|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
on Illicit Small Arms Trade
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
Speakers Tell of ‘Significant Efforts’ to Implement Programme of Action
as Review Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons Continues
Significant progress had been made over the past years in regional efforts to implement the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, delegates heard today as the second Review Conference on the implementation of that instrument entered its second day.
Saudi Arabia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said measures had been adopted to coordinate and cooperate across the region, including through the creation of national focal points, whose meetings had resulted in recommendations for an Arab database and the organization of seminars to provide new information to regional States. They had also been able to identify the needs of States in different areas, including capacity-building.
Similarly, Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said the group’s members had sought to effectively coordinate their efforts against the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. They had established national commissions charged with taking all actions to stem arms proliferation, and on that basis, national plans had been drawn up. Member States had also made progress in terms of national legislation, and had made progress in the tracing and marking of weapons, he added.
Gabon’s Minister for Interior said his country and other Central African States had created committees, in conjunction with the Nairobi-based Regional Centre on Small Arms, to counteract the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Additionally, a committee comprising regional heads of police oversaw joint operations to combat cross-border crime, in addition to housing special units to work on data provided by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).
The representative of Barbados said that some of advances made by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) included the formation of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, designed to manage the regional agenda on transnational organized crime, security and related matters. The Agency was developing an integrated ballistic information network to improve the capacity of regional member States to identify and trace guns and ammunition used to commit crimes, particularly in more than one territory.
China’s representative stressed that different regions should map out their priorities in accordance with their specific realities. Stressing the need to strengthen intra-regional cooperation and coordination, he noted that “poverty and social unrest provide breeding grounds for the illicit small arms trade to grow and sprawl”. The international community should take effective measures to help countries promote economic development, achieve peace and stability, and remove the danger of conflict, so as to create the conditions for eliminating the illicit small arms trade.
Several speakers emphasized the need for the Review Conference to produce a single, unified outcome document, which would be easier to review, given the time available. Cuba’s representative said she supported the adoption of a balanced, single final document which followed the same structure as the Programme of Action. It would become a useful tool in helping Governments ensure effective implementation of the Programme of Action, she added.
Also highlighted during the general exchange of views was the importance of international assistance in implementation of the Programme of Action, with the representative of Bangladesh pointing out that many, if not all, the challenges associated with its full implementation required international efforts and cooperation. For that reason, the outcome document needed to adopt clear provisions on international assistance and cooperation to encourage and enable countries, including least developed ones, to implement the Programme.
Guatemala’s representative described illicit small arms trafficking as a problem that transcended borders and regions. As such, it was essential to strengthen international cooperation and assistance for implementation of the Programme of Action, which would otherwise be impossible.
Many speakers used the exchange of views to announce measures they had been put in place to implement the Programme of Action. The Czech Republic’s representative noted that his country had a long history of manufacturing small arms and light weapons, adding that it had created a system of registration and regulation that effectively prevented the transfer of weapons into illicit channels. A licence was needed in all cases of arms purchasing, and State authorities must approve every individual transaction, he said, adding that an effective system for marking of weapons was also controlled by the State.
Botswana’s representative said his country had, among other things, established an interagency body responsible for policy guidance and monitoring. A national firearms policy had been drafted as a precursor to an amendment of the Arms and Ammunition Act, and the marking of civilian holdings would begin after the legislative review. In addition, to reduce weapons stocks available for illicit circulation, Botswana promoted the destruction of surplus, seized and forfeited weapons and ammunition, he said, noting that the country had destroyed 1,646 obsolete and illicit firearms since the last Review Conference in 2006.
Jamaica’s representative said her country’s firearms licensing authority was now able to capture the unique ballistic signatures of new firearms for which licences had been granted. Police use of that information was making a valuable contribution to crime fighting, she said, adding that a newly instituted re-certification process for holders of firearm licences issued before 2006 was allowing the authorities to capture the ballistic signature of those weapons as well.
Also speaking today were representatives of Iran, Switzerland, Namibia, Gambia, Netherlands, Israel, Norway, Niger, Mexico, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Sweden, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Argentina, Zambia and Syria.
The representatives of Israel and Syria made statements in exercise of the right of reply.
Also delivering statements were representatives of the following intergovernmental organizations: International Criminal Police Organization, League of Arab States, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms, East African Community, Organization of American States, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Regional Centre on Small Arms. The non-governmental organization International Action Network on Small Arms also addressed the Conference.
The Review Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 29 August, to continue its general exchange of views.
The General Assembly met this morning to continue its two-week review of efforts to implement the Programme of Action of its 2001 special session on preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. For background information, please see Press Release DC/3380 of 27 August 2012.
JEAN FRANCOIS NDONGOU, Minister for Interior of Gabon, associated himself with the Group of African States and the Non-Aligned Movement, saying that his country had created a national commission to help combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and had established a national focal point. Gabon, the second country to ratify the Kinshasa Convention — an instrument that would be presented to the Review Conference in the coming days — had also launched a far-reaching programme to register weapons and track their circulation within its national territory, including through marking and records databases. On the regional level, Gabon and other Central African States had created several committees, in conjunction with the Regional Centre on Small Arms in Nairobi, with the aim of counteracting the illicit small trade. Additionally, the Committee of Heads of Police of Central Africa, an organ of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, conducted joint operations to combat cross-border crime and housed special units to work on data provided by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).
WANG WIN ( China) said Governments must assume primary responsibility, including through scaling up capacity and law enforcement, for working towards the elimination of arms stockpiles. Full use should be made of the Programme of Action’s review mechanism, and the United Nations should play a more important coordinating role. Different regions should map out their priorities in accordance with their specific realities, and intraregional cooperation and coordination should be strengthened, he emphasized. “Poverty and social unrest provide breeding grounds for the illicit small arms trade to grow and sprawl,” he noted, urging the international community to take effective measures to help countries promote economic development, achieve peace and stability and remove the danger of conflict, so as to create the conditions eliminating the illicit trade. China had developed and continuously updated national laws and regulations on firearms, he said, stressing that research and development, manufacturing, stockpiling, transportation, possession, use transfer and destruction of small arms had all been placed under strict legislation. The Government had also taken effective measures to ensure the full implementation of arms embargoes established by relevant Security Council resolutions.
ABDULMOHSEN ALYAS (Saudi Arabia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Arab region had seen significant progress in the implementation of the Programme of Action over the years. Measures for regional coordination and cooperation had been adopted to ensure the Programme’s implementation, including through the creation of focal points. Their meetings had provided good opportunities for drawing up recommendations for an Arab database and for the holding of meetings since 2006. The focal points had conducted seminars to provide new information and identify the capacity and other needs of States in the region. Emphasizing the need for indicators to identify whether countries were providing sufficient assistance to ensure the Programme’s implementation, he said the final document from the Review Conference should reflect the concept of national ownership, and avoid reopening debate that could undermine current efforts. Instead, the Conference must conduct genuine debates and seek compromise to ensure that items to be included were balanced, and that all Member States implemented them. The Arab Group proposed that the Conference adopt a single, unified final document that would be easier to review, given the time available, he said, pointing out that following up on a single document was easier than following up on multiple papers.
JEAN-MARC ANZIAN KOUADJA (C ôte d’Ivoire), speaking on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said the regional group had established national commissions to combat illicit small arms trafficking, and national commissions were responsible for all actions to stem proliferation. On that basis, national plans had been drawn up but the States required international support. ECOWAS member States had also made progress in terms of national legislation, he said. In addition to implementing tracing instruments, they had made progress in tracing and marking weapons. Noting that the Review Conference’s themes were in keeping with the identified priorities of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, he said ammunition was an integral part of small arms and light weapons and must be better controlled and managed. West Africa was increasingly facing new threats in the form of trafficking in arms and ammunition as well as terrorist groups, and, as such, required greater international assistance, he said in conclusion.
JOSEPH GODDARD (Barbados), associating himself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that his country’s successful national initiatives included establishing a dedicated, specially trained unit to combat crimes involving the use of firearms. Barbados had also officially signed on to the web-based E-Trace programme of the United States Department of Justice in January 2011. Participation in that programme had allowed more expeditious trace requests and timely receipt of feedback in the form of printed reports and analysis of traces, he said. Highlighting regional advances, he cited the formation of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, designed to manage the region’s agenda on transnational organized crime, security and related matters. The agency was developing the regional integrated ballistic information network to improve the capacity of CARICOM member States to identify and trace guns and ammunition used to commit crimes, particularly in more than one territory. More broadly, Barbados had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Organization of American States (OAS) in June 2011 on the marking and tracing of firearms passing through the region, in keeping with Article VI of the Inter-American Convention against Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms. As a follow-up, the country had received marking equipment from OAS, as well as training in its use for its police force.
VICTOR B. PALEDI ( Botswana) said that in order to coordinate implementation of the Programme of Action, his country had, among other things, established an interagency body responsible for policy guidance and monitoring. Believing strongly that proper marking and record-keeping were indispensable, Botswana had acquired two firearm marking machines, with the help of the United States. Noting that his country was neither a weapons manufacturer nor a major importer, he said those arms that it did import were “pin stamped” with “man-readable” and “scan-readable” imprints indicating the country code, marking year, serial number and institution code. To date, 17 officers had been trained to operate the machines. To reduce the weapons stocks available for illicit circulation, Botswana promoted the destruction of surplus, seized, and forfeited arms and ammunition, he said, recalling that the Government had destroyed 1,646 obsolete and illicit firearms since the last Review Conference. It also continued to destroy all those that were not marked or properly registered. Due to the transnational nature of the illicit small arms trade, however, regional action was critical, he emphasized, adding that bilateral cross-border operations with neighbouring countries had yielded results. As an INTERPOL member, Botswana also benefited from information exchanges concerning lost and stolen weapons. He concluded by saying that his country faced major challenges in implementing its small arms strategy, which required computerized record-keeping for stockpile management, capacity-building to enhance surveillance by border operatives and harmonized legislation regionally.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, underlined the need to combat the illicit small arms trade simultaneously from both the supply and demand side, considering the close ties linking terrorism, organized crime and trafficking in drugs and arms. “Adoption of a comprehensive and non-discriminatory approach is not an option, but a must,” he emphasized, calling on the Conference to adopt such an approach with the aim of ensuring the non-discriminatory and unconditional transfer and availability of technologies for the full implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument.
He said that, due to tensions and conflicts in its region — coupled with illicit trading in small arms, organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking — Iran had incurred much damage, and as a result, had put laws in place to implement the Programme and the International Tracing Instrument. It had established the necessary mechanisms for improving policy guidelines and coordination between concerned national bodies, making significant progress in combating the illicit small arms trade and its associated problems, drug trafficking in particular. Iran had established bilateral and trilateral arrangements with some neighbouring countries to ensure regional cooperation in effectively preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade. He urged fellow delegates to avoid introducing subjects beyond the scope of the Programme and the International Tracing Instrument, while cautioning against any proposal aimed at expanding the number of meetings relating to the two instruments, or changing the voluntary nature of national reporting.
PIO WENNUBST (Switzerland) said many States could reduce the risk of accidents resulting from poor storage conditions through simple, concrete measures, expressing support in that regard for strengthening the Programme of Action’s support mechanisms, as well as greater cooperation and coordination with such specialized agencies as INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization and the Multinational Small Arms and Ammunition Group. He also called for stronger exchanges with other relevant global instruments to better meet current and future challenges. Strong transparency measures were a pillar of Swiss arms control and disarmament policy, he emphasized, expressing support for any recommendation aimed at producing rigorous, substantial national reports on implementing the Programme of Action. Such reports, which were important for identifying and matching needs with available resources, should indicate steps taken as well as the quantity and quality of remaining challenges, he said, adding that the final outcome document must include clear provisions in that regard. United Nations peacekeeping operations had an important role in marking and tracing small arms to prevent their transfer to embargoed countries. The Review Conference should agree on the creation of a follow-up mechanism that would include a clear, predictable schedule of meetings, he said, adding that two biennial gathering of States were needed to meet challenges fully.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said that in compliance with the Programme of Action, his country had put in place tougher legislative norms and administrative procedures to regulate lawful possession, manufacture, export, import and transport of small arms and light weapons. Strict procedures were followed in stockpile management, and confiscated illegal arms were routinely and publicly destroyed as provided for in the National Stockpile Management Programme. Bangladesh observed Small Arms Destruction Day annually on 9 July, in order to raise public awareness about the human, social and economic cost of the illicit weapons trade. The country was also reported regularly to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and to the United Nations Standardised Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures.
He said that many, if not all, of the challenges associated with the full implementation of the Action Programme required global efforts and cooperation. The outcome document of the present review must, therefore, adopt clear provisions for international assistance and cooperation for countries, including the least developed, to enable them to implement the Action Programme’s targets. Both push and pull factors underlay the illegal small arms and light weapons circulation, and while it was true that there was huge demand for those weapons illegally around the world, particularly in conflict and post-conflict zones, it was equally important to tackle the supply side of the equation. During the last two decades, the number of countries manufacturing and exporting those weapons had multiplied manifold. Both the demand and the supply side of the problem should be addressed.
NICHOLAS S. ENDJALA, Chairperson, National Focal Point of Namibia, associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country’s National Action Plan on Small Arms and Light Weapons was just one of several practical efforts to honour relevant international commitments by properly maintaining, managing and curbing the acquisition, possession, distribution and use of such weapons. Namibia considered preventing, combating and controlling the proliferation and illicit trafficking in small arms on the one hand, and economic development on the other, to be inseparable. Notable achievements relating to those interlinked issues included the establishment of regional structures and the formulation of a public-awareness strategy to sensitize the public to the dangers posed by small arms and light weapons. All of those interventions had been made possible through the ongoing “e-policing” project, which allowed the effective tracing of all marked firearms in the country. Other notable progress included the amendment of the Arms and Ammunition Act, which presented its own challenges, he said, emphasizing that the first was to educate the public on the need to mark, record and trace all firearms in circulation. The second was to ensure competency testing for all those applying for firearms licences.
SUSAN WAFFA-OGOO (Gambia) said that while a “battle” against the illicit small arms trade had been won over the past decade, the “war” continued, with challenges such as transnational organized crime, terrorism, human and narcotics trafficking as well as piracy making light weapons easily obtainable to non-State actors. Clearly, there was a nexus between proliferation and insecurity and social instability, she said, noting that the Sahel region in particular was experiencing increased violence, including, in some cases, a complete breakdown of the rule of law, even in countries emerging from conflict. “We must grab the opportunity of this auspicious Conference to intensify our efforts,” she emphasized. Although Gambia neither manufactured nor exported small arms, it was not immune to their negative impacts, and for that reason, adhered strictly to the ECOWAS moratorium and the 2001 Programme of Action. Securing the country’s porous borders against the illicit small arms trade and other national security threats required constant engagement in transboundary cooperation and collaboration between its own security agencies and those of its neighbours, she said, adding that Gambia’s enforcement and judicial personnel doled out severe punishment for the unlicensed possession of small arms. The Defence Ministry reviewed Government stockpiles regularly to track unmarked surplus via a database also used in marking and tracing.
MARY-HONOR KLOEG (Netherlands), associating himself with the European Union, stressed that the presence of large quantities of small arms and light weapons in society, especially in fragile States and “ungoverned” areas, could cause social tensions and fuel violence. “Marginalized groups find it easier to arm themselves for armed conflict, and the black market is more likely to grow under these circumstances,” which further empowered criminal elements. Several key elements should be taken into account in implementing the Programme of Action in that context, she said. The illicit small arms trade should be approached in an integrated manner, addressing good governance and security- and justice-sector reform while providing alternative-livelihood initiatives. The integration of gender perspectives into the Programme’s implementation was another priority, as was ensuring an important role for civil society of organizations in its implementation and follow-up process. There was also an increased role for regional and subregional bodies, she said.
DAVID CERVENKA (Czech Republic), associating himself with the European Union, said his country had a long history of manufacturing small arms and light weapons, and was therefore aware of its particular responsibility to people across the world. The Czech Republic had created a system of weapons registration and regulation that effectively prevented their transfer into illicit channels. A licence was needed in all cases of arms purchasing, and State authorities must approve every individual transaction, he said, adding that the country also had an effective system for marking weapons, also controlled by State authorities. The country was working towards a single unified arms register, expected to be effective in 2016, which would provide an overview of all weapons sales and transportation. As a member of the European Union, the Czech Republic had taken part in the creation of a regional legal framework regulating the arms trade, and supported international efforts to prevent and suppress small arms trafficking. Citing an example of his country’s assistance to other countries, he said that 15 ECOWAS member States had attended a 2009 workshop in Prague, a project supported by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.
ERAN YUVAN (Israel) said that his country had consistently placed the prevention of illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons high on its national agenda. It had addressed that issue through strict legislation, administrative regulations, and export control policies that prohibited and curbed illegal transfers, but it strongly believed that better cooperation and coordination at the bilateral, regional and global levels would enhance the ongoing efforts to prevent proliferation and combat terrorism.
He said the very challenging turbulence in the Middle East should prompt the international community to work together to prevent trafficking and terrorism. His country regretted that the 2006 Review Conference had been unable to achieve a consensus document. It also regretted that the arms trade treaty negotiation conference had concluded without adoption of an agreed treaty. For the sake of a more secure world, Israel hoped that an outcome document would be endorsed at the end of the current Review Conference, which would address illicit transfers of small arms and light weapons. Israel was ready to play its part and to engage constructively with other Member States towards that goal.
KNUT LANGELAND (Norway) noted that implementation of the Action programme and national legislation and enforcement had been uneven, and that, despite an International Tracing Instrument, too many countries did not mark weapons at the time of manufacture or import. Norway emphasized the need to understand how the use of small arms and light weapons impacted people, across gender and age, communities and States. It thus supported initiatives aimed at ensuring better documentation of the casualties from armed violence, as well as stronger monitoring, measuring and analysis of the problem. His delegation also believed that more should be done in the area of victims’ rights.
Concluding that the Action Programme had not yet reached its full potential, he called for progress in combating illicit brokering and drew attention to unfinished business in the fields of end user certificates and border controls. To deal with the menace posed by illicit arms flows, the question of ammunition must be addressed fully. He also underscored the importance of the gender dimension and the need to include gender and age aggregated data in implementation of the Programme of Action, and reiterated the need to recognize the victims of armed violence and address victim assistance in a rights-based manner. Those matters required further exploration and deliberation.
BOUBACAR BOUREIMA (Niger) said the question of small arms and light weapons had been a national priority in his country since the armed clashes of 1991, 1993, 2007 and 2009. That was why a national plan had put a structure in place since 1994 with the responsibility of controlling and collecting weapons and organizing their destruction. At the regional level, Niger had participated in the ECOWAS moratorium which had become the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Much remained to be done in the Sahelo-Saharan area due to the specific natural geographic characteristics that seemed to foster the proliferation of all kinds of illicit activities, he said, pointing out that the limited resources available to the States of the region left them with an immense task. The seriousness of the situation called for an integrated approach in seeking a solution, he said, noting that Niger had previously attempted various approaches, such as “Arms against Nutrition” and “Arms against Money”. To ensure a more inclusive implementation strategy, however, local and customary authorities should also be directly involved because of their direct influence on the people and capacity to communicate closely with them.
YANERIT MORGAN SOTOMAYOR (Mexico), declaring “small arms and light weapons have become weapons of mass destruction”, stressed that in the shadow of the regrettable failure to elaborate an arms trade treaty in July, the Review Conference had a particular responsibility to come up with a strong outcome document. Mexico, for its part, was tackling the illicit small arms trade by developing numerous measures such as the weapons seizures. A total of 138,000 had been seized between 2006 and 2012, and some 55,000 had been collected under the auspices of a “cash-for-arms” programme during the same period. Noting that small-arms trafficking could not be separated from trafficking in munitions and ammunition, she pointed out that a “gun without bullets does not pose any threat”. Further, the legal acquisition of arms should not mean that they should be excluded from further regulations. In that regard, there was a need for stronger border controls, the establishment of regional tracing mechanisms, the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument, the promotion of a culture of peace to discourage the use of armed violence in resolving conflict, and the incorporation of a gender perspective, among other key aims.
ROB WENSLEY (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the international community was “too well aware of the fact that we’ve convened here in the shadow of a month-long negotiation session on an arms trade treaty”, where the culmination of six years of intense work had ended in disappointment. In fact, that experience was symptomatic of efforts at the United Nations to seek consensus on conventional arms since 2001. There were two central tenets concerning full implementation of the Programme — first, national implementation undertakings, and second, international cooperation and assistance, he said. Not enough had been done on the very basic elements of stockpile management, national controls, marking and record-keeping, secure storage and arms control transfer structure and systems. However, “we should balance our enthusiasm and level of ambition with a degree of realism over the next week-and-a-half”, considering that over-ambition and attempts to rewrite the Programme had likely been the single biggest factor leading to the failure of the 2006 Review Conference. In the area of international cooperation and assistance, he said such assistance should not be conditional. Every State in a position to assist may request some form of verification or monitoring mechanisms from a recipient State, or require recipients to request the integration of their national Programme of Action implementation plans into their overall development plans. In such cases, however, those arrangements should be bilateral in nature and not warrant further consideration by the Review Conference.
WILBERT IBUGE (United Republic of Tanzania), recalling that impunity relating to the illicit small arms trade had caused the deaths or uprooting of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in East Africa, said his country was forced to support hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries. The resulting socio-economic and security impacts had victimized both the refugee and host populations. The excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread of such weapons were a major threat to peace, security and development, particularly in Africa, he said, expressing support for controls over privately owned arms. He also called on major producers to ensure their transfer was limited to Governments and Government-authorized entities. Since the 2006 Review Conference, the Tanzanian Government had taken several steps to implement the Programme of Action, in tandem with the 2001 Protocol of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the 2004 Nairobi Protocol. For example, it had set up national focal points and reviewed existing legislation to bring them into line with the Programme of Action and other instruments, he said, adding that the Government had begun a full-fledged firearms-marking exercise in 2009. Thus far it had marked more than 38,000 State- and civilian-owned firearms in more than 12 regions on the mainland, and would expand that reach to all 30 of the country’s regions in the future. In partnership with the Nairobi-based Regional Centre on Small Arms and the German Agency for International Cooperation, the Government was building human-resource capacity through tailored training programmes, he added.
MOHAMED MAIGA (Mali) said all the evils associated with trafficking in small arms and light weapons were being experienced on a daily basis in the Sahelo-Saharan band, particularly in the north of Mali, which had been under occupation for five months by all types of criminal groups. That situation was possible due to the illicit transfer of arms and ammunition to non-State and other unauthorized actors, he said, emphasizing that the fight against proliferation would not succeed without synergy in planning and cooperation. Mali had made such a strategy its creed through bilateral plans with its neighbours as well as multilateral plans at the subregional, regional and international levels. It had ratified international instruments, and for many years had been the initiator, on behalf of ECOWAS, of the General Assembly resolution on assistance to States for stopping the illicit circulation and collection of small arms and light weapons. It was imperative that the International Tracing Instrument be made binding in order to ensure proper identification of small arms, he emphasized, adding that the Programme of Action should also cover ammunition, which was responsible for death in Africa.
YADIRA LEDESMA HERNÁNDEZ ( Cuba) said that while her country supported the adoption of more effective measures to curb small arms trafficking, each country and region had its own specificity. Cuba’s was that for more than 50 years, its people and leaders had had to defend themselves against a hostile policy waged by the United States. That policy had been the main source of terrorist acts and other forms of aggression against Cuba, she said, noting that 3,400 Cubans had lost their lives as a result. Cuba had adopted national measures to ensure compliance with the requirements of the International Tracing Instrument, she said. In 2008, it had adopted a decree on arms and ammunitions which was one of its principal and most comprehensive instruments for curbing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Cuba supported the adoption of a balanced, single outcome document that should follow the same structure as the Programme of Action, she said in conclusion.
LAURENT DABIRÉ (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and ECOWAS, said States must continue to create national legislation, destroy and secure stockpiles, and regulate imports and exports, among other key actions. The Review Conference was a chance to assess progress and set a new path forward. Burkina Faso submitted regular reports on its implementation of the Programme of Action and related measures, he said, adding that it was a party to all regional and subregional instruments relating to small arms and light weapons. Institutionally, the country had established a national commission to combat the illicit small arms trade, as well as their importation and use, in particular through tracing and record-keeping. Despite those efforts, however, the Government was aware of the scale of the challenge, and therefore urged States to recommit to providing technical and related assistance.
SHAVENDRA SILVA (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country had experienced first-hand the destruction that could be caused by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. In its post-conflict phase, Sri Lanka was beginning to uncover not only the extensive overseas networks that had facilitated illicit arms transfers, but also the extensive arsenal that terrorists had been able to acquire. The massive stockpile of weapons recovered during and following the end of the conflict bore testimony to the ease with which terrorists could procure weapons globally. With the eradication of terrorism, efforts were being made to conduct a fresh analysis of small arms in the country, and action was envisaged for the recovery of illicit weaponry and ammunition, he said. Indeed, Sri Lanka’s National Commission against Small Arms and Light Weapons, with support from the United Nations, the Government of Japan and other actors, had taken steps to make a comprehensive assessment of the problem within the country. Among other efforts, the Government had ensured control over the licensing of civilians to carry small arms by 2009, through an electronic licensing database. International measures to curb the proliferation of small arms and light weapons should focus particularly on combating illegal trade, he said, stressing that producer countries had a greater responsibility to monitor and control their circulation.
SAADA DAHER HASSAN (Djibouti) said that, if anything, small arms trafficking continued to intensify, a situation that was especially sombre in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. Their daily circulation continued to foster and prolong conflicts, which presented great obstacles to economic growth and development, particularly achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The Eradication of the illicit small arms trade required the strengthening of regional cooperation, she said. Djibouti, as a signatory to the Bamako and Nairobi Protocols, had served for two years as President of the Council of Ministers of the Regional Centre on Small Arms, she said, adding that last October, the country had hosted the sixth meeting of that body.
JAMES ROSCOE (United Kingdom) said that, in implementation of the Programme of Action, his country had funded projects to reduce the effects of illicit small arms. It had provided resources for training armourers, and had also worked with partners to prosecute those who engaged in the illegal arms trade. The United Kingdom had successfully prosecuted several cases, and those found guilty had been sentenced to imprisonment and had assets worth millions of dollars confiscated. The work of the Review Conference was one part of global efforts to tackle the proliferation of small arms, he said. There was a need to look more closely at how to measure implementation of the Programme of Action, and the United Kingdom would support that by encouraging more detailed discussion of key areas during the current Conference.
Mr. DEYNEKO (Russian Federation) agreed with other Member States that the lead role in countering small arms and light weapons trafficking should continue to rest with the United Nations, as the only universal forum providing a framework for devising agreed measures to address the problem. To ensure the right choices, the Russian Federation proposed to follow the approach envisaged in the Programme itself — namely, to focus on the aspect of prevention of the illicit trade. It was much easier to prevent the “leakage” of arms to the grey and black markets than to remove them, and that tactic required no additional resources.
Referring to several well known “rules”, he urged States to agree on a politically binding ban preventing access to small arms and light weapons by all non-State actors, pointing, in particular, to illegal paramilitary groups, terrorists and criminals. The delegation opposed the buying and selling of small arms and light weapons without proper State control, as the primary responsibility for regulating the weapons trade and preventing diversion rested with the Governments of countries where those arms were located. Strengthening domestic controls should be complemented by collective steps at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
Ms. BLOMBERG (Sweden), aligning with the European Union, said that the often-limited Programme of Action resources were best focused on a few select areas at a time, in particular, those where progress could realistically be made. One such area was stockpile management and security, while another was how to best strengthen United Nations peace support operations, with regard to small arms and light weapons, in conflict and post-conflict regions. In terms of meetings, a structure focused on working sessions with technical and other experts, exchanging best practices and benchmarking would be the best use of time. Increasing coordination between donor and recipient countries was also imperative. She joined others in recognizing the importance of integrating gender perspectives in all related future work.
Mr. JHON EJINAKA (Nigeria) said his country continued to provide leadership through the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, adding that the modest success of that initiative was one of the main achievements in implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument. Nigeria had taken steps to curb the flow of illicit small arms and light weapons, especially in those States with records of considerable militancy. It had also arranged for ex-militants to turn in their weapons, he said, recalling that, as of May 2011, militants had submitted more than 2,000 weapons. Other Government measures included collaboration to ensure harmony in the handling of stockpiles by national agencies. Calling on Member States to avoid past setbacks that had affected review of the Programme of Action, he said they should instead ensure a strong and credible review during the present Conference. He noted that many of the challenges of national implementation were too complex for developing States to accomplish on their own, and Member States could, therefore, work to address them together.
Mr. ABURTO (Nicaragua) said his country had incorporated the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument into domestic legislation in 2004. That development had ushered in a new phase of controlling firearms in civilian hands, he said, adding that the resulting law was considered the most modern of the time. Nicaragua had also established a national coordinating institution and was developing plans for the seizure of illegal weapons, he said, recalling that the Government had destroyed thousands of them in 2008. Once the necessary financial assistance became available, the destruction of the remaining weapons would be concluded. The country’s efforts had allowed it to increase the human security of the citizens, and Nicaragua called on arms producers to reduce production in order to contribute to international peace and security.
Mr. SCAPPINI (Paraguay) agreed that efforts to implement the Programme of Action had been successful and had helped to reduce levels of crime and delinquency around the world. However, as many countries were still affected by organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking, “even more laudable results” were urgent. Paraguay believed that priorities in that area should include cooperation and assistance in the areas of transfer controls, tracing and marking, cross-border trafficking, and munitions and ammunition. The country had harmonized its legislation with international standards through new laws, working groups and agreements entered into with other countries. It had created a national centre for the tracing, which also worked to regulate the import and sale of explosives for civilian use.
Building national capacity and the exchange of information was critical, he added, noting that it was through such assistance that his country had been able to establish a “national bank of evidence”, which investigated and prosecuted illegal acts involving firearms. Further resources were also needed to fund international training courses, carry out national awareness-raising campaigns and related programmes that had already yielded positive results. There was also a clear need to establish a follow-up process to the current Conference.
GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina), associating herself with the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that her country had established an Advisory Council on firearms policy, bringing together members of academia, civil society and others. The Programme of Action review was an opportunity to strengthen implementation and reaffirm its provisions. Argentina considered it fundamental to supplement the Programme with other mechanisms and, to that end, it annually submitted reports on conventional weapons transfers to the Organization of American States. It was necessary to draw on a common international instrument that would make predictability for arms transfers possible. The conclusion of a robust arms trade treaty would boost implementation of the Programme of Action, for which strengthening national capacity was also crucial. Given the problem’s global scope, there must also be parity in the various responses of countries, she said.
MÓNICA BOLAÑOS PÉREZ (Guatemala) said that in her region, organized crime and other challenges had fuelled the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, and that problem transcended borders and regions. As such, it was essential that international cooperation and assistance for the implementation of the Programme of Action be strengthened, without which, it would be impossible to ensure its effective implementation. Combating illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons was one of the main policies of her Government. Consequently, it had established an authoritative body for its work in that area. A national security policy had also been adopted, and a law had come into force which allowed the right to bear arms but in line with United Nations guidelines.
Guatemala had also made significant progress in the area of marking, he went on. Efforts had been made to improve the security conditions of the State’s stockpiles. Weapons had been destroyed, most recently in June, when more than 1,000 arms were eliminated. Guatemala had also undertaken various awareness raising campaigns, using television, radio and other channels. Since 2010, the country had witnessed a marked reduction in the level of armed violence. It believed that without united effort with bordering countries, it would be unable to stem the scourge of the illicit trade. It, therefore, had advanced security with friendly neighbours, including through strengthened border controls.
MWABA PATRICIA KASESE-BOTA (Zambia), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country, like many other developing ones, continued to face challenges in controlling the flow of illicit small arms and light weapons, despite tightened security in border areas. However, it was making tremendous efforts, including through the appointment of a national focal point coordinator and a review of its Firearms Act to ensure that it conformed to regional and international standards. The Act, which sought to regulate the importation, registration, acquisition and transfer/movement of firearms, had been submitted to the relevant authorities for review and subsequent amendment, he said. In addition to a strong end-user certification process, which included verification of all imported firearms, the Act stipulated that any person or institution seeking to import or export arms must have prior and adequate Government consent, he said. As per the SADC Protocol on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons — which required all States parties to introduce programmes aimed at reducing the prevalence of such weapons — Zambia had instituted a Firearms Amnesty whereby members of the public were encouraged voluntarily to surrender illicit weapons through various incentives. Furthermore, it was working to destroy obsolete and recovered firearms, having destroyed about 1,000 in 2010 — and was cooperating with other members of SADC at the regional level. Zambia was also helping to draft a model law to promote the harmonization of firearms legislation in the region.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the reality of today’s world revealed the involvement of certain States — large and small, producers and non-producers — in the transfer of weapons to non-State actors, terrorists and other destabilizing forces. Syria was the “theatre of terrible events” as a result of terrorist acts committed by armed extremists, jihadist groups and Islamic fatwas, he said, adding that those suicide groups used bombs and all forms of small arms to attack human targets as well as vital facilities and infrastructure in order to wreak havoc and push the country towards civil war, all under the pretence of protecting civilians. Syria therefore called on States to end the trafficking of armed elements over its borders with neighbouring countries. It was strange to hear such emphatic statements in New York, at the same time as those very same States were trafficking in weapons and causing violence in Syria.
Those collective theoretical words should instead be in harmony with the reality on the ground, he stressed. “We want everyone to heed our call,” he said, emphasizing the need to respect the United Nations Charter and international law, rather than “media prejudice”. Indeed, the Al-Qaida network was currently in Syria, using the intelligence services of certain Arab countries, he said, emphasizing the need for firm political will among all States to end the transfer of weapons to non-State actors, mercenaries and terrorists. The situation in the Middle East was an example of serious double standards, he continued, pointing out that Israel persisted in its policy of aggressive armament while holding a major arsenal containing conventional and non-conventional armaments, as well as weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear arms. The provision to that country of such destructive weaponry, and the fact that other States allowed it to produce and stockpile weapons, meant that a weapons-free zone could never be established in the Middle East, he emphasized.
ANGELLA COMFORT (Jamaica) said that her country had been experiencing tremendous success in the use of new technologies to track firearms and their usage. Its firearms licensing authority was now able to capture the unique ballistic “signatures” of new weapons for which licences had been granted, and the use of that information by the police was making a valuable contribution to crime fighting. A newly instituted re-certification process for holders of firearm licences, issued before 2006, also allowed the authority to capture the ballistic signature of those weapons.
She said her country, as a tangible outcome of the current review process, would welcome the establishment of a formal and structured framework to facilitate adequate technology transfers. Such transfers concerned the effective functioning of national coordinating agencies for the implementation of the Programme of Action, the establishment of adequate national controls with respect to the activities of brokers and related legislation and capacity-building.
Statements by Intergovernmental Organizations
Ms. HITE, representative of INTERPOL, briefed delegates on her organization’s firearms tracing systems and the databases that it maintained. Those instruments were available to assist the member States in implementing the provisions of the Programme of Action.
FADI ARCHAIA, representative of the League of Arab States, said that the politically binding nature of the Programme of Action had allowed States to apply national priorities in its implementation. His organization was interested in the regional approach to implementation and it had held two review conferences in cooperation with the United Nations. The Office for Disarmament Affairs had produced a video, translated into Arabic, concerning building national capacity. A new conference would be held in Cairo. Many measures had also been undertaken by League members to implement the Programme of Action, including the establishment of national focal points by 21 Arab States, the amendment of national legislative bodies, and the holding of seminars and workshops on consolidating national capacities. The Arab convention against terrorism had also been adopted.
GINTS APALS, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said that the changing security environment had resulted in a host of new global threats, with one of the most serious among them the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons. In that context, OSCE had adopted a 2010 Plan of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Measures agreed under that plan included more rigorous monitoring and the implementation of agreed norms and active assistance through targeted projects; possible expansion of the scope and strengthening of export and broker controls; and facilitating the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument. In addition, OSCE had shared with the United Nations the results of two information exchanges on small arms and light weapons brokering activities in 2008 and 2011, which revealed that at least five participating States had adopted new related legislation since 2008. Reliable end-user certifications still presented a challenge, but, since 2009, OSCE had made 51 sample end-user certificates available and had presented an electronic template for use by States.
Mr. NKWAIN, United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms (UN CASA), said that in addressing the need for a collaborative and coordinated approach to the illicit small arms trade, CASA, established in 1998, had supported Governments in establishing and revising national legislation and integrating small arms action plans into their development strategies. CASA’s partners had provided technical assistance for small arms control programmes, including weapons collection and destruction schemes, as well as for stockpile management and security. They had also provided technical assistance to ensure that small arms restraint was complemented by a range of other development efforts to improve security and reduce armed violence. He announced that the International Small Arms Control Standards, to be known as ISACS, would be launched on Wednesday, explaining that it was a set of voluntary standards to help States and other actors put in place effective controls over the full cycle of weapons flows — from manufacture, marking and record-keeping, storage, transport and international transfer, to tracing, collection and destruction of illicit weapons. CASA had also developed a number of tools, such as for matching needs with resources, and analyses of national reports, ready for use on its “PoA-ISS” website. It had also worked on the risks posed by conventional ammunition surpluses, particularly those of explosions at munitions sites, and its partners were developing international technical guidelines, welcomed by the General Assembly in 2011.
JULIUS T. ROTICH, Deputy Secretary-General, East African Community (EAC), associated himself with the African Group and various partner States, saying much had transpired since the last Review Conference. Enhanced cooperation had been seen, including partnerships with the Regional Centre on Small Arms and robust participation in African Union initiatives. However, “the EAC region remains an area awash with illegal small arms and light weapons,” he said, nevertheless pointing out that access to and possession of arms had become stringently regulated in the region and better stockpile management practices were being implemented. More than 100,000 small arms and light weapons had been destroyed across the region, as had over 200,000 tons of unexploded ordinance and other remnants of war. But the process had not been without challenges, he stressed, citing delays in responses to requests for international cooperation. He invited partners who had pledged support to honour their commitments on time.
Ms. RASKOVAN, Organization of American States (OAS), said the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunitions, Explosives, And Other Related Materials, adopted in 1997, guided the Organization actions in the area of small arms and light weapons. Describing some of its efforts in three key areas — the management and destruction of stockpiles, legislative support, and weapons marking — she said it placed particular emphasis on the need to mark and trace firearms, and provided at least one marking machine to each of 31 countries in the region, in addition to supporting systems for the storage of related data. Its member countries had further committed to marking some 80,000 firearms in the coming years, a number already surpassed.
Mr. ALBERQUE, representative of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), outlined activities of NATO in support of the Programme’s implementation, saying that the organization provided opportunities for participation of its member States in training programmes and courses to assist nations in stockpile management and the destruction of ammunition. Through its trust funds, the allies and partners worked together to identify projects. Trust fund projects, to date, had helped to destroy more than 1 million rounds of small arms ammunition. NATO’s overall effort enhanced transparency among Governments.
FRANCIS WAIRAGU, Regional Centre on Small Arms, said that, with financial support from European countries, Japan, the United States and Canada, the Centre had coordinated the creation of national focal points in all its 15 member countries in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa. The focal points steered national and regional implementation of the Programme of Action. The Centre had also helped eight member countries create national action plans, in addition to best-practice guidelines for implementing the Nairobi Protocol. Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had enacted new laws to harmonize national legislation with regional instruments, while Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania were following suit.
He said the Centre had supported the destruction of 99,637 firearms and 1,443 tons of unexploded ordnances in Uganda, 27,200 firearms and 458,411 ammunitions in Ethiopia, and 21,404 firearms in the United Republic of Tanzania. More than 23,000 firearms and 50 tons of unexploded ordnance in Rwanda, over 27,000 firearms in Kenya, and over 25,000 firearms in Burundi had been destroyed, as had more than 55,000 landmines in the region. To support the International Tracing Instrument, the Centre had purchased and distributed 36 arms-marking machines within its own region and eight in four ECOWAS countries, he said, adding that marking was ongoing in eight of the Centre’s member countries. To enhance record-keeping and tracing, the Centre created customized software for the region that was now used in two countries. The marking of State-owned firearms was facilitating the recovery of arms across borders as well as rapid prosecutions. However, failure to link development measures to small arms control, limited resources in support of long-term steps and inadequate baseline data to measure their effectiveness were the main obstacles to implementing the Programme of Action, he said.
Statement by Non-Governmental Organization
Two speakers took the floor from the non-governmental International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). The first of those, JASMIN GALACE of the Philippines, called for special attention to the track record of the Programme of Action and to its potential to assist vulnerable groups, individuals and communities that had been victimized through the misuse of small arms and light weapons, or that were at imminent risk. It was therefore essential to focus on youth, victims and survivors and the gender dimension of armed violence. That included taking a holistic approach to assistance and active participation in the production, implementation and supervision of local, national, regional and international measures to prevent the trafficking and misuse of those weapons. It had been rightly noted that the Programme of Action was coming to a “crossroads” at the present Review Conference, she said, urging Governments to look back with clear and critical eyes to seriously scrutinize the instrument’s achievements and limitations. “We are not here to bemoan what could have been,” she added; instead, it was critical to consider what must be done now to overcome obstacles.
A second IANSA speaker, HECTOR GUERRA of Mexico, agreed that “another acrimonious failure — such as we saw in 2006 — would be damaging to the credibility of the Programme of Action process”. However, equally damaging would be a Review Conference that “simply and blandly” restated existing commitments. It was critical to go beyond how well States might or might not have implemented the Programme, to also address the question: did that implementation have a measurable impact on the levels of armed violence in people’s daily lives? The answer remained elusive, he said, stressing that anecdotal self-assessment was never a sufficient tool to monitor, measure and analyse the actual impact of any Programme of Action. In that vein, the Programme’s lack of an independent mechanism to assess its actual implementation on a national level risked its relevance. The present review must deliver as one of its outputs a mandate for the comprehensive, independent, and objective monitoring of implementation, with measurable benchmarks and concrete targets to analyse fulfilment of States’ commitments.
Right of Reply
The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, in response to an earlier statement by the representative of Syria, said that it was regrettable that that the session was being politicized. Syria had served as a transit point for the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah and Hamas. If the brutal Assad regime had any interest in the matter of curbing illicit arms transfers, it should begin by looking in the mirror.
The representative of Syria, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that what he had said about Israel was based on studies and reports by international institutes, including by the Centre for Research Services on Conventional Weapons, which listed Israel among those that exported to developing countries more than two thirds of the weapons it purchased. Those purchases were by former soldiers of the Israeli army now working as brokers. Israel was the last country that should talk about arms transfers as it even used prohibited weapons in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in the occupied Syrian Golan.
* *** *For information media • not an official record