21 June 2006
Press Conference

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



Possession of ammunition, the role of non-State actors and global guidelines for transferring control of illegal small arms and light weapons to Member States were among the main contentious issues to be discussed during next week’s 2006 Small Arms Review Conference, Prasad Kariyawasam, President-designate of the Conference, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

The Conference, scheduled for Headquarters from 26 June to 7 July, aimed to eliminate the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons, in order to save more lives and reduce instability worldwide, said Mr. Kariyawasam, the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, noting that, during the 1990s, such weapons had been used in 47 of the world’s 49 major conflicts.  They had supported activities of groups involved in organized crime, drug trafficking and the illegal exploitation of precious minerals.

He said that the two-week event, formally known as the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, would gather an estimated 2,000 representatives of Governments, international and regional organizations, and civil society.  They would take stock of progress made in stemming the illegal trade since Member States had unanimously adopted the 2001 Programme of Action, committing themselves to collect and destroy illegal small arms and light weapons, adopt or improve relevant legislation, regulate the activities of brokers, and set strict import and export controls.

Many Member States had indeed made good on that promise, he said, pointing out that more than 50 countries had strengthened national laws to control the illegal trade, and over 60 had collected and destroyed large amounts of illegal small arms through cost-effective and environmentally-friendly methods.  Next week’s Conference should reinforce that momentum for action.  Delegates were expected to welcome the creation of a group of governmental experts who would meet in November to work towards reining in illegal arms brokers.  The delegates would likely close the Conference with a consensus agreement on a political declaration that would serve as a road map for further implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action.

Despite such support, there was opposition to the Review Conference, particularly among members of the United States National Rifle Association, he said, adding that he had received more than 100,000 letters from the American public, protesting against holding the event on 4 July, Independence Day in the United States, and for infringing upon gun-owners’ rights.  However, the United Nations would, in fact, be closed on 4 July, and the event was not intended to attack the legal use of and trade in arms, or to draft a global treaty banning that trade.

Responding to a reporter’s concern that the legal arms trade often turned illegal, he said that, although the agenda for the Review Conference did not address that flow, some States were discussing arms trade treaties.

While declining specifically to congratulate the decision by the Islamic Courts Union Somalia to collect and destroy arms, and the ensuing implications for the East African region, he said that all commitments by States or other groups to eliminate surplus weapons were positive steps and welcome.

For further information on the Review Conference please see press release DC/3027, issued on 20 June.

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For information media • not an official record