|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
14th Meeting (AM)
Patchwork of National, Regional Controls over Conventional Weapons Trade Lacks
Global Support Needed to Reduce Arms in Circulation, First Committee Hears
Two Draft Resolutions Tabled — Curbing Illicit Arms Trade, Assisting States
In Collection; Boosting Support for Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
The patchwork of national and regional controls over the conventional weapons trade lacked the global support needed to reduce the millions of arms currently in circulation, delegates heard today in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), along with the introduction of two draft resolutions aimed at countering that deficit.
Given the devastation caused by the spread of small arms and light weapons, the fight against their proliferation required all the efforts of all States, said Mali’s representative, tabling a draft resolution on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them.
The draft text would have the General Assembly express deep concern about the magnitude of human casualty and suffering, especially among children, caused by the illicit proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons. It contains several provisions aimed at combating that scourge, including an invitation to the Secretary-General and those States in a position to do so to assist States.
The unbridled movement of small arms and light weapons was a great threat, especially in West Africa, said Burkina Faso’s representative. Those weapons were aggravating violence and dangerously jeopardizing the security of States. ECOWAS had adopted a Convention on small arms and light weapons, which had entered into force in 2009, allowing for the coordination of efforts at the regional level. Burkina Faso had opted for a policy of firmness in implementing that Convention.
He expressed his country’s firm support for an international arms trade treaty.
While Papua New Guinea did not manufacture or export small arms and light weapons, it suffered greatly from their illicit spread, said its representative.
Despite stringent firearms control measures instituted in his country, weapons continued to be “leaked” from sources, including from private companies that provided security services. Worried that illegal arms trafficking undermined national security, he said efforts should be ramped up to strengthen collection.
After years of war, said the speaker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his country was taking irreversible steps to implement the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. He too called for a robust, binding arms trade treaty and for all funding institutions to assist his country in rendering successful all of its disarmament actions.
Another obstacle to furthering arms reductions, asserted Sweden’s representative, was the lack of universal support to ban certain classes of weapons. He introduced a draft resolution on 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).
The draft, sponsored by his delegation, called on all States to take all measures to become parties to the Convention, he said. It also expressed support for the work conducted in 2010 by the Group of Governmental Experts of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention to continue its negotiations to urgently address the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, while striking a balance between military and humanitarian considerations. While that Convention was an integral part of international law applicable to armed conflict, it still needed firm commitments, particularly to universalize it and its Protocols, he said.
The task at hand, said the representative of Switzerland, was to find a solution amid Convention negotiations that convinced the principal weapons producing — and using — States of the importance of having a strong instrument that enhanced and guaranteed security for civilians and members of international missions. The result should respond to security needs of States, while respecting the consistency of the existing legal regime.
He said, for example, that the consistency of a legal regime applicable to cluster munitions would be seriously compromised if the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons were to adopt an instrument that would legitimize the use of even those weapons known to have an unacceptable humanitarian impact. Continued negotiations for a protocol on cluster munitions in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons should aim to develop a legal instrument that did not weaken the standards set by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but instead, built a complementary and balanced alternative.
Also addressing the Committee, the Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, Roberto Garcia Moritan, said the acquisition and the illicit trade of weapons required urgent attention. The arms trade treaty would establish common criteria, parameters and standards. There was a shared vision that the treaty must be feasible, with clear-cut definitions.
The first session of the arms trade treaty Preparatory Committee had recognized the need to regulate the arms trade and prevent their diversion to the illicit market, he said. The proposal had been to let the work be guided by transparency and a step-by-step approach that considered all viewpoints on an equal footing. There had been a “skeleton” established, upon which it would be possible to “build up” a treaty. The next session would build on that vision and aim for a strong and robust instrument.
Also speaking were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Thailand, Togo, the Netherlands, Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Eritrea, Senegal, Latvia, India and China.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 October, to continue its debate on conventional weapons.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons and to hear the introduction of related draft resolutions and decisions.
ROBERTO GARCIA MORITAN, Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, said positive developments in the area of nuclear weapons had included bilateral agreements on arms reductions and a successful Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference. On conventional weapons, the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States had ended in consensus. The first session of the arms trade treaty Preparatory Committee had recognized the need to regulate the arms trade and prevent their diversion to the illicit market. The General Assembly had decided to convene a United Nations conference in 2012 to discuss a legally binding instrument for the transfer of conventional weapons.
At the first session of the Preparatory Committee, he continued, there had been an open exchange of views. The proposal had been to let the work be guided by transparency and a step-by-step approach that considered all viewpoints on an equal footing. There had been a “skeleton” established, upon which it would be possible to “build up” a treaty. Elements identified during the first stage had emerged from informal consultations.
The arms race in all its aspects was one of the issues that most influenced security perspectives, he said, adding that the acquisition and the illicit trade of weapons required urgent attention. The arms trade treaty would establish common criteria, parameters and standards. There was a shared vision that the treaty must be feasible, with clear-cut definitions. The next session of the Preparatory Committee would take place on the basis of that vision and aim for a strong and robust instrument.
Before continuing the thematic debate on conventional weapons, JOHN DUNCAN ( United Kingdom) announced that his Government had just published its Strategic Defence and Security Review. The United Kingdom had reviewed its nuclear declaratory policy and the scope for further reductions in nuclear weapon capabilities. The review concluded that no State had the right to threaten another State. While the United Kingdom would continue to work to enhance trust, it could not rule out a shift in the international security situation. Large arsenals remained, and the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation existed. Some countries could even sponsor nuclear terrorism.
He said the United Kingdom had long been clear that it would only consider using nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances” of self-defence, including the defence of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, and it remained “deliberately ambiguous” about “precisely when, how and at what scale we would contemplate their use”. It would continue to work to control proliferation and to build trust and confidence between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States. He assured that the United Kingdom would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT. That assurance would not apply to any State in breach of its NPT obligations. The United Kingdom would also maintain a “continuous submarine-based deterrent and begin the work of replacing its existing submarines”. It would proceed with the renewal of Trident and the submarine-replacement programme, incorporating savings of £3.2 billion.
Reviewing the scope to extend the life of existing submarines, the United Kingdom had said existing submarines could be safely operated until the late 2020s, he said. It would however reduce the number of warheads on board each submarine from 48 to 40, which would reduce its requirement for operationally available warheads from fewer than 160 to no more than 120. The United Kingdom would however reduce warheads on submarines and reduce, over the next few years, the number of operational missiles on the Vanguard-class submarines to no more than eight. Those changes would enable the country to reduce its overall nuclear weapon stockpile to not more than 180 by the mid-2020s.
Overall, the Strategic Defence and Security Review showed that the United Kingdom was demonstrating its resolve to contribute towards multilateral disarmament, as well as its commitment to the NPT. The United Kingdom would also continue to support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He would also support efforts towards creating the arms trade treaty.
EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), expressed support for the conclusion of international legal instruments that were geared towards controlling the proliferation or elimination of certain types of conventional weapons which caused pain and suffering to those not engaged in active combat. Consequently, CARICOM welcomed the entry into force on 1 August of the Cluster Munitions Convention. The entry into force of that Convention provided the international community with another vehicle dedicated to the elimination of the use of one of the world’s most destructive types of conventional weapons. CARICOM welcomed the recent action taken by Antigua and Barbuda to adhere to 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) and its Protocols I, II and IV, as well as the Cluster Munitions Convention. Other member States of CARICOM were currently examining the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, with a view to accession at a later stage.
He said that, notwithstanding CARICOM’s support of the efforts of the international community to reduce or eradicate the indiscriminate use of certain types of conventional weapons for its member countries, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and ammunition constituted a clear and present threat to the region’s long-term social and economic development. That illegal trade, which was cross-border in character, was linked to other aspects of transnational organized crime, including illegal drug trafficking and money-laundering. It also placed an inordinate burden on the region’s resources, as well as the ability of the judicial and law enforcement authorities to confront crime. The fight against that illicit trafficking went beyond a security threat; it was a fight for the survival of the region’s way of life and, indeed, for its very existence.
The region’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals were compounded by the fact that it had to divert limited financial resources from areas such as health, education and other socio-economic development issues to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, he said. That situation was untenable for States which were neither manufacturers nor major importers of small arms and light weapons. CARICOM was thus encouraged by the expressions of support for the elaboration of a strong, effective and non-discriminatory arms trade treaty. The challenge for the Community leading into the 2012 Conference was to ensure that words were transmitted into action and that the support of all States yet to be convinced of the importance of that objective was harnessed. CARICOM would continue its intersessional work to formulate its position to ensure that a future arms trade treaty included in its scope small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. The Community hoped that the instrument would also provide for an effective implementation regime, with provisions for monitoring and verification.
VOWPAILIN CHOVICHIEN ( Thailand) said that the destructiveness of conventional weapons lay, not in their size, but in their widespread use and relatively easy access, which made them more than just a potential threat. The contribution that disarmament and control of such weapons made to peace and security was thus much greater than generally perceived. Accelerating disarmament and strengthening the control regime for those weapons would also help the international community in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Not only was armed violence in many parts of the world linked to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, but transnational crime and terrorism were also its beneficiaries. Thailand supported the effective implementation of the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, the key multilateral framework for coordinating the efforts of Member States to prevent the illicit manufacture, export, import and transfer of small arms and light weapons, and ultimately to tackle transnational crime and terrorism.
In order to strengthen the ability of States to comply with that Action Programme in a more effective manner, she said adequate resources and capacity needed to be ensured, especially for developing countries. Regional cooperation must also be strengthened, especially in information sharing and exchange of best practices on the control of small arms and light weapons. In South-East Asia, that was in line with the Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint. Conventional weapons could pose a serious threat to global socio-economic stability if they fell into the wrong hands. Thailand, therefore, welcomed the work of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on the arms trade treaty to be held in 2012 and looked forward to participating actively in the regional workshop to be held in Nepal in November, as well as the third Preparatory Committee meetings, to be held in New York next year.
JAN KNUTSSON (Sweden) introduced the draft resolution on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (document A/C.1/65/L.44), which would have the General Assembly, among other things, call upon all States that have not yet done so to take all measures to become parties, as soon as possible.
He said that the purpose of that Convention was to ban or restrict the use of certain specific types of weapons that caused excessive injury or unnecessary suffering to combatants or affected civilians indiscriminately. The instrument formed an integral part of international law applicable to armed conflict. However, it still fell short of universal membership. The purpose of the draft text was to continue to express support for the Convention, with a particular focus on the universalization of it and its Protocols. It also expressed support for the treaty as an important international humanitarian law instrument.
SUNEETA MILLINGTON ( Canada) said that her country had been heartened by the progress made on an arms trade treaty, most recently, at the first Preparatory Committee. The conclusion of regional multilateral agreements to control the global transfer of conventional arms over the past decade reflected a growing realization that the problem of arms proliferation could only be effectively addressed through collaboration among States. By building on such agreements, an arms trade treaty could make a major contribution to preventing irresponsible arms transfers. Canada looked forward to the February 2011 Preparatory Committee meeting so that work towards that important treaty could continue.
She said that the aim of the treaty should be to establish clear, universal principles for States to follow to prevent the diversion of conventional arms to the illicit market, as well as to prevent the misuse of those weapons, consistent with international law. At the same time, the treaty should recognize the inherent right of States under the United Nations Charter to self-defence. It must also recognize that there was a legitimate legal trade in conventional arms for defence and law enforcement purposes and in small arms for certain legitimate civilian uses, including sporting, hunting and collecting purposes. An arms trade treaty should not impose restrictions on how arms might be acquired, held or used within a State’s territory.
The success of the 2008 Biennial Meeting of States on the small arms Programme of Action provided renewed momentum to efforts to address the illicit trade, she said, adding that that momentum was continued with the successful outcome of the 2010 Biennial Meeting of States. The 2011 meeting of Governmental experts would be a unique and important opportunity to bring together technical experts to advance the implementation of the Programme of Action. Canada looked forward to working with New Zealand, as Chair, and with other States towards a positive outcome of that inaugural meeting of experts.
KOKOU NAYO M’BEOU ( Togo) said small arms and light weapons were cheap and easy to acquire. Fight against trafficking should aim at all participants, from users to producers. There was a clear link between disarmament and development. General Assembly resolution 64/30 called on States to provide assistance to other States to combat those weapons. In order to achieve tangible success, each member country of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had established commissions to obtain the common objective. But that required economic and technical assistance.
He said that efforts in Togo were supported by the national budget, but more help was needed to implement projects, such as registering small arms and light weapons, tracing and marking, and raising public awareness. He thanked countries and organizations for their help, but appealed for further assistance. Producer and exporter countries should assist, in particular, in tracing and marking. The fight must be stepped up to eradicate the diversion of weapons from legal to illegal markets. Monitoring and regulating the trade would prevent that diversion in high-risk countries. There was no reason why some countries should exercise self-discipline while others sold those weapons whenever and wherever they liked. Member States needed to work without preconditions towards a binding arms trade treaty.
PAUL VAN DEN IJSSEL ( Netherlands) said this year marked two important events in the field of conventional arms: the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the conference on the arms trade treaty, and the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States on the Programme of Action. The Netherlands favoured a strong arms trade treaty that set the highest standards, including on human rights, for responsible international transfers of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons, ammunition and relevant components. The treaty should be a framework for national responsibility vis-à-vis the control of international arms transfers. He did not accept an a contrario interpretation of the treaty, whereby the instrument, in some cases, would constitute an obligation to supply. The Netherlands had actively participated in the July 2010 Preparatory Committee meeting, where progress had been made, but some of the crucial issues, such as the scope of the future treaty and its parameters, needed further work.
Regarding the Biennial Meeting of States, the Netherlands anticipated the meeting of Governmental experts under the Programme of Action, he said, adding that that meeting should be a forum for concrete and pragmatic exchanges on the Programme’s implementation. Although he would not be tabling the resolutions on the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms and on the database for national legislation on transfers of arms, he called on all Member States that had not yet done so to submit their reports to the Secretary-General, without delay.
MARITZA CHAN ( Costa Rica) said that small arms caused the greatest number of deaths. Costa Rica, therefore, reaffirmed its strong commitment to the Programme of Action and supported the meeting in May 2011 of the group of Governmental experts. It trusted that the second review conference of the Programme would strengthen international resolve to bolster and support the action plan. Costa Rica was concerned about the production, trade, smuggling and use of small arms and light weapons. Those weapons were used for organized crime and were a scourge that particularly threatened her region and other parts of world. Although Latin America had about 8 per cent of the world’s population, the region accounted for 42 per cent of the world’s firearms. In fact, the region spent 14 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to cover the economic cost of armed violence.
She said that the situation in Central America was even more alarming. That region had the highest rates of homicide, although the situation was not exclusively the result of small arms and light weapons. The solution to that problem lay, not in applying a soft hand or a hard hand, but in using an “intelligent hand”. That meant promoting more ethical use of resources. The intelligent hand should be applied to the issue of small arms and light weapons. In that regard, Costa Rica called for reducing excessive military spending.
Costa Rica was also concerned about an emerging arms race in its region, she said. States were purchasing tanks and other military equipment even though they were not at war. The real “enemies” in the region were poverty and social exclusion. An intelligent hand was needed to reorder the military spending in favour of housing, education, employment and other social services, so as to ensure greater levels of development and peace. The intelligent hand guided Costa Rica and some other States to propose an arms trade treaty. Elaborating it was a task as urgent as it was necessary. For Costa Rica, the scope of that treaty should not be confined, but should include all conventional weapons, whether for security or police use.
DELL HIGGIE ( New Zealand) said that the benefits of an arms trade treaty would be both global as well as regional. There was a pressing need to tackle the proliferation of conventional weapons in the Pacific region, but the adoption and implementation of a global arms trade treaty would enhance the stability and development of all regions. It would only do so, however, if its scope was broad and comprehensive.
On the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which had entered into force in August, she urged all countries not yet party to it to accelerate their processes to ensure the Convention’s universalization. New Zealand looked forward to the first meeting of States parties next month in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, one of the States most severely afflicted by those inhumane weapons. New Zealand remained committed to working with all partners, including civil society, for a strong and robust meeting, in order to ensure that implementation, the next and critical phase, was successful. It intended to be represented at that meeting at a high level, reflecting the importance it placed on the Convention and that first meeting. Both the cluster munitions process and the text had been modelled along the lines of the Mine-Ban Convention. Together, those two treaties were exemplars of the strong humanitarian dividend that was possible when States combined forces with civil society and drew on its expertise, passion and outreach.
Achieving further progress in the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action on the illicit small arms and light weapons trade was a priority for New Zealand over the coming year, she stated. This year’s Biennial Meeting had furthered the Programme’s objectives through the identification of a number of action-oriented measures contained in the Chair’s summary, which would support the full implementation. As Chair-designate of the next meeting in the cycle — the open-ended meeting of Governmental experts, to be held in New York in May 2011 — New Zealand was working with Member States to define a format and focus for that meeting that was relevant and would serve Member States well in their practical implementation of the Programme of Action.
ELSA HAILE ( Eritrea) said the improvement of arms technology, sophistication and availability was one of the most serious threats to peace, security and development in most parts of the world. The best approach was to implement the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons. However, implementation could be realized only if collective and individual actions were taken in a coordinated manner at the international, regional and subregional levels.
She said that Eritrea was already working on a five-year (2008 - 2012) national action plan on small arms and light weapons, covering stockpile management, marking and destruction. As a legacy of the 30 -year war for independence and recent border conflict with Ethiopia, landmines and unexploded ordnance continued to cause injuries and deaths. A national impact study showed that 10 per cent of Eritrea’s 4,176 communities were affected, impacting 655,000 people. Eritrea had been tackling the problem since 2001, amid limited available United Nations assistance. So far, it had covered 10,258 anti-personnel mines, 997 anti-tank mines and 68,890 unexploded ordnance, clearing a total of 54 square kilometres. Eritrea had requested a 10 -year extension for mine clearance to fulfil its obligations to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention).
Turning to the arms trade treaty, she underlined that the international legally binding instrument must take into consideration the concerns of all States and should be consistent with the United Nations Charter, in particular, Article 51, which enshrines States’ right to self-defence.
COLY SECK ( Senegal) said that, in the absence of international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons, those weapons continued to spread, sowing misery, death and destruction. To right the situation, Senegal joined the advocacy for an arms trade treaty, which would only be effective and viable if it included all conventional weapons and ammunition, along with a broad definition of transfers, among other things. The road towards an arms trade treaty would likely be difficult, but well worth the effort. He welcomed the preparatory process that had begun in July.
Turning to confidence-building, he said that the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms was a way to instil trust among States. He called for the effective implementation of the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons, including destruction of stockpiles and surplus, and marking and tracing. Commitments should drive forward international marking and tracing efforts. The Mine-Ban Convention should be strongly supported to rid the world of those weapons. Financial assistance should be readily provided for mine clearance and victim assistance. He welcomed the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was a step forward to protect civilians and strengthen international humanitarian law. The pressing need to end the suffering caused by conventional weapons required firm commitments by States to conclude an effective arms trade treaty.
JANIS MAZEIKS (Latvia), presenting a report on the 2009 Eleventh Annual Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Amended Protocol II (prohibitions or restrictions on the use of mines, booby traps and other devices) to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, said that thus far, 95 States were party to the Protocol. That number represented an increase of two since last year, with the Dominican Republic and Gabon having joined on 21 June and 22 September, respectively. His country was one of the 47 that had acceded to all the Protocols and amendments to that Convention, and it was fully committed to the provisions of the Amended Protocol II.
He said that two questions addressed by the group of Governmental experts and reported to the annual conference of High Contracting Parties were of particular interest. One concerned improvised explosive devices. States parties and experts were considering the different legal, military, technological, security and humanitarian aspects of the use of those devices and national experience to counter that very specific type of self-made weapon. That real exploratory work was aimed at better understanding the real scourge of war in many parts of the world. The other question concerned the fate of the original Protocol II. It was widely recognized today that that original Protocol had serious shortcomings, as it had failed to prevent the disastrous humanitarian crisis of the early 1990s, which had been provoked by the worldwide use of landmines. Based on the assessment that much firmer measures were needed in order to find an effective way of improving the situation, urgent negotiations had taken place in 1995 and 1996, culminating in the adoption of the amended Protocol and the Mine-Ban Convention. Against that background, States partied to the Amended Protocol II had initiated a focused discussion on the legal possibility and feasibility of terminating the original Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Convention Weapons.
PAUL ROBERT TIENDRÉBÉOGO ( Burkina Faso) said that the unbridled movement of small arms and light weapons was a great threat, especially in West Africa. Those weapons were aggravating violence and dangerously jeopardizing the security of States. His country, therefore, welcomed the initiative to eradicate the illicit traffic in those weapons. In that regard, the United Nations Programme of Action constituted the legal basis for periodically assessing progress in the fight against trafficking. Burkina Faso also welcomed the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and urged States to ratify it as soon as possible.
He noted that ECOWAS had adopted a Convention on small arms and light weapons, which had entered into force in 2009, allowing for the coordination of efforts at the regional level. Burkina Faso had opted for a policy of firmness in implementing that Convention. It was also submitting its reports to the United Nations. Also as part of its efforts to tackle trafficking in small arms and light weapons, the Government had enacted a decree in May 2009 covering all aspects of those weapons, including regulating their manufacture and shipping. A body had been set up to implement decisions taken in the fight against the proliferation of those weapons, including mobilizing the population on weapons issues, introducing morality into the homemade weapons profession, controlling all arms import by the Government and preventing all illicit trade in weapons in the country’s territory.
Burkina Faso was also continuing efforts to develop initiatives for further controlling, marking and tracing small arms and light weapons, he added. It called for strengthening international cooperation, with a view to boost the implementation of measures that had been adopted in that field. He also expressed his country’s firm support for an arms trade treaty, saying that such an instrument would make it possible to end the spread of those weapons.
ROBERT G. AISI ( Papua New Guinea) said while his country did not manufacture and export small arms and light weapons, it suffered greatly from their use, misuse and abuse, hampering development and causing untold social and economic damage. Stringent firearms control measures were instituted in 2003 and 2004; however, weapons continued to be “leaked” from sources, including from private companies that provided security services. Illegal arms trafficking also seriously undermined national security.
He said that Papua New Guinea, in 2005, had established a gun control committee, which had formulated 244 recommendations leading to efforts currently under way to prepare an implementation matrix. His country was also in the final stages of drafting a counter-terrorism and transnational organized crime bill. Despite strong regional coordination through the Pacific Islands Forum Regional Security Committee, more needed to be done to strengthen collection efforts.
OUMAR DAOU ( Mali) said small arms and light weapons destabilized States and stymied development. He introduced a draft resolution on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them (document A/C.1/65/L.11), which expresses deep concern about the magnitude of human casualty and suffering, especially among children, caused by the illicit proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons, and contains a number of provisions aimed at combating that scourge. Mali was convinced that the Committee would approve the text by consensus.
The draft, sponsored by Mali on behalf of the States members of ECOWAS, among its other terms, would call on the international community to provide technical and financial support to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to take action to combat the illicit small arms and light weapons trade. It invited the Secretary-General and those States and organizations in a position to do so to provide assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in those weapons and collecting them.
The text would also have the Assembly encourage the international community to support implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials.
JÜRG LAUBER ( Switzerland) said there was an urgent need for a common understanding to combat the illegal trade in arms and ammunition. The first Preparatory Committee meeting on the arms trade treaty had come to a satisfactory end, and he welcomed the fact that the mandate given to it by the General Assembly was not restrictive to mere discussion, but allowed an operational approach with the aim of elaborating elements of an effective and balanced legally binding instrument based on a consolidated version of the seven United Nations Register of Conventional Arms categories. The treaty should include small arms, light weapons and ammunition, and be applicable to all common types of transfers. He supported strong binding criteria that prohibited any transfer to a State that had committed serious violations of international law.
As the United Nations Register for Conventional Arms was the main transparency instrument for those weapons at the global level, he expressed concern that participation had decreased for more than three consecutive years. He was convinced that States would submit information as long as the Register addressed their security concerns, meaning that the participation level was directly affected by the fact that the instrument did not include certain categories of conventional weapons. That concerned, in particular, small arms and light weapons, which today represented a central security risk for many countries. Switzerland invited the countries that had not yet done so to submit their views to the Secretary-General as to whether the absence of small arms and light weapons as a main category in the Register had limited its relevance and directly affected decisions on participation. It was important that those views be submitted by next year, so as to inform the work of the group of Governmental experts meeting in 2012 to address the continuing operation and further development of the Register.
The adoption and entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions had been among the most notable developments of international humanitarian law and conventional disarmament over the last decade, he said. However, the problems those weapons caused were far from being solved. Translating the Convention’s intentions into practice would still require enormous efforts. Turning to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, he said the consistency of a legal regime applicable to cluster munitions would be seriously compromised if that Convention adopted an instrument that would legitimize the use of even those weapons that were known to have an unacceptable humanitarian impact.
He said that the task at hand was to find a solution that convinced the principal producing — and using — States of the importance of having a strong instrument that enhanced and guaranteed security for civilians and members of international missions. The result should respond to security needs of States, while respecting the consistency of the existing legal regime. Switzerland supported continued negotiations for a protocol on cluster munitions, with the aim of developing a legal instrument that did not weaken the standards set by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but built a complementary and balanced alternative.
HAMID ALI RAO (India), speaking first as President of the Third Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol V on explosive remnants of war, held in Geneva last year, said that the High Contracting Parties had increased from 61 at the time of the Third Conference to 69 this year. The eight new States parties were Belgium, China, Cyprus, Gabon, Honduras, Italy, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
He said that universalizing the protocol would remain a priority in the coming year. The Third Conference had also called on the High Contracting Parties to promote wider adherence to the protocol in their respective regions, pursuant to Actions 2 and 5 of the Plan of Action to Promote the Universality of the Convention and its annexed Protocols, adopted by the Third Review Conference. Aside from universalization, another pillar of the Protocol was implementation. The First Conference in 2007 had established an informal mechanism of expert meetings to focus on a wide range of issues. The work of the coordinators responsible for leading the discussions on those issues had been very significant.
Explosive remnants of war were generated by every armed conflict, he went on. They killed and maimed long after the end of hostilities and were deadly hazards that needed to be eliminated. Protocol V was an invaluable tool towards that goal. It provided a flexible and stable framework for addressing the horrendous humanitarian and developmental impacts of explosive remnants of war.
Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. Rao said that India had always exercised the highest degree of responsibility in conventional arms transfers. It had contributed regularly to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms since its inception in 1994, and had participated actively in the deliberations in the United Nations Disarmament Commission and elsewhere on conventional arms transfers. His country’s security interest had been affected by illicit and irresponsible transfers, especially of small arms, light weapons and explosives. Illicit trade in conventional arms was a major factor in armed violence by organized criminals and terrorists. Priority, therefore, must be given to combating and eliminating the illicit trade. That implied full and effective implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action. It also implied strict national control over production, adequate marking, international cooperation in tracing, effective stockpile management, exports control and the strict enforcement of rules.
JOHN DUNCAN ( United Kingdom) said that there was an overwhelming appetite to secure a robust and effective arms trade treaty and that it was necessary to maintain that positive engagement and the momentum of the first Preparatory Committee meetings on such a treaty. The instrument would not be a panacea for all the world’s ills and it was important that it not be seen as such. But it would be an important tool to address the most damaging effects of the unregulated trade in those weapons, helping to reduce conflict and the arms being used to commit human rights abuses. It would also help to ensure that the trade in arms did not undermine socio-economic development, and it would help keep arms from being diverted to terrorists, pirates and insurgents, who then used them against United Nations peacekeepers and civilians.
He said that the absence of effective regulation did not call into question the need for a legitimate arms trade that allowed States to provide for their self-defence, a right enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The establishment of common global standards would benefit the defence industry that wanted to act responsibly. Working towards common global standards would help to remove the uncertainty created by the patchwork of national and regional export controls that currently existed and which no longer met the needs of business in an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world, where the supply chains were increasingly global.
The United Kingdom welcomed the constructive discussions at the Biennial Meeting of States on the United Nations Programme of Action in June, he said. Progress had been made, but it must be ensured that not only the impact of the Programme’s implementation on the illicit trade was measured, but also the impact on humanitarian and socio-economic consequences. It was only through effective measurement that the international community could gauge the success of the Programme of Action in addressing the key concerns of conflict, human suffering, terrorism, organized crime, poverty and underdevelopment. The international community must strengthen the integration of small arms and light weapons into the broader aim of conflict prevention, armed violence reduction and development strategies and interventions. It was necessary to examine how the positive outcomes of the small arms and light weapons control efforts could be maximized by linking them to those areas of related work and with other interventions that were taking place, such as justice sector reform and wider development programmes. Those were challenging, yet necessary, areas of further work.
He said his country was proud to have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It was committed to continue its work with other States parties and civil society to free areas from the blight of cluster munitions and ensure that further suffering did not occur by encouraging other States to join them. His country was active in fulfilling its obligations under the Convention, including stockpile destruction and universalization. Since 1999, the country had provided an average of £10 million every year for the clearance of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war from the most heavily affected countries in the world and it was committed to maintaining that support.
JOSE IKONGO ISEKOTOKO BOYOO (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said in the area of conventional weapons, recent developments in his country had shown the Government’s commitment to apply action plans to combat the illicit conventional weapons trade. Efforts had included the holding of a workshop on security questions in Central Africa, resulting in the adoption of the Kinshasa Convention. In August, his Government had destroyed its 100,000th firearm, and had formally engaged in negotiations for an arms trade treaty.
He said that the country’s national commission for the control of small arms and light weapons, established in 2008, was now setting up provincial offices in all provinces. His country would continue to pursue efforts to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Indeed, after years of war, it was taking irreversible steps to implement the Programme of Action to combat those weapons. He called for a robust, binding arms trade treaty and upon all funding institutions to assist his country in rendering successful all of its disarmament actions.
ZHANG JUNAN ( China) said that 30 years since the adoption of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the instrument proved to be indispensable in addressing humanitarian concerns caused by those weapons, including landmines. China supported and participated in the international conventional arms control process, maintaining the human-oriented concept. Relevant mechanisms in the field of conventional arms control should be continuously strengthened and improved, on the basis of balancing humanitarian concerns with legitimate security needs. China had ratified the Protocol on explosive remnants of war in April and, since 1998, had provided mine clearance assistance to nearly 40 countries.
He said China also attached great importance to the humanitarian concerns caused by cluster munitions and supported the work of the group of Governmental experts associated with the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to negotiate a protocol to address that issue. He called on all parties concerned to make joint efforts in a practical and cooperative manner to minimize differences and increase the possibility of consensus to be able to reach an agreement as soon as possible. The illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, causing regional instability and fuelling humanitarian crises, should be combated using existing international instruments, such as the United Nations Programme of Action.
Turning to arms exports, China had been exercising strict and effective control over that area, in accordance with its international obligations and national laws and regulations. The illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons must be addressed, and the international community should take measures to regulate the global arms trade and prevent arms from being diverted from legal to the illegal markets. Arms trade issues were complex, and the international community should stick to the principle of coordination and consensus, in a step-by-step manner, to conduct open and transparent discussions on the issue. China also attached importance to military transparency and had been committed to enhancing mutual trust with other countries by, among other things, joining the United Nations Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures and returning to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.
* *** *For information media • not an official record