We must bring what is happening in Belarus to the world’s attention and hear from those on the ground. Briefers on #BYHumanRights: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin; Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Vice-Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center, Valiantsin Stefanovic; Legal Expert for the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Volha Siakhovich. The meeting is chaired by Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. The meeting was initiated by Estonia and co-sponsored by UN Security Council members the United States and United Kingdom, as well as Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.

Statement at the Security Council on small arms

Dear Mr President,

I thank the Under-Secretary-General Nakamitsu and Mr Spleeters for their informative and insightful contributions. Your presentations reaffirm that the Council should keep its focus on this matter and that there is a need for a concerted action.

As the Secretary-General’s latest report regretfully confirms, the illicit trade, diversion and unauthorized use of small arms and light weapons continue to impede peace, security and sustainable development. Small arms are relatively cheap, they are easy to construct, maintain, operate and conceal. For these reasons, small arms are often the weapons of first resort in civil wars, terrorist attacks, organised crime and gang warfare. The widespread availability of these weapons continues to cause a loss of lives, violate human rights, fuel conflicts, and hamper humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping efforts.

Just last month UNICEF published a report regarding the situation in Central Sahel. The report shows that the recent surge in armed violence and attacks in the region against communities, schools, health centres and other public institutions have had devastating impact on civilians, especially children. Thousands of children have been forced to flee their homes; they cannot go to school and receive basic social services. It is not possible to sustain or build peace and increase development in Sahel, as well as in other parts of the world, if we do not address the misuse and illicit trade of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition.


Mr President,

it is clear that the threats posed by the illicit transfer, excessive accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons touch upon many country-specific and thematic topics in the Council’s agenda. For that reason, Estonia supports to further mainstream the issue into all relevant discussions in the Council’s work. There are already some good practices in place. We echo an example provided by the Secretary-General in his report regarding the Security Council resolution 2454 that linked the assessment on weapons and ammunition management to the review of arms embargo measures. We also support the inclusion of assistance for monitoring arms embargoes and supporting government actions on small arms management in the mandates of United Nations peace support missions.

Estonia welcomes the attention on gender in the report of the Secretary-General. It is important to increase awareness on the fact that armed violence affects women and men differently. As the Secretary-General’s report notes, sexual- and gender-based violence is often abetted by armed intimidation. We welcome the report’s recommendation to consider including the small arms issue in the women, peace and security agenda. It is equally important to improve the role of women as participants and decision-makers in addressing the proliferation and misuse of small arms in disarmament and arms control programmes and policies.

Adherence to and ratification of key international instruments in this area is of crucial importance. We call on all states to implement the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, and the International Tracing Instrument. Estonia also continues to champion the universalization and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty. We believe that when the Treaty is effectively and widely implemented, it has great potential to contribute to more responsible and more transparent international arms transfers.

Finally, regional efforts and initiatives are essential and should be encouraged. In 2018, the European Union adopted its new Strategy against illicit firearms, small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. A number of new capacity building projects have launched since then in support of small arms control in the Western Balkans, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, among others, in cooperation with UN agencies and regional organizations.


Mr President,

Estonia is committed to prevent and curb the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. We welcome today’s discussion and urge all countries to join in strengthening the implementation of the existing commitments and obligations in the field.