REGIONAL GROUPS, INCLUDING FROM AFRICA, EXPLORE DELAYS IN AND SOLUTIONS TO IMPLEMENTING SMALL ARMS ACTION PLAN, IN BIENNIAL MEETING OF STATES

10 July 2003
DC/2876

REGIONAL GROUPS, INCLUDING FROM AFRICA, EXPLORE DELAYS IN AND SOLUTIONS TO IMPLEMENTING SMALL ARMS ACTION PLAN, IN BIENNIAL MEETING OF STATES

10/07/2003
Press ReleaseDC/2876

Meeting of States to Consider Action

Programme on Illicit Small Arms Trade

7th & 8th Meetings (AM & PM)

REGIONAL GROUPS, INCLUDING FROM AFRICA, EXPLORE DELAYS IN AND SOLUTIONS

TO IMPLEMENTING SMALL ARMS ACTION PLAN, IN BIENNIAL MEETING OF STATES

Weapons Stockpile Management, Marking and Tracing,

Collection and Destruction, Links to Organized Crime, Also Considered

Speakers from regional groups and United Nations bodies stressed that cross-border cooperation and financial support were vital in combating the illicit small arms trade, as the Biennial Meeting on the small arms question continued its week-long session at Headquarters today.  Thematic debate followed on such related issues as marking and tracing, collection and destruction.

The Meeting, which forms part of a follow-up to the July 2001 Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, is considering implementation of the action plan, formally known as the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which identifies national, regional and global measures aimed at small arms.

Noting that the small arms trade had fuelled conflicts, as well as terrorism and organized crime, a representative of the African Union said the Union’s Commission had laid down measures to strengthen border controls and combat illicit arms imports to limit the access of terrorist networks to small arms.  It had also urged nations, as well as regional and other organizations, to increase cooperation with civil society aimed at combating the illicit small arms trade.

Deploring delays in implementing the Programme of Action in Africa, which were mainly due to financial difficulties, he stressed that no State could solve the small arms problem alone.  Echoing a point raised repeatedly this week, he said that measures to combat illicit arms could only succeed if carried out in a coordinated manner with all members of the international community and civil society.

Speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Namibian Minister of Home Affairs said that high levels of poverty and weak economies had heightened the illicit trafficking in small arms.  Pointing out that the subregion had fallen prey to the illegal activities of small arms and light weapons, which ranged from violent crimes to terrorism, he stressed that development was crucial in eliminating the dependence on small arms for survival.

Indeed, easy access to and lack of control over small arms in the region had negatively affected social and economic life, as well as political stability, a representative of the Pacific Islands Forum Group said.  The Pacific’s problems involved old stocks of basic weapons among the civilian population, lack of infrastructure for weapons accountancy, stockpile management, and weak legislation, as well as resources for licensing and registration.  Among the steps taken to redress those problems, the Pacific Island countries had laid down a comprehensive framework for small arms control, including model legislation for Forum member used in implementing and enforcing measures within their national jurisdictions.

Speakers from the United Nations system also highlighted the importance of regional and international efforts in overcoming obstacles to arms control, offering strategies to surmount them. The Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch of the Department for Disarmament Affairs, Joao Honwana, said that tackling illicit brokering would largely depend on information sharing and harmonized procedures, compliance, and law enforcement.  Also, States must agree on guidelines for authorizing exports, imports or transit of small arms and light weapons, and consensus must be built on criteria for weapons transfers.

Agreeing with those sentiments, the Director and Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Hannelore Hoppe, said that members of the Coordination Action on Small Arms (CASA), which is under the Department for Disarmament Affairs’ direction, had taken part in regional and subregional meetings to share experiences and lessons learned.  Yet, several factors continued to hamper efforts to curb the small arms proliferation, including the demand for those weapons in crisis areas.  Solutions could include enhancing the capacity of local authorities and communities in crisis or post-conflict situations to control illegal weapons and their traffickers, she offered.

During the afternoon session, several delegations took part in a thematic discussion on weapons collection and destruction, stockpile management, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.  Speakers emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to weapons collection and destruction, expanded national programmes and greater resources.  While the destruction of some weapons cost only a few cents, the destruction of others was more expensive, Canada’s representative said.

Others stressed the need to consider the ecological impact of weapons destruction, as well as to provide international assistance for stockpile management.  Australia’s representative noted that poor security surrounding stockpiles was the main reason for licit weapons ending up on the illicit market, while Mali’s delegate emphasized the necessity of assisting countries in strengthening and modernizing their storage facilities.

In a second thematic discussion on marking and tracing, speakers welcomed the work done by the United Nations Group of Experts, which was studying the possibility of an international legal instrument on marking and tracing small arms.  The new instrument would require States to adopt a universal marking system of small arms and light weapons, which would identify manufacturers and serial numbers worldwide.  Several speakers wished to see the work of the expert group result in negotiations on an international instrument.  The universal marking of weapons, noted the representative of the United States, was vital in tracing the flow of illicit weapons.

A thematic discussion was also held this afternoon on capacity-building, resource mobilization, and institution-building.

Speakers during the afternoon meeting included the representatives of Bangladesh, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Speakers at the morning meeting included representatives of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), the Expert Group on Tracing, and the Programme of Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED).

Also speaking this morning were representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the League of Arab States, the Nairobi Secretariat on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region, and the Andean Community.

The Meeting will convene again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue their thematic discussions and conclude the session.

Background

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 today to take up consideration of regional and global implementation of the Programme of Action.  It was also expected to hold a thematic discussion on consideration of implementation, international cooperation and assistance.  (For background information, see Press Release DC/2871, issued on 3 July.)

Statements

CHRIS SANDERS (Netherlands), of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), described a document on small arms and light weapons, to which OSCE States had agreed in November 2000.  The document set out common criteria for export control, weapons marking, management of stockpiles and reduction of surpluses.  It also contained measures for small arms control as part of OSCE activities on early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.  To enhance transparency, States had committed themselves to sharing information on national legislation, current practice on marking systems, control of manufacture, export policy and controls on brokering activities, destruction techniques and stockpile management.  In addition, States had agreed to exchange data annually on exports to and imports from other OSCE participating States, as well as on small arms identified as surplus, or as those destroyed or seized on their territory.

He noted that one of the OSCE’s capacity building activities had been the organization of training workshops in the five Central Asian countries on implementation of the OSCE document.  Another contribution to capacity-building had been the decision to create the OSCE Handbook of Best Practices, which would focus on manufacture control, export control, brokering, marking and tracing, stockpile management, and destruction techniques.

While one can learn from processes in other regions, one can also learn from other policy areas, he said.  The “economic impact on trafficking in human beings, drugs and small arms” was discussed at the OSCE Economic Forum, which took place in Prague in May.  The lack of economic opportunities, corruption, illegal money flows to finance illegal small arms trade, and the operation of organized criminal networks had been identified as common features.

MIKAEL GRIFFON, International Staff of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), spoke on behalf of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which was an organization for dialogue and political cooperation, as well as for technical cooperation.  The Partnership Council had been involved in programmes to combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and it worked with organizations such as the OSCE.  The purpose of the Council was not to set up regulations, but rather to complement the work of others in framing dialogue and information exchange.  It also provided technical assistance in the framework of partnerships for peace.

SYLVAIN NGUNG, of the African Union, said that resolving the problem of illicit small arms was crucial for peace, stability and development on the African continent.  It was impossible to exaggerate the consequences of such weapons, which had fuelled conflicts and led to acts of terrorism and organized crime.  In July 1999, African leaders had adopted a decision underscoring the urgent need for cooperation to resolve the illicit small arms trade.  The African Union Commission had encouraged its members to review implementation of the Programme of Action.  It had also laid down measures to strengthen border controls and combat illicit arms imports to limit the access of terrorist networks in Africa to small arms.  The Commission had also urged nations to more strongly cooperate with civil society, as well as regional and other organizations to combat the illicit small arms trade.

He deplored delays in implementing the Programme of Action in Africa, which were mainly due to financial difficulties.  In that respect, a memorandum of agreement was currently being drafted between the African Union and the United Nations on small arms and light weapons.  No State was in a position to solve the problem alone.  Measures to combat illicit arms could only succeed if carried out in a coordinated manner with all members of the international community and civil society.  All States must ensure that the Programme of Action was respected and implemented, and must also comply with embargoes decreed by the Security Council.

ISIKIA SAVUA (Fiji), Chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said the ready availability and lack of control over small arms and light weapons significantly affected the social and economic livelihood of the region’s people and its political stability.  Unlike some regions, the Pacific did not suffer from large-scale transfers of automatic weapons.  Rather, it faced real problems with old stocks of basic weapons among the civilian population, lack of infrastructure for weapons accountancy, and stockpile management.  Insufficient legislation for licensing and registration was another problem.  Often, the capacity to enforce legislation was lacking.

He said that Pacific Island countries had long recognized the dangers posed by small arms.  They had cooperated on regional initiatives to address the problem through the Regional Security Committee.  Measures had been developed for a common regional approach covering the import, manufacture, possession and use of firearms, ammunition and explosives.  A comprehensive framework for small arms control had also been developed, including model legislation for Forum member use in implementing and enforcing the measures within their national jurisdictions.

Other regional activities included consultations and information exchanges in the small arms field.  This year, for example, Japan and Australia had co-hosted a regional workshop in Tokyo to enhance cooperation on legal and institutional issues, on the practical enforcement of laws and on effective stockpile management and safekeeping.  A practical outcome had been an agreement to advance efforts to conclude the model legislation.  In short, Forum countries were building the required institutional infrastructure to meet the challenges through a holistic approach towards security issues.

GEORGES PACLISANU, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), speaking also on behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that, by virtue of its mandate, the ICRC had been a frequent witness to acts committed with small arms and light weapons.  That had become challenging for the Committee, as such weapons had become increasingly available to non-State actors, many of whom had no basic knowledge about international humanitarian law.  Since the adoption of the United Nations Programme of Action in 2001, the Red Cross societies had continued to document the effects of the use of small arms and light weapons.  They had urged governments to ensure that such arms did not fall into wrong hands.

He said that much of the civilian deaths and injuries caused by the misuse of arms could be prevented if humanitarian law was strictly adhered to.  The ICRC was providing training programmes to police forces and other law enforcement officials.  The promotion of existing laws and principles could help reduce the misuse of small arms.  The ICRC and other Red Cross societies were conducting public-awareness programmes about humanitarian law.  The ICRC also regularly conducted awareness programmes about mines and the dangers of small arms and light weapons.

He suggested a systematic review of actions taken by governments, measurable indicators and essential collection of data, as part of the preparations for the 2006 review conference.  A reduction in deaths and suffering resulting from small arms and light weapons should ultimately be the benchmark for the success of the action programme.

KYI TUN (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, particularly involving non-State actors, had profound peace, security, socio-economic and humanitarian dimensions.  It was also closely linked to terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking.  The ASEAN, because of those links, was taking a comprehensive and coordinated approach to deal with those areas of transnational crime, including trafficking in small arms, terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and money laundering.

He said that combating trafficking in small arms was one of the components of the work programme of the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime, which was approved at a meeting of ASEAN senior officials and later adopted by ministers in a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in May 2002.  The work programme encouraged individual countries to implement, where practicable, the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms.

In the South-East Asian region, he said the challenges posed by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons varied from country to country.  Eight priority areas had been identified by the organization, which had also agreed that regional cooperation to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons should be built based upon the mechanisms of the ASEAN programme of action and the ASEAN regional Forum.

YAHHYA MAHMASSANI, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, said the League had contributed to specific sections of the Programme of Action relating to the illicit small arms trade.  Those sections concerned commitment to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, affirmation of the basic right to self-defence, and the right of every State to make, import and own small arms to meet their needs for self-defence and security, and to fulfil their needs in United Nations peacekeeping.

Continuing, he stressed the need to increase the participation of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the effort to combat the illicit small arms trade.  He also emphasized that efforts to ban the trade on small arms and light weapons must not infringe on the international community’s priority to control nuclear and other conventional weapons.  The current meeting gave Member States a chance to exchange information on measures they had taken in the area of small arms and light weapons, as well as the opportunity to cooperate with others in that effort.

The Arab League had taken certain initiatives in efforts to control small arms and light weapons, he said.  Those included:  collecting information on small arms and light weapons in the Arab region; collecting information on measures taken in support of the Programme of Action; abiding by United Nations resolutions banning the import of small arms and light weapons to areas of conflict; and coordinating with the Secretariat in preparing for a workshop on small arms and light weapons, to be held in December 2003 in Cairo.

JERRY EKANDJO, Minister for Home Affairs of Namibia, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the subregion had not escaped the illegal activities of small arms and light weapons, which ranged from violent crimes to terrorism.  He, thus, regarded the adoption of the United Nations Programme of Action on those weapons as a step towards strengthening world peace and security.

He said that, in reviewing the implementation of that programme, it was important to take stock of what had been done, appreciate achievements, address failures, share information on best practices and chart the way forward.  With that aim in mind, the SADC had formally established its Executive Director as the point of contact to act as liaison on matters relating to the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action.

High levels of poverty and weak economies exacerbated the proliferation of and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, he stressed.  The SADC, therefore, regarded development as crucial for reversing the resort to arms for survival.  During 2003, the Community planned to introduce the concept of “demobilization, disarmament, reintegration and development” and convene a regional workshop on the issue.  With international support, the SADC would not only address the law enforcement component, but also look at the best strategies to link the above-mentioned theme to sustainable and enhanced development.

FRANCIS SANG, Nairobi Secretariat on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa, said that Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Great Lakes region had met in March 2000 and signed the Nairobi Declaration on small arms and light weapons in all their aspects.  The Kenyan Government was mandated to ensure the implementation of that Declaration.  The meeting identified seven areas for implementation.  Some countries of the region had prepared their national programmes as called for in the United Nations Programme of Action, and others were in the process of doing so.

He said that the Nairobi secretariat, created to carry out the modalities of the implementation of the Declaration, had organized a number of workshops, as part of efforts to raise public awareness about the issue of small arms and light weapons.  Participants at those events supported the role of regional law enforcement agencies in the fight against illicit small arms and light weapons.  The next ministerial meeting of the countries of the Great Lakes region on the small arms question was scheduled for next year.

He underscored the importance of inter-agency focal points and coordination in the preparation of national programmes, adding that it was vital that subregional and regional secretariats were established to ensure a unified effort to combat the illicit spread of small arms and light weapons.

CARLOS ABAD, Co-ordinator of the Presidency of the Andean Community, said that the Andean countries supported recommendations from the regional seminar of Latin American and Caribbean countries to follow up the 2001 conference on illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons.  The problem of small arms was global in scope and closely related to trafficking in drugs and terrorism.  As such, it was directly linked to the safety and security of citizens.

He said that officials and experts from the Andean States had met in Pretoria, South Africa, this year to craft an Andean proposal on the small arms issue.  The result was the adoption of an Andean plan to prevent, combat and eradicate small arms and light weapons, which contained a concrete agenda for action, an operational plan and an invitation to the international community to provide technical and financial support, and to assist with the plan’s activities.

The instrument contained concrete actions at the national and international level, he continued, and was an important milestone in the process in the small arms field begun two years ago at the United Nations.  It was mainly designed to enhance the capacity of Member States and Andean nations to cope with and respond in a timely and integrated fashion to problems arising from the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  Implementing the plan involved the active participation of diverse actors and agents within civil society, as well as strategic alliances among and within governments.

Point of Order

The representative of Somalia pointed out that his country had been unable to participate in the March 2002 Conference on small arms and light weapons, held with Great Lakes nations, although it had taken part in a regional conference on the matter in 2001.  His Government had contact with bilateral and multilateral organizations regarding the small arms issue and was committed to the fight against those weapons.

HANNELORE HOPPE, Director and Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, spoke on behalf of the Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA), a body established by the Secretary-General in 1998.  As a consultative mechanism, CASA’s activities were aimed at providing a comprehensive, coherent and coordinated response of the United Nations to the small arms challenge.  Its objectives included retaining the United Nations’ lead role in maintaining the issue of small arms on the global political agenda and encouraging civil society involvement in building societal resistance to violence.

At the international level, CASA members had facilitated and participated in regional and subregional meetings in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean to enable Member States and other stakeholders to take stock of the status of the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action, and to share experiences and lessons learned in the process.  Those meetings had helped to strengthen the emerging partnership among Member States, international and regional organizations and civil society, on a range of issues.

She went on to outline a number of factors that continued to constrain efforts to curb the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons.  They included the demand of such weapons in crisis areas, lack of institutions and processes of governance, and insufficient international knowledge of the specific dynamics of the illicit trade in those weapons.  She also mentioned the lack of gender sensitivity in international and national efforts to collect and destroy small arms.  Those efforts had failed to capitalize on women’s grass-roots disarmament activities.

She outlined a number of actions that could be taken to partially address those problems, including enhancing the capacity of local authorities and communities in crisis or post-conflict situations to control illegal weapons and their traffickers.

EDWIN JUDD, Director, Programme Division of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that the widespread use and misuse of small arms and light weapons in conflicts had indirect impacts on civilians as well, and that women and children were particularly vulnerable.  Small arms ignited and fuelled conflicts, caused massive population displacement, destabilized regions and could lead to a lack of food security or loss of access to regions.  Small arms proliferation could lead to food insecurity, and loss of access to health care, education, and other basic services.  Their use or misuse led to psychosocial trauma, obstructed humanitarian relief and development programmes, weakened traditional family and community structures, and exacerbated gender-based violence.

He emphasized that prolific small arms and light weapons increased the threat of intimidation and abuse, and heightened the lethality of violence, both inside the home and in public.  Constrained by fear, women’s political participation, as well as their capacity to perform such daily household functions as food provision, water and fuel collection, was severely curtailed.  In environments where small arms were abundant, children were frequently the victims of accidents involving those weapons.  In addition, their exposure to the use of small arms and light weapons instilled in them the belief that weapons were an essential instrument for survival and protection in everyday life.

United Nations agencies had recognized that programmes for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration should not focus only on former combatants, but also on their dependants, he continued.  Various agencies, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), supported programmes to assist those individuals.  The carrying or handing over of a weapon, alone, was not a precondition for participation in such programmes, as many children who were otherwise associated with armed forces and armed groups, particularly girls, were often left out.

Such programmes, however, would remain minimally effective unless the causes of small arms violence were properly addressed and all aspects of the Programme of Action were implemented, he stressed.  An important aspect of that Programme that was lacking was the explicit call to urgently combat illicit trade simultaneously from both supply and demand perspectives.  The vast majority of implementation of the Programme to date had focused on the supply perspective.  That was unfortunate, as supply-side-only approaches were not enough.  Quite, simply, if people did not feel secure in their homes and communities, they would not be willing to give up their arms, whether the option was legal for them or not.  The challenge facing the international community went beyond the weapons, and required an answer to the question, “Why is the weapon there?”, he said.

JULIA TAFT, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery of UNDP, said the Programme had utilized its extensive field network as the operational foundation for the planning and implementation of arms reduction efforts.  It would continue to make available technical assistance and funding through its weapons collection, management and destruction initiative.  Support had been received from a number of countries including Belgium, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.  Together with the Department for Disarmament Affairs, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and other partners, the UNDP would continue to provide technical and capacity support.

She said the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UNDP would join hands to work on “urban-armed violence” issues.  A primary focus of the collaboration would be on approaches to community-based violence and violence prevention, where full advantage could be taken of WHO’s expertise in action-oriented research and UNDP’s extensive programming expertise and strength in community development.  UNDP, along with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), would continue to develop approaches to awareness and education, in order to provide alternatives to conflict resolution involving small arms.

Momentum was building within the development community to engage in policy discussions and derive best practices and guidelines for future work, through avenues such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Assistance Committee, she said.  Others were engaging the World Bank, and working together to coordinate and develop assistance strategies for the future.

JOAO HONWANA, Chief, Conventional Arms Branch, Department for Disarmament Affairs, noted that the issues of tracing, brokering, import and export controls, and law enforcement were central to the illicit small arms trade debate.  Beginning with tracing, he recounted that a group of experts from 123 countries had concluded that it was feasible to develop an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons.  The group also recommended that the General Assembly take a decision at the fifty-eighth session on the negotiation of such an instrument.

Regarding brokering, he said it was generally agreed that progress in addressing the question of illicit brokering depended largely on the level of international cooperation, particularly in information sharing and the harmonization of procedures, compliance, and law enforcement.  Regarding the import and export of small arms, current discussion indicated that States needed to agree on guidelines for authorizing exports, imports and transit of small arms and light weapons.  Consensus should be built on what criteria should be applied by States when assessing transfer applications.  In that connection, the issue of end-user certificates deserved special consideration by States, as that was an essential tool for controlling transfers of small arms and light weapons.

Turning to law enforcement, he said that no amount of legislative or administrative measures was enough without adequate law enforcement capability.  A large number of developing countries directly affected by the problem of small arms and light weapons had indicated, in their national reports, that current levels of international and regional assistance had been inadequate.  In that regard, the national commissions could play a central role as the primary vehicle for the channelling of capacity-building efforts at the national level.  Effective capacity-building programmes, coupled with a conscious effort towards a methodical assimilation of lessons learned from practical experience, should enable national commissions and other relevant national institutions to identify the problems, formulate and implement solutions, engage in dialogue with international partners, and maximize the use of available resources.

DAVID MEDDINGS, on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), outlined the agency’s role and what it could contribute to the United Nations Programme of Action.  The response of the WHO to the Programme of Action had been the identification of three primary objectives, namely:  to draw an accurate picture of small arms violence through data from hospitals, mortuaries, police reporting and focused studies such as victimization survey; to identify and support promising programmes in each setting, which aimed to reduce small arms; and to conduct external evaluation of those efforts to determine their effectiveness in preventing small arms violence.

He encouraged joint collaboration in the area of small arms and light weapons, such as that which was already planned between the WHO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Such collaboration was an excellent example of the partnerships called for by the Programme of Action.  He called for the strengthening of cooperation and partnerships, adding that the final and most important aspect in need of strengthening was the Programme of Action’s clear call for simultaneously approaching the illicit small arms trade from both a supply and a demand perspective.

PATRICIA LEWIS, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), outlined the lessons the Institute had learned in the course of implementing the 2001 Programme of Action.  The first was the importance of including those affected in the decision-making process for programmes on weapons collection in exchange for development assistance.  Donors should insist that women, children, tribal elders and other local parties be included in planning and implementation, since they knew best how weapons collection could work in their neighbourhood and which development projects could be best suited to their needs.

Further, she said, the Institute’s 10-year experience had shown that “bottom-up peace-building” could not work without “top-down peacemaking”, and “top-down peacemaking” had no chance of success without the long-term slow process of “bottom-up peace-building”.  The two must work together and all actors in those processes must cooperate.  Also, when police, military and customs officials worked together, weapons destruction programmes could be made profitable from the scrap metal.  Marking and tracing programmes could also be carried out cost effectively.

Also, she said, the process of reporting had been found to promote implementation.  The need to report had created an incentive for accomplishment.  The deeper effect, however, had been achieved in the building of capacity for the reporting process.  By establishing national focal points and interdepartmental committees, building lines of communication, setting up national commissions and holding regular meetings with policy and implementing organizations, countries had put in place the structure and capacity needed to implement the Action Programme practically.  Finally, for those who belittled research compared to “real” work on the ground, it should be remembered that the scale of the problem would not be known and international attention would not have been focused on the small arms problem without the tools to identify, solve and control the scourge, as well as to test and evaluate solutions.

RAKESH SOOD (India), Chairman of the 23-member group of governmental experts on the feasibility of developing an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons, briefed the meeting on the group’s work.  The report of the group, which was established by the General Assembly in December 2001, would be presented to the General Assembly at its fifty-eighth session.  Copies had been made available to the meeting (document A/AC.267/2003/CRP.1).  Among the group’s recommendations was that it was indeed feasible to develop an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons.

IBRAHIMA SALL, Director, Programme of Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED) of the UNDP in Africa, outlined the various actions being taken to help in the implementation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms and light weapons in the subregion, which was adopted in 1998.  The PCASED was a regional project of the UNDP and constituted the main implementation arm of the moratorium.  The body worked closely with the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat.

He said that national commissions to implement the moratorium had been established in all of the 15 member States of ECOWAS, except Côte d’Ivoire.  National commissions met every six months to review activities.  Difficulties that had been encountered had included lack of effective action by several countries.  Also, some members were not fully committed.  The national commissions should be coordinated at the highest national level to ensure effective implementation of the moratorium.  Those should also be involved in the formulation of regulations concerning the import and export of weapons, as well as general legislation relating to firearms.  He stressed the importance of financial resources to ensure the moratorium’s full implementation.

Group I Discussion

Group I focused on weapons collection and destruction, stockpile management, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR).  In introductory remarks, the CHAIRPERSON said that, out of the some 4 million weapons collected and disposed of in the last decade, over half had taken place during the last two years.  Since July 2001, at least 50 Member States had implemented some form of weapons collection programme. 

She highlighted two trends in weapons collection since July 2001.  First, weapons were being collected from a broader variety of groups within the framework of DDR.  Second, countries had several best practices to learn from regarding the disposal of weapons in ecologically sound ways.  Many countries had offered best practices in stockpile management and protection.  She noted that there was a wide gap between those looking for assistance and those with experience in the field.

Several speakers emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to weapons collection and destruction, a vital aspect of any credible disarmament programme.  Weapons collection and destruction was an indispensable measure that must be undertaken, said the representative of Japan.  While it could be done by peacekeepers in the aftermath of a conflict, ownership of the process by national governments was crucial.

One speaker mentioned that the United Nations had prepared a manual in 2000 on the advantages and disadvantages of various methods of destruction.  It was up to each State to choose the most suitable method in their case.

Several speakers emphasized the need for greater resources, and for regional cooperation to continue and national programmes to be expanded.  While the destruction of some weapons cost only a few cents, the destruction of others was more expensive, stated the representative of Canada.  The need to take into account the ecological impacts of various destruction methods was also stressed.  Cited as crucial for ensuring the security of stockpiles was international assistance and cooperation.  Pointing fingers, remarked one speaker, was useless; everyone must work together.

A number of speakers offered national experiences, particularly lessons learned, regarding weapons collection and destruction, and stockpile management.  On the latter, Australia’s representative noted that poor security surrounding stockpiles was the main reason for licit weapons ending up on the illicit market.  The responsibility of States to properly manage their stockpiles was explicit in the Programme of Action.  Enhancing physical security alone was not enough to safeguard holdings.  Mali’s representative emphasized the need to assist countries to strengthen and modernize their storage facilities.  The representative of New Zealand added that capacity-building was crucial for improving stockpile management.

Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Nigeria’s representative stressed the need for effective weapons collection and destruction within the framework of DDR programmes, which was essential for preventing a relapse into conflict.  He believed in the need to link DDR programmes to development.  The failure of many DDR programmes was due to the failure to include such programmes in ceasefire agreements and in the mandates and budgets of peacekeeping operations.  It was also due to the failure of the international community to provide adequate financial assistance to countries emerging from conflict. 

Group II Discussion

The thematic discussion for Group II centred around three areas:  capacity-building, resource mobilization, and institution-building.  At the dialogue’s start, capacity-building was recognized as a two-fold challenge.  First, it was necessary for institutions dealing with small arms -- such as police and military units, customs agents, and courts –- to increase their technical capabilities.  Second, multilateral and regional organizations had to improve coordination and communication among their Member States.

With respect to increased communication, the representative of Jordan also stressed that public awareness campaigns were necessary to combat the perception that people needed to bear arms.  Additionally, the representative of Norway suggested that the UNDP’s Trust Fund for Small Arms could be used to help countries produce national plans of action.

Regarding resource mobilization, several delegations said governments had to be held responsible for enacting adequate political and legal frameworks and securing international assistance, if necessary, for dealing with small arms within their territories.  That assistance, said the representative of Slovenia, could come in various forms, such as technical contributions, equipment, training, and the sharing of expertise.  Donors were also encouraged to cooperate with each other to better direct their monetary aid.  In that context, the representative of the United Kingdom said it was important to integrate approaches to small arms with development assistance and poverty-reduction initiatives.  Additionally, it was important to do more to engage the World Bank in issues related to armed violence.

Several delegates referred to regions in which governments were encountering difficulties when dealing with the problem of small arms.  In that regard, the representative of New Zealand said States with large administrative capacities should consider smaller States’ limited human resources when urging them to implement the Programme of Action.  On the other hand, the representative of South African said African governments were effectively using aid from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and civil society to harmonize their approaches to small arms.  Asian delegations, stressing their vulnerability to transnational crime, including the smuggling of small arms, said it was necessary to modernize existing national laws, some of which dated back to colonial times.

Group III Discussion

Opening the discussion on marking and tracing, the CHAIRPERSON said that a majority of countries had in place legislation or other measures for weapons marking.  It was an area where there was a lot of discussion and studies.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, Italy’s representative welcomed the work done by the United Nations Group of Experts, and awaited its conclusions, which would be presented to the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly.  He hoped the results of the Group would help enhance national and international actions aimed at preventing the spread of arms of unknown origin.  The new instrument should foresee increased cooperation among Member States and exchange information relevant to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons.  The new instrument should also require States parties to adopt a universal marking system of small arms and light weapons, which enabled the identification of the manufacturers and of serial numbers worldwide.

France and Switzerland had embarked on an initiative to examine the feasibility of tracing small arms, as the uncontrolled flow of such arms were a serious threat to peace and security.  In October 2002, said France’s representative, consultations were held in New York and Geneva to see how their initiative could fit into the work of the Group of Experts.  He was gratified with the work of the Group and hoped further negotiations would be concluded under the auspices of the United Nations.

Explaining the work done under the Franco-Swiss initiative, Switzerland’s representative said that among the issues covered were the scope of application and the definition of illicit arms and ammunition.  He would like to see the work of the Group of Experts result in negotiations on an international instrument, to begin in a few months.  India’s representative requested the views of Member States on various aspects of such an instrument.

The universal marking of weapons, noted the representative of the United States, was essential for tracing the flow of illicit weapons.  His country’s laws required all commercial firearms to be marked at the time of manufacture and import.  Markings should be easily recognizable and difficult to erase or obliterate.

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For information media. Not an official record.