|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
19th & 20th Meetings (PM)
‘LOOPHOLES’ IN SMALL ARMS NORMS MUST BE CLOSED, AS ILLICIT WEAPONS WEAKEN STATE
STABILITY, DESTROY ECONOMIC FABRIC, KILL HUNDREDS DAILY, FIRST COMMITTEE TOLD
Speakers Call for Negotiations on Legally Binding Arms Trade Treaty,
Mine Clearance Assistance, New Convention Responding to Risk of Cluster Munitions
With the proliferation and illicit use of small arms and light weapons causing hundreds of deaths daily, destroying the economic fabric of nations and weakening security and stability, the United Nations should establish legally binding norms to complement the existing ones, which were “ineffective and full of loopholes”, the Disarmament Committee heard today.
Speaking as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its thematic debate on conventional weapons, Gabon’s representative said he was “profoundly worried” by the heavy cost of the irresponsible commerce in conventional weapons. An effective treaty on that arms trade would establish common norms for all countries, guaranteeing an arms trade that was more responsible and more humane. Such a treaty, while taking into account States’ legitimate right to equip their armed forces, would set up an oversight system to ensure compliance by States and also establish clear and objective rules for exporters, and prevent weapons from falling into the hands of non-State actors.
An arms trade treaty was not only feasible, but was absolutely necessary, Sierra Leone’s speaker said. The absence of common international standards on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms led to conflict, displacement, crime and terrorism, and thereby undermined peace, reconciliation, and sustainable development. It was time to “take the next bold step” on a negotiating process towards such a treaty. Existing instruments, guidelines, and codes of conduct would provide a “solid foundation” for the treaty.
Joining the several African speakers in support of such an instrument, the representative of Senegal added that the problem of conventional weapons raised the matter of the relationship between arms and development. He pointed out that, in Africa, many armed conflicts could have been avoided if the flow of weapons had been controlled. He stressed, however, that the process towards a possible arms trade treaty should be transparent and involve both exporters and importers.
The question of anti-personnel mines also featured prominently in today’s debate, with Canada’s speaker noting that, while there was much to celebrate after 10 years of the Ottawa Convention (the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction), much remained to be done to rid the world of that “indiscriminate killer”. Canada would continue to integrate mine action into its peace and security, humanitarian and development programmes.
Landmines and unexploded ordnance littered the countryside, continuing to cause injuries and deaths, Eritrea’s representative said. Landmines were not only a security problem, but a humanitarian one as well. Eritreans recognized through their bitter experience of a 30-year war for independence and a border conflict with Ethiopia that landmines were the sources of suffering and pain. Eritrea was fully committed to the total elimination of anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordnance. Thus, mine clearance was a priority for the Government, which had established a national demining commission to coordinate mine clearance operations with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).
Lithuania’s representative called for assistance to States in meeting their obligations under the Ottawa Convention, pointing out that, despite unquestionable success of that treaty, some important challenges nevertheless remained -- the destruction of stockpiles being one of them. Although meeting the treaty obligations was the responsibility of a State party, that heavy task, especially for the affected States parties, should be facilitated through international and regional cooperation and assistance, and such efforts should be accelerated.
There was now “universal recognition that cluster munitions posed a specific humanitarian risk”, and that serious consideration must be given to ways of responding to that risk, New Zealand’s representative asserted. The international process launched by the Oslo Declaration on the issue of cluster munitions had engaged States and non-governmental organizations in a process to achieve a new convention by the end of 2008. The increased level of engagement of States parties during the past year in that regard had indeed been encouraging.
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of six draft resolutions, concerning: assistance to States to end the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons; objective information on military matters, including transparency of military expenditures; regional disarmament; Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects; confidence-building measures in the regional and subregional context; and assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
Statements in the thematic debate were also made by the representatives of the Republic of Korea, Mali, Mexico, Denmark, Sudan, Yemen, Niger, Belgium, Norway, Guatemala (on behalf of the Central American Integration System, and Mexico), Suriname, Bolivia, Kazakhstan, China, Germany and Pakistan.
The Committee meets again at 10 a.m., on Tuesday, 30 October, to begin action on all draft resolutions submitted under the disarmament and international security agenda items.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons and the introduction and consideration of draft resolutions.
Thematic Debate/Introduction of Drafts
SHIN DONG-IK (Republic of Korea) said that, while significant progress had been made in the field of small arms and light weapons within the United Nations framework, it would be of no use without follow-up, action and implementation. The international community should “practise what it preached”, particularly in terms of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, as well as the International Instrument on marking and tracing those weapons. The consensus adoption of the report last June of the Group of Governmental Experts on illicit brokering had been encouraging, as that had set out practical recommendations on how to control illicit brokering activities in that field.
He said that controlling brokering was crucial if the international community was to adequately address the unregulated worldwide proliferation of small arms and light weapons. On that understanding, his Government and that of Australia had hosted an international conference on brokering controls in March. It had provided a valuable opportunity to pool wisdom, experience and information. His Government was also planning to host a regional workshop next year, in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and other co-sponsors, to promote the International Instrument on marking and tracing at the regional level.
Since its adoption in 1980, the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons) had played a pivotal role in the global efforts for conventional weapons control and in the realization of the principles of international humanitarian law, he said. During the Treaty’s Third Review Conference in 2006, States parties had successfully agreed on the adoption of a compliance mechanism, the establishment of a sponsorship programme, and a plan of action to promote the Convention’s universality.
However, he noted that the discussions on mines, other than anti-personnel mines, had stalled despite years of hard work by the Group of Governmental Experts. The Republic of Korea supported the establishment of a legally binding instrument that addressed the inhumane consequences of mines other than anti-personnel mines. States parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons should be more flexible, so that tangible results could be achieved during the upcoming meeting of the High Contracting Parties to that Convention next month.
That Convention was also the most appropriate forum in which to tackle the problems associated with cluster munitions and the challenges arising from the differing positions on them, he said. A definition of cluster munitions that was acceptable to all countries had not yet been formulated. Military and technical aspects of those munitions called for more detailed study. The effectiveness of any global regime adopted without the participation of the most relevant States was bound to be contested. Discussion within the framework of that Convention would allow a balance to be found between humanitarian and military concerns.
ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI ( Gabon) said that unregulated arms caused hundreds of deaths every day, destroying the economic fabric of States and contributing to insecurity and instability. Rigorous legal measures were needed to prevent the proliferation and illicit use of those weapons, and the United Nations should establish international legally binding norms on that issue. Such norms would complement existing ones, which had shown to be ineffective and full of loopholes, and had been only selectively enforced. An effective treaty on the trade of conventional weapons would establish common norms for all countries, guaranteeing an arms trade that was more responsible, and, therefore, more humane.
He said that such a treaty, while taking into account the legitimate right of States to equip their armed forces, would also set up an oversight system to ensure that States fulfilled their obligations. An arms trade treaty would also establish clear and objective rules for exporters, and prevent weapons from falling into the hands of non-State actors. Gabon was “profoundly worried” by the heavy cost of the irresponsible commerce in conventional weapons. His country considered that a universal, legally binding instrument would reduce the number of arms landing in the hands of groups that flouted the rights of their fellow man.
SYLVESTER E. ROWE ( Sierra Leone) said that the basis of every disarmament and non-proliferation instrument was, and should be, human security, rather than national sovereignty or national interest. For that reason, it was necessary to establish common standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, or an arms trade treaty.
For obvious reasons, he said, Sierra Leone had been at the forefront of efforts to address the proliferation, excessive accumulation and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The country supported the proposal for a legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons. Such an instrument would enhance people’s safety, security, and welfare. The absence of common international standards led to conflict, displacement, crime, and terrorism, and thereby undermined peace, reconciliation, and sustainable development.
All States that had supported the 2001 Programme of Action on the illicit small arms trade should now support the idea of an international arms trade treaty, he said, stressing that the objective was the same -– “common standards in the wider interest of humanity”. An arms trade treaty was not only feasible, but “necessary, absolutely necessary”.
Based on last year’s debate in the First Committee, and from views submitted by States in response to General Assembly resolution 61/89, he said it was time to “take the next bold step” to negotiate a process towards such a treaty. Existing instruments, guidelines, and codes of conduct would provide a “solid foundation” for an arms trade treaty. He appealed to all States that had expressed strong reservations about the idea of such a treaty to reconsider their positions, and to at least join in starting a negotiation process.
JENNIFER FOSTER ( Canada) said that her country remained committed to the small arms Action Programme. It had hosted an informal meeting on small arms and light weapons transfer controls last August, which had been attended by 100 countries and many United Nations agencies, regional organizations and non-governmental organizations. There had been extensive discussion of the global principles, which could guide the transfer of small arms and light weapons, as well as on practical strategies to mobilize resources and strengthen capacity to effectively control those transfers. A chair’s summary of that meeting would be submitted to the 2008 Biennial Meeting of States for consideration.
She said her country welcomed the report of the Governmental Expert Group on illicit brokering submitted by the Netherlands, and it looked forward to a similarly successful outcome to the work of the arms trade treaty Expert Group, leading to the negotiation of a legally binding agreement regulating all international conventional arms transfers.
Canada recognized the threat posed by the illicit trade in man-portable air defence systems, primarily from a disarmament perspective, and would continue to work with States to effectively address that issue, she said. Her country would also continue to pursue action on cluster munitions and related issues within the traditional disarmament framework of the Conventional on Certain Conventional Weapons. Canada strongly supported the decision of the Governmental Expert Group that met in Geneva last June to recommend that the November Meeting of States Parties consider, as a matter of urgency, action to address the impact of cluster munitions on civilians, including the negotiation of a new legally binding protocol. Canada would work closely with other States parties, in order to achieve a positive outcome in November.
After 10 years of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention), there was much to celebrate, she went on. There were 155 States parties, and many others had adopted the norms. Millions of stockpiled mines had been destroyed; vast tracts of land had been cleared and returned to productive use; and tens of thousands of landmine survivors had been rehabilitated and reintegrated into their societies. However, much remained to be done to rid the world of landmines -- those “indiscriminate killers”.
She offered her country’s pledge to work with other countries, United Nations agencies, international organizations and civil society towards that goal. Canada would also continue to integrate mine action into its regular peace and security humanitarian and development programmes -- a process that had enabled it to increase its contribution to mine action in recent years.
DRISSA MALLE ( Mali) said combating the proliferation of small arms and light weapons was an important aspect of human security. The breadth of the illicit use of those weapons, and the tragic consequences, had demonstrated that the fight against that scourge was a matter that extended beyond national capabilities. Citing a report by Oxfam International and Saferworld, he said that armed conflicts in Africa cost $18 billion, but approximately 95 per cent of the weapons used in those conflicts originated outside of Africa. That sum could have been spent on infrastructure and development.
He said his country had supported the moratorium on the production, import, and export of small arms and light weapons adopted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1998, and the idea of transforming that moratorium into a convention. ECOWAS had adopted a Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons on 14 June 2006, which Mali had ratified. Mali had likewise made the issue of the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons a priority during its presidency of the Human Security Network.
Mali’s microdisarmament projects, funded by the country’s development partners, had allowed for the collection and destruction of thousands of arms and their ammunition, he said. In addition, Mali had destroyed a large quantity of its stock of anti-personnel mines. Mali had also been among the first countries to create a national committee to combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The committee supervised national efforts to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit small arms trade, and organized training missions and other awareness-raising activities throughout the country.
On behalf of ECOWAS, he introduced a draft resolution, entitled “Assistance to States for the End of Illicit Circulation of Small Arms and Light Weapons”. It would have the General Assembly thank the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and others for the aid given to States in that regard. The draft would invite the Secretary-General and States to continue and to expand that technical and financial assistance.
LEON FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ ZAHAR (Mexico), aligning himself with the statement of the Central American Integration System, said that Mexico, as a country which had been strongly affected by the illicit small arms trade, attached the highest priority to that matter. It could only be solved by means of international cooperation, under the principle of shared responsibility, with the active participation of governmental and non-governmental actors. All States, together with producers, importers and exporters of arms, and non-governmental organizations must redouble their efforts towards achieving the objectives of the United Nations Programme of Action.
He said that the excessive accumulation and availability of small arms, as well as the weakness of regulation in several countries, had frequently led to a diversion of such weapons into the black market, leading to urban violence and organized crime. With that in mind, Mexico had consistently supported the resolution on the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons, which had been introduced each year by the delegations of Colombia, Japan, and South Africa.
However, he urged the adoption of binding measures in the struggle against that illicit arms trade. Further, the Programme of Action must take into account the multidimensional character of the issue, including its humanitarian aspects, in order to develop new means of achieving the effective control of commerce and transfer of small arms and light weapons, including their possession by civilians.
BENT WIGOTSKI ( Denmark) said that his country had strongly supported the arms trade treaty initiative from an early stage. Such a treaty should establish legally binding common standards for the import, export and transfers of conventional arms. It should cover all conventional weapons and contribute to the United Nations effort towards international peace and stability. It should incorporate strong provisions regarding respect for international law, including human rights law, humanitarian law and the United Nations Charter.
He called on the international community to prevent the transfer of weapons when there was a serious risk that such weapons would contribute to violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Denmark fully supported the work of the Group of Governmental Experts to be established in 2008, and encouraged all Member States to actively support its work and the further efforts towards the adoption of an arms trade treaty.
The representative of Sudan said it was important to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in an “integrated” way, so that the exporting countries cooperated with importing countries, and all States adopted global strategies on the issue. It was particularly important to provide international support for the countries most affected by that problem, especially given that most of those countries were poor or developing.
He noted that States had made valuable efforts to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons on a national level, through the creation of national offices, legislation, and domestic controls to detect and trace arms. However, that effort required a high level of technical expertise. International efforts, therefore, in which developed States assisted developing States with financial and technical assistance, were of particular importance.
The proposal to create a fund in support of the United Nations Programme of Action was sound and should be carried out according to certain priorities: technical and financial assistance should be provided at the request of the States concerned; special attention should given to training programmes, particularly for national bureaus; excess stocks of small arms and light weapons should be eliminated; small arms should be traced and their points of entry should be monitored; information should be exchanged, and technology should be transferred.
DALIUS ČEKUOLIS ( Lithuania) said that, in a relatively short 10-year period, the Mine Ban Treaty had made an extraordinary contribution towards a mine-free world. Beyond that, the Treaty had set off new patterns of partnerships between Governments and civil society not seen before. Despite unquestionable success, some important challenges nevertheless remained, with the destruction of stockpiles being one of them. Although meeting the Treaty obligations was the responsibility of each State party, that heavy task, especially for the affected State party, could and should be facilitated through international and regional cooperation and assistance. Such international efforts should be accelerated.
He said that Lithuania had consistently advocated the adoption of high humanitarian norms at all levels and domains. That applied to regulating the use of cluster munitions. In that spirit, the country was supportive of dealing with the issue within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Lithuania had also signed the Oslo Declaration. Both processes –- within and outside the United Nations system –- were mutually reinforcing and directed towards one final goal. However, the States parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, at their annual meeting in November, must achieve substantial progress, in order to prove the relevance and credibility of that instrument, and of the United Nations in general, and the capacity of the international community to work hand in hand with civil society in addressing humanitarian concerns.
The States parties to the Convention should support the mandate for negotiations proposed by the European Union in that regard, he continued. Also, a legally binding international instrument to ban the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that caused unacceptable harm to civilians should be negotiated without delay, preferably by the end of 2008, he said.
RAYLENE LIUFALANI ( New Zealand) welcomed the significant progress made during the past year towards universalizing the Mine Ban Convention. New Zealand was committed to supporting all aspects of that Convention’s work, and would serve as co-chair for victim assistance issues during 2008.
She said that progress made on the issue of cluster munitions had been “very encouraging”, and the international process launched by the Oslo Declaration had engaged a number of States and non-governmental organizations in a process to achieve a new convention by the end of 2008. New Zealand was pleased to be part of the core group leading that effort. Hopefully, it would be possible to achieve progress on cluster munitions in the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The increased level of engagement of States parties during the past year in that regard had been encouraging, and there was now “universal recognition that cluster munitions pose a specific humanitarian risk”, and serious consideration must be given to ways of responding to that risk.
Noting that 5 November marked the inaugural meeting of the High Contracting Parties to Protocol V of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, on explosive remnants of war, she said New Zealand had deposited its instrument of acceptance to that Protocol earlier this month and looked forward to participating in its first meeting of High Contracting Parties.
There had been some positive developments recently in the area of small arms and light weapons, including the establishment of the Group of Governmental Experts to work towards an arms trade treaty, she said. Her country strongly supported the development of a global instrument, which established “robust and transparent norms” in tackling the illicit and poorly regulated trade in conventional weapons. The large number of responses from States to the Secretary-General had been “unprecedented in scale”, and demonstrated a wide level of recognition that the issues addressed by the arms trade treaty initiative were “real and pressing problems” in the global security environment.
She looked forward to the next Biennial Meeting of States, in July 2008, on the Action Programme on small arms. The report of the Group of Governmental Experts on brokering had provided a clear definition of what constituted brokering, and had been welcome.
COLY SECK ( Senegal) said that the problem of conventional weapons raised the matter of the relationship between arms and development. In Africa, many armed conflicts could have been avoided had the flow of weapons been controlled. Instead, arms flows had negatively affected peace, stability and lasting development. Senegal had sent its views to the Secretary-General on a possible arms trade treaty, and it stood ready to contribute to a consensus. Such a process should be transparent, and both exporters and importers should be involved. The process leading to a treaty would not be without obstacles, and Senegal supported the recommendations made by the expert group, but a lot remained to be done. All conventional weapons and their munitions should be taken into account, and human rights norms should form the basis of any such effort.
On anti-personnel landmines, he said that States should express a clear political will to eliminate those weapons. His country’s position had already been presented to the Committee. The United Nations Programme of Action on small arms should be assessed, but efforts should go beyond that to improve that programme. Member States must be heard on substantive issues with regard to the holding of those weapons by civilians, and all such processes must be based on the political will to combat the small arms and light weapons scourge.
MARWAN AL-SHAMI ( Yemen) said his country “deeply believed” in the United Nations Programme of Action on the illicit small arms and light weapons trade, and it was seriously engaged in working with international efforts to implement it.
Domestically, Yemen had carried out efforts to ban selling weapons in major cities. It had also abolished existing licenses for weapons.
He said he welcomed the work of the Group of Governmental Experts on small arms and light weapons, and called for more strenuous efforts to constructively deal with the “dangerous phenomenon” of the illicit weapons trade. Illicit, unregulated trade facilitated the access of non-State actors and organized criminal groups to small arms and light weapons, which ultimately impacted on development, leading to, among other challenges, poverty and terrorism. Countries that manufactured arms had a responsibility towards the countries in which those weapons were “dumped”, and should not leave those countries to struggle alone with the problems caused by the illicit arms trade.
ALOU HAOUA NA-ALLAH (Niger), aligning herself with the statements of the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that tragic events worldwide showed there was a need for complete and universal disarmament. Niger had always worked for true disarmament, and had adhered to most international instruments including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, and the Mine Ban Convention. She supported universal adherence to those instruments, and welcomed progress made towards nuclear disarmament.
In order for international peace and security to prevail, she urged all countries to commit themselves to substantial disarmament. The stockpiling and transfer of small arms and light weapons in particular fuelled a number of conflicts. That challenged all States, which should lead them to take action. Niger had embarked on a battle against the small arms and light weapons “scourge”, together with the United Nations and neighbouring countries. In June 2006, the member States of ECOWAS, which including Niger, had transformed the moratorium of 1998 into a Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Domestically, Niger had established a Commission on small arms and light weapons in 1994, charged with collecting and monitoring those weapons.
Niger’s defence and security policy was characterized by a “relentless will” to establish good relations and peaceful coexistence with its neighbours and with all States, she said. The creation of a multilateral, legally binding instrument establishing international norms on the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons would be of great use for the consolidation of peace and security in the world. Niger strongly supported the initiative aimed at regulating the international arms trade and combating illicit trafficking in arms.
ALAIN VAN DER GUCHT ( Belgium) aligned himself fully with the statement made by the European Union, in particular, on the subject of cluster munitions, whose humanitarian impact was universally recognized. Unfortunately, the principles of international law had not served to prevent the human tragedies caused both before and after conflicts through the use of such weapons.
He said that it was vital to begin negotiations, with the view to concluding, by the end of 2008, agreements on a legally binding instrument to address the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster weapons. Such an instrument should contain provisions for international cooperation and assistance.
Belgium would organize a regional conference in Brussels, on 30 October, with the goal of reflecting on assistance to the victims of cluster bombs, and the destruction of stocks, he noted. Even if that did not lead to negotiations, hopefully, discussions would contribute to greater understanding and to consolidating the emerging political consensus in Europe on that question.
INGUNN VATNE ( Norway) said the use of cluster munitions as an increasingly pressing humanitarian and developmental problem, rather than simply an arms control or disarmament issue, had prompted her Government to initiate an international process to prohibit them. The Oslo Declaration was a joint undertaking by States, the United Nations and other organizations, spelling out the commitment to negotiate an international legal instrument on cluster munitions by the end of 2008. Already, the United Nations had called on States to take domestic measures to immediately freeze the use and transfer of all cluster munitions until the treaty was adopted.
Turning to the issue of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, she said her country and the Netherlands had sponsored a 2003 Conference, whose outcome had formed part of the basis for international cooperation on illicit brokering. Norway had also served on the intergovernmental Group of Experts that had been convened in 2006. While the recommendations, reported to the current General Assembly session, could have been bolder, they had reflected consensus. The current Assembly should endorse the report, so as to give impetus for active follow-up of those recommendations.
She encouraged work to continue on an arms trade treaty, which Norway considered to be feasible. In a broad-scoped approach, a list should be prepared of the equipment to be included, based on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. Further, the treaty should expand the parameters of the commitments already made with regard to arms transfers in areas such as those relevant to terrorist activities and crime, those with the potential for destabilizing regions or provoking violence, and those negatively affecting sustainable development or involving corrupt practices and other risks. A new instrument would need the support of mechanisms for information exchange, reporting and documentation, monitoring, compliance, assistance and cooperation. Negotiations should clarify how those elements would be organized.
JOSE ALBERTO-RUIZ (Guatemala), on behalf of the Central American Integration System (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic), and Mexico, said that mines caused many losses every year. They impeded the use of fertile land for agriculture and, as such, directly impacted the economies of developing countries. They had lasting consequences and required sustained support for the victims. The countries of the Central American Integration System were aware of the serious threat of mines and other unexploded ordnance, all of which represented a threat to civilians.
He said that the countries of the group had requested mine assistance from the Organization of American States (OAS)to enable them start mine-clearance operations. The organization had responded and, this May, the countries celebrated the fifteenthanniversary of the programme of [OAS] assistance. That programme had been expanded to include other countries in Central America. It included assistance to victims, as well as socio-economic integration of populations in the areas that had been mined. The organization had been able to increase the mine-clearance capacity of the affected countries by channelling funds and equipment to affected areas.
The will of the Governments of the Central American Integration System to eradicate those lethal devices had been reiterated in various ways, including the ratification by all the member countries of the Ottawa Convention, he said. That instrument established the highest standards for the elimination of anti-personnel mines. The members had taken an active part in the Treaty and had lent assistance to mine sweepers in other areas of the world. None of the member countries had been or was a producer of landmines, and they had never exported those weapons to other States. The group believed that mine-clearance activities were essential to efforts to strengthen peace in the region.
ELSA HAILE ( Eritrea) said that the forthcoming Biennial Meeting on implementation of the Programme of Action on small arms was an opportunity for further measures to strengthen the Programme’s implementation and follow-up mechanism. Her Government had consistently supported all initiatives and programmes in the Horn of Africa, including efforts within the Regional Centre for Small Arms, in which Eritrea was playing an active role.
She said that as a party to the Mine Ban Convention, Eritrea was fully committed to the total elimination of anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordnance. Landmines were not only a security problem, but a humanitarian one as well. Eritreans recognized through their bitter experience of a 30-year war for independence and a border conflict with Ethiopia that landmines were the sources of suffering and pain. Landmines and unexploded ordnance, which littered the countryside, continued to cause injuries and deaths.
Thus, she said, mine clearance was a priority for the Government, which had established a national demining commission to coordinate mine-clearance operations with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE). The current body overseeing the programme, the Eritrean Demining Authority, was carrying out activities that included the development of a national mine-action strategic plan on the basis of a landmine impact survey. A legal and institutional framework enabled the involvement of national and international non-governmental organizations in the implementation of the Mine Ban Convention.
ASHA I. BURKHARDT-REMESAR ( Suriname) said that, as part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), her country was one of the nations confronted by uncontrolled illegal trade in small arms and light weapons in connection with drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. It, therefore, reaffirmed the relevance of implementing the 2001 Programme of Action in full, with its recommendations at the national, regional and global levels. Suriname continued all efforts to prevent the illicit trade in small arms, and he emphasized the country’s regional contribution to global security.
She said that, although Suriname was not manufacturing conventional arms, those destructive weapons were available on the territory because they entered by illegal and legal means. It was important, therefore, to restrain the development and potential use of conventional weapons. Suriname stressed the need for the adoption of a politically binding international instrument based on the principles of international law, international humanitarian law and the United Nations Charter to eliminate that perilous trade in all conventional weapons.
Almost every region in the world was mine-affected, and thousands of individuals were currently suffering from those silent weapons, she said. With the ratification of the Ottawa Convention in 2002, Suriname had become an active participant in that Treaty’s implementation procedures. With the support and cooperation of the regional community, her country had implemented the Convention’s article 5 and had been able to clear the anti-personnel mines that had been laid during the internal conflict in the 1980s. As of April 2005, Suriname had been declared mine free. She reiterated Suriname’s commitment to the Ottawa Convention’s full implementation.
MARÍA ALICIA TERRAZAS ONTIVEROS (Bolivia), aligning herself with the statements of the Rio Group and the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), said that in the past 15 years, there had been a “marked trend” to erode existing disarmament and non-proliferation regimes and to block negotiations towards new accords. That had divided the international community and impeded efforts to revitalize disarmament and strengthen non-proliferation in all its aspects. Conventional weapons continued to be used in certain cases to oppress and restrict, and in many other cases, to kill, mutilate and displace entire peoples.
She noted that the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons did not strictly prohibit, but simply limited, the use of certain conventional weapons. Further, since 1992, the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms had been the only mechanism on international arms transfers, and States provided information to that mechanism solely on a voluntary basis. While States had the sovereign right to acquire weapons for security and legitimate defence, military spending nevertheless took resources away from economic and social development programmes.
It was fundamental to adopt international legal agreements on the transfers of conventional weapons to prevent their illicit trade, and to strengthen preventive measures called for in the 2001 Programme of Action on small arms, she said. Her Government favoured the “culture of life, and not the culture of war”. Unilateral military interventions destroyed civilizations and peoples, and killed millions of innocent human beings. Military colonialism destroyed natural sources of energy, and counted among its victims, children, mothers, and elderly persons.
The arrogance of military power only generated more violence.
In that light, she called on the international community to turn to the wisdom of the people and to the social organizations of all countries, which were reserves of knowledge and wisdom vital for defending lives and saving the planet.
Bolivia had ratified almost all the multilateral treaties on disarmament and international security, as well as regional treaties. The country looked forward to the recommendations of the Group of Governmental Experts on the viability of an international arms trade treaty.
RUSTEM SAGINDIKOV ( Kazakhstan) said that his country presented information annually to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. It sent in information on its exports and imports of small arms and light weapons. Special efforts should be devoted to the establishment of an arms trade treaty, and the international community should wholeheartedly support that initiative. Problems could only be solved through joint endeavour by States. In his country, efforts to combat small arms and light weapons were constantly being strengthened.
He said his country had instituted a system of monitoring conventional arms. It also had a unified database. It continued to tackle the challenges connected with illegal trade in small arms and light weapons, but its shared boundaries made that illicit practice difficult to combat. The situation made cooperation between neighbouring States essential. In turn, that cooperation had led to exchange of information on those matters. Kazakhstan hoped that that approach would help to increase the stability of the region as a whole.
KANG YONG ( China) said that his country supported constant enhancement of conventional arms control mechanisms, with the precondition that the sovereignty and security of all countries were protected and that lawful arms transfers among countries were not affected. Military transparency was particularly important. In that effort, China had decided to report its military expenditures annually, starting this year. China also reported on the trade of conventional arms under the Register of such weapons, but since 1996, it had to stop because “a certain country” had provided data on its arms sales to the Taiwan province of China. Now that such behaviour had stopped, China could resume its reporting.
China, he said, was a strong supporter of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and had helped least developed countries participate in it. He welcomed the entry into force of the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War and said his country was preparing for its early ratification. In addition, he was in favour of seeking a proper solution to the issue of cluster munitions that addressed humanitarian and military needs in a balanced way. His country had also made great efforts to ensure full and timely implementation of the amended Protocol on landmines, and was ready to work with other countries on anti-vehicle mines. China had provided mine-clearance assistance to more than 10 countries.
In addition, his country was committed to promoting the full implementation of the Programme of Action on small arms, he said. It had insisted that exports aligned with the legitimate self-defence of receiving countries, and that they should not undermine stability of any area or be used as a means of interfering in the internal affairs of the recipient country. Whether or not there should be an international instrument on arms trade, and what the relationship that instrument should have with existing mechanisms, should be discussed by the entire international community.
BERNHARD BRASACK ( Germany) introduced a draft resolution on “Objective information on military matters, including transparency of military expenditures” (document A/C.1/62/L.33), and said that there were now more than 55 co-sponsors for that text. The draft was a follow-up to the version from 2005, with some minor technical amendments. It also had a new element concerning a proposal for establishing a group of governmental experts in 2010.
Since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 60/44 in 2005, the level of submission to the standardized reporting instrument by states had remained relatively stable, following the same pattern seen in recent years. In 2006, 82 submissions had been received, the highest number since 2002, and in 2007, the same level of submissions might be received, as some late entries were expected. The standardized reporting format covered expenditures on personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement and construction, research and development. Germany appealed to all countries that had not yet participated to join the instrument by submitting information next year.
Explaining the reason for the provision to establish a governmental expert group, he said that, notwithstanding the dramatic changes in the “international framework conditions”, the reporting system had remained almost unaltered since its introduction in 1981. So far, there had been only one preliminary review of the reporting system, undertaken by a Governmental Expert Group in 1982, although that Group had recommended that a further review be undertaken in a few years time, once Member States had had more experience with the new reporting system. The present system had several weaknesses, which made it considerably more difficult to compare and assess the reported data in a user-friendly way. A review should also address the question of how participation in the reporting system could be broadened further. The draft should be accepted without a vote.
KHALILULLAH QAZI ( Pakistan) introduced a draft resolution on regional disarmament (document A/C.1/62/L.31).
He also introduced a resolution on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (document A/C.1/62/L.32).
Introducing a further draft resolution on confidence-building measures in the regional and subregional context (document A/C.1/62/L.43), he said that the development of confidence-building measures played a key role in maintaining regional balance and in strengthening peace along borders. The draft urged strict compliance with regional disarmament measures, as well as the maintenance of military balance and the promotion of bilateral confidence-building measures.
Finally, he introduced a draft resolution on the conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons (document A/C.1/62/L.44). The draft constituted an important confidence-building measure in the present, tense international circumstances between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States, as well as among the nuclear-weapon States. He hoped it would also facilitate negotiations on other nuclear-related matters.
* *** *For information media • not an official record