Continuing CHAPTER III Conventional weapons issues

Small arms and light weapons

The number of initiatives undertaken at the national, regional and subregional levels increased significantly during the year. Such initiatives included the establishment of national coordinating bodies in many countries, the adoption and strengthening of relevant national laws, regulations and controls, the implementation of weapons collection and destruction programmes and the establishment of arrangements for cooperation, networking and exchange of information at the regional and subregional levels. Awareness of the problem was further raised, due in part to an increasing involvement of civil society in efforts to implement the PoA.
Significant progress was also registered at the global level in the areas of marking and tracing as well as illicit brokering. The OEWG moved ahead with the its work, despite divergence of views on issues such as whether the instrument should be legally or politically binding.
With respect to the issue of illicit brokering, DDA organized a number of consultations in Geneva and New York as well as in the margins of several meetings.1 The General Assembly, by resolution 59/86, requested the Secretary-General to establish, after the 2006 Review Conference and no later than 2007, a Group of Governmental Experts to further examine the issue of illicit brokering.2
The Security Council continued to address the issue of the illicit trade in SALW. On 19 January, in an open debate on the issue, the Council discussed the Secretary-General's report of 31 December 2003,3 which outlined initiatives undertaken to implement the recommendations made in his previous report on SALW on ways and means in which the Council could contribute to dealing with the question of illicit trade in SALW in situations under its purview. At the conclusion of the debate, the Council adopted a Presidential Statement4 by which, among other things, it welcomed resolution 58/241 and encouraged arms-exporting countries to exercise the highest degree of responsibility in SALW transactions. It also encouraged international and regional cooperation in the consideration of the origin and transfers of SALW in order to prevent their diversion to terrorist groups, in particular to Al Qaida.
Also in 2004, the Security Council addressed the issue of small arms during its consideration of related issues such as peacekeeping and peace-building missions; the protection of civilians in armed conflict;5 and women, peace and security.6 On 25 March, the Council considered the Secretary-General's report on ways to combat subregional and cross-border problems in West Africa.7 At the conclusion of that debate, the Council adopted a Presidential Statement S/PRST/2004/7, by which, among other things, it noted the Secretary-General's recommendations to address cross-border issues, in particular the plight of child soldiers and the use and proliferation of mercenaries and small arms; urged ECOWAS Member States to fully implement their 1998 moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of SALW; and invited them to take all necessary steps to better combat illegal trafficking in SALW in the region, such as the establishment of a regional register of those weapons.
In an effort to improve compliance with the Security Council arms embargoes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Liberia, the Council established a four-member group of experts on the arms embargo against DRC8 and a five-member panel of experts on Liberia.9

Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in SALW in All Its Aspects

The United Nations continued to play a pivotal role in the implementation of the PoA at the national, regional and global levels. In 2004, two major initiatives were started at the global level namely, the Open-ended working group to negotiate an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons, and the broad-based consultations on further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating and eradicating illicit brokering in SALW (OEWG).

Open-ended working group to negotiate an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons (OEWG)

The OEWG, established pursuant to resolution 58/241, held an organizational session in New York on 3 and 4 February. It elected Anton Thalmann (Switzerland) as Chairman10 and decided on the dates and venue for the three substantive sessions: 14-25 June 2004, 24 January-4 February 2005 and 6-17 June 2005, (New York).
The first substantive session11 was devoted mainly to a general debate. Thematic discussions were held on the main elements of tracing, i.e., marking, record keeping and international cooperation. Divergent views were expressed on several issues, including the scope and nature of the instrument; marking SALW at the time of import; the right to initiate a request for tracing; and the role of the United Nations, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Interpol in supporting the operation of the future instrument.
The report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Tracing Illicit SALW12 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 Crime13 were used as reference documents for the discussions. At the session's conclusion, it was agreed that the Chairman would produce the first draft of the international instrument and circulate it to all Member States before the convening of the second session. In preparation for such a draft instrument, on 20 October, the Chairman held informal consultations to hear the views of States on a written questionnaire which he had previously circulated on elements of the draft instrument.

Consultations on further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating and eradicating illicit brokering in small arms and light weapons

By resolution 58/241, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General, while seeking the views of Member States on the matter, to hold broad-based consultations with all Member States, interested regional and subregional organizations, international agencies and experts in the field, on further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating and eradicating illicit brokering in SALW.
Pursuant to that request, DDA organized such informal consultations on 21 April and 24 May in Geneva and on 11 June and 15 July in New York. In order to facilitate deliberations, DDA prepared a background paper14 providing an overview of the issue of illicit brokering, outlining regional and international initiatives to combat illicit brokering, and providing a summary of identified areas of concern.
To ensure the widest possible participation in these consultations, DDA included the illicit brokering issue in various regional meetings it organized. These included: the Regional Meeting on Small Arms and Light Weapons in Central Asia, (Almaty, 16-18 March);15 DDA/UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) workshop on the implementation of the PoA for the members of the Nairobi Declaration on the Problem of the Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa, (Nairobi, 20-21 May),16 ad hoc working group on SALW and landmines of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, (Brussels, 30 April); an informal exchange of views on the occasion of a DDA/UNDP subregional workshop on national reporting on the PoA for the States of the Maghreb with the participation of the League of Arab States, (Tunisia, 14-15 June); and a meeting of senior representatives of DDA and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), (New York, 18 May).
Other initiatives undertaken outside the United Nations system included a conference on combating illicit small arms brokering and trafficking in West Africa organized by ECOWAS in collaboration with the Governments of the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom, (Abuja, 22 to24 March), as well as a workshop hosted by the Institute for Security Studies on understanding and regulating arms brokering in southern Africa, (Johannesburg, 15 to 17 March).
The outcome of the above consultations was reflected in the Secretary-General's Report on Assistance to States for curbing illicit traffic in small arms and collecting them, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects,17 which indicated that there was a need for a more in-depth study of the issue. By resolution 59/86 of 3 December 2004, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to continue to hold such consultations, on further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating and eradicating illicit brokering in SALW, with a view to establishing, after the 2006 review conference and no later than 2007, and after the conclusion of the work of the Open-ended Working Group on marking and tracing, a group of governmental experts, to consider further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating and eradicating illicit brokering in SALW.

Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA) mechanism

CASA members, collectively and individually, continued to support the implementation of the PoA and to provide assistance to Member States in that regard. Its activities were reflected in a report by the Secretary-General.18 CASA meetings were also regularly convened in New York. With a view to facilitating collation and distribution of information among its Members as well as to Member States and the public at large, CASA undertook to develop an Internet database (CASA Database) which is expected to be officially launched in 2005. It will feature databases on small arms-related projects and activities, contact information for CASA Members and Member States and an electronic library.
A number of joint activities and projects were implemented by CASA members. DDA, UNIDIR (United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research) and UNDP, supported by the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based NGO, undertook the second phase of the PoA National Reporting Project. The project aims to help countries affected by small arms to develop their long-term capacity to report on their implementation of the PoA, and by participating in information-sharing and confidence-building measures. More than 80 Member States received such assistance.
As part of a collaborative effort between DDA and DPI (Department of Public Information), a compilation of United Nations documents related to SALW was published and distributed to Member States and civil society institutions.
WHO (World Health Organization) and UNDP continued to implement a joint project on an Armed Violence Prevention Programme (AVPP). The research programme aims to reduce armed violence and the demand for small arms in selected settings and generates best practices in violence prevention.
The United Nations organized or co-sponsored several training seminars and workshops on SALW in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.19


UNDP made a significant contribution to the fight against the impact of illicit SALW from the perspective of human, social and economic development. The Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) and UNDP Country Offices undertook over 30 SALW programmes worldwide at global, regional and country levels in 2004. The regional and country specific projects were extended to five regions and approximately 20 countries in the areas related to, inter alia, the management and destruction of weapons, DDR (disarmament, deomobilization and rehabilitation), security sector reform and the enhancement of public awareness on the issue of SALW.

Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC)

The report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council prepared by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for CAAC took into consideration the illicit trade in SALW and stressed the correlation between the easy availability of such weapons and the phenomenon of child soldiers, with special attention given to the regional context.

UNIDIR (United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research)

As part of a collaborative effort among UNIDIR, UNDP, DDA and the Small Arms Survey, in October UNIDIR published a book entitled "Implementing the United Nations Programme of Action on SALW: Analysis of the Reports Submitted by States in 2003". Under the auspices of the Geneva Forum, the Institute also played a substantial role in organizing the seminar "The Role of Regional Organizations in Stemming the Illicit Trade in SALW: Sharing Experience and Drawing Lessons" which brought together senior representatives of twelve regional organizations working to address the problem of illicit SALW trade.

OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

OCHA addressed the devastating impact on civilians of the illicit flow of small arms. To that end, in his Report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General urged the Council to establish monitoring mechanisms for arms embargoes on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (S/2004/431, May 2004). The Office continued to organize a series of regional workshops on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, with a view to creating a dialogue on the issue among Member States and between Member States and the humanitarian community.

Consolidation of Peace through Practical Disarmament Measures

During the year, the Group of Interested States on Practical Disarmament Measures (GIS)20 held three meetings devoted to assessing current and new project proposals and reviewing recent requests for assistance by Governments. Among the concrete projects, it supported the United Nations/League of Arab States SALW Conference in Cairo and follow-up of its final report; a workshop on the development of a small arms reporting system for Arab States; and setting up a Small Arms Unit in ECOWAS developing an interregional convention on SALW and an Action Plan for involvement of civil society. The GIS also considered other projects to assist Member States in their fight against SALW proliferation and reviewed requests to DDA for assistance from the Governments of Burundi, Nigeria and Tajikistan.

Assistance to States in curbing the illicit traffic in small arms

DDA and DESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) undertook a joint technical mission to Sri Lanka from 17 to 20 October. The objective was to restart the Project to Support the Establishment of a National Commission Against the Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms in Sri Lanka, which had been paralyzed because of political developments in the country. The mission found that it would be viable to restart the project as all the relevant actors - the Government, the UN system, donors and civil society organizations - were supportive and eager to begin implementation without delay.

2 A/RES/59/86.
3S/2003/1217 and Corr.1.
10Representatives from Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Ukraine were elected as Vice-Chairpersons.
11Participation in the first substantive of the OEWG included 106 Member States. In addition, 62 accredited NGOs participated in the Group's open meetings.
19These included a training for Members of the Togolese National Commission to fight SALW proliferation; a training the trainers investigative techniques course in Peru on commercial trade and illicit trafficking in firearms, their parts and ammunition; a workshop in Brazil on the firearms industry and regional brokers; a law enforcement training in Brazil; a workshop on PoA implementation and reporting in Tunisia; a workshop in Fiji on SALW issues in the Pacific region; an experts workshop in Mali on transparency and small arms control in Africa; a seminar in Peru on the PoA; a seminar in Peru on Peruvian firearms law; and capacity-building sessions in Peru and Brazil for parliamentary advisors, PoA focal points, and NGOs. Several weapons destruction and stockpile management programmes were designed and implemented by DDA, through its Regional Centre in Lima.