This week marked the beginning of the two week long Third Review Conference (RevCon3) of the United Nation’s Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA).
The PoA is a political instrument, purporting to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons through unanimous consensus, but in reality it is just one in a laundry list of United Nations’ (U.N.) initiatives being employed in their effort to eradicate the civilian possession of small arms.
The PoA was adopted in 2001, but not before the United States, and specifically then U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton was able to outline the U.S.’ steadfast opposition to the inclusion of ammunition and five red lines, including no constraints on the legal trade and manufacturing of firearms and no prohibition on civilian possession. Every six years, however, the PoA is reviewed, and during these reviews the document’s language and terms can be modified to expand its objective. This years’ review conference marks the third time this has occurred, and arguably the most critical since its adoption.
Despite the U.S. policy and red lines, anti-gun governments and non-governmental associations have been working hard to expand the PoA, and RevCon3 presents them with an opportunity to do so. Support is stronger than ever for the inclusion of ammunition, expanding the terms of the PoA’s associated International Tracing Instrument to require the marking of all firearm parts and ammunition, especially after adoption of the EU Firearms Directive, and significant calls to include language referencing synergies between the PoA’s political commitments to the legally binding terms of the Arms Trade Treaty, Firearms Protocol, and self-proclaimed international norms like the International Small Arms Control Standards.
Thankfully, unlike the weak delegation representing U.S. interests at meetings of the Arms Trade Treaty, the United States’ PoA delegation has always been strong, and while we are only one week into the meeting, they have been quick to take the floor and remind the body of where we stand.
On Wednesday, as discussions began on the second draft document, the U.S. delegation made clear their continued opposition to any attempt to include or even reference ammunition in the terms of the PoA, and again later, upon questioning by those in support of its inclusion, to clearly outline the fact that there was no consensus on ammunition in 2001 and has not been any since.
The United States has also outlined the inappropriate attempts at adding language which would open the door to PoA expansion outside of its objective in tackling the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and specifically the attempts to create synergies with other U.N. initiatives, pointing out that even the use of the word “synergy” is inappropriate.
Most notably, the U.S. took the floor early Thursday morning, setting the tone for the day’s discussions by reminding the body that the purpose of the conference is to review terms associated with the PoA and its intended purpose of tackling the illicit trade in firearms, not civilian possession, acquisition, transfer or trade.
Despite all the positives, the United States is only one of a small list of countries opposing these actions, and at a two week long meeting encompassing overlapping side-events and requiring formal consultations, the delegation cannot be everywhere all the time. Nowhere was their absence missed more than during an early week lunch-time side event sponsored by the government of Mexico.
The event, entitled “Trends, Challenges and Opportunities to Contain Cross-Border Arms Trafficking,” provided a platform for Mexico to continue its international assault on our Second Amendment, with Mexican Ambassador Juan Sandoval opening the meeting by asserting that “96.8% of firearms seized in Mexico and sent for tracing come from the United States”, that these firearms enter his country through the porous boarder it shares with the United States, and that the FFL’s boarding his nation are economically dependent on his country.
The audience, composed of a who’s who of the global anti-gun community, including heads of non-governmental associations International Action Network on Small Arms, Control Arms and Amnesty International, failed to recognize the irony that Ambassador Sandoval was laying out a strong Mexican argument for better boarder security. Unbeknownst to them, however, their safe space was about to be violated.
Taking the floor over the audible scoffs of the audience, the NRA’s International Affairs Manager questioned the Ambassador on his figures, specifically with how his 98.6% claim related to the total number of firearms recovered in his country as opposed to only those with easily identifiable U.S. markings sent to ATF for tracing, and on how many of the firearms composing his figure traced back to his own government’s stockpiles. Not surprisingly, the scoffs stopped as the Ambassador struggled to find the right words for why that information was not available.
While hypocrisy runs rampant at the U.N., week one of RevCon3 has so far been a success. However, there is still a lot of time and work left to be done. Next week a third draft of the outcome document will be released and a line by line review will commence. It is our hope that the comments and edits noted by the U.S. delegation will be incorporated into the that draft, but when you are dealing with the U.N. the only thing you can ever be assured of is that their anti-gun bias will continue.