Studies completed in 2003
Group of Governmental Experts on identifying and tracing illicit small arms and light weapons (hereinafter, "tracing")
Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 56/24 V, entitled "Illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects", the Secretary-General convened a Group of Governmental Experts,1
(GGE), to examine the feasibility of developing an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons, taking into account the views of States.
The Group held three sessions: the first and second in Geneva from 1 to 5 July 2002 and from 24 to 28 March 2003 and the third from 2 to 6 June 2003 in New York. During its 2003 sessions, it heard a presentation on the conclusions of the work of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on the Problem of Ammunition and Explosives2
as well as presentations by the Small Arms Survey (Geneva) and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (Geneva), on the findings of a study on the Scope and Implications of a Tracing Mechanism for Small Arms and Light Weapons, and by the World Forum for the Future of Sport Shooting Activities (Italy). The Group also took account of written contributions on relevant topics related to its work, including those from the Chairperson of the 1999 GGE on Ammunition and Explosives, from a crime prevention expert from the United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention, and from the Groupe de Recherche et d'Information sur la Paix et la SÚcuritÚ (GRIP) (Brussels).
At the end of its third session, the Group adopted its report,3
which recognized the negative impact of the excessive and uncontrolled spread of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW); examined the nature and scope of the problem posed by illicit SALW; described the existing international and regional initiatives on marking, record keeping and tracing those weapons; and discussed the technical, legal and policy issues associated with tracing.
The report concluded that the development of an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit SALW was feasible and desirable. It also noted that the character of the international instrument would be determined in the course of negotiations; that the international instrument should be complementary to, and consistent with, States' existing commitments under relevant international instruments; and that the international instrument should take into account States' national security and legal interests. Finally, the Group recommended that a decision to negotiate, under the auspices of the United Nations, an international instrument on the subject, be taken by the General Assembly at its fifty-eighth session. (For the composition of the Group, see annex I to this chapter).
At its fifty-eighth session, the General Assembly, in its resolution entitled "The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects,"4
welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on the feasibility of developing an international instrument on tracing; decided to establish an open-ended working group, to meet in three sessions of two weeks each, to negotiate an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit SALW.
Group of Governmental Experts on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms
"Taken as a whole, the achievements of the Group of Governmental Experts in 2003 are more significant than the outcome of the previous reviews, reflecting the commitment of the international community to safeguarding and further strengthening the Register's future after 10 years of operation."5
KOFI ANNAN, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL
By its resolution 57/75 of 22 November 2002, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General, with the assistance of a group of governmental experts based on equitable geographical representation, to prepare a report on the continuing operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and its further development, taking into account the views expressed by Member States and the earlier reports of the groups of governmental experts.
Twenty-four Member States representing different regions and subregions were invited to participate in the review. (For the composition of the Group of Experts, see annex II to this chapter). The Group held its three sessions in New York in 2003: the first took place from 17 to 21 March, the second from 12 to 23 May and the third from 21 July to 1 August.
The Group reviewed the operation and further development of the Register at a significant period in its history with 10 years of data available. It examined the extent of participation, reporting on exports and imports, and reporting patterns, including participation by region.
The Group also conducted an assessment of the series of workshops on "Transparency in armaments" that were held during 2002 and 2003, in accordance with the recommendations of the 2000 Group of Governmental Experts and General Assembly resolution 55/33.
The Group additionally examined the operation of the Register, including reporting methods, contacts among Member States, access to data and information reported and the role of the UN Secretariat.
The Group's report,6
which was adopted by consensus, contained a number of significant recommendations, which were designed to further improve the Register's operation and enhance its global relevance. Notably, the Group recommended that technical adjustments be made to two of the seven categories of conventional arms covered by the Register. Specifically, it proposed that the reporting threshold for large calibre artillery systems should be lowered from 100 to 75 millimetres, and that Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems (MANPADS) should be included in Category VII entitled "Missiles and Missile Launchers". The Group also proposed that Member States that wished to do so, could include data on small arms and light weapons as part of additional background information in their annual submission on international transfers of major conventional weapons covered by the Register. These adjustments have helped to enhance the Register's relevance both globally and regionally. (See chapter III to this volume for more information about the UN Register of Conventional Arms).
The report of the Group was submitted to the 58th session of the General Assembly and endorsed in its resolution 58/54.
Studies in progress
Group of Governmental Experts on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development
Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 57/65, the Secretary-General established the Group of Governmental Experts to review the relationship between disarmament and development in the current international context, as well as the future role of the Organization in that connection, and to report to the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly. The Group held its first series of meetings in Geneva from 17 to 21 November 2003. (For the composition of the Group of Governmental Experts, see annex III to this chapter).
This is the second review of the issue by governmental experts. The first was carried out more than 20 years ago from 1978 to 1981. In December 1984, the General Assembly decided to hold an International Conference on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development, which took place in September 1987. The Conference produced a Final Document, containing an Action Programme that has served as the primary basis of subsequent General Assembly resolutions on the subject. The review was recommended in the report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on the relationship between disarmament and development.7
During its first series of meetings, the Group assessed the implementation of that Action Programme, discussed a number of issues related to the current international context, and agreed on a draft outline on which to base its future work.
The group will hold its second and third sessions in New York on 8-12 March and 24-28 May 2004, respectively.
Studies mandated in 2003
Panel of Group of Governmental Experts on missiles
Pursuant to resolution 58/37 of 8 December 2003, entitled "Missiles," the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General, to further seek the views of Member States on the report on missiles; and with the assistance of a Panel of Governmental Experts, to be established in 2004, on the basis of equitable geographical distribution, to explore further the "issue of missiles in all its aspects". The outcome of the study will be submitted to the Assembly at its fifty-ninth session. The Group will hold its three sessions in 2004 in New York: the first session from 23 to 27 February, the second from 17 to 21 May and the final session from 19 to 23 July. (For discussion of resolution 58/37, see chapter I of this volume).
Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security
Pursuant to resolution 58/32, entitled "Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security", the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to consider existing and potential threats in the sphere of information security and possible cooperative measures to address them; and to conduct a study on relevant international concepts aimed at strengthening the security of global information and telecommunications systems, with the assistance of a group of governmental experts, to be established in 2004, on the basis of equitable geographical distribution and with the help of Member States in a position to render such assistance.
The Group of Governmental Experts will hold its three sessions in New York: the first session from 12 to 16 July 2004, and two sessions in 2005. The outcome of the study will be submitted to the Assembly, at its sixtieth session in 2005. (Resolution 58/32 is discussed in Chapter V of this volume).
A/58/138, (11 July 2003).
A/54/155, (29 June 1999).
A/CONF.192/BMS/2003/1, (18 July 2003).
A/RES/58/241, (9 January 2004).
Foreword by the Secretary-General to the Report of the 2003 Group of Governmental Experts on the UN Register of Conventional Arms, A/58/274, p.5, (13 August 2003).
A/57/167, (2 July 2002).