18 July 2008
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Third Biennial Meeting of States

on Illicit Trade in Small Arms

9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)



The Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects, in an unusual chain of events, voted this evening to adopt the draft report of its third biennial session -- containing a contentious “outcome document” -- as it ended a week-long session aimed at building consensus on the issue of illegal small arms.

Through a recorded vote of 134 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Iran and Zimbabwe), the Meeting of States demonstrated overwhelming support for what Pakistan’s delegate called “the unorthodox methods” applied by Dalius Čekuolis of Lithuania, Chair of the Third Biennial Meeting, to foster consensus at the Biennial Meeting, whose members had failed to adopt a formal outcome document on the same subject at a major review conference in 2006.

Just as the body moved to adopt its draft report in the morning, the representative of Iran requested a vote to remove, from the report’s main body, a section outlining States’ views on “the way forward” on international cooperation and assistance on national capacity-building, how to handle illicit brokering, as well as stockpile management and surplus disposal.

Arguing strenuously that the Meeting’s outcome document had not been the product of “real negotiations”, the Iranian delegate suggested that it be annexed to the report of the Biennial Meeting as a Chair’s summary, where it would not be seen as a statement of the international community, but one attributable to the Chair alone.  He rejected what he called the selective “take it or leave it” approach in crafting the text, saying that adopting it would set an “unjustifiable precedent” for the drafting of future documents related to disarmament.

The drafting process, explained several speakers, had involvedextensive consultations with four facilitators, and had been overseen by Mr. Čekuolis.  It had differed from the line-by-line negotiation process commonly used in crafting international accords because delegates submitted their inputs on a bilateral basis to the Chair and its Bureau.

The statement by Iran’s delegate prompted many speakers to urge, in strong terms, that Iran join the consensus on the document, which most States argued had been crafted through a process that had given all States an opportunity to air their views.  One exception had been the representative of Indonesia, who, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, acknowledged that the negotiating process had not been ideal.  However, he conceded that the facilitation process had been more time-efficient.  The majority of the Non-Aligned Movement had been prepared to accept the draft’s text.

Reiterating the importance of the outcome document, the representative of Honduras, speaking also on behalf of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and Mexico, said it was a useful tool for dealing with the multifaceted issue of illegal small arms.  Moving that section of the report to an annex would lessen its import, at a time when substantive action was greatly needed.

Also appealing to Iran to associate itself with other delegations in supporting the document, the representative of Liberia said agreement on the report demonstrated “monumental progress” on a “matter of life and death” for many Liberians, which had recently emerged from years of war.

Chairman Čekuolis said the document was “not a treaty”, but “was focused on restoring consensus” on a topic that was “urgent and necessary”.

“We owe it to every victim [to act].  Thousands died every day,” he said.

The Meeting followed seven months of intense preparation, explained Mr. Čekuolis, with facilitators working actively with the Office for Disarmament Affairs in New York and Geneva to identify topics that could build consensus among Member States on how best to implement the Programme of Action.  That process involved three rounds of open-ended consultations and the active engagement of capitals through national reporting.

The Programme of Action, which had been endorsed by United Nations Member States in 2001, establishes a global framework for curbing the illicit trade in small arms.  It contains substantial agreed norms and programmes on several issues, including preventing and combating the illicit production and trafficking of small arms and light weapons; ensuring effective controls of the legal production of those weapons; their holding and transfer; weapons collection and destruction; and the control of those arms in post-conflict situations.  National strategies, which had been an important result of the 2001 Conference, were in varying stages of implementation, but they had emerged as a key focus for increased global assistance.

The topics chosen for the Third Biennial Meeting were international cooperation and capacity-building, curbing illicit brokering, stockpile management and surplus disposal.  States had also reviewed progress on the implementation of the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons.  All were discussed in the report of the Meeting.

Expressing their support for the report were the representatives of Moldova, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), Norway, United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Pakistan, Netherlands, Colombia, South Africa, China, Syria, Egypt, France (on behalf of the European Union), Italy, Japan, Kenya, Jamaica, Switzerland, Colombia, Cuba, India and Barbados.


Vote on Draft Report

The draft report, as orally amended, of the Third Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (document A/CONF.192/BMS/2008) was adopted by a recorded vote of 134 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia.

Against:  None.

Abstain:  Iran, Zimbabwe.

Absent:  Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belize, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, Gambia, Georgia, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Mongolia, Nauru, Oman, Palau, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Suriname, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, United States, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.

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For information media • not an official record