Progress Assessed on Small Arms Programme

Pursuant to the follow-up plan outlined in the 2001 Programme of Action (PoA) to combat the illicit trade
in small arms and light weapons (SALW), the first Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the PoA concluded a week long session with the adoption of its report which included the Chairperson's summary.

Within barely two years of its adoption, progress had been made worldwide in public disclosures about the origins, destination and modus operandi of groups engaged in illicit small arms trade, stated Chairperson Kuniko Inoguchi (Japan).

Member States had thematic discussions on vital aspects for controlling the illicit trade in SALW, such as marking and tracing, linkages between SALW and terrorism, organized crime and precious minerals and import/export control and illicit brokering. These aspects were addressed in the report.

Ms. Inoguchi stated that the meeting took place amidst an increased awareness of the disastrous human consequences of the use of illicit small arms in combination with sophisticated advances in the field of information and transport technologies. That added a greater sense of urgency and created a more supportive global climate for implementing the PoA. She added that the problem of illicit trade in SALW was multidimensional and required a comprehensive and inclusive approach to all its aspects, incorporating national, regional and global dimensions. In her view, no State alone could prevent, combat or eradicate the illicit trade in these weapons.

She pointed out that since the PoA was adopted, regional initiatives were beginning to take shape and international cooperation was growing.

New or amended legislation was an important element in moving forward, with over 90 countries reporting that they had domestic laws to govern the illicit manufacture, possession and trade in weapons and that they were more prepared to deal with future illicit transfer and misuse of such weapons. States also reported that of the total weapons collected over the last decade, one half or approximately 2 million had been destroyed in the last two years.

The diversion of legitimate stocks was considered a main source for acquiring illicit weapons. To that end, it was agreed that assistance was needed to improve the security of armouries. Information sharing of existing national inventories could also help to monitor cross boundary trafficking and pilferage of inadequately guarded stocks for countries that shared permeable frontiers. As regards illegal brokering, progress depended highly on international cooperation in information sharing, compliance and law enforcement.

Marking and tracing

A UN study by a group of 23 governmental experts on the feasibility of an international instrument on marking and tracing arms was completed and its findings were presented informally to the meeting. The group recommended that the General Assembly take a decision at its fifty-eighth session to negotiate, under UN auspices, an international instrument to identify and trace illicit SALW, and stressed the need for an internationally binding tracing and marking system, with a possible early negotiation.

A second Biennial Meeting of States will be held in 2005, before the UN Conference on Small Arms concludes its work with a final meeting and report in 2006.

For further information, see conventional arms on the DDA web site