|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Preparatory Committee for Review Conference
on Illicit Small Arms Trade
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Scores of People Still Fall Victim to Illegal Small Arms ‘Every Day, Every Hour,
Every Minute’, Delegates told as Preparatory Meeting Begins at Headquarters
Top Disarmament Official Opens Session Paving Way for August Conference
To Review 2001 Action Programme Against Illicit Small Arms, Light Weapons
The tragic deaths of thousands of men, women and children worldwide, killed every day by illegal firearms, was the high price of failing to halt the spread of those weapons, delegations at United Nations Headquarters said today as they began preparations for an upcoming conference to review the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
Lamenting the “scores of people who fall victim to illicit small arms every day, every hour, every minute”, Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that, while donor and recipient States had long recognized the link between security and development, there were serious gaps in the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
“Despite many well-known obstacles, I believe progress is possible — and it must be possible,” she declared as she opened the week-long meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action. A substantive outcome this week would pave the way for a successful review in August, especially since the 2006 Review Conference and its preceding Preparatory Committee meetings, had yielded no concrete results.
While there had been significant progress achieved over the past six years, including the decision by some donor countries that small-arms related programmes could be seen as official development aid, she said there was ample room for improvement, including in areas such as marking and tracing, the exchange of knowledge, international cooperation and the establishment of specific numerical targets, benchmarks or cut-off dates. “The price of failure is too high and the benefits of success are overwhelmingly clear,” she said, urging the Preparatory Committee to ensure that the Programme of Action and its International Tracing Instrument would be enhanced and strengthened.
The Programme of Action, endorsed by 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. Earlier biennial meetings were held in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010, with a Review Conference held in 2006.
Today, during three thematic debates on various aspects of the Programme’s implementation, a number of speakers noted that scattershot progress had been made in that regard at national, regional and international levels. However, many regional representatives agreed with Ms. Kane, citing a variety of problematic areas, including the need for bolstered assistance from the international community, especially from arms-producing countries.
The latter bore a special responsibility for providing training, equipment and technical assistance, said the representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group. “More efforts are needed: the death, mayhem and destruction on the continent of Africa point us to the urgency of the Programme of Action,” he declared.
Some members voiced suggestions on how to do that, including a proposal by the representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to establish an inter-agency mechanism to enhance efforts, given that illicit arms trading also threatened stability in his region.
However, there were mixed opinions on exactly what the Programme of Action meant on the ground. Many delegates urged the Committee to move cautiously towards the coming Review Conference. “We should not reopen negotiations,” said Mauritania’s representative, speaking for the Arab Group, adding that the outcome of the review conference should reflect the importance of national progress and other relevant outcomes regarding implementation of the Programme of Action.
However, Peru’s delegate was among those who believed the Programme of Action should be made legally binding, and that its provisions should cover ammunition and explosives. The representative of Norway said “we should not shy from the opportunity to deliberate on the shortcomings of the Programme of Action”, and added that it was necessary to involve all stakeholders in the evaluation exercise.
The Russian Federation’s representative similarly highlighted that the Programme of Action was indeed a “living instrument” subjected to further development if and when needed. “Our common cause can only be successful”, he said, “if it enjoys the overwhelming support of the whole international community.” The representative of Kenya succinctly concluded her statement, saying, “The Programme of Action could, if States decided, provide valuable results.”
During its morning session, the Committee elected as Chair Joy Ogwu of Nigeria and as Vice-Chairs the representatives from Kenya and Madagascar for the Group of African States; Japan for the Group of Asian and Pacific States; the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania for the Group of East European States; Brazil, Guyana and Peru for the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean States; and Germany and New Zealand for the Group of Western European and other States. It also adopted the rules of procedure and the agenda, and approved its programme of work.
Also speaking during the thematic debates were the representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of Non-Aligned Movement), Japan, Cuba, Switzerland, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Belize, United Republic of Tanzania, China, Argentina (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)), Panama, India, Pakistan, Germany, South Africa, Serbia, Nigeria, Philippines, Venezuela, Jamaica, United States, France, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Colombia, Turkey and Jordan.
Two members of the delegation of the European Union also addressed the Preparatory Committee.
The Preparatory Committee would meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 20 March to continue its thematic debate.
Opening the first day of its week-long session, the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in 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, was expected to elect its Bureau and begin its thematic debate on the status of the action plan, adopted by the General Assembly in 2001.
Before the Preparatory Committee were the following documents: 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.192/15); the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons (document A/60/88); and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (document A/RES/55/255).
The Preparatory Committee began its work with the election by acclamation of its Chairperson, JOY OGWU ( Nigeria), who welcomed Committee members and said the meeting would help to sustain the current positive momentum in the field of tackling the scourge of the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons.
Taking the floor next, newly appointed High Representative of Disarmament Affairs, ANGELA KANE, said that progress indeed must be possible, and added: “The price of failure is too high and the benefits of success are overwhelmingly clear.” With a view to the agreement reached with the 2001 adoption of the Programme of Action and the 2005 adoption of the International Tracing Instrument, many States had subsequently enacted legislation aimed at stemming the flow of small arms, and many weapons had been destroyed.
“States have acknowledged that there can be no development without security and no security without development,” she continued, adding that donor countries had formally decided that small arms-related programmes could be seen as official development aid (ODA). In addition, some affected States had begun to implement small arms action plans into development strategies. Regional cooperation had seen transparency and confidence-building measures and reporting.
However, serious gaps remained, she said. The number of national implementation reports remained low for some regions. There was ample room for improvement, including in the area of marking and tracing small arms. Information and knowledge exchange could also be improved, she said. Although international cooperation and assistance had intensified, Member States still lacked resources.
She went on to say that the Programme of Action lacked clear targets and benchmarks, she said, stressing that the current meeting posed unique opportunities, occurring as it did on the heels of the Third and Fourth Biennial Meetings of States in 2008 and 2009. Member States could bank on the results of those and other successful meetings to help move the process forward.
The 2006 Review Conference, and its preceding Preparatory Committee meetings, had, however, resulted in no concrete results, she cautioned, and encouraged members to bring the upcoming Review Conference to a successful conclusion.
“We need to ensure that the implementation of the Programme of Action and its International Tracing Instrument will be enhanced in the coming years,” she said. “From the perspective of the United Nations system, that could include, in particular, an acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of small arms control issues with development themes, and addressing what the Secretary-General has called the Programme of Action’s lack of measurability and of specific numerical targets, benchmarks or cut-off dates.”
She welcomed the Chairperson and was pleased with the wide participation of intergovernmental and regional organizations and civil society in the preparatory process. “I trust that a substantive outcome will pave the way for a successful review later this year,” she said. “We owe this to the scores of people who fall victim to illicit small arms every day, every hour, every minute.”
The Committee then elected as Vice-Chairs, representatives from Kenya and Madagascar (Group of African States); Japan (Group of Asian and Pacific States); Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania (Group of East European States); Brazil, Guyana and Peru (Group of Latin America and the Caribbean States); and Germany and New Zealand (Group of Western European and other States).
The Committee then adopted the rules of procedure and the agenda, and approved its programme of work.
YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia) speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the right of each State to manufacture, import and possess arms for national security needs and collective self-defence. He thought that progress had been made in the implementation of the Programme of Action at the national, regional, and global levels. However, more could be done to enhance international cooperation and assistance. The existing level of international support for the action plan was not sufficient with the needs of each individual country, he said.
The Movement called on States to provide technical and financial assistance to those in need. It further emphasized that Governments bore the primary responsibility to eradicate the problems of illegal small arms trade. At the same time, he said that the Movement stressed the importance of combating such illicit trade at both national and international levels.
He called on major arms-providing countries to take further responsibility to ensure that small arms control was limited to Governments and other enterprises associated with Governments to prevent, combat, and eradicate illicit arms trade. His delegation underscored the critical role of international assistance for the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument. In closing, he reiterated the Movement’s commitment to working to achieve a positive outcome of the preparatory committee.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, head of the delegation of the European Union, stressed that some of the issues being discussed today were not just relevant at the national level but also regional and international levels. Enhanced and improved national coordination was necessary in the implementation of the Programme of Action. The responsibility was with the State to prevent the trade of arms. Specifically, he called for enhanced cooperation among customs and police authorities. Moreover, he called on the effective implementation of the United Nations Firearms Protocol. He also stressed the need to better address the devastating effects of the illicit arms trade on children, and added that women must be involved at all levels of the discussion.
It was important to acknowledge that all States were involved in every aspect of implementing the action plan. He recognized the significance of arms embargoes, tracing of illegal small arms and light weapons, and possible changes to mission structures in that regard. Emphasizing the need to consider concrete ways to enhance information sharing and synergy of efforts, he recognized the benefits that could be offered by International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), which aimed to assist countries to report and trace illegal arms. Finally, he encouraged Member States to acknowledge civil society’s role in combating illicit small arms trade.
AHMED OULD TEGUEDI (Mauritania), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that today’s meeting served as an opportunity to review what had been accomplished in regards to implementing the Programme of Action since 2001 at the national, regional, and international level. “We were far from completing the implementation of the Programme, especially since it varies from country to country and region to region,” he said, adding that many aspects required further effort, particularly in countries that needed relevant capacity-building. Reiterating the importance of engaging in the Programme, in line with the aims that had been set out in 2001 following protracted negotiations, he said: “We should not reopen negotiations.”
He emphasized the need for the international community to recognize that many Arab countries had recently undergone major political and economic changes. He explained that meetings like the current gathering were important because they could result in the adoption of some important measures and initiatives, including training opportunities, seminars and workshops in order to review and address the many problems encountered by the Arab region. He stressed the implementation of the Programme of Action and the importance of international cooperation to build up capacity and assist conflict-affected regions and post-conflict countries. Finally, he said the outcome of the review conference should reflect the importance of national progress and other relevant outcomes regarding implementation of the Programme of Action.
KAZUO KODAMA ( Japan) said his country had engaged in such relevant endeavours as co-authoring the General Assembly resolution on small arms, and it had also supported and welcomed the proposal to produce draft elements of the outcome document towards the end of this session. He highlighted Japan’s priorities, including the importance of ownership and the need to have a clear vision of the Programme of Action’s next cycle.
Regional cooperation was important, he continued. Recent meetings on cooperation had cemented a spirit of national ownership of efforts. Other important elements included enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies, intraregional cooperation and sharing experiences of regional institutions to bolster the implementation of the Programme of Action. Japan supported the self-help approach of African countries, he said. The Review Conference must agree on the programme for the coming intersessional meetings, he said, suggesting “stockpile management and destruction” be placed on the agenda for the next six-year cycle. Japan would, during this session, be submitting a working paper on related issues.
GEORGE WILFRED TALBOT ( Guyana), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said increases in the proliferation of firearms and violent crimes were alarming in his region. Small arms and light weapons were used in 70 per cent of murders in the region. The illicit weapons trade stymied development. He welcomed the Review Conference, which CARICOM hoped would ensure further implementation of the action plan.
CARICOM States had made efforts to improve legislation, marking and tracing efforts, and training personnel. However, challenges remained, and more assistance and capacity-building was needed. Given the transnational nature of the illicit arms trade, cross-border controls played a role in stemming the tide. Last July, CARICOM States had adopted a regional declaration that reflected the growing concern of easy access to those weapons and had built a platform for action based on provisions of the United Nations Programme.
Other initiatives to combat the illicit arms trade included the establishment of CARICOM’s Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, which had trained over 200 border officials, maintained an intelligence-sharing network on border protection, and was mapping on-going projects to obtain a wider picture and identify programme gaps. Illicit arms trading threatened the region, he said, proposing the establishment of an inter-agency mechanism to enhance efforts, he said.
ABIODUN RICHARDS ADEJOLA (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said Member States of his delegation were deeply concerned by the illicit production, circulation and accumulation of weapons. Acknowledging the right of all States to possess weapons for self-defence, he said African States had been guided by the Programme of Action in their battle against the scourge of illicit arms, including through the establishment of mechanisms for firearms control and legislation frameworks to guide them.
The African Union had reaffirmed the need to preserve peace as a prerequisite to development, he said. The illicit arms trade was one of the variables of insecurity on the continent, he said. At subregional levels, efforts were under way to curb the trade, including agreements on the problem of small arms proliferation. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had taken an active approach, including through the adoption of the Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials.
All those efforts could and should be enhanced by international assistance and cooperation with other regions in the world. He called all States, including arms-producing States, to ensure that weapons sales were limited to Government entities and to take all necessary measures to halt the flow of illegal weapons. He then called on arms-producing States to provide developing countries with, among other things, training, equipment and technical assistance from outside existing development budgets. He also called for the full implementation of the International Tracing Instrument, which would further enhance efforts. “More efforts are needed: the death, mayhem and destruction on the continent of Africa point us to the urgency of the Programme of Action,” he declared.
YADIRA LEDESMA HERNÁNDEZ (Cuba) associating her delegation with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that tackling illicit small arms trade was a joint effort between national Governments and the wider international community. She reaffirmed the validity of a mechanism that would allow States to track small arms sales but at the same time called for the full respect of the United Nations Charter and stressed the principle of sovereignty and non-intervention of the internal matters. Cuba had been a victim of the illicit small arms trade as a result of the policy the United States had held for the last 50 years, she said. There had been innumerable “terrorist actions” which had caused the death of thousands of people, she said.
She called for the review to examine implementation of the Programme of Action in the last few years, which would be the best way to understand how to move forward. While States were responsible for adopting and enforcing legal norms, national policy should be complimented and enhanced by international efforts, including technical assistance. She outlined the laws that had been adopted within Cuba to deal with the firearms issue. The Cuban National Commission, non-governmental organizations, and the press in Cuba monitored the progress made, she said. Further, Cuba was fully involved in the international police system, which exchanged progress and information with other countries. She called for further international assistance and cooperation to implement the Programme of Action.
ALEXANDRE FASEL ( Switzerland) said implementing the Programme of Action required international cooperation. He said the review conference should focus on examining progress made so far and discussing future measures that would enhance the implementation. Since 2001, many relevant actions had been taken by States at the national, regional and international levels. Nevertheless, much more needed to be done and would require strengthened agreements by Governments. He said it was critical to acknowledge that the victims of small arms violence were not just the dead, but particularly children, women, and displaced persons.
He believed that it was essential to coordinate global efforts with relevant agencies such as INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization, among others. Switzerland considered that effective follow-up mechanisms were necessary and called for structured meetings that could offer support, analysis and advice. He urged all delegations to draw lessons from past experiences, analyse those lessons, and adopt resolutions that reflected lessons learned.
KNUT LANGELAND ( Norway) said combating the illicit trade and use of small arms and light weapons was a critical issue as it was causing 2,000 deaths worldwide every day. That represented a threat to international peace and security and posed a threat to global socio-economic development. The Programme of Action served as a framework through which like-minded countries could work together to tackle the spread of illegal small arms, but it also valued the role of civil society.
At a national and regional level, he proposed that more be done to control borders. There was a need to address the effect the illicit small arms trade had on children. “We should not shy from the opportunity to deliberate on the shortcomings of the Programme of Action,” he said, reminding the Committee that the Programme was not a legally binding document. It was necessary to involve all stakeholders in the evaluation exercise.
ANTHONY SIMPSON ( New Zealand) said that in recent years, the devastating humanitarian, political, and social effects of the illicit arms trade had become worse. To be judged successful the preparatory meeting needed to reaffirm the commitment of all Member States and to consider the developments since 2001, including technological advances. It was also necessary to match needs with assistance. “None of this will be easy, but it is necessary to implement the [Programme’s] commitments,” he said.
Many States had made good progress but there were clearly areas where further assistance was required. Developing, implementing, and strengthening national capacity of storing and disposal of small arms trade was critical, he stressed. One of the most important developments since 2001 had been the regional and subregional contributions to implementation, including the complimentary activities taken by international organizations and civil society. New Zealand supported greater participation with the private sector. In addition, he said it was necessary to acknowledge the impact of small arms on women and children.
DENIS DAVYDOV ( Russian Federation) said, since the Programme of Action’s adoption in 2001, much had already been done to implement its provisions, but more needed to be done in terms of shared goals. The Programme of Action was indeed a “living instrument” subjected to further development if and when needed. “Our common cause can only be successful if it enjoys the overwhelming support of the whole international community,” he said, and added that his country would share its experiences, which he hoped could contribute to that common work.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons had reached “enormous and complex” proportions. And while the action plan had, over the years, become vital to the combat against that trade, “serious gaps” remained in its implementation at all levels, particularly nationally. To move forward the international community would have to place a critical focus on ways the Programme could be executed and what lessons had been learned in the past. As that was the case, the proposed outcome document of the review conferences must, along with underscoring implementation goals, include clear mandates and mechanisms that would make that possible. Highlighting several priority issues that needed to be discussed during the preparatory meeting, she proposed that Member States submit country reports in a timely and comprehensive manner, and that they particularly include data on how the action plan was implemented at the national level.
Further, States should be encouraged to develop their own plans of action through exchange of best practices, capacity-building and the provision of technical assistance. She went on to call for the strengthening of legislative regimes and border control mechanisms by improving relevant programmes and updating equipment. She emphasized that the illicit trade in small arms was impacting literally every country in the world, so the review conferences would need to consider how regional organizations could work more closely together, especially to battle all aspects of transnational crime. As for her own regions, she said Kazakhstan was leading the way to establish a national legislation on export control, and as chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) her Government had held regional meetings and worked relentlessly to prevent the spread of illegal weapons.
AYESHA BORLAND ( Belize) said the continuing threat to security and development posed by small arms and light weapons and ammunition was clearly evident in her country, most notably by the fact that none of the firearms recovered in murder cases or other criminal investigations were produced there. Belize expected the current meeting to recommend a solid basis for an outcome document to be adopted by the review conference.
Belize’s national efforts had included improving legislation on transfers, marking and record keeping and destroying firearms. A legislative gap analysis was also being undertaken to ensure clarity on future activities. However, challenges remained at the national level, she said, underlining the need for international assistance. In addition, a deeper focus was needed on, among other things, stockpile management and destruction and border controls. A regional response was required to truly combat the illicit arms trade, she said, calling for strengthening the capacities of related initiatives. At the global level, she supported CARICOM’s suggestion of an inter-agency mechanism.
JUSTIN N. SERUHERE (United Republic of Tanzania) reminded the Committee that the Programme of Action did not advocate taking away weapons from those parties that possessed or used them legally. The aim was to keep such weapons from falling into the wrong hands where they could be used by terrorists or other criminals, or used to foment conflict and instability in many regions of the world. While acknowledging all that had been done since 2001 to ensure broader implementation of the Programme of Action, including through the reporting process and the implementation of regional action plans, he said that the international community had the capacity to do much more.
Continuing on that point, he acknowledged the work being done in the area by civil society groups, including the German-based GTZ, the International Action Network on Small Arms and Light Weapons (IANSA) and OXFAM, among others. He believed the results of the current meeting would have a positive impact on the envisaged arms trade treaty. It was no secret that small arms “have been used to cause havoc and mayhem […] in many parts of Africa and the world”. Moreover, the resources spent to address problems stemming from conflicts and instability could have been put towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. With that in mind, he called on the international community to support broad implementation of the action plan and to ensure that small arms and light weapons were placed within the scope of the proposed arms trade treaty.
LU XIAODONG ( China) said suppressing the illegal arms trade was an important issue for the international community, and positive progress had been achieved in that regard since 2001. Indeed, the instrument on marking and tracing had become important to such progress. Further, the implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument had, among other things, strengthened national capacities to address illicit arms issues. Her country, as part of its efforts, had expressed serious concerns about the illicit arms trade and the detrimental affect it had on developing countries. While China had worked with others to promote the Programme, comprehensive implementation was being hampered by continuing security challenges facing the international community.
The objectives of this session should be sharply focused and should, among other things, identify the challenges facing countries and the measures needed to deal with related problems. She said that it was necessary to adopt a pragmatic attitude in finding those solutions. Cooperation of law enforcement agencies was essential, as was the international community’s increased assistance to developing countries. In addition, comprehensive and integrated solutions were needed, she said. “The tasks before us are urgent,” she said. “The success of the conference would be dependent on whether this session can achieve progress.” It was, therefore, necessary to focus on areas including the prevention of the illicit trade, reaching agreement on procedural issues as soon as possible, and formulating a document to be adopted by consensus.
MATEO ESTREME (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that the illicit trafficking in and the lack of control of small arms and light weapons undermined peace and security and hindered social and economic development. That posed a serious challenge to the protection and promotion of human rights. The adoption of the Programme of Action was the outcome of Member States’ strong belief in the need to act jointly to solve that global challenge. Following its adoption, the action plan had become a point of reference which countries could use as an example of what could be done at national, regional, and global levels, he said. However, there were many challenges, one of which was the need to integrate munitions and explosives into the Programme. Another challenge was that the Programme was not a legally binding document, a fact which impeded on enforcing its contents.
He supported strengthening national and regional capacities in a sustainable manner and also highlighted the need to enhance relations between States, international organizations, and civil society. He encouraged States to provide assistance to countries that needed it by using the appropriate mechanisms established for technical and financial assistance and cooperation. Although he affirmed that border control was the primary responsibility of each and every State, he stressed that strengthening regional customs cooperation would enhance security as well. It was also important to further coordinate policies on the regional level. “The issue of small arms and light weapons impacts all our lives,” he said, and pledged his dedication to find an adequate and appropriate response to this problem.
HERNÁN TEJEIRA ( Panama) said his delegation was aware of the threat posed at the regional and international level by the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, especially when they fell into the hands of criminals. On a national level, he said, Panama had implemented scanners at various airports and border crossings. His Government had also adopted a number of laws that would regulate the import and export of small weapons. Specifically, a law had been approved that would regulate the services provided by private security companies. Panama also implemented a programme that would allow people to exchange arms for food and medication. An arms treaty would help avoid irresponsible transfer of weapons, he said.
AMANDEEP SINGH GILL (India) said national security had been adversely affected by illicit small arms and light weapons, which were closely linked to terrorism, transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, piracy and illegal exploitation of natural resources. India considered the full implementation of the Programme as a way to combat terrorism and transnational crime is a priority. His Government also had a robust legislative and administrative mechanism to combat and eradicate the menace of illicit small arms and light weapons. Welcoming efforts towards standardizing reporting format and the online reporting tool introduced during the Meeting of Governmental Experts last year, he said India had already submitted its national report online.
He said his country was concerned about illicit trans-border movement of small arms, light weapons, ammunition and explosives, explaining that India had more than 15,000 kilometres of land borders with seven neighbours and a coastline of more than 7,500 kilometres including island territories. Securing its borders against illicit trade and other threats while facilitating legitimate trade, commerce and people-to-people links were among the primary objectives of India, he added. India was also committed to bilateral cooperation on border management. For instance, India and Nepal had a joint working group on border management to discuss issues of mutual security concern. Integrated border management projects had been taken up with Bhutan and Bangladesh as well. In conclusion, he said that, with regard to the future of the implementation process, his delegations believed that the distinct but related nature of Review Conferences, biennial meetings and expert group meetings should be maintained. The Meeting of Governmental Experts could focus on practical issues relevant for implementation at the national, regional and international levels, and issues that required further political understanding could be tackled at a biennial meeting, he said.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said the implementation process at the national level was satisfactory, but the varying degrees of regional and subregional implementation signified differences in regional characteristics, complexities, needs and challenges. He said progress at the international level had been relatively more significant, citing the adoption of the International Tracing Instrument in 2005 as an example for a concrete manifestation of the Programme’s progress. He acknowledged the efforts made by the United Nations, regional organizations, research bodies and the civil society to raise awareness, publish useful research and provide assistance and work with States to advance the Programme’s goals. He then stressed the several steps Pakistan had taken, such as the establishment of an inter-ministerial group to address related issues.
He noted that the challenges arising from the illicit trade in small arms would require a comprehensive approach that takes into account both the supply and demand angles. The action plan and the International Tracing Instrument represented significant steps in regulating the illicit trade and the manufacturing side of these weapons, but essentially from a supply perspective. “However, equal attention is needed to address the issues related to these weapons from a demand side as well,” he said. The demand side of the equation was reflected by the continuation of conflicts in various regions and subregions, the growth in terrorist activities, the rise in narcotic drugs and organized crimes, he said. A corresponding level of effort and resources would be crucial in the demand side of the “small arms and light weapons puzzle” to ensure full and effective implementation of the action plan.
WOLFGANG BINDSEIL ( Germany) cited the growing number of accidents in ammunition depots, including the catastrophe in Brazzaville on 5 March 2012, and stressed that Physical Security and Stockpile Management should carry particular weight. He added that man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) had proven to be a risk of particular concern as these weapons, fallen into the wrong hands, would constitute a threat to civil aviation worldwide. He also stressed the responsibility of States to avoid destabilizing accumulations of MANPADS, to exchange information on those weapons, for instance, by declaring imports and exports in the framework of the United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons, and to safeguard stocks held with particular diligence. He expressed support for efforts made at the regional level and the role of United Nations bodies in the fight against illicit small arms at the global level.
On the follow-up mechanism, he supported Japan’s proposals for the next six-year cycle. He recommended that the follow-up process should define instruments to measure further progress, including benchmarks. The Review Conference should make reference to the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines and the International Small Arms Control Standards. In conclusion, he said marking, proper registration and tracing would continue to play a crucial role to control proliferation of illicit weapons and ammunition, suggesting that the conference should take into account developments in arms register databases and new cooperation possibilities due to technical developments, such as by INTERPOL. He added that data exchange on ballistic evidence could help resolve criminal use of firearms.
DAVID ROBIN WENSLEY ( South Africa) associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said he believed that the prospects of a successful conference were good. His delegation was still willing to consider and further elaborate on the issues and he stressed that forward progress would begin with the implementation of policies at the national level. That included ensuring that marking and record-keeping practices were just as effective as physically keeping track of weapons. South Africa believed that it was important for States to have regulatory systems in place; and he said he had emphasized the word “systems” because that was the agreed language in the action plan. He warned of the use of “ad hoc” terms during meetings. Moving on to other issues, he was pleased to note that a number of regional agreements were adopted in the last few years.
DANIJELA ČUBRILO ( Serbia) said that last year her Government had adopted a strategy on small arms and light weapons control, which set out a holistic approach to the global problem. That approach provided framework activities that would prevent unlawful production and possession of small arms and light weapons, thus ensuring the reduction of illegal possession, as well as a reduction of legal possession. A Council was established to monitor progress and also submit periodic reports on the implementation of the action plan.
She said that Serbia’s national arms system played a pivotal role in strengthening surveillance on illegal small arms trade. New laws were being drafted to readjust to the relative frameworks of the European Union and other regional organizations, she said. Serbia recognized the important role the international community played in strengthening security, and providing technological assistance and training. She underlined that Serbia focused on solving the relevant challenges with the assistance and collaboration of international donors. She pledged her country’s readiness to engage with other countries and players to ensure that this preparatory meeting was a success.
CHUKA UDEDIBIA ( Nigeria) said the current meeting should examine the status of implementation since the 2006 Review Conference, which would shed light on needed next steps. When the International Tracing Instrument was adopted in 2005, many States wanted it to be a legally binding treaty. The situation was further complicated over the lack of information on ammunition. Discussions should be carried out with those deficiencies in mind, he said. In addition, the increasing use of cross-border shipments of illicit weapons was another area that needed a sharp focus, especially given that the proliferation of those arms was hampering development, he said. The transfer of small arms should be limited to Governments and United Nations peacekeeping missions, he said, adding that particular attention should be paid to the illicit supplies of arms and the illicit exploitation of natural resources.
ALEXIS AQUINO ( Peru) said the Programme of Action should become legally binding and should include ammunition and explosives. At the national level, Peru had established a committee on firearms to coordinate multisectoral activities. On the regional level, Peru was involved in the implementation of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and other Related Materials decision 552 in the Andean region, and was involved with a working group on firearms. At the global level, Peru had cooperated with INTERPOL on arms embargoes. There was a need to strengthen relations between the United Nations and INTERPOL, he said, adding that it was also important to strengthen the relevant measures carried out by civil society actors.
LIBRAN CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said “the best way to solve the problems caused by illicit small arms and light weapons is through the implementation of the Programme of Action, which is the main framework for addressing the illegal trade in these arms”. The illicit trade was a “grave threat” to peace and security, contributing to the destabilization of certain situations. For its part, his country had never re-exported or re-transferred previously imported small arms and had passed strengthened legislation, including one bill to regulate the flow of dual-use goods. He said Philippines’ arms manufacturers could only export their products to countries with which the Philippines had diplomatic relations. Among its other activities, the Philippines was actively cooperating with the international community to help stem the flow of illegal weapons across borders and had adhered to all relevant international agreements.
ALFREDO FERNANDO TORO-CARNEVALI ( Venezuela) associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and MERCOSUR, said that his Government fully recognized the impact of small arms on society. At the same time, Venezuela fully supported a climate of trust and security among all Governments. His Government respected the principles outlined in the Charter, particularly regarding sovereignty and non-intervention in internal affairs. Venezuela was convinced that the effectiveness of the Programme of Action was directly linked to its level of implementation. He underscored the right of all States to produce, import, and retain small arms in line with their right to self-defence. Illicit trafficking in those weapons, however, had a negative impact on the citizens of his country, he said.
In 2011, a total of 117,405 firearms were destroyed in Venezuela, he said. Currently, the National Assembly discussed a new law of disarmament. The Government welcomed regional efforts to combat illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. While international aid and assistance was important and necessary to enhance the Programme of Action, “under no pretext can this be linked to political conditions”. Governments should be able to determine their own needs. Furthermore, the marking of such weapons should not be restricted but applied to all small arms weapons, making them much easier to track. The burden of responsibility fell upon the Governments where the arms were produced. He further emphasized that the same burden of responsibility could not be placed on countries that did not produce small arms and light weapons.
SHEREE CHAMBERS ( Jamaica) said that her country fully aligned itself with the statement earlier delivered by Guyana on behalf of CARICOM, and the statement presented by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. While acknowledging the level of commitment shown by all Member States, she noted that the process of reviewing the progress made in the implementation of the Programme to date would be critical to strengthening future implementation of this vital instrument at all levels. While thanking delegations that had put concrete ideas on the table, she said her country looked forward in particular to the non-paper to be presented by Japan. She also expressed Jamaica’s support for remarks made by colleagues from New Zealand, Norway and Belize.
She listed a number of measures her country had taken to strengthen the national framework to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms. Among them were the drafting of a national small arms policy; the approval for the establishment of a small arms committee; and the re-drafting of existing legislation. She said that, with the assistance of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in the Latin American and Caribbean Region, and other partners, Jamaica had improved its weapons stockpile management practices and disposed of several thousand firearms, as well as assorted rounds of ammunition, within the past two weeks. She called for additional support in the following areas: training and capacity-building; improvements in border security capacity; strengthening capacities to prevent the diversion of legal small arms and ammunition into the illicit market; training in the areas of criminal justice systems; improvements in legislative drafting capacity; the sharing of best practices in establishing national coordination agencies; and the sharing of best practices related to controls on broker activities.
STEVE COSTNER ( United States) recognized the importance of combating illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and said his Government remained fully committed to addressing the issue. On a national level, he said there were a number of federal agencies involved in the removal and abatement of firearms in the United States. Turning to broader issues, he said that stockpile security posed a major threat to regional security especially in post-conflict areas. It was important to ensure the destruction of surplus of firearms. Brokering controls were essential in preventing illicit small arms trafficking, as a lack of control provided safe haven for weapon traders.
Marking of small arms and light weapons was also important because without it, it would be impossible to track the weapons. At the regional level, building capacity was critical. He said regional and subregional organizations had robust potential in combating illicit small arms trafficking. Regional organizations could and should facilitate information sharing. Furthermore, he called on Member States to consider how various international instruments might be mutually reinforcing. During the Programme of Action review process, participants were encouraged to focus more on technological advances and assistance so that the meetings were more productive.
Mr. LE MÉNÈS ( France) aligning himself with the European Union, reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to the Programme of Action. The implementation of that action plan had made it possible to tackle the relevant issues on a regional level, particularly through binding agreements and frameworks. In addition, regional conventions were also aimed at preventing illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. However, significant efforts still remained to be undertaken to further strengthen those frameworks. Operational cooperation between judiciary and criminal authorities was critical and required, among others, the establishment of tools which would enable States to implement necessary provisions. Regional organizations were also advantageous as they were better able to identify and communicate the particular needs of concerned States. He called for further cooperation with INTEROPOL and the World Customs Organization.
MARIA VICTORIA GONZÁLEZ ROMÁN ( Spain) said her delegation fully supported the position of the European Union. She went on to identify some key points for consideration during this week’s debates towards their implementation at the national level. Among them were the need to establish stronger controls on arms transfers and ammunition, as well as security in the maintenance and management of stockpiles, she said. Referring to unfortunate ammunition explosions, which had caused chaos and destruction in the last few years, she said: “We cannot overlook the risk of potential diversion of weapons to organized criminal and terrorist groups.” She urged the Organization’s relevant programmes to continue looking for solutions to that threat, mainly in the case of MANPADS. She said Spain believed results would be multiplied when articulated at the regional level.
On implementation at the global level, Spain would welcome a fixed mandate in peacekeeping operations aimed at management of marking, tracing destruction of surpluses and providing security of weapons stockpiles in order to make the best use of the United Nations instruments for attaining peace and international security, she said. She also warned that the action plan and the Arms Trade Treaty process should never overlap, but should rather complement each other in different facets. To conclude, she stressed the need to include the civil society to this process, the first and ultimate beneficiaries of the measures to be considered in this debate.
RODNEY CHARLES ( Trinidad and Tobago) said that, as the coming Review Conference was an opportunity not only to ascertain gaps but to examine possibilities to strengthen and enhance the Programme of Action in the future, he hoped the outcome of the current meeting would be “more expansive and less restrictive”. Making illicit gun production and possession an offence, keeping track of officially held handguns, and maintaining records of gun manufacturers were among the actions needed, he continued. His country’s firearms legislation required, among other things, permission to export arms. Trinidad and Tobago was also actively collaborating with CARICOM bodies concerning the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and it remained committed to bilateral initiatives, including Canada’s weapons destruction programme.
CLAIRE PAULIEN ELIAS ( Australia) said her delegation expected the current meeting to map out a way forward to address areas of collective concern. Given that the national implementation of the Programme of Action required a comprehensive approach, she said Australia had enacted some of the strongest firearms laws in the world. Recent projects had resulted in 700,000 surrendered firearms. Project coordination and consistency had been challenging, but would be an ongoing focus. She reiterated that national implementation required support from States that were able to do so. Regional networks had played a role in facilitating the Programme of Action’s implementation. For its part, Australia had hosted a regional workshop to strengthen implementation of the Programme of Action. She noted that a strong legally binding arms trade treaty would complement, but should not replace, the Programme of Action.
CAMILO LOUIS ( Colombia) said violence exacerbated by illicit weapons had become a global problem, costing the lives of many. The Review Conference was a chance to study progress made, but also to identify the ways future actions could be strengthened. On the national level, an inter-institutional committee had been established. The emerging arms industry in Colombia had included the production of artisanal arms. Other areas that needed attention included arms registries and inter-institutional and international cooperation. On the regional level, Colombia was a party to the Inter-American Arms Trade Treaty. However, resources were often lacking to implement that and other related instruments. On border control, he said that international cooperation was needed to ensure further progress, including on training staff. The financial burden placed on Governments needed to be relieved, he said. Mechanisms should also be promoted to ensure rapid information exchanges with participating States.
Mr. DAVYDOV ( Russian Federation) said the responsibility to combat illicit trade of small arms and light weapons rested with the Governments where the arms were. “The main battlefield is at the national level,” he said, adding that the process to combat the illicit weapons trade should be complemented by regional and international cooperation. The objective was to strengthen all national-level activities, he said. For example, in the Russian Federation there was only one intermediary which guaranteed official control of arms. It was necessary to prohibit and enforce arms transfer as well, he stressed.
MUSTAFA İLKER KILIÇ ( Turkey) recognized the cost of the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons on human life. Even though the Programme of Action was an important instrument, it should be a part of the larger context that addressed the socio-economic aspects of each country and how it affected illicit trade of arms. Transfer control over arms and ammunition was crucial. Law enforcement agencies played an important role in doing that. Training and capacity-building also remained important. He called on States to prevent transfer of weapons, ensure stockpile management and information sharing. The action plan should aim to bring consistency and competency to the implementation process, he added. Although resource availability had increased in the last decade, more resources were needed.
Mr. FASEL ( Switzerland) said national implementation was vital and should be based on strengthened coordination mechanisms between all competent authorities. In addition, capacity-building in regard to sharing information was essential. Globally speaking, he supported the tools developed to assist States in implementing the Programme of Action. He acknowledged the role of civil society and addressed specific roles of peacemakers and peacekeepers. Moreover, he encouraged States to submit national reports to better acknowledge specific needs of implementation.
JOSEPHINE OJIAMBO (Kenya) said the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons posed a grave threat to the East African subregion, as well as to the wider continent, negatively impacting social development. The Review Conference should provide the time and space to allow delegates to identify concrete measures to strengthen the implementation of the Programme of Action. For its part, Kenya had worked through a cross-Government strategy. Control activities had been undertaken, with successes achieved and challenges identified. To make progress on globally agreed implementation commitments, increased cooperation between subregions was necessary, she said. Measurability and time frames were also needed, as were capacity-building initiatives. In addition, a robust arms trade treaty would strengthen the Programme of Action, she said, adding that: “The Programme of Action could, if States decided, provide valuable results.”
Mr. AWWAB ( Jordan) said the problem of illicit arms spanned the globe. The primary responsibility remained with producing countries and those who transferred weapons shipments. The illicit arms trade was “out of control”, triggering war and causing the deaths of many thousands of men, women and children. Jordan was committed to the Programme of Action. A national mechanism to stem the illicit trade included legislation in areas of storage, brokering and regulation. Regionally, Jordan was committed to the Arab States’ efforts to suppress terrorist activities and had participated in information sharing. At the global level, Jordan had supported relevant anti-terrorist and anti-crime initiatives. He said to further combat the illicit weapons trade, restrictions could be placed on imports and exports except in the case of a country’s self-defence.
Ms. THIELKING, representative of the delegation of the European Union, noted key projects reflecting her delegation’s continued support to the implementation of the Programme of Action. She also outlined areas where enhanced international cooperation and assistance were urgently required. Those projects included, among others, regional training courses and the setting-up of marking facilities, and seminars that were organized to advance the implementation of the Programme of Action at the regional level. Some of the initiatives, she said, aimed at improving tools and techniques for international, regional, and national actors to effectively screen and target suspect aircrafts likely to be involved in the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. An important element was effective national needs assessments to set appropriate priorities, she said. There was also a need to improve the assessment tools in this respect to enhance international cooperation and assistance.
Mr. SIMPSON ( New Zealand) said, although priorities differed for each country, he hoped that the international community could still agree on some things in regard to implementation of the Programme of Action. That included welcoming the desirability of expertise, as well as discussing the role and effectiveness common goals had in strengthening cooperation, more specifically at the South-South level. Finally, he welcomed the strengthening of national bodies and the development of self-assessment tools and indicators that would enhance Programme of Action implementation.
Mr. BINDSEIL ( Germany) stressed that security was a major factor for global social and economic development. “Today’s small arms and light weapons will fuel the conflicts of tomorrow,” he stressed. To ensure the effectiveness of the Programme of Action, international cooperation could not be viewed as a one-way street. He urged all participants to get involved in this important issue. The commitment of donor countries had to be met by similar commitment of the recipient country. He was open to listening to all participants in the process.
* *** *For information media • not an official record