United Nations Conference on the
Illicit Trade in Small Arms
3rd Meeting (AM)
SMALL ARMS CONFERENCE HEARS CALL FOR STEPPED-UP CONTROL OF ILLICIT TRADE
But Several States Insist on Right to Acquire Arms for Security Purposes
The problem of the illicit manufacture of and trade in small arms and light weapons assumed different forms in different countries, Chile’s representative told the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects this morning, as it continued its general exchange of views.
Speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, he noted that in his region the illicit trade was linked mainly to activities related to drug trafficking, terrorism, organized transnational crime, mercenary activities and other criminal conduct that threatened the peace and stability of nations.
At the subregional level, he added, efforts had culminated in the adoption of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials. Among its provisions, the Convention had established marking as a key element for facilitating identification and tracing, and had defined what constituted illicit manufacturing and trafficking.
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation emphasized the significance of concerted efforts at regional level. While he appreciated efforts by the United Nations and regional organizations to combat illegal trafficking in small arms and light weapons, they were far from sufficient, as evidenced by the illegal proliferation of such weapons in the Balkan region and in the Northern Caucasus. He was also seriously concerned about uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons both in and from the territory of Afghanistan.
Speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Viet Nam’s representative felt the issue could best be approached through regional mechanisms, taking into account the different situations, capacities and priorities in each region. The illicit trade in his region was related to transnational crimes, such as the production and trafficking of drugs, money laundering and cross-border terrorism, conflict and post-conflict situations, and particularly the problem of armed separatism. As the illicit trade could not be tackled by States individually, international cooperation and assistance among police, intelligence, customs and border control should be enhanced.
In the Caribbean, noted Jamaica’s Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, the illicit arms trade was underpinned and fuelled by the illegal drug trade. In addition, fully automatic rocket launchers and missiles were increasingly the tools of the trade of criminal gangs, terrorist groups and drug traffickers. The time had come for the international community, particularly States which manufacture arms, to consider the implementation of measures that would limit the production of such weapons to levels that met the need for defence and national security, and would limit civilian access to weapons manufactured for military use.
The representative of Nauru, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, stated that the nature of the small arms problem in his region was very different from other affected areas. While large-scale transfer of automatic military-style weapons was not a problem in those countries, they faced several problems of a more regional nature, including the availability of old weapons stocks -– often reconstructed leftovers from the Second World War -- to the civilian community, and insufficient infrastructure for effective accounting practices and stockpile management.
Bearing that in mind, he said, the countries of the region had produced the “Nadi Framework”, based on the premise that the possession of such arms was a privilege conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety -- and public safety would only be enhanced by imposing strict controls on the import, possession and use of firearms and other related materials.
While Africa only produced a small number of the total weapons circulated around the world, it was the most affected region. Senegal’s representative highlighted the adoption and implementation of the West African Moratorium on the Manufacture, Import and Export of Small Arms, one of many regional initiatives taken. He emphasized that all such initiatives could be successful only if they were harmonized and coordinated within the United Nations, which had the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.
Also this morning, the Conference elected by acclamation Mali, Nigeria and India for the posts of Vice-Presidents of the Conference.
Statements were also made by the high-level government officials of Cambodia, Slovenia, Pakistan, Slovakia, Ukraine, Italy (on behalf of the G-8 Group of industrialized nations), Togo, Mali, Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Zambia. In addition, the representatives of Australia, Venezuela, Egypt, Peru, Republic of Korea, Kazakhstan, Solomon Islands and Burundi also spoke.
The Conference will meet again at 3 p.m. to consider its draft programme
of action. The general exchange of views will continue at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 July.
The United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects met this morning to continue its general exchange of views. For background, see Press Release DC/2782 of 5 July.
JORGE BURGOS VARELA (Chile), on behalf of the Rio Group –- Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Venezuela and Guyana, representing the Caribbean States: We are aware that the problem of the illicit manufacture of and trade in small arms and light weapons assumes different forms in different countries. In our region, it is linked mainly to activities related to drug trafficking, terrorism, organized transnational crime, mercenary activities and other criminal conduct that threaten the peace and stability of nations. This has led us to adopt firm measures to address the situation.
At the subregional level, our efforts culminated in the adoption of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials. Among its provisions, the Convention establishes marking as a key element for facilitating identification and tracing, defines what constitutes illicit manufacturing and trafficking, and requires States parties to characterize them as crimes in their domestic laws.
The Group believes that the supply of small arms and light weapons exclusively to governments is a matter that should be taken up by the Conference. We also believe that applications for the export, import and transit of small arms and light weapons should be reviewed in the light of the domestic legislation of the exporting, importing or transit State. In this connection, we are prepared to give consideration to the proposal that the Conference programme of action should recommend the adoption of non-discriminatory and internationally negotiated norms and procedures governing the export, import and transit of small arms and light weapons.
Further, the Security Council should establish, where appropriate, programmes for the disarming, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants which, through the allocation of adequate resources, would provide for the effective collection of small arms and light weapons. Lastly, the Group would like to see a follow-up mechanism for the Conference that is dynamic, universal and genuinely multilateral. To that end, we are prepared to consider the establishment of a special subsidiary mechanism of the Assembly with a mandate to be determined by the Assembly.
S.A. ORDZHONIKIDZE, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation: The promotion by a number of delegations of exceedingly ambitious proposals seems to us counter-productive because it threatens to undermine the fragile balance of interests. The programme of action under consideration should be phased out and reformulated on the principle of gradual enhancement of sophistication. Russia, being one of the major producers and exporters of small arms and light weapons, has pursued a responsible policy regarding shipments to the world market, adopting measures to impose stricter control on production, trade and transfer, and destroying its surpluses on a regular basis.
This Conference should call on all governments to focus on the field of national control over small arms and light weapons, and to take specific steps to strengthen and improve relevant domestic laws and regulations. I would like to emphasize the significance of concerted efforts at the regional level. Painstaking daily work will be needed to relieve crisis areas and the world, in general, from illegal flows of small arms and light weapons. We must take coordinated steps to demobilize and reintegrate former combatants during post-conflict settlement, to collect their arms and ensure their safe storage or elimination.
We appreciate efforts by the United Nations and regional organizations to combat the illegal trade, but they are far from sufficient, as evidenced by the illegal proliferation of such weapons in the Balkan region and in the Northern Caucasus. We are seriously concerned about the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons, both in and from the territory of Afghanistan. In this context, I would like to emphasize that it would be unrealistic today to focus on radical ideas, such as establishing some kind of monitoring of legal transfers of small arms and light weapons, or disposal of surplus weapons at production lines and storage facilities.
We are also confident that we should emphasize the legitimate needs of arms-receiving countries for their self-defence and national security, which is fully consistent with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. It is of fundamental importance for Russia that the Conference should propose specific measures to limit and eradicate illegal supplies of small arms and light weapons.
PENNY A. WENSLEY (Australia): While Australians are fortunate to have been largely spared the devastating impact of illegal arms trafficking, the Government has been an active player at the national, regional and international levels in supporting measures to curb the trade. In July 1999, the Government issued a national policy on small arms, which acknowledged that the small arms problem encompassed a diverse range of issues, including personal and national security, arms control, disarmament, law enforcement and human rights. Australia is particularly pleased by the weight given in the programme of action to regional activities -- which can, and already do, serve as building blocks for broader international efforts.
At the national level, Australia has implemented effective national import and export control procedures. It has also imposed strict national firearms legislation, requiring all firearm owners to hold a license to possess such weapon, and all firearms to be registered against that license. Firearms owners must also demonstrate a genuine reason for ownership. The introduction of this legislation in 1996 has had a demonstrable impact in reducing the number of violent crimes and firearms-related incidents in Australia.
Australia has also targeted the small arms problem in the South Pacific region. Through the involvement of law enforcement officials, we have supported the efforts of the Pacific Islands Forum in developing a common regional approach to weapons control, encapsulated in a document called the “Nadi Framework”. The Framework is based on the premise that possession and use of firearms is a privilege conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety, and public safety will be enhanced by imposing strict controls on the import, possession and use of firearms and other related materials.
IGNACIO ARCAYA (Venezuela): It has been recognized that small arms and light weapons in and of themselves are not the cause of conflict. But easy access to them and their unchecked proliferation do indeed lead to violence. The proliferation of such weapons also exacerbates other dimensions of illegal activity, such as drug trafficking. The illegal trade in small arms generates huge earnings -- billions of dollars each year. Because the issue is so complex, we must use the opportunity provided by this historic Conference to establish clear rules of the game. Our work will not be easy, as those complexities are highlighted by the political interests of others. We must also consider the distinction between the legal and illicit trade in small arms.
The United Nations has provided significant momentum to efforts to identify measures which will enable us to come to grips with the problem of the illicit small arms trade. The Conference itself provides an opportunity to formulate a global commitment. The firearms protocol to the Convention against Transnational Crime will also complement international efforts. Our work during the next two weeks must seek to complement efforts undertaken at regional levels. The Conference should identify ways to foster the requisite international cooperation that will enable us to build a global society free of the indiscriminate violence exacerbated by the illegal small arms trade.
The pursuit of a solution to the problem must be comprehensive and well balanced, addressing the issue “in all its aspects”. We must remember that the primary responsibility falls on governments. We must safeguard the right of States to purchase arms for national defence, in conformity with the Charter. In Venezuela, we have strengthened our own national regulations, especially with regard to confiscation of illegal weapons. We have specific provisions in our laws for concealment of firearms, explosives and ammunition, but we are aware of the need to strengthen these measures to cope with the complexities of the issue. Various government agencies are currently working on a draft law for arms and explosives that will adapt national laws to modern realities.
NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam), on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN): The ASEAN is fully convinced of the need for a comprehensive approach to the prevention, reduction and eradication of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons at all levels. With regard to regional cooperation, the issue could best be approached through regional mechanisms, taking into account the different situations, capacities and priorities in each region. The problem of the illicit trade in our region, for instance, relates principally to transnational crimes, such as the production and trafficking of drugs, money laundering and cross-border terrorism, conflict and post-conflict situations, particularly the problem of armed separatism.
Marking, tracing, stockpile management, collection and destruction are possible tools for tackling the problem of the illicit trade. Any proposal must take into account the current practices of States and the high financial costs and technological requirements of such procedures. Developing countries are now in dire need of resources for economic and social development. Their scarce resources should not be diverted from these efforts. It is imperative that concrete measures of international assistance and cooperation be developed in order to build national capacities and to alleviate the financial burdens of developing countries.
The ASEAN acknowledges that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons cannot be tackled by States individually. In this context, ASEAN believes that international cooperation and assistance among police, intelligence, customs and border control should be enhanced to combat the illicit trade. Moreover, the ASEAN countries call for enhanced international cooperation to eradicate the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons.
SAR KHENG, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior of Cambodia: The Kingdom of Cambodia has endured a chronic civil war lasting for several decades, and has suffered under one of the most heinous genocidal regimes in history. The country was left with all kinds of illegally held arms and explosives, as well as millions of mines scattered all over the country. They became major obstacles to efforts to reconstruct and rehabilitate the country and to the building of democracy and respect for human rights.
The Government of Cambodia has designated management of all arms and explosives as its major task, and has instituted several measures, such as collecting and confiscating all arms, explosives and ammunition left by the war; instituting practical measures to reduce the reckless use of arms; and strengthening the management of weapons registration. Those who possessed weapons during the civil war wish to continue possessing them for self-protection. On the other hand, criminals have no intention of giving up their weapons, because they need them to carry out their criminal offences. However, with assistance from the European Union and from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), there has been some success in raising the awareness of the problem among a majority of Camobodians.
To date, more than 112,000 light weapons, together with several tons of arms, explosives and ammunition, have been collected. More than 50 per cent of those weapons and some 4,000 landmines have been crushed and burned in public ceremonies under the slogan “Flames for Peace”. The Government of Cambodia, determined to maintain safety, social order and public security, is adhering to the principles of non-proliferation of arms and a ban on imports of arms and explosives.
I appeal to governments and international organizations around the world to continue to provide assistance to our royal Government, in spirit, as well as materially, so that we are able to successfully implement the resolutions emanating from this Conference.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt): The problem of small arms and light weapons affects specific regions and requires a solution that takes into consideration the particular characteristics of those regions. In countries suffering from the problem, there is a pressing need to focus on illicit small arms trafficking in the short run. They should also focus on socio-economic factors, which constitute the roots of this problem in the medium and long term.
The first step to be taken to combat the problem should be the enhancing of national legislation in exporting States. The export of small arms and light weapons to areas of conflict and to authorities other than the official governmental ones should be considered a crime. In importing States, national legislation must regulate the import and acquisition of those weapons. The Bamako Declaration, issued by the African Ministerial Meeting on Small Arms and Light Weapons, held in Mali in November 2000, takes into consideration the peculiarities of various countries in the African continent.
Some considerations should not be overlooked. The international framework for tackling the problem, for example, is closely linked to priorities in the wider field of disarmament. The existence of weapons of mass destruction should be constantly borne in mind, along with the realization that some States refuse to abide by international norms. Also, any treatment of the question should be devised without prejudice to a number of rights -- including the right of peoples to self-determination, in particular people under foreign occupation, and to their legitimate self-defence.
JORGE VALDEZ (Peru): Peru has witnessed first hand the unlimited capacity of the proliferation and circulation of small arms to nourish terrorist activities. Due to international manufacturing and unchecked transfers, those activities, financed by drug traffickers, have left more than 30,000 dead and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in material losses, which, for the last 10 years, have challenged our potential for growth and sustainable development. Indeed, we have found that the illicit drug traffic and violence against citizens are exacerbated by the continuous supply of small arms and light weapons.
Peru has assumed its responsibilities. We agree that each State has a specific duty in the collective effort to stem the flow of illicit small arms. Our regional efforts, in accordance with the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacture of and Trafficking in Firearms, recognize that such arms must be marked, that there must be mandatory licensing for their manufacture, marketing and transfer, and that the illicit manufacture and trade of small arms be designated domestic crimes.
But if experience has taught us anything at all, it is that no matter how strict national efforts may be, their results are insufficient without continuous communication with and coordinated participation of the international community. Such participation is vital to prevention of the illegal small arms traffic trade, of black market involvement and of the possible involvement of corrupt officials.
We now have the opportunity to tackle this problem. Specific measures adopted in the Conference programme of action must be flexible and practical, allowing each region, subregion or State to adapt them to their specific needs. At the same time, we must mobilize the political will both of exporting and importing States, to recognize the comprehensive nature of the problem and assume their responsibilities. The involvement of all levels of civil society, particularly NGOs, is also important. Their support has been vital in highlighting human dimensions to global problems. Other measures to be considered include the establishment of a precise licensing system, an obligatory marking system and an efficient national registration system.
IGNAC GOLOB, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia: We are faced with a host of new security dilemmas, among them, ethnic, religious and sectarian violence, and cross-border organized crime. Whatever the cause of these conflicts, those at each other’s throats most often draw on the same type of weapons: small arms and light weapons. Slovenia’s commitment to arms control stems from a clear understanding of these issues, and from our sincere interest in protecting human dignity and preventing human suffering.
The origin and the consequences of the proliferation of this kind of weapons can and should be dealt with on national, regional and global levels. States, international organizations and NGOs should be encouraged to perform different but well coordinated tasks. At the national level, Slovenia is establishing comprehensive stockpile-management systems and endeavouring to regulate the procurement, possession, carrying, use and destruction of small arms and light weapons. We are strongly committed to subregional cooperation in combating the destructive consequences of such weapons. The International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance, based in Slovenia, could serve as a useful paradigm.
The programme of action should include the application of already existing instruments on small arms and light weapons transfers at the global level. The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and the United Nations Military Expenditure Instrument, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) document on small arms and light weapons, the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Export, and the European Union Joint Action on Small Arms could be used as models. Transparency of arms transfers should be enhanced, and we must eliminate the grey zones within the legal trade that fuel proliferation and hinder efficient prevention of the illicit trade.
We should also start negotiations to establish a binding international instrument, setting out obligations and standards for marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons. This should sustain our efforts through the comprehensive follow-up process. We believe this Conference should be followed by systematic action, encouraging governments to cooperate with NGOS and influence importers and exporters, as well as manufacturers.
VINCI NIEL CLODUMAR (Nauru), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group: Though it is not well recognized, the availability and lack of control over small arms and light weapons in the Pacific region can have significant impact on social and economic conditions. It can put the lives of our people, children, homes and communities at risk. The small arms problem in our region is very different from that in other affected areas. For example, while large-scale transfer of automatic military-style weapons is not a problem, we do face several problems of a more regional nature, including the availability of old weapons stocks –- often reconstructed leftovers from the Second World War -- to the civilian community; insufficient infrastructure for effective accounting practices and stockpile management; and inadequate licensing and registration procedures governing ownership and use of small arms and other non-firearm weapons.
In many Pacific island countries, the transfer of even a handful of basic weapons into the wrong hands can have a serious impact on safety and security. With all this in mind, our nations have launched ongoing efforts to address the small arms problem. Last March, a new document, the Nadi Framework, was produced, incorporating past initiatives and covering non-firearm weapons. The Framework’s premise is that the possession of such arms is a privilege conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety -- and public safety will only be enhanced by imposing strict controls on the import, possession and use of firearms and other related materials.
In the view of the Pacific island countries, the draft programme of action is a comprehensive and balanced document. We recognize that it has been the subject of considerable debate and compromise already. While we understand that it is the prerogative of all delegations to suggest further amendments to improve the draft, we should ensure that in doing so we do not upset the finely balanced compromises enshrined in a document that has already generated a good degree of support. We must not waste the opportunities presented by this Conference.
MOIN-UD-DIN HAIDER, Minister of the Interior of Pakistan: Pakistan has become a victim of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons to the extent that even our places of worship and business are a target for this menace. It has threatened our political stability, social cohesion and economic growth. We have devised a multipronged policy involving actions against the import, procurement, smuggling, possession and exhibition of weapons. Since February of last year, we have not issued a single license for any weapon. We have also prohibited the public display of weapons.
We have started a weapons collection programme composed of two phases. In Phase I, the Government announced general amnesty from 5 to 20 June for voluntary surrender of illicit weapons. At present, the campaign to recover illicit weapons from those who did not surrender their weapons during the amnesty period is in full swing. During the amnesty period, we acquired a total of 86,757 weapons. In Phase II, we plan to cancel all automatic weapons licenses, which were loosely issued in the thousands by previous governments. Revalidation of existing arms licenses will be handled with great care.
It must be emphasized that in segments of our society, possessing and carrying arms has been a proud cultural legacy. However, to their credit, many such people voluntarily surrendered their weapons. Thus, while the Government has sought to implement sound strategies, the real winners are the people of Pakistan, whose concern, cooperation and willingness to make ours a weapon-free society went a long way in launching our campaign on a promising note.
SUN JOUN-YUNG (Republic of Korea): Finding an effective remedy to the problem of small arms and light weapons must begin with the understanding that it is a post-proliferation issue. Unlike weapons of mass destruction, small arms and light weapons are found virtually everywhere. They defy the conventional pattern of arms transfers, in that there are South-South, as well as North-South, transfers. Resolving this problem requires a comprehensive strategy in which both supply and demand aspects are dealt with.
States should bear the primary responsibility for solving the problems associated with the illicit trade in these weapons. They should ensure that production, export, import, stockpiling, marking and transfer are carried out in strict accordance with their laws. At present, in the absence of harmonized legal instruments, an effective and robust system of export control should stand at the core of efforts to address this issue. Last October in Seoul, the experts’ group meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum explored its role in addressing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. A number of measures were suggested, such as information exchange on best practices and improved cooperation among law enforcement agencies.
Initiatives for reducing small arms and light weapons in conflict-ridden regions are as important as initiatives for preventing them. Buy-back and local development programmes need to be supported by the international community. The United Nations should serve as a focal point for implementing measures in the programme of action so as to increase transparency and build confidence among States. The Conference should be a meaningful beginning of a long-term process. While acknowledging the utility of marking, tracing and brokering, we are of the view that this issue would be better addressed at a later stage.
JAN FIGEL, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of Slovakia: The objective of the Conference is to deal with the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons “in all its aspects”. Therefore, the Conference must have a broad scope, addressing both the supply and the demand sides. We put emphasis on such fundamental issues as export control, marking, brokering, surplus destruction, as well as management of stockpiles. We must reduce the risks that weapons of this kind pose to peacekeeping efforts.
We applaud the creation and development of regional initiatives, which are building blocks for action at the global level. The document on small arms and light weapons of the OSCE could be useful in the discussion and could be incorporated into the final document of the Conference.
To prevent the illegal circulation of small arms, individual States should adopt a responsible export and licensing policy. Slovakia implements strict export controls. The follow-up procedures after the Conference are important and could include the holding of a review conference, with regular meetings in the interim period to measure the progress in implementing the Conference conclusions.
BURCHELL WHITEMAN, Minister of Education, Youth and Culture of Jamaica: In the Caribbean, the illicit arms trade is underpinned and fuelled by the illegal drug trade. Guns and drugs are thus “a double-barrelled force of evil and mayhem in our societies”. The spread of military arms, such as fully automatic rocket launchers and missiles, are increasingly the tools of the trade of criminal gangs, terrorist groups and drug traffickers.
The time has come for the international community, particularly States which manufacture arms, to consider the implementation of measures that would limit the production of such weapons to levels that meet the needs for defence and national security. That would limit civilian access to weapons manufactured for military use.
Jamaica firmly agrees with the urgent need for domestic and international regulation to help stem the trade in legal weapons to illegal markets. Improved monitoring and regulation of resale and secondary markets is important, for many guns bought legally are resold illegally. Also, we strongly support the marking of firearms, improved regulation of firearms dealers, the strengthening of national record-keeping requirements and the application of more rigorous standards for arms brokers and other traders of small arms and light weapons.
For small island States like Jamaica, assistance with the effective monitoring of our coastline and training programmes to adequately equip law enforcement and customs officials in the interdiction, collection and analysis of illegal weapons, is particularly important.
LEONID ROZHEN, First Deputy Secretary, National Security and Defence Council, of Ukraine: Small arms and light weapons, and their unchecked proliferation, have claimed thousands of innocent lives around the world. Without joint practical efforts of the international community to prevent such illicit proliferation, it will be impossible to strengthen global peace, security and stability. Ukraine welcomes such efforts being undertaken by members of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Organization of American States (OAS).
With all these efforts in mind -- and with active participation of the European Union and the OSCE -- the United Nations should play a leading role in global activities. During the Conference, the main directions of cooperation between States, in the context of measures undertaken at national, regional and international levels, should be discussed. The effectiveness of Security Council embargoes on arms supplied to so-called “hot spots” should be enhanced. Those embargoes should be rigorously enforced. The strengthening of international cooperation of border, customs and law enforcement bodies in combating illicit traffic in small arms should be given priority attention by States and regional organizations.
The lack of an adequate level of security in weapons storage strategies often leads to theft and further illegal circulation. Laws on domestic production, registration of small arms laws, and the enforcement of security requirements concerning their storage should be strengthened. Ukraine also supports measures aimed at mandatory destruction of weapons confiscated from illegal possession.
ROBERTO ANTONIONE, Deputy Foreign Minister of Italy: On behalf of the Foreign Ministers of the "G-8" group of highly industrialized States, let me say that the G-8 is confident that the Conference will offer a good opportunity to agree on measures to tackle the illicit spread of small arms and light weapons in many areas of the world. By adopting a substantive and concrete programme of action, the Conference would contribute significantly to achieving the goal of peaceful resolution of existing armed conflicts and prevention of new ones.
Now, in my national capacity, let me say that the whole exercise begun by this Conference should be a gradual process. The programme of action should clearly indicate a rough timetable, as well as some major objectives. These should include concrete measures to establish a global regulatory framework in key sectors, such as the tracing of small arms and light weapons and brokering. Our final goal must be to negotiate international agreements in the next few years. The Conference is just the first step. Italy will, therefore, be focusing on developing a follow-up process for full implementation and periodic review and strengthening of the programme of action.
There is no single recipe. Instruments applied in some regions cannot necessarily be applied in others. Nevertheless, there is a clear need for global principles and regulations. The main purpose of different national or regional regulations and administrative procedures must be the same –- to prevent on a global scale the diversion of small arms and light weapons, the excessive accumulation of these arms, and the illicit trafficking that is exacerbating so many conflicts.
Brigadier General ASSANI TIDJANI, Minister of Defence of Togo: The striking buildup of small arms and their illicit trade poses a great challenge to the international community as a whole, but particularly to African countries. Throughout the continent, various protracted conflicts have not only led to major casualties, but have forced massive migrations and placed our children at the heart of war.
We recognize that small arms and light weapons fuel the intensity of conflicts and make it easier to resort to violence rather than dialogue. This issue is as important to the sustained development of the African continent as poverty and pandemics. How can we ignore it? Togo has been committed for many years to identifying ways of addressing the problem. Togo is part of the moratorium on such weapons, signed in 1998 by West African and other States in the subregion. This has been important in raising awareness of the issue throughout the country. Finally, we participated in the Bamako Declaration, which states the position of all African countries and expresses their willingness to fight the problem in a comprehensive and exhaustive manner.
Still, we recognize that we will not be able to sustain our efforts without international cooperation and assistance. I would like to launch a solemn appeal for international institutions to support our efforts by offering their expertise. Togo, which has frequently been the victim of terrorist attacks, can only hope that such assistance will be accompanied by the unequivocal condemnation of States that allow armed bands to ride roughshod over international laws and agreements. It is our hope that the outcome of the Conference will lead to an effective and ambitious action plan that recognizes the real and tangible challenge to our continent and other regions around the globe.
MADINA B. JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan): Afghanistan has become one of the largest centres of concentration of unaccounted small arms. Its territory is being used for the training of Islamic militants who make hostile incursions into neighbouring countries. Drug producing and trafficking are closely connected with the illegal dissemination of small arms. We are gravely concerned about the close links between terrorism, organized crime, the drug trade, and the uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons. If the transnational dimensions of the conflict are strengthened, threats to security would be considerably increased.
Kazakhstan has established an export control system and is improving the legislative basis for meeting the requirements of the international non-proliferation regime. Being a producer and exporter of small arms and light weapons, Kazakhstan has undertaken measures on the national level to tighten export control. It is recognized as a leader in the region in this field, and fully meets international standards. Because of the particular location of our country, its importance as a shield against illicit arms trafficking should be underlined.
Kazakhstan believes that the mandate of this Conference should be confined to the issues of the illicit small arms trade. Since we recognize the possibility of the transfer of arms from the legal into the illegal market, we consider it necessary to work towards strengthening national export legislations. An effective strategy for control over legal production and trade in light weapons should include the universality of the United Nations Register; strengthening of regional measures; and assistance by the United Nations’ and other international institutions in reduction of small arms arsenals.
MODIBO SIDIBE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mali: Even though Africa is producing only a small part of the small arms and light weapons being circulated around the globe, it remains the hardest hit by the problem. The illicit trade has, among other things, given rise to extensive refugee movements and internally displaced persons. It has also perpetrated massive human rights violations and has been used to interrupt the democratic process in many countries. These weapons pose some of the most serious threats to the democratic process in the continent.
Africa has become aware of the threat and intends to combat it. Last year in Bamako, a conference was held to identify common African positions on the issue, resulting in the adoption of the Bamako Declaration. Also, the implementation of the West African Moratorium on the Import, Export and Production of Small Arms is something to which we are committed as a priority.
The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons has serious political, economic and social repercussions. Only by acting together and addressing all the aspects involved can we come to grips with the issue and deal with it effectively. In Mali, the fight against this problem is central to our policy of good governance. We must strive to establish the legal and functional framework for effective cooperation among our countries and regions. The exchanges at this Conference could make it possible to elaborate and adopt an action plan.
JEREMIAH MANELE (Solomon Islands): The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 generated worldwide optimism for international peace and security. However, actual events since that time have crushed those expectations. Instead of increased stability, internal conflicts have increased at an alarming rate. Though those conflicts may differ in local root causes, they often result in unprecedented human casualties and gross violations of human rights.
This Conference is a testimony to the notion that the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of and illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons is, indeed, a global threat to peace and security that demands concerted international action.
As the victim of a two-year inter-ethnic crisis fuelled by small arms, Solomon Islands attaches great significance to all aspects of the problem of such weapons. Our immediate priority is to ensure the complete disarmament or the surrender of the more than 500 weapons used during the unrest. Most of those weapons were stolen from police armouries or were made or reconstructed from leftover Second World War relics. The signing of a peace agreement last October led to a ceasefire between the parties and provided a framework for a peaceful settlement, and a month later the Security Council issued a statement welcoming that agreement. Since then, however, efforts to facilitate the surrender of arms of the former militants have moved very slowly.
The impact of our experience with small arms and light weapons on political stability, investor confidence, economic development and human security should not be underestimated. An international plan of action to combat the illicit trade in small arms should reinforce, coordinate and extend measures to be taken at local, national and regional levels.
JOSE LINA, Secretary of the Interior and Local Governments of the Philippines: Few issues have moved as fast on the United Nations agenda as this one. The uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons wreaks havoc with the civilian population and makes it more difficult to end conflict. It threatens the fabric of humanitarian law and compromises social and economic development. The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons must be eradicated. Measures against it must also touch on the illicit manufacturing of those weapons.
Technology has made the weapons more endurable and easier to broker. We must make technology also work in our favour, for instance in tracing and marking. Better systems must be employed to prevent illicit transfers. That technology will come at a cost, and the Philippines is prepared to carry its burden.
We joined other nations in celebrating the Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction Day, and destroyed 300 of those weapons. But there are 4,000 more arms to be destroyed. Implementation and monitoring of the programme of action will be crucial to the success of the Conference, and we support two-year meetings to measure such implementation. We also support negotiations regarding marking, tracing and brokering. Non-governmental organizations and civil society have made great contributions to the process and their involvement must be enhanced.
ALIOUNE DIAGNE (Senegal): The problem of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is a real scourge, not only because of the suffering it inflicts on people, but also because of its effects on nation building and development. The issue is a serious threat to peace and stability in our region, since weapons are fuelling conflicts. Therefore, combating the illicit trade in these weapons is an essential part of any programme for peace building. The Conference is a unique opportunity to stem this scourge of modern times and build human security and lasting development.
The international community has made laudable efforts to eliminate the illegal trade. Together with ECOWAS, we are committed to finding regional solutions to address it. The adoption and implementation of the West African Moratorium on the Manufacture, Import and Export of Small Arms was among the regional initiatives taken. In addition, the Peace Flame ceremony held in September 2000 in the Niger was a brilliant illustration of the will of ECOWAS States to combat the illicit trade in the region, while the Bamako Declaration has set forth the common African position with regard to the present Conference.
Clearly, our initiatives can be successful only if they are harmonized and coordinated within the United Nations, which has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Senegal believes that the international campaign against the trade should be based on a multifaceted approach. An international tracking system could make a major contribution to combating the illegal trade. The draft programme of action is an appropriate response to the concerns raised.
NIKOLA RADOVANOVIC, Minister Counsellor and Chief of Division for Peace and Security of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina: In Bosnia and Herzegovina, armed forces possess around 450,000 small arms and light weapons. In cooperation with the Multinational Stabilization Force (SFOR), a campaign is under way to collect light weapons from citizens. Forty thousand pieces have been collected every year, and most of them have been destroyed. We strongly support every proposal for facilitating the process of disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants and their reintegration in civil society. For that process, as well as for management of stockpiles, significant financial resources are necessary. We strongly recommend that a fund be created to support the implementation of the programme of action.
The programme of action is a comprehensive document, but we would also like to underline our commitment to measures covering other aspects of the illicit trade in small arms. It is obvious that a successful fight against poverty, infectious diseases, social and economic inequality, and religious and racial discrimination contributes to stability and narrows the risk of potential conflicts.
It will be wise to avoid issues beyond the mandate of this very important Conference, because we really need to reach a high level of consensus for stronger international commitment. Additionally, we would like to see a synergistic plan of action for regional and subregional instruments adopted so far. We suggest that every year we should require a special report of the Secretary-General on the matter, because this is the most appropriate way to be informed on the follow-up.
MARC NTETURUYE (Burundi): Proliferation and uncontrolled use of small arms and light weapons not only threaten individuals, but impede governments, hinder development and hamper the exercise of individual rights. Although statistics concerning the number of deaths and injuries cased by small arms are incomplete, records do show that even after conflicts end, casualties remain high as long as those weapons are in circulation. The victims are generally the most vulnerable populations: women, children and the elderly. Small arms also feed fear and distrust among neighbours, forcing massive migrations of individuals within or between countries. It should be obvious to all that urgent robust action is necessary to eliminate the scourge, or to at least attenuate its flow.
The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons requires a multi-dimensional approach. We must act at the national, regional and local levels, particularly making producer and consumer States responsible for their actions. Since the Conference intends to deal with the illicit trade, we expect concrete steps to be taken to strengthen national control over the legal transfer of these weapons, particularly transfer into illegal arenas, and the development of international cooperation. As the victim of a war that has continued for the last eight years, my country is convinced that effective disarmament and seizure of illicit small arms and light weapons within existing disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programmes are essential to stemming their flow and promoting peace and stability within the region. My delegation supports regional action programmes and remains convinced of the decisive role international arrangements. We also support the idea of a review conference to be held in 2006.
STEPHEN C. CHILOMBO, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Zambia: In order to address the problem of small arms and light weapons, Zambia agrees that
only concerted efforts at the national, regional and international level can be effective. One of the most practical methods of dealing with the problem is through destruction of illicit weapons. My country continues to experience the effects of the proliferation of these weapons. The origin of these arms can easily be traced to the after-effects of the liberation wars or to illicit trade conducted by criminal elements.
To address the problem of small arms and light weapons locally, Zambia has initiated an amnesty programme for the surrender of all illicit firearms and ammunition; a payment of about $55 is given for any firearm handed in or for information leading to the recovery of any illicit firearm. Since the commencement of the programme last year, over 500 firearms have been handed in.
At the regional level, Zambia has been active in the SADC Programme on Small Arms and Light Weapons through the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperating Organization. My Government will encourage NGOs and civil society to get involved in the dissemination of information in this fight, which will enhance national and regional security and ultimately the welfare and safety of our people.
Although Zambia does not manufacture small arms and light weapons, it is a victim of forged end-user certificates at the hands of international arms dealers. The Zambian Government calls for stronger controls on the export, import, transit and retransfer of these weapons. It is our view that the manufacturing and exporting countries are in a much better position to control the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons than the recipients.
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