Remarks by Ambassador Harold Agyeman, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the UN, at UN Security Council meeting on threats to International Peace and Security

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Threats to International Peace and Security: Risk stemming from violations of agreements regulating the export of weapons and military equipment

April 10, 2023

Mr. President,

I thank your delegation for convening this open debate as well as the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu for her briefing to the Council.  In as much as the ideal world should be anchored firmly on a culture of peace, the reality is that very few periods of human history have been free from violence and war. That reality has shaped, over the past century and more, the international laws and commonly agreed rules that have aimed to abate the impact of conflicts and wars on our aspiration for stable and peaceful societies.

As we have come to appreciate from the two major last wars, instruments of war and violence should not be wielded abroad except for the purposes of collective security, or individual or collective self-defense as provided for by article 51 of the UN Charter. As a country, and consistent with the ICJ’s view, we uphold the inherent rules of self-defense under customary international law, which provide that self-defense must be necessary and proportionate to the aggression.

Mr. President,

Some have chosen to establish a link between high military expenditure and their national security, on our part, we do not lose sight of the correlation between the business of weapons and the state of insecurity around several parts of the world. Violation of national regulations for export of weapons and military equipment have led to proliferation of arms and exacerbated conflicts. It has also led to significant national security threats in many States. Indeed, besides the consequences of diversion which has been particularly adverse for the African continent, the counter-balancing actions against the buildup of military arsenals by strategic competitors has had negative global socioeconomic effects. It is therefore not strange to see in recent years, an exponential growth of the business of weapons and military equipment. As stated by the 2022 report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) world military spending in 2021 reached an all-time high of US$2.1 trillion.

When one reviews the direction, trends, and upsurge in the international flow of conventional weapons between 2018 and 2022 the results are intriguing – correlating with some of the armed conflicts around the world and manifesting in conflicts that have also involved non-state actors including political militias, criminals, and terrorist groups. In asserting the right of every State to legitimately use force within its territory, mindful of the rights of its citizens, we also make the point that the influx of weapons into any conflict situation aggravates the conflict.

Mr. President,

To address the risks associated with violations, we would make three brief additional points. The first is that exporting countries, particularly, the major weapon exporting States, need to strengthen regulations for all aspects of export processes, backed by effective monitoring and enforcement action to improve compliance. In emphasizing the responsibility of major exporters, four of whom are permanent members of this Council, we also underscore the importance of international instruments and treaties aimed at preventing the illicit acquisition, proliferation, and misuse of conventional weapons.

In this regard, it is regrettable that of the five major arms exporting countries, the two most significant (the United States [signatory only] and the Russian Federation) have opted not to be members of the Arms Trade Treaty. We urge a reconsideration of their decision and particularly emphasis the need for the universalization of the ATT to regulate international trade in conventional arms and to prevent their diversion. As a State party to the ATT, we wish to highlight Article 6 and 7 of the treaty, which explicitly prohibits arms transfers that would be contrary to international legal obligations, or contribute to the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity and certain war crimes.

Secondly, Ghana believes that greater transparency, within the rubric of international cooperation, is necessary for reducing the risks that appertain to international peace and security from the production and sale of weapons and military equipment. Mindful of this concern on the African continent, regional disarmament measures such as the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms, Light Weapons, their ammunition and other associated material, the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa, and the SADC Firearms Protocol have aimed at ensuring transparency in arms transfers to enable States identify and trace conventional weapons in a timely and reliable manner. This is critical in combating diversion and preventing the acquisition of these weapons by unauthorized recipients, including terrorist groups.

We urge further global efforts in this direction and reaffirm the importance of effective implementation of treaties such as the ATT, the Firearms Protocol, the UN the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (UNPOA) and its International Tracing Instrument, the Anti-Personnel Landmine Ban Convention (APLC), the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCCW).

Thirdly, the Council through the tool of sanctions has been deeply involved with efforts to stem the flow of arms to conflict parties and settings. That tool however requires recalibration to ensure that arms embargos do not undermine the legitimate efforts of States to defend their territory but rather target armed groups and others who exploit opaque trading and transfer arrangements that often also benefits those who have sought to make a business out of war. This understanding must of necessity extend the effects of sanctions to those who manufacture such tools of violence and should ordinarily be responsible for how their products are traded and used.

Mr. President,

In concluding, I would like to underscore that while Ghana does not see any prohibition in the UN Charter that denies Member States the ownership and usage of conventional arms in defense of their territorial integrity, if it is done in conformity with international law, we are also of the view that no matter their numbers and potency, weapons can never settle a conflict permanently. Dialogue and diplomacy remain the only pathway to the peaceful resolution of any conflict.

I thank you.

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