CALLS HEARD FOR MORE VIGOROUS INTERNATIONAL ACTION AGAINST ILLICIT ARMS TRADE, AS FIRST-EVER BIENNIAL MEETING ON SMALL ARMS FOLLOW-UP CONTINUES
CALLS HEARD FOR MORE VIGOROUS INTERNATIONAL ACTION AGAINST ILLICIT ARMS TRADE, AS FIRST-EVER BIENNIAL MEETING ON SMALL ARMS FOLLOW-UP CONTINUES
Meeting of States to Consider Action
Programme on Illicit Small Arms Trade
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
CALLS HEARD FOR MORE VIGOROUS INTERNATIONAL ACTION AGAINST ILLICIT ARMS TRADE,
AS FIRST-EVER BIENNIAL MEETING ON SMALL ARMS FOLLOW-UP CONTINUES
Concerted, cooperative action by States was required to deal with the complex problems stemming from the illicit trade in small arms, the representative of the United Kingdom told the Biennial Meeting of States considering implementation of the United Nations Action Programme to prevent, combat and eradicate that illicit arms trade.
During the second day of the week-long follow-up meeting to assess implementation of the action plan adopted at the 2001 United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, that representative said that reducing the violence and insecurity caused by those weapons meant that action must be taken in partnership at all levels, from the local to global levels.
Among the nearly 50 speakers today echoing the call for international cooperation, the representative of Uruguay said that national legislation alone could not guarantee a full solution to the problem of small arms and light weapons. He stressed that efforts made at the international, regional or subregional levels must be part of a comprehensive plan of cooperation.
The question of strict export and import controls was emphasized, with several speakers calling for urgent action. Germany’s representative considered strict export criteria and transparency in arms transfers as essential standards that could and should be met by all weapons exporters from all continents. Legally binding instruments for marking and tracing, as well as for brokering, were also crucial.
Yet, the Algerian speaker recalled, lack of commitment and determination during discussions to draw up the Programme of Action had precluded the inclusion of such vigorous action. To end the illicit small arms trade, the international community must adopt resolute measures to ensure that those weapons did not land in the hands of terrorists and other non-State groups.
Similarly, the representative of Israel called for safeguards to ensure that those weapons were not supplied to clients that might transfer them to terrorists. Israeli civilians had been particularly vulnerable to the effects of illicit transfers and use of small arms and light weapons. Behind the statistics on suffering resulting from illicit trade and use of small arms and light weapons were the names of casualties dear to their families and friends.
Among the many African speakers today urging implementation, the representative of Kenya stressed that a sustainable solution to the small arms problem could not be based on law enforcement alone, in light of the competition for dwindling resources, and political, social and economic exclusion, all of which fuelled the demand for illicit arms. Strengthening law enforcement must be done in tandem with addressing the underlying causes of the increasing demand, he said.
Warning that the international nature and dimension of the small arms problem should not be underestimated, the representative of Sierra Leone said that manufacturers and suppliers had a special responsibility to take appropriate measures to combat and eradicate the illicit flows. Sierra Leone subscribed to the affirmation in the preamble of the Programme of Action, which stressed the urgency of international efforts and cooperation to combat that trade.
Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Paraguay, Guyana, India, Bulgaria, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Botwsana, Cambodia, Ukraine, Iran, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt, Colombia, Croatia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Chile.
Speakers this afternoon included, Armenia, Argentina, Burundi, Morocco, Austria, Serbia and Montenegro, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Congo, El Salvador, Belarus, Pakistan, Uganda, Niger, and Burkina Faso. The Observer for the Holy See also spoke.
Somalia’s representative spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The meeting will convene again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to conclude consideration of national implementation of the Programme of Action.
The First Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects met this morning to continue its consideration of the national implementation of the Programme of Action. (For background information, see Press Release DC/2871, issued on 3 July.)
FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay) said his country had made changes in its legislation on small arms and light weapons to supplement those already existing. The new measures placed stricter controls on those attempting to acquire or carry such weapons, strengthened customs and border controls and increased weapons monitoring. However, such legislation could not guarantee a full solution to the problem of small arms and light weapons, and his country supported and encouraged initiatives taken at the subregional level. Such cooperation had led to real progress in the struggle against small arms and light weapons.
He then drew attention to the association of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working against illicit weapons, particularly their efforts to raise awareness about their dangers. His country also supported initiatives within the Organization of American States (OAS), which had pioneered a course of action to deal with the scourge. However, he stressed that efforts made at the international, regional and subregional levels could only succeed if they were part of a comprehensive plan of cooperation.
DAVID BROUCHER (United Kingdom), outlining the United Kingdom’s policy and strategic priorities for the next three years in key areas of its work on small arms, said that his country sought to combat the threat and damage caused by those weapons by focusing on three critical, and related, areas: strengthening controls on the supply of small arms and light weapons; reducing their availability; and addressing the demand for them.
He said that the threat and use of those weapons had caused untold human suffering, and their availability in many regions of the world was a major source of insecurity and poverty. Small arms and light weapons were the weapons of choice for criminals, terrorists and combatants alike and, as such, they often circulated throughout many different areas of conflict and criminal activity. Their illicit trade represented a significant proportion of the global trade in small arms and light weapons.
His Government recognized that the problems brought about by the illicit small arms trade were complex and interrelated and required concerted, cooperative action and assistance between States, intergovernmental organizations and civil society, he said. In order to reduce the violence and insecurity that those weapons caused, action had to be taken in partnership at all levels, from the local to the global level.
ELADIO LOIZAGA (Paraguay) said that a law on firearms was passed last year containing measures which included sanctions against offenders as severe as 10 years’ imprisonment. Other provisions included tracing and the delegation of authority to deal with import, export and transit. He stressed the importance of transparency in the preparation of the legislation. He thanked the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean for its swift response to the country’s request for technical assistance. There would be a national seminar to train relevant officials to help combat illicit trafficking in arms.
He hailed the adoption of the Programme of Action as an important milestone in the fight against illegal trafficking in small arms and light weapons. Paraguay would do everything it could to implement it.
T.P. SEETHARAM, Minister of Disarmament of India, said the national legal framework strengthened his country’s hand in dealing with the problem of illicit small arms, which were smuggled into the country by anti-national groups. Its report on implementation of the Programme of Action detailed the illicit weapons that had been seized. It also listed 32 organizations banned under its Prevention of Terrorism Act. The markings and types of weapons were shown to have been illicitly brought in from outside the country. That had proved the need for active and enhanced international cooperation to address the problem.
He said that, in his country, the manufacture of small arms was strictly regulated and licensed. Exports were subjected to a stringent regime, which included end-user certificates and a ban on exports to countries under United Nations embargo. Considering that the illicit gun trade was closely linked with terrorism and other transnational organized crimes, India had undertaken bilateral initiatives with countries such as Kazakhstan and Poland. Failure to agree on the prevention of arms sales to non-State groups at the 2001 United Nations Conference had been disappointing. Since then, the need to deal with the scourge of terrorism and the potential destabilization from non-State actors had become more acute. The international community must address that issue seriously in preparing for the 2006 Review Conference.
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) urged that legitimate stocks of small arms and light weapons needed to be better guarded and surplus stocks destroyed, since it appeared that weapons that passed from the legal to the grey and black markets were not required for the legitimate defence and security of States.
He said his country considered strict export criteria and transparency in arms transfers as legitimate and essential standards that could and should be met by all weapons exporters from all continents. Legally binding instruments on marking and tracing, as well as brokering, were also very important basis for cooperation in tracking illegal activities. Everyone was aware of the need for action in the political sphere: light weapons in the hands of terrorists, endangering civil aviation, were just as much a threat as were small arms in the hands of children ravaging towns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and elsewhere.
IVAN PIPERKOV (Bulgaria), aligning himself with the statement delivered on behalf of the European Union, highlighted some of the ongoing national and regional efforts. Among them had been the adoption by Bulgaria of a special decision for the approval of the Programme of Action and for the establishment of an interagency coordinating body responsible for the supervision of its implementation.
Also, he said his country had already submitted two detailed national reports on implementation. He urged all countries that had not already done so to submit their contributions to the universalization and strengthening of the implementation of that action plan. At the national level, Bulgaria had amended its law on the control of Foreign Trade Activity in Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, thus, strengthening the export-control regime. It had included, for the first time, an obligation for licensing brokers, as well as keeping a register on them, which would be updated periodically. Regional cooperation was a cornerstone in the fight against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons because those were better suited to respond to countries’ specific needs.
FERNAND POUKRE-KONO (Central African Republic) said the international community must continue to prioritize the curbing of small arms and light weapons. Synergy must be created to prevent, control and eliminate the illicit small arms trade. The international community must also draw up a legally binding instrument, which should be completed for the review conference on small arms in 2006. He also stressed that national reports on small arms and light weapons should not be an end in themselves, but should be improved and updated as was required.
The consequences of acts related to small weapons had had unconscionable effects in social and economical terms, he continued. The circulation of small arms was alarming, despite initiatives for disarmament and collection. The Economic Community of Central Africa had been working on the implementation of the Programme of Action, and had held a seminar in that connection in Brazzaville earlier this year. Several initiatives had been taken at the subregional level to contribute to the struggle against small arms.
BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica) said his Government had been frustrated by the fact that the Programme of Action ignored the violation of humanitarian law caused by the illegal use of small arms and light weapons. It welcomed a report of a subcommittee of the Human Rights Commission, authored by Barbara Frey, at the Commission’s fifty-fourth session and urged that the report be disseminated at the present meeting.
He said his country had been promoting the Programme of Action, and had established stringent national rules concerning arms. A conference had been organized with 19 Nobel Laureates and NGOs, at which a model treaty on arms trade had been drawn up. The model treaty established national regulations and guidelines. A regional conference on the action plan, held last December, discussed ways and means of implementing the plan. Among the participants had been police and customs officials, and a region-wide programme of action had been adopted.
At the regional level, he said, Costa Rica had ratified a number of arms-related instruments. He assured participants of the Biennial Meeting of his Government’s intention to help lay the foundation for effective eradication of the scourge of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the illicit small arms trade was a dangerous phenomenon, which supported armed conflicts, terrorists and organized crime and was shaking the very foundations of organized societies. Controlling small arms and light weapons called for coordination and effective action on the part of the international community. The Programme of Action was an important step in the eradication of illicit arms. The current meeting was an ideal opportunity to assess implementation of the Programme of Action and exchange views on the best ways to proceed with the struggle.
He said that the primary responsibility in eradicating illicit small arms markets lay with States. His country had adopted laws and regulations for the strict control of weapons and ammunition. He stressed that some countries suffering from the illicit small arms trade needed international and regional support, in addition to national efforts. Cross-border issues related to small arms required concerted and collected action to tackle the source of such weapons.
Lack of commitment and determination had prevailed during discussions to draw up the Programme of Action, which had precluded the inclusion of more vigorous action against small arms and light weapons, he recalled. To end the illicit small arms trade, the international community must do more. Resolute measures were needed to eliminate networks providing weapons to terrorist and other groups benefiting from the illicit small arms trade.
EDWIN J.BTSHU (Botswana) said the country’s police commissioner was the national focal point for matters concerning firearms. A 13-member national coordination agency had been established, and among its first actions was the organization of a national consultative conference on firearms control, ownership and administration. Its main purpose was to develop effective measures and strategies for the long-term control of firearms and the enhancement of public safety and security. Acting on one of its recommendations, an effective national plan of action on small arms and light weapons management had been created.
He said that a total of 3,185 firearms, mostly confiscated, had been destroyed in the past year, for which the British Government had donated equipment. He appealed for international assistance in the computerization of Botswana’s stock of small arms and light weapons. Also, his Government had proposed an amendment to further strengthen its gun-control legislation, which included provisions that made brokering an offence. It also provided for the marking of firearms, along with sanctions for any violations. At the subregional level, Botswana was party to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on the Control of Firearms, Ammunition and related materials in the subregion.
OUCH BORITH (Cambodia) said his country reaffirmed its full support for the Programme of Action, which it had used to revise and reform its national legislation dealing with small and light weapons. It had also drafted a new law for weapons control, which had already been submitted to the National Assembly. Cambodia had endured a horrific past, and believed that the proliferation of small arms could renew civil strife, unless dealt with firmly. Since 2001, when the country’s destruction method had been changed from “rolling over” to burning, it had collected 120,000 small arms that had been illegally owned by civilians, or had been surplus of the armed forces.
He stressed that the international community must deal with the trafficking and public use of illegal weapons. Cambodia had attempted to increase awareness of weapons collection and encourage people to hand over illicit weapons. It had also introduced a programme to search for weapons that had been hidden during previous conflicts. His country believed that the success of the Programme of Action needed the strong support and participation of both the public and private sectors. Cambodia had also continued to strengthen cooperation with various partners, including NGOS, in its effort to develop a weapon-free society.
VOLODYMYR DZIUB (Ukraine) said his country firmly adhered to the provisions of both the United Nations Programme of Action and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Small Arms and Light Weapons Document for their comprehensive approach to the issue of international arms transfers. Ukraine had enacted legislation and had put in place appropriate structures and procedures to exercise effective control over small arms and light weapons. The production, marking, possession and destruction of those weapons was licensed and supervised under regulations issued by its Ministries of Defence, Industrial Policy and Interior. The regulations were in keeping with provisions of the Programme of Action.
He said his Government ensured effective export-control procedures that met all international requirements. It strictly adhered to the decisions of the Security Council, the OSCE and the Wassenaar Arrangement. It also took account of the provisions of a moratorium of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the import, export and manufacture of light weapons, as well as the political principles of the European Union Code of Conduct on Conventional Arms Exports. Last February, a law on the control of international transfers of goods, designated for military purposes and dual-use goods, entered into force. That law covered activities related to international transfers, including intermediary, brokerage services, and production.
MOHAMMAD HASSAN FADAIFARD (Iran), noting the link in the Programme of Action between drug trafficking and small arms and light weapons, said that combating drug traffickers armed with various small arms was a pressing national responsibility for law enforcers and border guards. Over the past two decades, Iran had lost more than 3,400 of its best officers and a further 10,000 had become disabled in confronting well-equipped drug lords, who received or bought weapons illicitly with the huge incomes they earned from trafficking in narcotic drugs.
He said during operations carried out by law enforcers against drug dealers, several small arms and light weapons had been confiscated, ranging from self-loading pistols, rifles and light machine guns, to heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. From 2001 to 2002, more than 2,400 weapons had been confiscated from drug traffickers. Iran had enacted the necessary national legislation and put in place appropriate structures to exercise strict and effective control over the import, export, production, trade, possession, holding and transfer of small arms and light weapons. In addition to national efforts, however, Iran believed it was necessary to set up a regional or subregional point of contact to act as liaison on matters relating to the implementation of the Programme of Action.
CHUCHAI KASEMSARN (Thailand) said his Government had made efforts to implement the action plan. At the national level, its national security council was the focal point, which coordinated and developed national strategy and policy relating to firearms with the relevant ministries and agencies. Many laws and regulations had been promulgated and amended to enhance Thailand’s capability to tackle the problem of illicit small arms and light weapons. For example, stricter criteria and control measures had been introduced on gun possession and import-export control.
At the regional level, he said his country was in constant communication with its neighbours, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, as well as INTERPOL, in the area of intelligence sharing, law enforcement, cooperation and training. At the international level, it had shared its experience with the international community through its national report prepared for the meeting. It had also participated in the Group of Governmental Experts on Tracing Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons established by the United Nations General Assembly.
LAURO BAJA (Philippines) said his country had recently adopted a policy for regulating the individual possession of firearms. That policy included laws and regulations to increase penalties for firearms-related crimes. It also provided for a general registration of firearms, ammunition, explosives and explosive ingredients, and military equipage, and sought to control the flow of small arms and light weapons through licensing, and proscribe a uniform procedure on the disposition of firearms. The Philippines was also intensifying its campaign against traffickers and smugglers, who illegally exported or imported firearms from the country of origin, as well as traffickers who stole and diverted firearms from legal shipments.
At the regional level, he said the Philippines had attended a regional seminar on implementing the Programme of Action, held in Manila in July 2002. Delegates’ recommendations had included: the establishment of a regional point of contact; the establishment of a regional data base to monitor criminal activity; intensified implementation of the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime; development of an ASEAN instrument against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, explosives and other related materials; and the strengthening of existing relevant regional structures and cooperation such as the ASEAN police. The need for capacity-building was identified in such areas as weapons stockpile management and security, marking and tracing, establishment of registries for maintaining records for the internal control of firearms, as well as in the education and training of military and security personnel on the responsible use of firearms.
ZAINUDDIN YAHYA (Malaysia) said his country had strict domestic laws and regulations relating to all aspects of firearms control, including their ownership, transfer, manufacturing, import and export. Its 1960 Arms Act prohibited people from carrying or using arms or ammunition without arms licences or permits, which were issued on a yearly basis. In addition, Malaysia had enacted an Anti-Money Laundering Act in 2001, which required offshore banks and financial investment companies to report suspicious transactions. The Act was aimed at preventing money from being laundered to finance illegal activities, including arms smuggling.
Regionally, he said Malaysia was working closely with ASEAN neighbours to address the issue of small arms. In May 2002, ASEAN had adopted a work programme to implement the ASEAN Plan of Action to combat transnational crime, including in the area of arms smuggling. In that regard, close networking had been established between the Royal Malaysian Police and its ASEAN counterparts, especially in monitoring the illegal smuggling activities involving small arms and light weapons along its borders. At the global level, Malaysia had ratified three related international legal instruments and one protocol related to terrorism.
SERENA JOSEPH-HARRIS (Trinidad and Tobago) said that the recent influx of deportees had affected the number and type of weapons being brought into the Caribbean region. Many countries had reported an increase in violence and had noted an increased level of sophistication in the commission of crime and in the weapons used. The smuggling of illegal arms into Trinidad and Tobago was the root of the firearms problem. The vast quantity of arms, which continued to surface, had illustrated the high availability of arms at the street level. Her Government was in the process of reviewing national laws, regulations and administrative mechanisms to exercise more effective control over the production and movement of small arms and light weapons. It was anticipated that the review would culminate in the requisite legislative and administrative amendments.
At the regional level, she said that Trinidad and Tobago remained committed to working together with its partners in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to develop and implement initiatives on crime and security. Her country had acknowledged the outstanding work of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, and had pledged its continued support for the Centre’s efforts. She noted the particular relevance of the Regional Clearing House Programme on Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives, and the numerous workshops and seminars organized by the Centre to address those problems. Her Government was actively pursuing courses of action to effectively address all contributory factors to the illicit movement of small arms and light weapons, both within and beyond Trinidad and Tobago.
ALAA ISSA (Egypt) said his country’s Ministry of Military Production controlled the manufacture of weapons, including the marking of arms. Import and export and related activities of small arms and light weapons were controlled by the State, in keeping with legal regulations adopted in that respect, which required arms to be numbered and provided with certificates of origin. Strict controls were in place to monitor arms, such as the registration of arms warehouses, and inventories carried out on periodic basis.
He said his country had taken an active part in the United Nations Conference on the illicit small arms trade in 2001, as well as in regional seminars on small arms in Africa and the Middle East. It had also worked to raise individual awareness on compliance with arms possession rules, mainly through the media.
LUIS GUILLERMO GIRALDO (Colombia) said that since 2001 his country had started the procedures to adopt new legislation and control mechanisms for the electronic identification of arms and ammunitions, and norms and definition of rights and obligations related to firearms. Colombia subscribed to cooperation and border security arrangements with most of its neighbours. It had adopted the Andean Plan to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit traffic of small arms and light weapons in all their forms in the subregion. Last February, it ratified the Inter-American Convention against the manufacture and illicit traffic of firearms, munitions, explosives and other related material. The Government had offered to hold the first conference of the States parties to that Convention, which would take place in March 2004 in the city of Cartagena de Indias.
He said his country had participated actively in all initiatives leading to prompt and complete compliance with the Programme of Action. It hoped that guidelines could be designed at the current meeting on cooperation and assistance in such areas as the training of border security personnel and customs officials. His country had encountered some difficulties in implementing the Programme of Action because of a lack of coherence in its national legislation on arms trade. He stressed the usefulness of transparency in the sale of weapons and the official approval of licences for the export and import of firearms.
GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana) said his country and others in the Caribbean were especially vulnerable to the armed violence generated by drug trafficking. Any programme of international cooperation would help reduce that vulnerability by establishing an international information-clearing house and other mechanisms that would promote a broad capacity to monitor, and hopefully break, the connection between the illicit trade in small arms and criminal activities.
He said his country had the basic legislative and administrative infrastructure in place to maintain control of arms, ammunition and explosives. Measures, however, were under review, in light of changing patterns in domestic criminality and the need to form international alliances. The international community must come to terms with the destabilizing effect of the excessive accumulation and transfer of arms and weapons and the resulting security implications. The current meeting should build the political momentum to squarely address the causes and consequences of illicit arms trade in all its aspects, particularly the linkages between that trade and the proliferation of criminal activities, such as drug trafficking and terrorism.
VICE SKRACIC (Croatia) said his country had begun its national “Farewell to Arms” programme in 2001, which promoted the handing over of weaponry retained by civilians following Croatia’s armed conflict. That programme had been conducted in a media-friendly way and had achieved great popularity. Arms collected since 1992 had included 33,598 automatic and semi-automatic weapons voluntarily surrendered, 27,413 automatic and semi-automatic weapons seized, 1,670,355 mines and explosive ordnances voluntarily surrendered, and 235,041 seized, and 7,601 kilograms of explosives voluntarily surrendered and 7,935 kilograms seized. In addition, certain weapons had been legalized and put under stringent legal control.
He said his country had taken concrete steps to curb the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons through several initiatives. In 2001, for example, the Government had adopted a decision to apply the principles of the European Union Code of Conduct of Arms Exports. The same year, Croatia had applied for membership in two export-control regimes, including the Wassenaar arrangement on export controls for conventional weapons.
UMIT PAMIR (Turkey) said that his country had bitter memories of human suffering resulting from the accumulation of small arms and light weapons in the hands of terrorist organizations. The proliferation and accumulation of those weapons had the potential to cause instability in their region. In accordance with the Programme of Action, Turkey had made improvements in its national marking system, as well as in procedures for the control of manufacture and techniques for the destruction of small arms. Those steps had been reflected in its national report to the meeting.
To ensure effective control over the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he said a definition of those terms must be agreed by consensus. The definition should include ammunition, explosives and hand grenades. His country promoted transparency in conventional arms transfers, and it advocated the expansion of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. It also supported mandatory information exchange on the transfers of firearms. The denial of export licences could also be one of the reporting categories in such an information exchange. The possibility of introducing an internationally accepted method of marking such weapons should also be considered.
FAWZI BIN ABDUL SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said his country attached special importance to the eradication of the illicit small arms trade. It had enacted laws and regulations and created structures to control the production, import, export, and circulation of such arms. In addition, Saudi Arabia was engaged in a national media campaign to raise people’s awareness of the dangers of small arms, which led to deaths and casualties, as well as to a lack of security.
He said Saudi Arabia was also cooperating on the small arms and light weapons issue at the regional level. A regional focal point was needed to continue considering any action that should be taken. Since national and international efforts against small arms supplemented national ones, his country would participate in all symposiums on the subject. He also stressed the importance of the INTERPOL for the exchange of information on the trafficking of illicit small arms and light weapons.
JAIME ACUÑA (Chile) said that the battle against small arms and light weapons must operate on several fronts, due to the variety of crimes linked to the trafficking of such weapons. The quest for a solution to the small arms problem must also consider peculiarities existing in different parts of the world. He stressed that the prevention, control and punishment for small arms trafficking would ensure safe and secure democracies. In that respect, cooperation was vital at the multilateral and bilateral levels.
He urged nations importing small arms and light weapons to take necessary measures, especially preventive ones, to avoid the diversion of such weapons to illegal activities. He also emphasized that nations must move towards a harmonization of laws on the control of small arms at the regional and international levels.
JOE ROBERT PEMAGBI (Sierra Leone) said the international nature and dimension of the problem of illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons should not be underestimated. Manufacturers and suppliers had a special responsibility to take appropriate measures to combat and eradicate it. Sierra Leone subscribed to the affirmation in the preamble of the Programme of Action, which stressed the urgency of international efforts and cooperation to combat the trade.
He said Sierra Leone had already established an interim national commission on small arm, which dealt with matters relating to the implementation of the Programme of Action. The commission had prepared a programme for a trainers’ workshop for security services personnel. The country’s arms and ammunition ordinance was also being updated. Under the auspices of its national commission for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the Government had succeeded in disarming more than 3,000 ex-combatants between August 1998 and June 1999. It had also taken the initiative to launch a community arms collection and destruction programme. In cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), every effort had been made to ensure the safekeeping and maintenance of accurate records of the weapons collected.
ARMAN AKOPIAN, Director in the Department of Arms Control and International Security of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said that the illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons continued to spark and fuel armed conflicts throughout the word, thus, increasing human suffering. The direct link between the spread of small arms and light weapons and the involvement of children in armed conflicts should be of especially grave concern to all.
He said that the existence of an enormous number of child soldiers was a “shameful reality” of today’s world, which called for a global commitment, a comprehensive approach, and immediate actions. While the small arms and light weapons-related problems created by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and common to nearly all Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries had been resolved in Armenia by the mid-1990s, the situation was somewhat different on the regional level.
Unresolved conflicts in the region called for special attention to the relevant recommendations in the Programme of Action. One element of cooperation at the regional level would be the establishment small arms and light weapons registers. Other mechanisms could include specific subregional transparency and confidence-building measures to combat the illicit trade, harmonization of national export control laws and regulations, and exchange of national lists of registered brokers.
LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) said that violence linked to small arms and light weapons was a growing problem in his country, which the Government must now combat with new policies and regulations. In addition, the use of small weapons had created extreme feelings of insecurity. Argentina had carried out a series of initiatives to address the small arms problem, which included the destruction of about 8,000 weapons.
Continuing, he had requested assistance from the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs to organize and destroy arms and ammunition and to improve warehouses for those products. Despite progress in controlling small arms and light weapons, as well as an increase in public awareness, Argentina now faced the challenge of building a national policy capable of coordinating all actors involved in the problem. The Government intended to tackle that challenge with a commission responsible for developing policies and preventive measures to combat the illegal use of firearms.
THARCISSE MIDONZI (Burundi) said that his country had been plunged into a civil war and that, as he spoke, the capital, Bujumbura, was being shelled by rebels. Numerous ceasefire agreements had not been honoured. The continuation of the armed conflict was hindering the full implementation of the plan of action, including the monitoring of illicit arms. Subregional measures were required to stem the flow of illegal arms into the country. A workshop had been organized last February to implement the Programme of Action, resulting in the establishment of a national focal point. Already, measures had been taken to ensure compliance with the Arusha Agreement on peace in Burundi. A national policy on firearms was also being developed. All of those activities had required substantial financial resources. He thanked the United Nations Secretariat for its offer of technical assistance.
He said that civil society organizations were involved in implementing the Programme of Action. At the same time, there had been an increase in the circulation of illegal weapons in the hands of young people. In that connection, he referred to some of the provisions of the Arusha agreement, including the establishment of a ceasefire commission. His Government was determined to carry out the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants into society, as provided for in that agreement.
MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said the problem of small arms and light weapons could only be tackled through a global approach, which aimed to strengthen national legislation, as well as develop global instruments and standards. For its part, Morocco had supplemented its legislation with provisions directed at weapons of war, the possession and storage of weapons, and penalties for failing to have weapons permits. Measures had also been adopted to strengthen controls over weapons imports, weapons licences, and to update the country’s computerized weapons database.
Such measures, he said, required enhanced international cooperation to be effective. In combating the illicit small arms trade, nations should penalize all violations of light weapons, and mark and trace light weapons from the point of manufacture. An observatory should also be set up to follow, control and coordinate all issues concerning light weapons. In addition, there was also a need to provide technical assistance to developing countries to control the proliferation of the illicit small arms trade.
WERFRIED KOFFLER (Austria) said his country had a robust system of laws and regulations on small arms and light weapons. At the regional level, it had contributed to the Joint Action of the European Union and the Union’s Common Position on Brokering. It had also taken part in the initiatives of the European Union in Cambodia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and in South-Eastern Europe. It would support the practical measures of the South-Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe.
He said that, during Austria’s presidency of the human security network until last May, the focus had been on children in armed conflicts, including child soldiers. The network, in its medium-term work plan for 2003-2005, had underlined the significance of international humanitarian law to protect children from small arms violence. Austria joined those who had recommended the urgent need for coordinated and comprehensive financial and technical assistance for affected States. Coordination and cooperation among donors on small arms projects was also important. Austria had joined the call for “no arms for atrocities”.
Archbishop CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, said that, while the Programme of Action contained a number of measures to be implemented at the national, regional and global levels, it represented only a first step in the process of eradicating the illicit small arms trade. In that respect, it was everyone’s responsibility to contribute to better defining the road map of the Programme of Action, in order to achieve further steps towards implementing it.
He said he hoped the current session would focus its attention on addressing the issue of State responsibility for arresting persons involved in illicit arms transfers. It should also begin, without delay, discussion on a comprehensive, legally binding agreement on international arms trade, which would reduce, and eventually eradicate, the illicit traffic. Regarding State responsibility, he explained that it was the States themselves that had the capability of reducing and eliminating the death and destruction resulting from the availability and use of small arms and light weapons.
DAVE MWANGI (Kenya) said the small arms problem had manifested itself in his country in both rural and urban forms. Long, porous borders in the subregion combined with a harsh physical environment, ethnic rivalry, and mono-cultural practices had continued to feed the rural demand for small arms and light weapons. The proximity of affected areas -- mainly in the north -- to regional trouble spots had increased the availability of small arms. The resultant insecurity had led to devastating economic consequences, with the affected areas unable to attract opportunities for development. Surplus weapons from rural areas had fed criminal gangs in urban centres, exacerbating the general security problem. The two dimensions had collectively affected investment opportunities, limiting the capacity of the State to provide meaningful development.
He stressed that a sustainable solution to the small arms problem could not be based on law enforcement alone. Law enforcers could not address the problems of competition for dwindling natural resources, or political, social and economic exclusion, which all fuelled the demand for illicit arms. Kenya believed that strengthening law enforcement must be carried out in tandem with addressing the underlying causes of the increasing demand. The role of civil society in assisting governments to address those issues was critical, he added.
DEJAN SAHOVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) outlined the measures his country had taken to strengthen the domestic legal framework to prevent the illegal manufacturing and trafficking of small arms and light weapons, including the preparation of new legislation in the field of export control of arms and military equipment. To implement the Programme of Action, a National Coordination Agency was being established in the Ministry of Defence. A specialized agency handled the marking procedures for each piece of small arms and light weapons manufactured.
He said that the issue of surplus stocks in seized weapons was of special interest to his country, such as weapons taken during illegal transport or border crossings, or from criminal groups. Regional transborder customs cooperation was high to combat organized crime in boundary areas between neighbours, such as between Serbia and Kosovo and Metohija. The South-Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons had been set up in Belgrade to increase cross-border cooperation through joint initiatives, project development and fund-raising for the destruction of weapons. But, more cooperation was needed regionally, and with international parties, to combat all organized crime connected to arms proliferation. The parties needed to devote more attention and resources to activities against arms proliferation. Assistance in related activities would also be welcome, such as for public awareness campaigns and education, as well as for training and capacity-building activities for border and customs services, and for upgrading communications and other equipment.
NARAYAN DEV PANT (Nepal) said it was striving, despite many constraints, to implement the Programme of Action. It was strengthening its existing laws on arms, ammunition and explosives. A new law on terrorism had also entered into force, which was directed towards dealing with the major issues outlined in the Programme of Action. That legislation had outlawed the manufacturing, illegal possession, supply and purchase, as well as the import and export of small arms and light weapons. Nepal did not possess any firearm industry, nor did it have any problem with the effective management of their legal imports.
He noted that legislative and administrative measures alone were not sufficient to eradicate the danger of the misuse of small arms. Extra vigilance, at all levels, was required to ensure that illicit trade and trafficking in those arms were dealt with firmly. More importantly, efforts should be made to ensure that non-State actors did not have access to such weapons. He stressed that controlling the transfer of such arms should not restrict the right of all countries to acquire the legitimate means for their right to self-defence, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
YERZHAN KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said the Programme of Action contained very ambitious goals and represented an unprecedented high-level effort to reach an international consensus on the nature of the small arms issue. Acknowledging that many parties felt that small arms and light weapons should be addressed in a multilateral fashion, he stressed the importance of developing and implementing global measures to prevent and combat illicit manufacturing and trafficking, for which the United Nations should play a leading role.
Highlighting his Government’s actions with regards to small arms, he said it transferred weapons abroad only in accordance with strict national regulations. Such export controls, as well as stringent licensing procedures for weapons producers, were embodied in a national law adopted in 1996. Announcing that over 36,000 light weapons had been removed from illegal circulation and destroyed since 2001, he said his Government was leading the Central Asian region in the march towards effective national regulatory legislation.
Concerning regional initiatives, he said that the countries of Central Asia were interested in setting up national export control programmes, engaging in information sharing, and implementing joint law enforcement activities. Those goals were especially important, given the region’s proximity to Afghanistan, a traditional drug producer and training ground for terrorists. Drugs and terrorism, after all, were linked closely to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he said.
MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said that, as a result of the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, his Government had been forced to pay attention to the matter of small arms on a variety of levels. In that regard, he was committed to the Programme of Action and had circulated a report highlighting the steps his Government was taking to implement it. For example, the production and manufacturing of small arms and light weapons had been confined to the public sector. Additionally, all such weapons made and sold in Pakistan were uniquely marked to differentiate between civilian, police, and military use. A strict records, licensing, and export controls regime was also maintained to regulate and monitor manufacturing, sales, and private possession.
Noting the concrete results of his Government’s efforts, he said that, as of April, some 250,000 illicit small arms had been confiscated, 85,770 persons had been charged with weapons-related crimes, various police reforms had been instituted, and a public awareness campaign had been launched. Calling his country a “frontline” State in the global fight against terrorism, he said it was working with countries, such as China, the Russian Federation, the United States, and Afghanistan, to jointly tackle terrorism and small arms concerns. He also voiced support for the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and an international marking and tracing mechanism.
He advised delegates that certain measures were needed for effective implementation of the Programme of Action. In that regard, he proposed that the developed countries offer assistance to developing countries in order to bring their institutions up to par, and he pledged to share his country’s experiences with any interested delegation. He also stressed that it was more important to address the causes than the instruments of war. In that context, the international community needed political commitment to resolve conflicts throughout the world. Also essential was to study the progress made on the following elements of the Programme: peaceful resolution of disputes; the right to self-defence; and the right to self-determination.
SUDAMUNA TASNEEM (Bangladesh) said her country had in place several stringent laws regulating the lawful possession, manufacture, conversion, sales, export, import, transport, transit and licence of small arms and light weapons. Those laws also regulated civilian ownership, record-keeping, collection, destruction and disposal, under the strict supervision of authorized national authorities. A national focal point at the Foreign Affairs Ministry had been designated for coordinating international liaison and providing national policy guidance on the implementation of the Programme of Action. In addition, a national policy was adopted in 2002 to create a transparent mechanism for the destruction and disposal of all surplus, obsolete, outdated confiscated or seized small arms and light weapons.
She said that regional organizations could play a critical role in monitoring and breaking the nexus in an entire range of transnational crimes, such as the illicit small arms trade, illicit drug trafficking, related brokering, financing and money laundering. Institutional information-sharing among law enforcing agencies, customs and border control agencies, through an agreed framework of regional cooperation, would greatly facilitate national actions. She called for expertise and human resource sharing among and between developing countries, under the framework of South-South cooperation, in combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
U KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) said his Government tightly controlled the possession of arms and weapons. A firearms supervisory board had existed in Myanmar since 1977, and relevant laws concerning firearms were contained in the Arms Act of 1878 and the Arms Emergency Act of 1949. Regionally, Myanmar had been cooperating with ASEAN countries in efforts to suppress transnational organized crime, and had been assisting its five neighbouring countries in combating the trafficking of narcotic drugs. At the international level, it cooperated with INTERPOL in the struggle against small arms and light weapons.
He said that the international community should focus on the supply side of small arms and light weapons, as well as the demand side. Demand side causes included intra-State conflicts, insurgency and terrorism, diminution or loss of control over State security and the inability of States to provide governance and security in post-conflict periods. On the supply side, an increase in the licensed production and transfer of technology during the cold war had led to the proliferation of legitimate producers of small arms and light weapons, a surplus of light weapons in the post-cold war period, and the inability to fully collect weapons distributed to citizens for self-defence units during some armed conflicts. All of that had contributed to the small arms and light weapons problem.
Mr. MAIMON (Israel) said that for his country, it was self-evident that the international fight against terrorism and the illicit small arms trade must begin at home. It could only succeed if every individual State made a sincere commitment to prevent terrorists from obtaining those weapons. States must prove, by their deeds, their commitment to the international fight against terrorism. Disarming and dismantling terrorist organizations, as well as denying them the financial and other resources to acquire weaponry, was a fundamental and crucial step for progress in the peace process in his region. Israeli civilians had been particularly vulnerable to the effects of the illicit transfers and use of small arms and light weapons. There must be safeguards to ensure that those arms were not supplied to clients who might then transfer them to terrorists.
He said that implementation of the Programme of Action had become even more relevant for Israel, as well as for other Sates in it region, and the international community. It should be remembered that behind the statistics resulting from illicit traded and used small arms were names of casualties dear to their families and friends. He called for regional cooperation and concrete measures in combating international terror.
PIERRE MONGO (Congo) said regional efforts to combat small arms and light weapons had strengthened the overall legislative and regulatory framework to control such weapons. He hoped the current meeting would make possible a fruitful exchange about efforts to deal with the weapon problem. His country’s prospect of returning to peace should not hide the fact that much still remained to be done in consolidating it. He stressed that efforts towards economic and social development in his country must include the full demobilization and reinsertion of ex-combatants.
National development strategies were needed in dealing with the weapons problem, he continued, but increased international efforts were also needed. There must be a commitment to eradicate illegal weapons markets, to trace and mark weapons in exporting and producing countries, and to cooperate in various other disarmament efforts.
AUGUSTO COUTO CASTAÑEDA (El Salvador) referred to the experience and prospects of his country in implementing the Programme of Action. He said details had been elaborated in the country’s report. The production and export of small arms were regulated by law, which was complemented by international rules and regulations. Also, the country’s Constitution stated that those activities could be carried out only as stipulated by law, which was clearly defined in the Penal Code. El Salvador was working at the subregional level on instruments to regulate the flow of illicit small arms and light weapons. At the global level, it supported the plan of action and was party to several multilateral instruments.
As a general disarmament policy, he said his country’s Ministry of Defence had destroyed anti-personnel mines in its possession. There were also programmes to cut down the number of arms in private hands. An INTERPOL regional office would soon be established in the country. To achieve the goals of the action plan, he said it was important that mechanisms be established for information exchange and strengthening of international cooperation, as indicated in the plan. The fundamental step of initiating binding controls could only be achieved with political will.
VALENTIN B. RYBAKOV (Belarus) said his country’s internal services had worked to confiscate unlawful weapons and ammunition as part of its implementation of the Programme of Action. Such weapons and ammunition were now subjected to destruction. In order to increase transparency in the area of small arms, it had published a report in October 2002 on export controls, which included information on international export-control regimes. The country also had an active dialogue under way with NGOs and civil society.
He said, however, that Belarus possessed insufficient finances to properly control the use and storage of small arms and light weapons. Its State budget was insufficient to cover all aspects of the problem, and international cooperation in that respect was vital. Belarus also attached great significance to regional efforts in arms control. He noted that efforts to deal with the arms problem had reached a new level over the past two years, progressing from the compilation of documents to practical implementation. The exchange of information, as well as transparency, had led to a lowering of risks and a strengthening of international security as a whole.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA (Uganda) associated himself with the statement made yesterday by the representative of Nigeria on behalf of the African Group. Uganda reaffirmed its commitments to the pursuit of international and regional initiatives to prevent the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons. It had established a national focal point to coordinate action and develop policy on small arms.
He added that his country was also in the process of formulating a national action plan, which would address strategy and its capacity to tackle the problem on a sustainable basis. It had taken steps to enhance and administer the existing law on firearms. An anti-terrorism statute enacted last year reinforced the existing law by making an act of terrorism the dealing in or possessing arms and explosives with the intent to advance a terrorist cause. Furthermore, a system of licensing civilian firearms and registering firearms dealers and those owned by private security organizations was in place, with elaborate guidelines.
BOUBACAR TANKOANO (Niger) said his country’s focal point on implementation issues was the National Commission for the Collection and Control of Illicit Weapons, which was created in 1994. The Commission had originally been set up to address the troubling 1990s proliferation of small arms, which was having a negative effect on peace and development. As part of its implementation efforts, the Commission had provided for implementation of the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines, among other international instruments.
He said that implementing the Programme meant educating the population on the dangers of small arms proliferation. In addition, it had led to the development of a national registry of legal weapons. After the adoption of an amnesty law in March, such weapons could be declared without risk of prosecution. Among other efforts, the country was carrying out a pilot project for the collection of weapons, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It was also developing a new plan for peace-building, which would lead to the reintegration of ex-combatants.
PAUL YAMEOGO (Burkina Faso) said the Programme of Action complemented some of the steps taken at the subregional level. At the national level, his Government had established a commission, which had already organized training programmes for security agencies and customs officials. It had also set up a “high authority” to implement arms import controls. Another aspect of the national programme included checking stocks in armouries of the armed forces, as well as those in circulation nationally, including illegal ones that had been confiscated.
He said his Government was working to implement the Programme of Action, organizing training programmes, and strengthening public awareness of the issue of the illicit small arms and light weapons trade. Multilateral action could spur the successful implementation of the Programme of Action.
Right of Reply
Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Somalia drew attention to Kenya’s comment that Somalia still exported its internal conflicts to other countries in the region. Stressing that Somalia was committed to implementing the Programme of Action, he said any small arms and light weapons in his country came from nations on its borders. Such countries financed Somalian militias and supplied them with small arms and light weapons, undermining and posing a constant risk to Somalian peace and security. Somalia did not even possess industries to produce small arms and light weapons. He emphasized that the Programme of Action should also be implemented in those bordering countries that were supplying small arms.
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