|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
on Illicit Small Arms Trade
7th & 8th Meetings (AM & PM)
Links between gun violence, development; ammunition controls among issues,
As UN review conference continues debate on illicit small arms trade
The final political declaration of the United Nations Review Conference on the illegal trade of small arms and lights weapons must identify and put in place more precise guidelines and mechanisms to address the obstacles to implementing the 2001 global blueprint for eradicating the trade, representatives of intergovernmental groups and United Nations agencies told delegates today during the fourth day of their high-level conference.
Also during today’s session –- part of the two-week United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in 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 -- an official from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) introduced the new ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials.
Kathleen Cravero, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that, in their final outcome document, Member States must include comprehensive, development-oriented commitments that reflected the global community’s increased knowledge and new consensus on the links between armed conflict and human development. Otherwise, the document risked being seen as irrelevant by millions worldwide whose daily lives were compromised by gun violence. Effective solutions were needed to reduce that violence, while, at the same time, providing people with alternative livelihoods and the chance to live free from fear and want. Addressing weapons supply, impact and demand simultaneously, she said, would require increased financial and technical resources.
Similarly, Dominique Buff, Head of the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the United Nations, said the commitments made in the 2001 Programme of Action were too general, making it difficult to assess progress and determine adequate implementation in a given area. The Review Conference should provide more precise guidelines for fulfilling and building on existing commitments. The ICRC proposed that the outcome document acknowledge the commitments of States parties to the Geneva Conventions to make international humanitarian law the fundamental criteria for assessing decisions on arms transfer. Ammunition controls to supplement weapons control, as well as common global norms to regulate such illegal weapons brokerage, were also necessary, as was a comprehensive strategy to reduce violence and other devastating effects of unregulated small arms availability and misuse, particularly in at-risk communities.
Patricia Lewis, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), agreed. She noted that research funded by the European Union and the United Kingdom had illustrated the need to integrate development and humanitarian assistance into European small arms initiatives. Research in Central Europe, Africa and elsewhere had revealed the importance of women’s participation in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. She also proposed that taxes paid by legal arms producers and brokers be set aside to fund such programmes, weapons collection and survivor assistance, and thus lend a hand to Governments.
Briefing the Review Conference on the new ECOWAS Convention, ECOWAS Deputy Executive Secretary Mahamane Toure said West African Heads of State had adopted on 14 June tougher rules to stop the small arms trade by allowing signatories to the Convention to impose sanctions against States that failed to comply with restrictions on manufacturing and importing light weapons. The Convention replaced the 1998 Moratorium -- the Plan of Action of the Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED) -- that had only had spotty success against the flood of light weapons in West Africa. The new Convention banned the transfer of arms to non-State actors, and mandated stricter controls on weapons manufacture, as well as more rigorous stockpile management and better weapons registry systems. It required ratification by nine Member States to come into force, he said, appealing to the United Nations and bilateral and multilateral partners to assist ECOWAS in making the Convention operational.
Other speakers today included: Severino Mejia Mosquera, Institutional Director of Public Security Issues, Ministry of Government and Security for Panama; Madaminjon Dodojanov, Head of the Department of Defence of the Executive Office of the President of Tajikistan; Emmanuel Rene Moise, Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Armed Forces in Senegal; and Svetlana Gelava, State Counsellor for Multilateral Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The representatives of the Solomon Islands, El Salvador, Belarus, Libya and Greece also made statements.
Nobuaki Tanaka, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, speaking on behalf of the Coordination Action on Small Arms (CASA); Catherine Volz, Chief of the Treaty and Legal Affairs Branch in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); Rima Saleh, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and David Meddings, Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention of the World Health Organization (WHO) also made statements.
Also speaking were representatives of Interpol, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Organization of American States, the League of Arab States, the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons, the East African Community, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The Review Conference will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 30 June, to hear statements from non-governmental organizations.
The United Nations Conference reviewing worldwide efforts to implement the Programme of Action of its 2001 special session on combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons continued its two-week session this morning.
COLLIN BECK ( Solomon Islands) said that, during less than two years of ethnic strife, the core foundations of State institutions that unified the Solomon Islands’ diverse cultures had been weakened. The country was a recipient of an Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission comprising Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific Islands Forum small island developing States. In 2003, the Mission collected and destroyed some 3,700 weapons during three months, many of which were homemade. A cleanup programme was in place to get rid of the Second World War ammunitions that had been used for fishing by criminal elements and had damaged the island State’s fragile ecosystem. In that regard, the Solomon Islands and other partners had begun working within the multilateral Chemical Convention. Further, the Solomon Islands Government had banned the selling of toy guns in shops and was collecting licensed arms for the purpose of rooting out a gun culture.
Due to this dark experience, the Solomon Islands was paying more attention to examining preventive measures, he continued. He noted the valuable role of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in integrating former militants back into their communities. The recently established Peacebuilding Commission should take stock of all threats occurring in post-conflict countries, and provide advisory support where necessary. He called on potential donors to support the United Nations Capital Development Fund and the UNDP in their work to help strengthen governance at the provincial level in the Solomon Islands. Strengthening border surveillance capacity and infrastructure was essential to implementing the Programme of Action and the Review Conference must address that issue.
SEVERINO MEJIA MOSQUERA, Institutional Director of Public Security Issues, Ministry of Government and Security for Panama, said that in order to regulate, curb the proliferation of, and destroy illegal weapons, his Government had first strengthened police and law enforcement agencies. It had next required the police to create a task force to exclusively focus on registering and tracing the movement of firearms within the country. It had also launched a national, multidisciplinary commission, which included representatives of civil society, which had elaborated the new national system for firearms control. He looked forward to the Panamanian Congress’s adoption of that new norm very soon. He went on to say that the commission had also carried out a comprehensive study on the impact of arms on the public and on the socio-economic dimensions of the uncontrolled use and spread of the weapons.
That initiative had led to the launching of several awareness-raising campaigns aimed at disseminating information on the illegal trade in small arms and how it affected the daily lives of the Panamanian people. One of the more successful programmes under that initiative had been the “Weapons for Food” campaign, under which citizens turned in close to 600 firearms over the past two years. That campaign had also led to the destruction of thousands of other firearms and munitions. Turning to the work of the Conference, he urged States to adopt legally binding measures on marking and tracing of weapons. He also called for Member States to continue to discuss, and provide assistance to, national efforts to implement the 2001 Programme of Action.
MADAMINJON DODOJANOV, Head of the Department of Defence of the Executive Office of the President of Tajikistan, said Tajikistan was committed to implementing the 2001 Programme of Action. Tajikistan knew well the consequences of the lack of control of small arms and light weapons. Efficient national laws were necessary for the fight against the illicit trade. The President of Tajikistan had created a commission for weapons collection that allowed for the large recovery of arms. Thanks to significant financial assistance from several European Union countries and the United States, Tajikistan had set up factories to destroy weapons. Despite such advances, armed groups continued to threaten stability and security in the region.
The international community must pay more attention to countries and regions experiencing conflict or in post-conflicts situations, he continued. Member States should also provide financial and technical cooperation for countries who asked for it.
EMMANUEL RENE MOISE, Cabinet Director of the Ministry of Armed Forces in Senegal, said that, since 2001, there had been some remarkable work done at regional levels to implement the aims of the United Nations Programme of Action on curbing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, particularly in the Latin American and Caribbean region and on the African continent. He highlighted in that regard initiatives undertaken respectively by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) firearms moratorium, which had recently been approved as a legally binding instrument to eradicate the illegal flow of small arms in that subregion.
At the same time, he stressed that international assistance was needed to ensure that those and other regional initiatives were fully implemented, in line with the 2001 Programme. He also called for international assistance, particularly in developing countries, in the area of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. Such assistance would go a long way towards improving efforts in monitoring weapons stockpiles, weapons flows and, ultimately, in their destruction, so that they would not find their way into society or into the hands of armed groups. There was also a need for small arms and light weapons strategies to take into account the effects of the scourge on women and youth, he added.
CARMEN MARIA GALLARDO HERNANDEZ ( El Salvador) said El Salvador had made important strides in implementing the Programme of Action, adopting a new law and internal controls, as well as incorporating the human, humanitarian and socio-economic dimension in such laws and adequate administrative procedures and guidelines. It was important to develop bilateral mechanisms between neighbouring countries and counteract illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons along common borders. A follow-up mechanism was necessary. Cooperation with Interpol would also help implementation efforts.
She expressed concern over the link between organized crime and outlawed groups involved in juvenile crime. Such crime had threatened State security and socio-economic development. She was also concerned about the transfer of small arms and light weapons to civilian groups, which endangered democracy, governance and the rule of law. She called for greater access to technical cooperation and assistance, noting that, while States had demonstrated political will to help in the fight against small arms and light weapons, sufficient resources to win the fight were still lacking. A permanent trust fund under the auspices of the United Nations based on voluntary contributions from Member States was necessary and would complement the Programme of Action. She also lauded the work of the UNDP office in El Salvador, which was coordinating with the National Council on Public Security, a programme to get rid of illegal firearms in public places. That programme had had positive results.
ANDREI DAPKIUNAS ( Belarus), highlighted his Government’s efforts to implement the Programme of Action within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) framework, and welcomed other international actions to that end. He called for a new and more proactive universal plan to assist countries in dealing with the scourge, particularly the illegal transfer of weapons in contravention of United Nations weapons embargoes. Future initiatives should be undertaken within the United Nations framework to ensure the full implementation of agreed mechanisms to stop the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
SVETLANA GELAVA, State Counsellor for Multilateral Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, strongly supported deepening of the small arms and light weapons dialogue and cooperation with regional organizations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union and the OSCE, and with subregional initiatives. More must be done to stop armed violence and intimidation. She strongly supported the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development. The Geneva Summit was important step in developing measures that reduced the negative impact of armed violence for the benefit of sustainable development.
Her country did not produce small arms and light weapons, she continued. Its main objective was to enhance personal security undermined by such weapons by controlling legal weapons possession and fighting the illicit trade through targeted national and international interventions by local authorities and civil society. Under the 2005 National Strategy on Small Arms and Light Weapons, her country had set up the National Commission to oversee cross-border control, legislative and regulatory frameworks, management information and surveys, public awareness and communications strategies, weapons collection, weapons destruction, stockpile management and security sector reform. The amended Criminal Code foresaw greater penalties of at least five years imprisonment for the illegal manufacture, possession and trade in weapons. The 2005 amendment to the Law of Weapons made it illegal to carry weapons in public places. The new Law on Weapons would be implemented in January 2007. Further, the country was working on a new weapons registration and management system comprising registration of civilian-owned weapons and stockpile management. That would contribute to better control over civilian-owned weapons, expedite resolution of criminal cases, enhance export-import controls and ensure implementation of the United Nations firearms protocol.
AHMED A. OWN ( Libya) said it had been well established that the spread of illegal firearms led to the resurgence of conflict and the chronic destabilization of nations and regions. That scourge also harmed the social fabric of fragile countries and stalled development at all levels. He called for the consolidation of political will and momentum to address the root causes of the illicit proliferation of the weapons, for only by facing the humanitarian, social and political issues head on, could the global community achieve real progress.
The Review Conference’s final document should, among other things, reaffirm the principles set out in the 2001 Programme of Action. Delegations should be mindful that the Programme had been agreed by the international community, and should not today decide to pick and choose among its tenets. He also called for a reaffirmation of the Programme’s call to respect State sovereignty and integrity, as well as to provide technical and material support to all countries that required it. Finally, he stressed that the international community must move forward on a concrete international agreement on broader disarmament, particularly nuclear disarmament.
Rights of reply
In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Greece said that, according to Security Council resolutions 817 (1993) and 845 (1993) and A/RES/47/225, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations pending the settlement of differences over the name of that State. That difference was still pending.
In response, the representative of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said none of the provisions of the Security Council resolutions mentioned by the representative of Greece obliged her country to use the denomination stated by the representative of Greece. Should he require further clarification, the representative of Greece could consult the United Nations legal counsel and legal department.
The representative of Greece advised the delegate to also consult the legal office to see what interpretation took precedence.
Statements by Intergovernmental Organizations
NOBUAKI TANAKA, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, speaking on behalf of the Coordination Action on Small Arms (CASA), highlighted the various actions under way within the United Nations system, including agencies and funds to curb the spread of illegal small arms. The CASA, the coordinating agency for those efforts, also worked with civil society organizations and parliamentarians, he added. The CASA also worked with regional organizations, including the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and others. It also assisted the UNDP with capacity-building initiatives at the regional levels, and worked with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on gender-based initiatives. He encouraged the Conference to visit CASA’s website, which the joint agencies intended to eventually transform into a clearing house to match agencies and resources with national and regional needs.
RAINER BUHRER, Assistant to the Official Interpol Representative to the United Nations, said Interpol’s primary task was to support States. Interpol conducted all its activities on the basis of meeting three obligations. It worked to secure global police communications services, so that police could communicate securely worldwide and in real time. Interpol also provided database services, which enabled police to communicate and access information to take the necessary steps to prevent crime. In addition, Interpol had a database on illicit weapons related to criminal cases. Among its crime-fighting programmes, Interpol focused on drugs and organized crime, trafficking in human beings, high-tech crime, and small arms and light weapons. Its work extended to collection and analysis of information that was placed at the disposal of Member States. Its goal was to keep Member States informed.
Interpol was specifically mandated to identify, trace and investigate in a timely manner small arms and light weapons, he continued. It had designed the Interpol electronic and tracing system, or Iwoods, which enabled it to trace illicit firearms. Iwoods was a means of linking small arms and light weapons systems, enabling law enforcement agencies to identify and trace such illicit weapons. Once the system was tried and tested, it would be made available to law enforcement services. The final phase would involve connecting the Iwoods data system to Member States’ systems.
CATHERINE VOLZ, Chief of the Treaty and Legal Affairs Branch in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), discussed application of the United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition, which supplemented the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Commonly known as the “Firearms Protocol,” that instrument was the first small arms treaty of global application and it provided a comprehensive framework on firearms and ammunition. It had entered into force in July 2005 and had been steadily attracting adherents ever since.
Clearing up some misconceptions about the instrument, she said that the Protocol could be applied in cases where there was transnationality or the involvement of an organized criminal group. But, due to a carefully crafted provision, it could also be utilized in a domestic framework to combat illegal transfer, manufacturing and use of firearms. Beyond criminalization, the Protocol contained a number of control measures, such as marking, record-keeping, licensing or authorization systems, confiscation, deactivation and brokering. It recognized that, in order to prevent illicit transactions, all transactions must be subject to scrutiny, to determine which were legitimate and which were not. For that reason, the Protocol’s control measures were to be applied as widely as possible, she added.
FRANÇOIS-XAVIER DE DONNEA, Member of Parliament, Belgium, and Co-Rapporteur on Small Arms and Light Weapons of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said, on average, 500,000 people fell victim annually to small arms and light weapons, nearly 60 per cent of whom were fired on. During the May 2006 Nairobi meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, 118 national parliaments and five regional parliamentary organizations adopted a firm, explicit resolution on the role of parliaments in strengthening control of trafficking in small arms, light weapons and their ammunition. The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Assembly was deeply concerned by the high political, social and financial costs incurred when small arms and light weapons fuelled armed conflict, armed criminal activity and terrorism, exacerbated violence, contributed to the displacement of civilians, undermined respect for international humanitarian law, impeded humanitarian assistance to victims and hindered peace and sustainable development.
He called on parliaments to encourage their Governments to reaffirm their commitment to implement the United Nations Programme of Action and focus on areas where obstacles persisted, including brokering, transfer controls, marking and tracing, end-user certification, stockpile management and destruction, ammunition and capacity-building. He also encouraged parliaments to promote development of an international arms trade treaty to strictly regulate arms transfers on the basis of States obligations under international law and internationally accepted norms and human rights standards. Further, he called on parliaments to ensure strong legal sanctions against those who provide weapons to children or recruit or use them in conflicts and armed operation, as well as urged them to adopt and enforce national laws that incorporated the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. Parliaments in countries involved in disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation programmes should encourage their Governments to prioritize “weapons in exchange for development” schemes to provide community-based incentives for the voluntary surrender of illegally held weapons. A gender perspective should also be incorporated into disarmament and peacebuilding strategies.
ALLISON AUGUIST-TREPPEL, Department of Public Security, of the Organization of American States (OAS), said her organization had been actively combating the illegal transnational movement of firearms and explosives since the early 1990s and had crafted model legislations in that regard, as well as on harmonized broker controls that had been put in place in many States throughout the Latin American and Caribbean Region and wider American region. She also updated the Conference on the OAS-negotiated Convention on the Illicit Trade in Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives (CIFTA).
WAEL AL-ASSAD, Director of the Multilateral Relations Department of the League of Arab States, said the Arab States had contributed to the international understanding that led to adoption of the 2001 Programme of Action. Its implementation should not affect the international priorities adopted in 1978 in disarmament, particularly nuclear disarmament and other weapons of mass destruction, nor should it affect the right of nations to self-determination and self-defence, particularly nations that remained under foreign occupation. During the past five years, the Arab States had established legislative and organizational frameworks, and developed national structures to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. At the regional level, the League of Arab States attempted to strengthen cooperation and elaborate collective approaches with numerous international partners.
The 2003 Cairo Conference, organized by the United Nations and the League of Arab States, was a major breakthrough in shedding light on the regional dimension of the illicit trade, he said. Foreign Ministers of the Arab League Council subsequently adopted resolutions in September 2004 and March 2006 which approved new frameworks and mechanisms for regional cooperation. The Foreign Ministers also requested that the Arab League establish a Regional Focal Point within the Secretariat; provide technical assistance and training to Arab States according to their needs; organize annual meetings for the National Focal Points to improve coordination and exchange of information; provide capacity-building programmes; and for the Arab States to nominate National Focal Points. Further, the Council of Arab Interior Ministers and the Council of Arab Justice Ministers dealt with the illicit trade and its implications for Arab efforts to combat terrorism and organized crime.
FRANCIS SANG, Executive Secretary of the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons (RECSA), briefed the Conference on his organization’s efforts to ensure the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action, as well as the 2000 Nairobi Declaration on the Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa, which provided a comprehensive framework to combat the easy availability of the illegal light weapons that fuelled and prolonged armed conflict, political instability and criminal activity in the vast region.
The first Ministerial Conference to follow-up the Declaration had been held in 2002, and had approved a Coordinated Agenda for Action and Implementation Plan, which aimed to promote human security in the subregion and ensure that all States had adequate laws in place, regulations and administrative procedures to exercise effective control over the possession and transfer of small arms and light weapons. Since 2001, the Centre’s Nairobi secretariat, now the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons, had organized and convened four ministerial review conferences on progress towards the implementation of the Declaration in the region. He hoped that RECSA would soon be offered “permanent observer status” by both the United Nations and the African Union.
RIMA SALEH, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the uncontrolled proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons had a disastrous impact on the well-being, rights and development of children. As the evidence mounted, it was clear that many countries at peace suffered considerable economic and social consequences from the trade, as well. The UNICEF was actively involved with Governments, civil society, non-governmental organizations and other partners to implement projects related to the Programme of Action. Since 2001, UNICEF and partners had reached millions of children through advocacy and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes in 18 countries, assisting tens of thousands of children associated with armed forces and groups; awareness-raising campaigns on landmines and small arms in 40 countries and regions; projects to support children affected by armed conflict in more than 50 countries; and education programmes promoting conflict resolution, non-violence and a culture of peace in schools and informal educational settings.
However, implementation of the Programme of Action had not been consistent or even, at a time when the threats posed by instability and armed groups were rising in some regions, she said. Some States participating in the Review Conference were also members of UNICEF’s Executive Board and had noted in the Board’s annual session three weeks ago the serious risks to development caused by armed gangs and street violence. Renewed commitment and increased resources were needed to address the critical tasks ahead. Children had already made their position clear on the issue. In 2002, for the first time ever, two child delegates addressed the General Assembly Special Session on Children. She called on Governments to: implement laws in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict; ensure that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes paid specific attention to children; and conduct further studies on the human cost of small arms, particularly on children, among other steps.
PATRICIA LEWIS, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), briefed the Conference on the agency’s activities, including the results of a joint project on capacity development for reporting on the United Nations 2001 Programme of Action. A series of regional and national workshops had been held and had provided detailed assistance to national agencies and government departments on the reporting process and the delivery of targeted assistance. A key finding from the project had been that, in building capacity for reporting, capacity for implementation had also been built.
She went on to say that research funded by the European Union and the United Kingdom on European small arms initiatives had illustrated the need for a comprehensive approach that required the integration of that issue into development and humanitarian assistance, not just security matters. That had to be done at all levels, including into political structures, for an enhanced impact on the ground. She went on to say that the agency’s work and research in Central Europe, Africa and elsewhere had revealed, among other things, the importance of women carrying out disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, as well as the need to provide further assistance to States to deal with stockpile management and cross-border transfers of small arms.
She closed with an innovative idea for dealing with the illegal small arms trade. Just as a car was taxed and part of that tax was allocated to the clean up of scrapped vehicles, the same could apply for weapons. “Consider it as a retirement plan for small arms that recognized that some of the legal trade could be diverted to the illicit”, she said, noting that taxes paid by legal arms producers and brokers could be set aside to pay for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, weapons collection and survivor assistance, and would help out Governments that were already paying for such programmes.
KATHLEEN CRAVERO, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said, in the last five years, UNDP had provided more than $50 million worth of technical and financial assistance to more than 40 partners countries to address different aspects of the small arms problem. That included national small arms and armed violence baseline assessments; support for the creation of national small arms commissions; voluntary weapons collection programmes; destruction of surplus weapons and ammunition; stockpile management and security; public awareness campaigns; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants; security sector reform; and armed violence prevention and reduction strategies. Much assistance had been provided within the framework of national small arm action plans and some had been integrated into national development frameworks such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and the United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA) in partnership with other United Nations agencies. The UNDP had also supported several regional small arms projects in West Africa, Central America and South-Eastern Europe.
The UNDP’s primary concern was to help countries find effective solutions to reducing armed violence while providing people with alternative livelihoods and the chance to live free from fear and want, she said. It was clear that the international community could not effectively prevent and address small arms and light weapons without addressing supply, impact and demand at the same time. The Review Conference should not just review current efforts to implement the Programme of Action. To make a tangible difference, it must also identify and put in place mechanisms to address obstacles in the years ahead. That would require further financial and technical resources. In the past five years, knowledge of the impact of armed violence on individuals had improved considerably. The outcome of the Review Conference must contain commitments that reflected this improved understanding, or risk being seen as irrelevant by millions worldwide whose daily lives were compromised by gun violence. The links between small arms and development and human rights had been strongly affirmed in General Assembly resolution 60/68 and the World Summit Outcome document. Earlier this month, 42 countries adopted the Geneva Declaration on armed violence and development. The outcome document should contain commitments that more fully reflected the new consensus on the links between armed violence and development. The further implementation of the Programme of Action would only be achieved through a comprehensive, development oriented approach. A more narrow arms control perspective, with a focus mainly on supply side interventions, would not work.
OCHIENG MBEO, member of the East African Legislative Assembly and Chair of the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution, speaking on behalf of the East African Community, said his collective was the regional intergovernmental organization formed by Kenya, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. He said that, while none of the partner-States were arms producers, they remained concerned by the threat of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, because those weapons were used by nomadic groups that straddled the borders of the States and moved through the region.
That was a major concern for stability and development, he said, calling on the Conference to consider increased efforts to accord specific emphasis for developmental support and regulations on transfer controls of small weapons. He said that plans were under way for Rwanda and Burundi to join the East African Community not later than 2007. And while that would bring some challenges, it would also bring opportunities for the regional block to promote sustainable peace, reconciliation and dialogue in support of development.
DOMINIQUE BUFF, Head of the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the United Nations, expressed his concern over the devastating effects on civilian populations of the unregulated availability of small arms and light weapons. The 2001 Programme of Action was an important first step towards addressing the global problem. However, in key areas, the 2001 commitments were general in nature, making it difficult to assess progress and determine what constituted adequate implementation in a given area. The Review Conference should provide more precise guidelines on how to fulfil certain existing commitments. He urged further action in four key areas.
That included elaborating on the elements that would be required in order for national laws and procedures for the transfer of small arms to be considered adequate, as called for in the Programme of Action. In that regard, the ICRC proposed that the Review Conference should acknowledge the commitments of States parties to the Geneva Conventions to make international humanitarian law a fundamental criterion by which arms transfer decisions were assessed. It was also essential that controls on weapons were matched with equally strict controls on their ammunition, an approach already supported by the United Nations Group of Experts in 1999. The Review Conference could support the work of the Group of Governmental Experts on arms brokering by calling for the development of common global norms to regulate such brokering. A comprehensive strategy was also needed to reduce the devastating effects of unregulated small arms availability and misuse. That should include reducing the vulnerability of at-risk people and communities from small arms violence, assisting victims, ensuring systematic training in international humanitarian law and human rights law for arms bearers, and implementing violence-prevention strategies.
PETER POTCHEV, Chairperson if the Forum for Cooperation for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said the OSCE played an important facilitating role in early warning, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in the region. In its Strategy to Address Security and Stability in the Twenty-First Century, the OSCE had placed special emphasis on illicit trafficking in, uncontrolled spread of, and access to small arms and light weapons by criminal and terrorist organizations.
He went on to say that the OSCE’s contribution to the United Nations 2001 Programme of Action was important, because its sphere of operation was home to most of the major world producers and exporters of small arms. It was the OSCE’s responsibility, then, to undertake all necessary measures to prevent the diversion of those weapons into illegal markets. Further, the OSCE region still had surplus stocks left over from the cold war, unresolved conflicts or areas in the process of post-conflict rehabilitation. The OSCE was required to take actions to eliminate those stocks, as well as to ensure that its member States were committed to fulfilling their commitments under the United Nations Programme of Action.
DAVID MEDDINGS, Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in many countries armed conflict was the leading cause of death among young people. Lifelong psychological impacts, permanent disability, and shattered family structures were just some of the consequences of armed violence. Health personnel were struggling to save the lives of victims of armed violence around the world, drawing down the costly resources diverted from strained health system budgets. The WHO World Report on Violence and Health had shown clearly that interpersonal violence disproportionately affected lower- and middle-income countries. Such health and other costs were shouldered particularly by the settings that could least afford them, directly eroding long-term development projects.
Driving down armed violence was the most direct way of addressing demand for small arms, he continued. Studies had repeatedly shown that the primary factor influencing demand for firearms was the perception of insecurity within one’s community. Studies also showed that violence could be prevented. Violence-prevention strategies tended to be highly cost-effective and well within Governments’ social programming and policymaking capacities. Educational incentives for high-risk youth and social development and life-skills training demonstrably reduced violence, as did programmes focusing on strengthening family relationships. The WHO’s World Report summarized the evidence base for effective violence prevention and showed that preventing armed conflict required multisectoral collaboration between experts in diplomacy and development, justice, public health, human rights and education. The WHO and the UNDP were working together on an armed violence prevention programme aimed at promoting effective responses to armed conflict through support for the development of an international policy framework founded on a clear understanding of the causes of armed conflict and best practices for prevention.
MARTIN MIGGINS, head of Arms Control and Coordination Section of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), provided a brief overview of the partnership’s efforts to promote the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action, particularly at the regional level. He stressed that the end of the cold war had provided a unique opportunity to promote security and stability across a new range of areas and to build political and military partnerships with non-member countries. The goal had been twofold: to help new democracies with the challenges of transformation, managing the consequences of defence reform and the legacy of the cold war; and building new capabilities to enable NATO and partner countries to undertake future military operations together.
Since that time, NATO had moved to assist States dealing with a range of potent threats resulting from, among others, the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. To that end, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) had established an Ad-Hoc Working Group on small arms and light weapons, which had decided that it would not focus on international norms, but would rely on the United Nations framework established by the Programme of Action. The Group, which also addressed mine issues, met regularly and stressed the need to, among other things, ensure adequate physical security and management of national small arms and light weapons, ammunition stockpiles and the destruction of surplus stocks and collected weapons.
RUSHAYIO VLADIMIR, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), stressed the importance of developing international economic links, trade and transport to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and the significance in that regard of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Convention against the illegal manufacture and use of small arms and light weapons. A comprehensive strategy for global security was a priority. The CIS was doing its part through the efforts of various organs created by the coordination bureau to combat organized crime. The Council of Ministers of the Interior of the CIS were active in that area. The CIS had also set up an anti-terrorist centre of States parties. The CIS legal efforts focused on developing international treaties concerning organized crime, drug trafficking, illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings and small arms and light weapons.
During their June 2005 meeting, CIS Heads of State adopted a programme to set up a computer system for marking of firearms, explosive and munitions. The goal was to develop an international standard to ensure marking of all forms of weapons in order to combat organized transnational crime. In 2005, the CIS had taken 12,000 units of firearms out of circulation. The Russian Federation and Kazakhstan were drafting an agreement to address the marking of illegal weapons and the trade of such weapons. In 1997, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of States Parties of the OIS adopted a model law governing weapons use and possession. This year, a complete analysis was being carried out on the dangerous actions connected with the use of these weapons. The CIS members had also adopted a decision for further development cooperation to end international terrorism and were working with the United Nations and the OSCE in that regard.
MAHAMANE TOURE, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said that, on 14 June 2006 in Abuja, Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS adopted the Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and Other Related Materials. The Convention was a considerable evolution from the predecessor document -- the Plan of Action of the Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED) -- and was indeed a revolutionary instrument. It was easy to note that, in the past, most of the binding provisions were being circumvented. Therefore, it became necessary to put in place a document that addressed those shortcomings. The ECOWAS had set up a unit to address the issue of light weapons. With Canada’s support, that unit was reviewing the Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Light Weapons in ECOWAS Member States to transfer it into more binding tools. The new Convention focused on the impact of weapons on victims.
He thanked the European Union, Canada and Switzerland for their assistance; the United Nations Department of Disarmament Affairs for its technical support; and civil society. Without their support adoption of the Convention would not have become a reality. Under the new Convention, any member State could be prosecuted for failing to observe its provisions. In such cases, sanctions could be imposed. A group of independent experts had been set up to follow up on progress in implementing the Convention and it reported annually to ECOWAS. Much more restrictive criteria had been introduced to make it more difficult to transfer arms to non-State actors. The Convention also allowed for stronger control of weapons manufacture, more rigorous stockpile management, stricter transboundary controls and better weapons registry systems.
He said a plan of action and a programme for monitoring the ECOWAS Convention, which would replace the now-defunct PCSD, was necessary. A new programme was launched in 2006. Adoption of the Convention illustrated the determination to create a climate of peace and security. The ECOWAS’s short-term objective was to start an advocacy and outreach plan. The Convention would come into force after it was ratified by at least nine member States. A steering committee had already been set up. He appealed to the international community, particularly the United Nations and bilateral and multilateral partners, to assist ECOWAS in these endeavours.
* *** *