DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS 2006 CONFERENCE TO REVIEW PROGRESS AGAINST ILLICIT SMALL ARMS TRADE, AS IT CONCLUDES SESSION

GA/DIS/3269
6 November 2003

DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS 2006 CONFERENCE TO REVIEW PROGRESS AGAINST ILLICIT SMALL ARMS TRADE, AS IT CONCLUDES SESSION

06/11/2003
Press Release
GA/DIS/3269


Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Committee

23rd Meeting (PM)


DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS 2006 CONFERENCE TO REVIEW PROGRESS


AGAINST ILLICIT SMALL ARMS TRADE, AS IT CONCLUDES SESSION


In a departure from its usual practice of approving, without a vote, the widely supported draft resolution on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today approved that draft by a recorded vote of 162 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions (Annex), as it concluded its session.


By its terms, the General Assembly would decide to convene a United Nations conference to review progress made in implementing it, in New York for a period of two weeks between June and July 2006, and to hold a session of the preparatory committee for that conference in New York, for a period of two weeks in January 2006, with a subsequent session if necessary.


It would also decide to establish an open-ended working group to negotiate an instrument to enable States to identify and trace such arms.  That working group would hold an organizational session in New York on 3 and 4 February 2004.


Asserting that it was with “great regret” that his delegation had voted against the draft text, the United States representative said his Government strongly supported the substantive measures and activities proposed in the draft, but the estimated cost of nearly $1.9 million for activities not previously budgeted -- and communicated to delegations in an unacceptably late manner -- left his delegation no option but to oppose that draft as a matter of fiduciary discipline.


He said that everyone knew that the United States was a leader in the fight against the illicit small arms trade and it would continue to be.  Its policy in maintaining budgetary discipline at the United Nations was equally well known.  In a world of competing priorities and limited resources, hard choices must be made.  That had not taken place.  The United States would work vigorously in the Fifth Committee to ensure that the draft became “revenue neutral”, for there were few international priorities higher than combating that illicit trade.


The South African representative, speaking on behalf of the draft’s original sponsors -– his own country, Colombia and Japan -- said it was very distressing that the Committee had been forced to abandon consensus.  She assured delegations that the co-sponsors had consulted widely on the draft, particularly those aspects concerning the programme budget implications.  She regretted that the savings identified had not been sufficient.


Also before the vote, the representative of Switzerland said that, in pursuing efforts to eliminate the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, achieving consensus was most important.  He deplored the fact that consensus seemed to be impossible, notwithstanding the intensive effort exerted by delegations.  That stemmed not from an issue of substance, but of financing, which had been detected in a particularly tardy way.  He hoped it would be possible to resolve the problem between now and the time the draft came before the Assembly.


The programme budget implications for that draft resolution (document A/C.1/58/L.56) indicate that the cost for the additional requirements outlined in the text were estimated at $1.89 million.  It also states that no provision has been made under the proposed programme budget for the biennium 2004-2005 in relation to the activities that would be requested under that draft resolution.  At the current stage, it was also not possible to identify activities within section 4 of the budget, on Disarmament, that could be terminated, deferred, curtailed or modified during the biennium.


In closing remarks, Committee Chairman Jarmo Sareva (Finland) noted that the Committee approved a total of 46 draft resolutions and 7 decisions, with 29 of them by consensus –- proof of highly productive consultations.  Yet, like most who followed the developments, he was troubled by the persistence of deep divisions on some very important international peace and security issues.  Once again, several resolutions were adopted in the face of “not insignificant opposition” -– in many cases, involving the negative or abstaining votes of a very large number of States.


He said that such divisions were not evidence of any failure of the process, but symbolized instead only that work that remained ahead in deepening cooperation and expanding the common ground.  The Committee had “a lot of untapped potential” in contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security.  He added that “we should constantly try to improve our act”, for which he offered several concrete suggestions.


Statements were also made by the representatives of Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Colombia, Cuba, Japan, Malaysia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group) and Sierra Leone (also on behalf of the African Group).


Committee Rapporteur Miguel Carbo (Ecuador), on behalf of the Bureau, thanked the Secretariat, especially Committee Secretary Mohammad Sattar, who will soon retire.


Thanking the Chairman and those who had worked to advance and facilitate the work of the Committee were the representatives of Jordan (on behalf of the League of Arab States), Philippines (on behalf of the Asian Group), and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (on behalf of the Eastern European Group).


Background


When the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to conclude its third and final phase of work, namely, action on all draft resolutions and decisions, it had before it one text, which concerns the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.


Draft Summary


Emphasizing the importance of early and full implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, the Assembly would decide to convene a United Nations conference to review progress made in implementing it, in New York for a period of two weeks between June and July 2006, according to the draft on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (document A/C.1/58/L.1/Rev.1).


The Assembly would also decide to hold a session of the preparatory committee for that conference in New York for a period of two weeks in January 2006, with a subsequent session if necessary.


By a further term, the Assembly would determine that it would be 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.  It would also decide to establish an open-ended working group to negotiate such an instrument.  That working group would hold an organizational session in New York on 3 and

4 February 2004.


The draft is sponsored by Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador,

El Salvador, Fiji, Gambia, Georgia, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malawi, Malta, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


General Statements


After the meeting was suspended for informal consultations about the draft resolution on small arms and light weapons, CARLO TREZZA (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union was fully committed to the implementation of the programme of action to combat such arms.  That was why it had supported, both politically and financially, initiatives in that area.  Declaring that the momentum of the programme of action should be maintained and enhanced, he welcomed the draft at hand.  Stating that the Union would propose one of its Member States to chair the 2005 biennial meeting to consider the implementation of the programme of action, he added that, because the matter was complex, it had to be addressed at the national, regional, and global levels.


Turning to export controls, he said the Committee should carry out more substantive work on the issue.  In that regard, authenticated end-user certificates should be better promoted, since they helped prevent the illegal diversion and re-export of small arms and light weapons.  Because of the importance of such certificates, the European Union, with the support of many delegations, was pushing for them to be mentioned in one of the draft’s paragraphs.  Those efforts would continue throughout the coming year.  Noting that the draft did not expound upon the exact nature of the instrument on marking and tracing, which was to be negotiated in 2004, he called for that ambiguity to be addressed.  After all, a clear multilateral and legally binding instrument would be highly beneficial, since it would help establish evidence against illegal traffickers and terrorists.


NCUMISA PAMELLA NOTUTELA (South Africa), on behalf of her country, Japan and Colombia, the original sponsors of the draft, said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons represented a major threat to the developing world, especially Africa.  For that reason, the draft had been adopted by consensus for many years.  However, this year, the draft had had to be modified, and that was distressing and regrettable.


Telling the Committee that the sponsors had engaged in extensive consultations on the programme budget implications, she lamented that the funds that had been saved had not been deemed sufficient.  Regretting that the consensus on the draft resolution might be broken this year, she also found it upsetting that there had been a delay in bringing it to action.  However, the commitment of the three co-sponsors had been strengthened by what had happened this week, and all that had been agreed on in 2001, vis-à-vis the programme of action, still remained valid today.


The representative of Colombia pointed out an error in the Spanish text in the seventh line of operative paragraph 11.


The Committee CHAIRMAN assured the delegate that the Spanish text would be revised, accordingly.


MARC-ALAIN STRITT (Switzerland) said he deemed it most important, in pursuing efforts to eliminate the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, to achieve consensus on the draft text.  He deplored the fact that consensus seemed to be impossible, notwithstanding the intensive effort exerted by delegations.  That stemmed not from an issue of substance, but of financing, which had been detected in a particularly tardy way.  He hoped it would be possible to resolve the problem between now and the time the draft came before the plenary for consideration.  He saw some potential savings, without adversely impinging on the calibre of work, and he would contribute to working out the financial problems.


Action on Text


The representative of Cuba said the United Nations, and the General Assembly in particular, was the most ideal forum for designing, recommending and promoting steps to confront and eradicate small arms and light weapons.  In that regard, the adoption of the programme of action in 2001 had been a significant step.


Because of the importance he attached to the issue, he would once again support the draft on small arms.  With respect to its operative paragraph 11, he said he had interpreted it to mean that the outcome of the mentioned consultations, by the Secretary-General, could not possibly prejudge subsequent necessary discussions among the Member States.  In conclusion, he expressed his delegation’s wish to be listed as a co-sponsor of the draft.


The Committee approved the draft on small arms and light weapons (document A/C.1/58/L.1/Rev.1) by a recorded vote of 162 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions (see Annex).


Speaking after the vote, the representative of the United States said it was with great regret that his delegation had voted “no” on the text.  His Government strongly supported the substantive measures and activities proposed in the draft, but the estimated cost of nearly $1.9 million for activities not previously budgeted -- and communicated to delegations in an unacceptably late manner -- left his delegation no option but to oppose the draft as a matter of fiduciary discipline.


Everyone knew that the United States was an active participant and leader in the fight against the illicit small arms trade and it would continue to be, he continued.  Particularly promising was the marking and tracing exercise that would take place over the next two years, as that would complement related activity in the United States.


He said his country’s policy in maintaining budgetary discipline at the United Nations was equally well known.  Even though steps had been undertaken to reduce the cost, the estimates were neither allocated for in the draft 2004-2005 biennial budget, nor offset by reductions in programmes of a far lesser priority than combating that menace.  In a world of competing priorities and limited resources, hard choices must be made.  Those had not taken place -- either by paring down the choices in the text or in other budget sections, or a little of both.  The entire process, which led to a disappointing end to that draft in the Committee, should be the subject of analysis at a later date.


As was also well known, it was a long-standing United States’ policy to oppose financial mandates that increased the United Nations budget, he said.  Unmanaged, the text’s activities would do precisely that.  The United States would work vigorously in the Fifth Committee to ensure that the draft resolution became “revenue neutral”, for there were few priorities higher within the international community than combating the illicit trade in small arms.  Working together, Member States could find the full funding that the initiative deserved and still maintain budget discipline.


He said his vote today in no way reflected on the stewardship of the resolution by those delegations.  On the contrary, those four had spared no effort in trying to achieve consensus.  In the end, there simply was not time enough to craft a solution satisfactory to all delegations.


General Statements


KAZUYA OGAWA (Japan) said that, from a humanitarian point of view, urgent action was needed to combat small arms and light weapons.  In that regard, he was pleased that the draft on such weapons had been submitted with so many

co-sponsors.  At the same time, the efficiency and effectiveness of United Nations spending had to be enhanced.  He had, therefore, opposed expanding the United Nations budget without first discussing what the spending priorities should be.  For his delegation, one of those priorities should be the fight against small arms and light weapons.


RAMEZ GOUSSOUS (Jordan), on behalf of the League of Arab States, thanked the Chairman and everyone who had worked to advance and facilitate the work of the First Committee.


SYED HASRIN TENGKO HUSSIN (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, as in previous sessions, the countries in that group had approached the Committee with a constructive state of mind.  They had thus appreciated the informal consultations that had allowed delegations to reach compromises.  For its part, the Non-Aligned Movement had taken on board many suggestions from other delegations, vis-à-vis their draft texts.


Lauding the fact that the Committee had adopted 53 draft texts within its allotted time period and finished its work one day early, he, nevertheless, cautioned that it had yet to be determined if that work would lead to positive results.  After all, now what was needed was political will to implement the resolutions adopted at the current session.  Implementation was an issue that had already been raised by many delegations and needed to be addressed when talking of revitalizing the General Assembly.  Before concluding, he reiterated his group’s commitment to disarmament and multilateralism.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea wished to clarify, once again, his country’s position on the nuclear issue between his country and the United States.  He hoped his statement would help correct the understanding of all participants present today.  From the historical point of view, the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula had been originated by the United States.  In other words, it was, in essence, a product of the United States’ hostile policy of stifling his country through the use of nuclear weapons.  The United States was now misleading public opinion, as if his country was drawing the non-proliferation system into danger.


He said he could not ignore the statement made yesterday at United Nations Headquarters by the United States Secretary of Energy.  He asserted that North Korea, in non-compliance with its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), had pursued a covert uranium enrichment programme.  That was contrary to fact.


The United States had undertaken its obligation to stop its nuclear threats and renounce its hostility towards his country, under the 11 June 1999 joint statement and the Agreed Framework adopted in 1994.  But, the United States had not fulfilled any of its obligations.  Instead, it had pursued new types of nuclear weapons, further intensifying the threat against his country.  In part, the United States “scrapped” the Agreed Framework and violated the basic principle of the NPT, by listing his country as part of the “axis of evil” and a target for a nuclear strike, and avoiding the construction of light water reactors and stopping the supply of heavy fuel oil.


What on earth was international law? he asked.  Was it United States judgement?  Was the United States entitled to assess implementation of international agreements and punish violators, and should the small countries be the only ones obligated to implement the agreements?  Was the United States’ threat to use nuclear weapons against small countries not a violation of the NPT? His country decided to withdraw from the NPT and strengthen its nuclear deterrence to cope with hostile policy and pressure on it.


The international community should sincerely and frankly discuss the issue of peace and security, and justice and equity, he said.  His country had maintained its consistent stand to settle the nuclear issue on the principle of simultaneous action, after advancing a proposal for a “package” solution, whose ultimate goal was to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.  It would continue to closely monitor moves by the United States, he concluded.


CHUKA CHIDEBELEZE UDEDIBIA (Nigeria), on behalf of the African Group, said the draft on small arms and light weapons was very important to his continent because such arms had led to political instability, economic stagnation and humanitarian crises there.  Expressing regret over the Committee’s inability to approve the draft resolution by consensus, as it had previously done, he hoped it would be adopted by consensus when it came before the General Assembly.


SYLVESTER EKUNDAYO ROWE (Sierra Leone), also speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the Chairman had been like a ship captain, who was now anchoring his vessel in the harbour one day early.  Acknowledging that all had not been smooth sailing, he expressed hope that any damage to the ship would be fixed.  Calling the issue of small arms and light weapons a “major international issue”, he said that, although Africans had sponsored the resolutions on that topic, the texts really represented the entire Committee and General Assembly.  After all, despite specific regional interests, when one addressed disarmament and international security, there was a collective obligation to make the world safer for everyone.


ELMER CATO (Philippines), on behalf of the Asian Group, thanked the Chairman and everyone who had worked to advance and facilitate the work of the First Committee.


The Rapporteur of the Committee, MIGUEL CARBO (Ecuador), on behalf of the Bureau, thanked the Secretariat, especially Committee Secretary Mohammad Sattar, who would soon be retiring.


GORAN STEVCEVSKI (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), on behalf of the Eastern European Group, thanked and congratulated everyone who had worked to advance and facilitate the work of the First Committee.


Committee Chairman JARMO SAREVA (Finland) said the Committee had been an integral part of a global process of building norms on a wide range of international security issues.  While resolutions lacked the binding force of treaties, they could nevertheless serve to strengthen the rule of law governing the control and elimination of the world’s most dangerous weapons.  They could also identify the requirements for, and gauge Member States’ readiness for, new norms.


This year, he said, the Committee adopted 29 draft resolutions and decisions without a vote, including a resolution on improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the Committee.  The Committee had “a lot of untapped potential” in contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security.  “We should constantly try to improve our act”, he said.  First, the general debate could be shortened to just one week.  Second, the thematic discussions segment could be extended and transformed into a more interactive and consultation-oriented phase of work.


Third, he went on, the agenda should be overhauled to better reflect the actual thematic content of the Committee’s work, by reducing the agenda to

10 clustered items, identical to the thematic clusters.  Fourth, even while the Chair was elected in advance, he or she should benefit from having the rest of the bureau in place, as well, before the start of the session.  He was not pursuing “reform for reform’s sake”, but to enhance the impact and credibility of the Committee’s work.  An improved process could also open the way for improvements in the substance of work.


He noted that the Committee agreed to create two expert groups on the security of global information and telecommunications systems, and on the subject of missiles in all its aspects.  [In addition, the Committee adopted a resolution to establish an open-ended working group to negotiate an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons.]


Yet, he continued, as was almost everybody who followed developments in the Committee, he, too, was troubled by the persistence of deep divisions on some very important issues on the global agenda for international peace and security.  Once again, several resolutions were adopted in the face of “not insignificant opposition” -– in many cases, involving the negative or abstaining votes of a very large number of States.  Such divisions, however, did not constitute evidence of any failure of the process.  Rather, they symbolized instead only the work that remained ahead in deepening cooperation and expanding the common ground on which everyone stood. 


Thanking delegations for their full cooperation and support, he noted that a total of 46 draft resolutions and 7 decisions had been approved, 29 of them by consensus.  That outcome was clear proof that all delegations were highly productive in conducting bilateral or multilateral consultations throughout the entire session.  On the Committee’s behalf, he expressed his profound gratitude to the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe, and his staff for their support.  He also thanked the interpreters, record keepers, press officers, document and conference officers, and sound engineers who had diligently worked behind the scenes to bring the Committee’s work to a successful conclusion.


(annex follows)


ANNEX


Vote on Small Arms


The draft resolution on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (document A/C.1/58/L.1/Rev.1) was approved by a recorded vote of 162 in favour to 1 against, with no abstentions, as follows:


In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


Against:  United States.


Abstaining:  None.


Absent:  Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Iraq, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Nauru, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Somalia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan.


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For information media. Not an official record.