crippling injuries, and the deaths which they have suffered and which will continue to haunt them as long as they live.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This draft is not ideal. But the world we live in not ideal either. In the real world, we work painstakingly to achieve the desired results, perseverance, patience, laborious efforts, and compromise, one step at a time, bit by bit, piece by piece, block by block. For all our posturing, the illicit transfer of arms will continue, as arms trade is one of the most lucrative businesses in the world. But we can and we must do all within our power to limit the damaging, even mortal effect of such illicit flows on the civilian populations. We have the responsibility to protect as best as we can.
That is what we sought to do: to build on the excellent Australian resolution adopted in 2013 by adding new operational, impact -oriented elements, those much needed bits and pieces for the foundation on which the SALW discourse and action can and I hope will continue to be built in this Council. Let me go through some of the new elements in the text before you.
This draft contains important new language on the Arms Trade Treaty, that landmark instrument we have so painstakingly and passionately negotiated over an extensive period of time. Had we taken the approach “all or nothing” as some would have wanted with this draft resolution, we would not have the ATT today, and the world would be worse off because of that.
This draft has a very strong focus on the human costs of the illicit spread of SALW and the need to protect the victims: women, children, and other vulnerable groups. It also speaks loud and clear on the critical role of women in tackling the SALW problem. It requests more specific reporting on the impact on specific vulnerable groups, including the children, by the UNSG, with recommendations for action to be taken to counter the impact of the illicit spread of SALW.
This draft has extensive new provisions on assistance to affected countries, calling on the UN entities to identify capacities that could contribute to countering the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons. It encourages the UN system to act in a more coherent fashion in helping host states, including through assisting weapons collection, enhancing physical security and stockpile management practices, safe and effective management, storage, marking, record-keeping and tracing of stockpiles of small arms and light weapons, as well as collection and destruction of surplus, seized, unmarked, or illicitly held weapons and ammunition, and the development of national export and import control systems.
It emphasizes the need to strengthen border security, judicial institutions and law enforcement capacity; and calls to examine and facilitate the transfer of technologies that would improve the tracing and detection of illicit transfer in small arms and light weapons, as well as for greater transparency in SALW transfers. As Boho Haram, Dae’sh and their likes burn, kill, enslave, and rape with the help of small arms and weapons, this draft contains new and very concrete te language on the threat of terrorist groups and calls on the Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee, its Monitoring Team, the Counter-Terrorism Committee and the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate to engage on the threat of weapons in terrorist hands and develop plans of assistance to countries in need.
All of these and other new elements could have a tangible impact on tackling the illicit SALW problem - and if implemented, could make a difference to countless people trapped in conflicts. And let me be very clear: contrary to the some allegations, none of these new elements in the draft impinge on or violate state sovereignty. My own country has fought hard and long for sovereignty and would do everything to protect it again and again. And we know well that all of us around this table and at the UN feel strongly about their sovereignty.
The real threat to national sovereignty and all the core rules and norms that govern nations and human lives comes from the actions by terrorists, illegal armed groups, militant mercenaries, trans-border organized crime, traffickers and smugglers of all stripes who slaughter, burn, rape, and destroy without borders - definitely not from the language of this draft aimed at seeking greater coherence within the UN system with an aim to better help countries to counter the problem of illicit arms. The draft text clearly stipulates that all measures would be implemented only as appropriate, within existing mandates, and as requested by affected countries.
Every minute as we speak, a life is lost because of the illicit trade or misuse of small arms and light weapons. Besides causing deaths and injuries, such illicit flows facilitate the commission of hideous human rights abuses and atrocities and indirectly, impede development and growth.
The all too free access to small arms strikes at the core of the human rights of women and girls. Every day, whether in their war- ravaged villages or in displacement and refugee camps, women in conflict situations are faced with impossible choices that none of us would ever want to make: to let their children starve or to venture out in the streets, camps or fields in search of whatever meager edibles and other necessities they can find. All of this at the risk of being caught in the crossfire, shot by a stray bullet, beaten, robbed, or raped at gunpoint. For many women and girls, even tending to the basic bodily needs on the edge of a camp can be literally, a matter of life and death.
As you take to the vote, think of the mothers who live in continuous fear that rebels, terrorist, or militant gangs will attack their homes and steal, abuse, rape, kidnap their children, and sell into slavery their daughters. Think of the displaced, of religious minorities running for their lives; of the elderly and the disabled who simply can’t run. Think of the children, as young as six or eight, barely able to hold a gun, scared, brainwashed, and forced to maim, torture, and kill in order to live. We have heard hear-rending testimonies of former child soldiers at this Council. Can we be so callous as to ignore their plight?
Think of the humanitarian workers and doctors who risk and lose their own lives in order to help those in need. Think of the journalists who brave the worst of crises to keep us informed. Think of the peace-keepers being attacked and shot as they perform a much needed protection mission.
Think of all those fellow human beings, about to be killed, abused, injured, reduced to slaves, or treated like animals in captivity by warlords, terrorists, and militant gangs. This resolution has been drafted not to resolve all the underlying disputes on arms trade- but to make a difference to those desperately in need; to enable specific and concrete actions aimed at limiting the damage and reducing the human costs caused by the illicit spread of small arms and light weapons. The victims cannot defend themselves. But we can. The choice to take the side of the victims is ours to make. I do hope we all do.