|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
16th Meeting (AM)
DRAFT RESOLUTION ON INTERNATIONAL ARMS TRADE TREATY ONE OF EIGHT TEXTS
INTRODUCED IN DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE
Small Arms, Practical Disarmament Measures,
Fourth Disarmament Decades Among Other Issues Addressed
The time had come to engage in an informed discussion on whether and how to develop common international standards on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, the representative of the United Kingdom told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) this morning, as it concluded its debate on conventional weapons.
Introducing a draft resolution on “Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”, one of eight drafts introduced today, he said that the issues were complex and required input from both consumers and producers. As his country was one of the world’s major arms producers, that industry formed an important part of its economy. Nonetheless, after considerable thought and consultation, it had come to support the need for such a treaty.
The representative of Nigeria said that the initiative towards the proposed treaty came at an auspicious moment, when disarmament was at a crossroads. He noted that the Economic Community of West African States, realizing the negative impact of small arms and light weapons, had initiated and maintained a moratorium on their importation and exportation. In June of 2006, that moratorium had been transformed into a landmark convention banning transfers of such arms and their manufacturing materials into, from or through the region.
World trade needed rules of a global scope, making an arms trade treaty was essential, the representative of the Republic of Congo told the Committee. Due to porous borders and a lack of detection equipment, gaps in national monitoring were increasing. Without proper control, arms coming from the legal trade could too easily be moved to armed groups. For that reason, he supported the implementation of measures aimed at dealing with traffic linked to the stockpiling of conventional surplus ammunition.
Introducing a draft resolution on “the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects”, the representative of South Africa said that now that an instrument to identify and trace the illicit trade of small arms was in place, the onus fell on the Committee to take practical steps towards its implementation. The first step would be providing the Department of Disarmament Affairs with the name and contact details of national points of contact, as well as information on national marking practices.
The representative of Germany introduced a draft on “consolidation of peace through practical disarmament measures”. He said that the draft’s basic idea was to focus the Committee’s attention on the relevance of practical disarmament measures for the consolidation of peace in conflict and post-conflict environments. Measures on small arms and light weapons were highly effective for conflict resolution and post-conflict rehabilitation, he noted. Furthermore, the draft resolution was practical, operational and free of charge for the United Nations budget.
Other draft resolutions were introduced today on: Declaration of the Fourth Disarmament Decade (Sierra Leone), the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (Sweden), problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus (Germany), assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them (Mali), and nuclear disarmament (Myanmar).
Additional statements in today’s thematic debate were made by the representatives of Niger and Cuba.
The representatives of Russian Federation, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Moldova spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 19 October, to begin a thematic debate on other disarmament measures and international security, and to hear the further introduction of draft resolutions and decisions.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to conclude its thematic debate on conventional weapons and hear introduction of several draft texts.
BONIFACE LEZONA ( Congo) said his country was concerned about the traffic and illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which constituted a disaster for the international community. Some 500,000 people were killed each year, the majority civilians. Other, no less tragic, consequences, included fear, poverty, famine and violence. Such arms were now in the category of weapons of mass destruction. It was more important than ever to strengthen cooperation in battling the illicit trade in such weapons.
He said his country went through a civil war from 1997 to 1999 and knew full well the impact of cooperation on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants. His country reaffirmed its support for the First Committee’s activities and appealed to the Department of Disarmament Affairs to strengthen the Committee’s activities. With assistance from its partners, his country had been able to destroy 18,800 small arms. All illicit arms in Congo would not be collected overnight, but, a halt in the supplies of ammunition would put such weapons out of service.
He said that, without proper control, arms coming from the legal trade could too easily be moved to armed groups. For that reason, he supported the implementation of measures aimed at dealing with traffic linked to the stockpiling of conventional surplus ammunition. Due to porous borders and a lack of detection equipment, gaps in national monitoring were increasing. World trade needed rules of a global scope, and for that reason an arms trade treaty was essential.
BOUBACAR BOUREIMA ( Niger) said that the thematic debate on small arms was very timely. The recent United Nations conference to review progress achieved on the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action had produced no final document, due to disagreements. That meant there were no new guidelines –- which were essential -- for a global follow-up mechanism.
He was pleased that the international community was paying close attention to small arms. Civil society, regional and subregional organizations, non-governmental organizations, all were involved and concerned on that issue. The United Nations also had a positive impact in several regions of the world. In Africa, the continent had been faced with that scourge for more than a decade and had, thus, not been inactive either at the regional or subregional levels. Following a December 2005 Windhoek Conference, African ministers had adopted a joint position in Khartoum. There was indeed a common African position on small arms.
He welcomed the draft resolution tabled by the United Kingdom on an arms trade treaty. Since 1994, there had been a National Commission on the control of small arms, established by decree. It had carried out several activities with interesting results. There had also been a pilot project on the collection and destruction of small weapons that was facilitated by the amnesty law. On that project, he said that compensation was given in exchange for weapons. It was vital that assistance be continued and further increased.
BORIS LUIS RODRIGUEZ GARCIA ( Cuba) said that nuclear disarmament continued to be the highest priority issue. Nuclear arsenals based on dangerous aggressive doctrines constituted the most serious threat to international peace and security.
He voiced concern over seeing countries develop increasingly more sophisticated conventional weapons. That situation was scandalous, as huge amounts of resources were spent, when they could be used to meet the principles of disarmament. There was also a clear imbalance in the treatment of certain categories of conventional weapons to the detriment of others - whose impact was considerably more devastating.
He shared the humanitarian concerns related to small arms and the indiscriminate and irresponsible use of anti-personnel mines. He again said that such weapons got a disproportionate amount of attention compared to others that were more sophisticated and used against third world countries. In the midst of today’s hostile tension, he said that nations had a right to have conventional weapons to meet self-defence needs. He reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to the United Nations Programme of Action on combating the illicit small arms trade.
B. OWOSENI ( Nigeria) said that the availability of small arms and light weapons fuelled and prolonged conflicts, with the attendant catastrophic destruction of economic and social infrastructure in affected countries. The proliferation of those weapons had also hindered global humanitarian efforts and exacerbated the phenomenon of child soldiers.
He said that, realizing the negative impact of those weapons, the Member States of the Economic Community of West African States had initiated and maintained a moratorium on the importation and exportation of those arms. In June of 2006, that moratorium had been transformed into a landmark convention that banned transfers of arms and their manufacturing materials into, from or through West Africa. It also banned the transfer of such weapons to non-State actors who had been implicated in the recurrent conflicts in the subregion and the attendant political instability and destruction of infrastructure. The Convention granted exemption for such transfers solely for purposes of legitimate national defence, security needs or participation in peacekeeping efforts. There were limits to Government and national trade, as well as sanctions on diverters.
He said that his country supported the draft resolution on small arms and light weapons jointly sponsored by Japan, Colombia and South Africa and was particularly delighted that it accorded recognition to the need to convene the biennial meeting of States by 2008 to access implementation of the Programme of Action. That would not only overcome one of the major obstacles that led to the collapse of the last Review Conference, but would also ensure an effective follow-up to the review process. He endorsed the draft and said he would join it as a co-sponsor and called for similar support from all Member States.
He said that the initiative toward the eventual elaboration of an international arms trade treaty came at an auspicious moment, when disarmament was at a crossroads. He reiterated Nigeria’s support for the initiative based on expectation that such a treaty would establish a common international standard on arms transfers, regulate the international arms trade and ensure that such arms were not diverted to unauthorized end-users.
Rights of Reply
ANTON VASILIEV ( Russian Federation) said that he wished to respond to the remarks on 13 October by the representative of the Republic of Moldova on the spread of small arms and light weapons in that republic and on the alleged flow of Russian weapons into that conflict. The European Commission official monitoring group had been functioning on the Ukraine-Moldovan border since 1 December 2005. To date, the Commission had not observed any weapons, ammunition, explosives, narcotics, or radioactive substances crossing the border.
He said that last month, the coordinator of Safeworld had submitted a report for the office that was monitoring small arms and light weapons in Eastern Europe. It concluded that there had been no transfers since 2001 and also found that a certain proportion of weapons was currently held illegally by individuals in Moldova.
On the flow of firearms from Russian peacekeepers and troops, he said that checks by the Ministry of Defence and Russian Accounting office had not identified any such flow. The most reliable guarantee for an end to arms flows would be a speedy solution to the conflict, which his country was actively calling for, and that plan should be met with support by Moldova.
KIM KWANG IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said he rejected the allegations made by the United States two days ago. His country’s nuclear test was entirely attributable to the nuclear threat, sanctions and pressure of the United States. His country had exerted every effort to settle the situation through dialogue and negotiations. It had a sincere desire to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The United States had responded to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s patient and sincere efforts and magnanimity with sanctions and a blockade. His country was compelled to protect its sovereignty and right of existence from the daily mounting dangers of war from the United States. Further, although the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did test the weapon because of the United States, it remained unchanged in its view that the Korean Peninsula should be denuclearized through dialogue and negotiations.
ALEX TULBURE (Republic of Moldova) said that recently, the press had said that the Russian Federation’s arms dumps in Moldova were inspected by a group of Russian generals and that the group did not find any cases of disappearing weapons, or any arms being stored in inappropriate conditions.
The information provided by the Russian Federation could not be confirmed by any other sources however, and thus, the real content was not known, he continued. Despite efforts by the Moldovan Government, those arms dumps continued to be inaccessible for international inspection. The information was, thus, irrelevant and he reiterated the need to conduct an international investigation.
There was a need to settle the conflict, he said. His Government totally agreed with that, and was fighting to settle it. But, the presence of Russian troops deployed there had become part of the problem. Furthermore, he invited delegations to watch a film about armaments in Transnistria, so that they could follow the developments themselves.
Introduction of Drafts
Introducing a draft resolution on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects (document A/C.1/61/L.15), ROB WENSLEY (South Africa) said that the annual draft omnibus resolution mapped out the Committee’s priorities and continued to act as the vehicle for implementing the United Nations’ Programme of Action. The follow-up section of the Programme of Action addressed examining the feasibility of developing an instrument to identify and trace the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, as well as taking further steps to prevent, combat and eradicate illicit brokering.
Now that the international tracing instrument was in place, he added, the onus fell on the Committee to take practical steps towards its implementation. The first of those included providing the Department for Disarmament Affairs with the name and contact details of national points of contact and of national marking practices. There remained a necessity to maintain the agreed system of biennial meetings of States and, thus, the draft resolution called for the next such meeting of States to consider implementation of the Programme of Action be held no later than 2008.
Introducing a draft resolution on nuclear disarmament (document A/C.1/L.39), NYUNT MAUNG SHEIN ( Myanmar) said that it should be accorded the highest priority on the agenda of disarmament. Recent developments had only served to reinforce that view. It was more urgent than ever to challenge the spread of nuclear weapons, as they posed a grave threat to mankind. The only way to meet that challenge was through the total elimination of such weapons. That could be achieved through practical and concrete steps and with the political will of all States.
The draft resolution enjoyed the co-sponsorship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and many Non-Aligned Movement countries. In the past, it had been adopted by a large majority of Member States. He hoped for the same this year.
JOHN DUNCAN (United Kingdom), introducing a draft resolution entitled towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms (document A/C.1/61/L.55), said that, though the idea was not new, his Government believed that the time had come to engage in an informed discussion on whether and how to develop common international standards on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.
As one of the world’s major arms producers, the United Kingdom knew that the arms industry formed an important part of its economy and many thousands of ordinary people depended on those companies for employment. He said it was thus understandable that his Government had come to its position of supporting the need for an arms trade treaty after considerable thought and consultation.
The issues were indeed complex, he added. While there was a fair degree of commonality on the criteria and norms which arms manufacturing and exporting countries applied in their national controls, it would be a challenge to develop common international standards. He said that the discussion would thus need to involve both consumers and producers, as the alterative -- simply increasing and widening cooperation amongst suppliers -- would not be appropriate. He was pleased to note that many of the emerging arms suppliers shared this view.
The resolution followed extensive consultation with a wide number of United Nations Member States and transparency and inclusiveness were at its core. On language, he said that it was not the co-authors’ intention to use the resolution as an attempt to trap nations into agreement on an arms trade treaty. The aim was to launch discussion, rather. The co-authors believed that the position of those who remained agnostic about an arms trade treaty was, indeed, protected by the text.
ELISABET BORSIIN BONNIER ( Sweden) introduced a draft on the “Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects” (document A/C.1/61/L.18). She said that, in only a few weeks, the States parties to the Convention would meet for a review conference to examine important achievements of the past five years. The review conference should also look forward. The issue of mines other than anti-personnel mines had been under serious consideration for several years, and work had continued on measures to prevent munitions from becoming explosive remnants of war. The need to promote compliance with the Convention had been recognized and was being addressed. The draft resolution was an expression of support for the Convention process. She called upon all States that had not yet done so to become parties to the Convention and all its Protocols, including the amendment that extended the scope of the Convention to include situations of non-international conflict.
Introducing the draft resolution on behalf of Germany and France, problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus (document A/C.1/61/L.26), BERNHARD BRASACK ( Germany) said that it did not deal with new issues but rather provided new and modest impetus. It stated that the issue of small arms needed to be addressed in a comprehensive manner, as part of a separate process, conducted within the framework of the United Nations. It appealed to all interested States to determine: the size and nature of their surplus stockpiles of conventional ammunition; whether they represented a security risk; their means of destruction; and whether external assistance was needed to eliminate that risk. Furthermore, it requested the establishment of a group of governmental experts to consider further steps on enhancing cooperation on the issue of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus.
Initiated by Germany alone, the draft resolution entitled consolidation of peace through practical disarmament measures (document A/C.1/61/L.37) had been submitted biannually since 1996. In 2004, there were 123 co-sponsors and it was adopted in the General Assembly and First Committee. The draft’s basic idea was to focus the Committee’s attention, in a more integrated manner, on the relevance of practical disarmament measures for the consolidation of peace in conflict and post-conflict environments. Measures on small arms were highly effective for conflict resolution and post-conflict rehabilitation, he noted. Furthermore, the draft resolution was practical, operational, and free of charge for the United Nations budget. With the establishment of a “Group of Interested States in Practical Disarmament Measures” in 1998, support and financing had been provided for numerous projects, such as workshops, policy studies, and turn-in programmes of small arms. He said that this year’s draft was intended to keep the momentum created by its predecessors, while encouraging the activities of the Group.
DRISSA MALE ( Mali) said that effectively combating the small arms and light weapons trade was measured by actions at the national level. Mali was playing a leading role in preventing the proliferation of small arms. It was one of the first countries to adopt a national action plan. Mali was combining mandatory actions with awareness campaigns. Customs and military forces also contributed. As a sign of political will, Mali had destroyed a large amount of weapons, leaving only a small amount for military exercises. It had also adopted a law on anti-personnel mines. Civil society was also involved, and a national committee on arms control had been organized to support the Government’s efforts.
He said that, to be effective, any convention on the trade in weapons must take into account several factors. Those included: the control of arms transfers, particularly to non-State actors; individual possession; technical and financial support to national committees; and follow-up to recommendations from national commissions, biannual meetings and review conferences. The actions of the Economic Community of West African States were well-known. It had adopted a moratorium on transactions in small arms and light weapons, and then converted that moratorium into a convention. The adoption of that convention marked a decisive stage in stopping the proliferation of small arms, which required international assistance.
Introducing the draft on assistance to states for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them (document A/C.1/61/L.25), he said that there had been no change to its substance from previous years, but that it had been updated to reflect major evolutions, such as the conversion of the moratorium on small arms and light weapons in West Africa to a convention, which was a sign of political will to strengthen that struggle. The operative portion encouraged support for the implementation of the convention and he hoped the text would be adopted by consensus.
Introducing a draft resolution on the Declaration of the Fourth Disarmament Decade (document A/C.1/61/L.17), SYLVESTER EKUNDAYO ROWE (Sierra Leone) said that, though the need for declaring a disarmament decade was not new, the draft was new because it was not considered annually, biannually or tri-annually. The draft was being presented against a backdrop of poor performance in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament in recent years. Phrases often used were ones such as a protracted stalemate, heightened disappointment, impasse, series of failures –- it was time to change that.
Quoting Hans Blix, he said that the global process had stagnated and needed to be revived and pursued to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destructions to further States and to terrorist movements. It was now time to bring disarmament back into the limelight and foster a common understanding of the immediate nuclear threats.
The General Assembly needed to recognize the urgent need to reverse the current trend. He said that the draft was not controversial, as it was not prescriptive, but essentially, a recommendation to commence a process. A logical commencement date would be 2010, but, in view of the current security environment, the Fourth Decade should commence as soon as possible.
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