September 16, 2019

Preventing the Illicit Arms Trade

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General Assembly: Disarmament & International Security Committee

Topic: Preventing the Illicit Arms Trade

The illicit arms trade has been an ongoing threat to the world for decades, and despite efforts by the UN and individual nations, it is still on the rise. Although this trade takes place across the globe, it tends to be concentrated in areas of the world which are plagued by armed conflict and violence (thus creating a greater demand for illicit weapons). Although all types of weapons have contributed to this global issue, the recent emphasis has been on small arms and light weapons (SA/LW), which account for over half of illicit trade in weapons worldwide. Additionally, these weapons are more easily hidden and transported than larger-scale military hardware, which allows them to slip more often into the hands of terrorists and other criminals, giving them the capacity to kill hundreds of civilians. As such, it is crucial that the UN take action to prevent the unregulated trade of these dangerous weapons.

This issue has been difficult to address for the international community. Many uses of small arms are legitimate according to international law. This puts much of the onus on domestic governments to put forth efforts toward regulating the use of these weapons rather than a blanket ban. The UN has put into practice the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which is aimed at regulating the international trade of conventional arms, but some countries have failed to comply, and therefore a supplement or replacement may need to be found. One of the main problems with the arms trade is the issue of security. As mentioned above, the largest concentration of illegal arms imports are in conflict zones. Security and safety for civilians is already significantly eroded in a time of war or conflict, and the inclusion of illicit small arms reduces their security still further. Import and export control is also a relevant factor; some have argued that every nation should just increase their border security, and that will solve the problem. Of course, this is usually easier said than done. With many factors at play in this issue, the international community must decide which are most important and how to address them.

As mentioned above, though the UN has actively enforced and encouraged the ATT, some nations have not taken any steps toward abiding by the obligations set forth in the treaty. If the illicit arms trade is going to be brought to an end, every nation must work together to explore all options, both new and old. Delegates should not be focused on the inner workings of conflict zones, but instead on how to prevent small arms and other weapons from getting into, and being exploited in, those areas. Potential options include offering increased border security assistance to unstable countries, expanding cooperation between national law enforcement organizations, and even gun exchanges or buybacks. What are the most important elements in play when it comes to the illicit arms trade? What has already been done and shown to have a positive impact? Is there a solution that all countries can abide by? At least at first, no options should be off the table.

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