|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Third Biennial Meeting of States
on Illicit Trade in Small Arms
5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)
SPEAKERS UNDERSCORE IMPORTANCE OF ‘REAL AID’ FOR COUNTRIES AFFLICTED BY ARMS
SMUGGLING AS BIENNIAL MEETING OF STATES ON SMALL ARMS REACHES HALFWAY POINT
Countries awash with weapons -- especially in poorer regions where arms-smuggling was rampant -- needed “real assistance” from technical experts and civil society organizations to curb illegal commerce in small arms and light weapons, speakers stressed yesterday, as the Third Biennial Meeting to halt the illicit trade reached the halfway mark of its week-long session.
Held every two years since 2003, the Meeting considers implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. The current Meeting runs from 14 to 18 July.
During this morning’s discussion on “Implementation challenges and opportunities”, countries prone to smuggling expressed their need for financial and technical assistance to monitor their borders for illegal weapons. The representative of Jamaica said the island State’s porous coastline made it an arms trafficker’s dream. In turn, the illicit small arms trade had a negative impact on development. Crime and violence negatively affected productivity and diverted valuable resources away from social needs. The treatment of one gunshot injury, for example, cost $5,800.
In general, however, speakers praised the Biennial Meeting process as a step in the right direction. Ghana’s representative said it had opened a “space” for inter-State collaboration, and suggested that future Meetings discuss ways to increase south-north collaboration. The Meeting could act as a forum for countries adversely affected by armed violence, making use of the north’s deep understanding of arms control, and the arms trade more generally.
A few delegates supported the notion of convening expert groups between sessions to provide States with advice on matters relating to policy. The representative of the United Kingdom, for example, said the views of experts would inform discussion on donor assistance and stockpile management while helping to improve legislation on arms brokering and border security.
Japan’s delegate said that, to strengthen the United Nations small arms process, his Government planned to submit a joint omnibus resolution with South Africa, to be tabled in the General Assembly’s First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), so as to guarantee the long-term future of the Biennial Meeting of States.
In the afternoon, the Meeting heard from a number of civil society organizations, including a few sports shooting enthusiasts, who supported the legalized use of small arms and light weapons by civilians. A representative of the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities said that, although he agreed that the illegal trade must be prevented, the legitimate ownership of small arms by individuals must be upheld in those places where it was legal.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Burkina Faso, Iceland, Australia, Switzerland, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Mexico, Indonesia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Burundi, Russian Federation, Norway, Pakistan, Brazil (on behalf of the Southern Common Market), France (on behalf of the European Union), Kenya, New Zealand, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Angola, Serbia, Iran, Colombia, South Africa, Congo, India, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Israel, Philippines, Togo (on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States), Mali and Saudi Arabia.
Several international and regional organizations also delivered statements: the League of Arab States; International Criminal Police Organization; African Union; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Organization of American States; World Health Organization; Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; Regional Centre for Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States; East African Community; International Conference on the Great Lakes Region; Central American Integrated System; United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT); and the United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms Mechanism.
Among non-governmental organizations participating today were the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities; National Firearms Association of Canada; British Shooting Sports Council; Canadian Institute for Legislative Action; Importers Roundtable of the FAIR Trade Group; Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia; and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute.
Notably today, the Meeting also heard from hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier in the Sudan, who delivered an a capella rap performance on the damage caused by armed violence.
The Meeting of States will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, 17 July, to continue its Third Biennial Session.
The Third Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects continued its session today, with a focus on identifying priority issues.
ABDOULAYE BARRO (Burkina Faso), aligning himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons was a grave concern for those without the means to combat that problem within their borders. His country had made a little progress in stockpile management and overseeing arms brokerage, but had found that traditional networks of manufacturers were difficult to monitor. With the support of international partners, the Government might be able to implement the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects in full. It had also been difficult to make full use of the international tracing instrument for marking and record-keeping purposes.
He said that awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of combating the illegal arms trade were under way, but illiteracy and a shortage of funds in Burkina Faso tended to dampen the impact of those initiatives. That was unfortunate, because, in Western Africa, conflicts had left many weapons in circulation, whose use tended to stymie peacebuilding efforts.
PETUR G. THORSTEINSSON ( Iceland) pointed to the country’s work in the Ukraine, where it was supporting the destruction of small arms, munitions and man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), and in Afghanistan, which it was enhancing physical security and stockpile management, as examples of its work in international cooperation and national capacity-building.
On the issues of illicit brokering, Iceland associated itself with the statement delivered by France on behalf of the European Union and, on the issue of stockpile management, it supported the statement made by Norway. Iceland supported the conclusion of legally-binding legal instruments on brokering in small arms and light weapons, as well as marking and tracing. That was why it was following the preparatory work for an arms trade treaty and hoped the necessary elements on small arms could be included in such an instrument.
NANA OBIRI BOAHEN (Ghana), aligning himself with the African Group, said the United Nations “small arms process” had kept that subject alive and had allowed States to benchmark their progress. It had also created a platform to exchange lessons learned and had created “space” for inter-State collaboration. Major exporting States had shown political will to advance the issue, which he appreciated. As such, Ghana supported the notion of continuing to hold future meetings on the topic.
Turning to specific progress made by Ghana, he said that a national commission had been established to combat the illegal arms trade, involving a gamut of actors ranging from border control agencies to civil society organizations. The Government was required to provide funding to that commission. A national plan of action on arms control stressed the importance of awareness-raising, arms collection and destruction, and national stock-taking for State-owned arms. The national commission also collaborated with neighbouring States to tackle arms smuggling.
As for priority issues, he suggested that States discuss ways to increase south-south cooperation and south-north collaboration. The north’s deep understanding of the context of the arms trade was highly valued, and could contribute much in terms of practitioner training programmes, for example. Other types of partnerships worth pursuing included those with civil society, which were proving to be of value in Ghana, especially in implementing projects at the community level. Finally, States should consider supporting each other in terms of management of police stockpiles and those of security agencies, other than the military. Leakages from police stockpiles tended to be more significant than from other stocks in his country. The link between security and development should also be highlighted in future Meeting of States, along with the increased role of the legislature in implementing any national programme of action.
ANGELA ROBINSON (Australia), discussing the results of the working group of the Biennial Meeting, said the group had prepared a paper, meant to strengthen the implementation of the Programme of Action. It provided a range of ideas and “food for thought” for Member States. The paper had been shared with Member States, whose ideas had been incorporated into the version released to States. The goal was to create well-focused and action-oriented meetings, which could offer real assistance to States in their efforts to curb the illicit small arms trade.
He noted that the paper had several points, including the setting of forward-looking Biennial Meetings with themes; inclusion of an open and flexible session beyond the expressed theme within each meeting; and practical cost-effective ways to improve the reporting process, such as timely national reporting every two years.
YOSHINOBU HIRAISHI ( Japan) said the paper presented by Australia was a good basis for further discussion on ways to strengthen implementation of the Programme of Action. He agreed with the need for focused topics, as well as inviting more civil society organizations to participate. Because the issue was highly technical, it would perhaps be wise to convene intersessional meetings of experts when States were not meeting. Interested States could be persuaded to host those meetings in such a way that would not burden the United Nations.
He said that Japan, in partnership with South Africa, planned to submit an omnibus resolution to the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), so as to guarantee the long-term future of the Biennial Meeting of States. Countries must now decide whether the Meeting should convene in a six-year cycle, which would coincide with the two-year national reporting process, or a five-year cycle, with the next Review Conference to be held in 2011. Should States decide to adopt a six-year cycle, the General Assembly must take a decision on it this year. He invited States to submit their opinion on which cycle they preferred, stressing that, regardless of their view, a decision should be made this year.
JURG STREULI ( Switzerland) said Switzerland was a member of the biennial working group and supported the proposals that had been presented by Australia, including the implementation of a framework with an agenda that was forward-looking. Shifting meetings between New York and Geneva was another good idea. Switzerland also supported the proposal to hold meetings of experts during the year when a Biennial Meeting was not held and agreed with the importance of national reporting and the suggestions related to that process.
MOHAMMAD IQBAL DEGIA (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), suggested that the Meeting of States emphasize the link between illegal trade in arms and organized crime, at future sessions. The link between socio-economic development and the illegal arms trade should also be discussed, because continuing poverty could lead to increasing crime and security problems within regions. A holistic approach to the issue was critical, and should encompass controlling the availability of ammunition, creating a binding arms control pact, improving tracing processes, and examining the issue of arms possession by civilians and non-State actors.
He said that improving regional and subregional security was important and that international cooperation was indispensable to achieving that aim. However, increasing the national and regional capacity of Caribbean States to train personnel to monitor aerial and maritime transportation required international assistance. Manufacturing States and those that engaged heavily in the arms trade should step up their monitoring efforts. Assistance should not be subjected to conditionalities. The arms trade affected the CARICOM region, owing to its geography. For that reason, it was in the Community’s best interest for the Programme of Action to be fully implemented. To facilitate that goal, the Biennial Meeting of States should be allowed to continue, and a Review Conference of the Action Programme should be held in 2011.
PAMELA INGLETON ( Jamaica) said the country’s geographical location and its porous coastline made it an arms trafficker’s dream. The illicit small arms trade had a negative impact on development, including social development, and Jamaica was fully committed to addressing the issue. Crime and violence negatively affected productivity and the growth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The treatment of one gunshot injury, for example, costs $5,800.
She said the proper marking of arms, stockpile management and regulated brokering would help control the illicit small arms trade, and arms marking should be incorporated in a legally-binding instrument. The international community should focus on the linkages between organized crime, small arms and drug trafficking.
ROBERTO DONDISCH GLOWINSKI ( Mexico) said his Government considered it important to strengthen assistance to victims. He agreed with the idea of convening intersessional meetings of experts, where topics not usually discussed at Meetings of States could be discussed in detail. Those exchanges would then inform the Meetings of States, which, in turn, could be revisited at Review Conferences.
YONATRI RILMANIA ( Indonesia) stressed the importance of banning the transfer of small arms and light weapons to non-State armed groups without the consent of the relevant Governments and producers. It should also be ensured that the supply of those weapons was limited to Governments or to entities duly authorized by Governments. The linkages of those arms with transnational organized crime, and deterring the illicit transfer of those weapons for the purpose of organized crime, deserved the international community’s utmost attention. Global cooperation in the form of information exchanges and mutual legal assistance would assist those efforts. He called for a more precise and definitive follow up of the small arms process in the General Assembly in any form that would allow for sustained attention to the issue.
DUSKO IVANOV (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said his country did not produce small arms and light weapons. Efforts focused instead on creating an enabling legal and regulatory environment for enhanced personal security and for preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in those weapons. In May 2007, the National Commission was set up to oversee cross-border control, legislative and regulatory framework development, information management, public awareness and communication, security sector reform, as well as the collection, destruction and stockpile management of small arms and light weapons.
He said that legislative improvements had been made in line with the Firearms Protocol and the European Union Code of Conduct. The amended Criminal Code imposed more severe sanctions, including at least five years imprisonment for the illegal manufacture, possession and trade in weapons. Further, the Law on Weapons, which included brokering regulations, entered into force in May 2007. The United Nations Firearms Protocol had been ratified in July 2007. The Law on International Restrictive Measures had been adopted in March 2007, and the Law on Public Order in May 2007. All confiscated and found weapons were destroyed annually on 9 July.
ALAIN-GUILLAME BUNYONI, Minister for Internal Security of Burundi and Chairman of the Ministerial Council of the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RESCA), said that international efforts to curb small arms required a need to identify the challenges and priority issues. A national plan of action should be drawn up and it should outline priority issues. Some of those issues included identifying the bodies responsible for enforcing the laws, strengthened technical and financial assistance, stronger institutions and operational capacity.
He said that the challenges facing the region included insecurity and instability, owing to armed forces and the subsequent excessive circulation of small arms through the area, porous borders, lack of financial resources and transportation, insufficient automatic detection equipment, poverty and a lack of trained staff. The commitment at the regional level to peace was an asset.
PYOTR LITAVRIN (Russian Federation) outlined several measures he believed would make it possible to more effectively combat the illicit small arms trade and put up a barrier to their unregulated proliferation and their possible acquisition by terrorists and perpetrators of organized crime. He advocated the complete termination of manufacturing those weapons under expired foreign licences or without a license from the original State producer. It was precisely unlicensed production that fuelled illicit weapons trafficking through legal or illegal exports. That had been amply demonstrated in the Small Arms Survey 2007, which showed that only 57 per cent of small arms and light weapons manufactured in the world annually under licenses were produced legally. The rest was, in essence, illegal pirate production. For example, 90 per cent of all Kalashnikov automatic rifles produced globally were counterfeit. Another widespread practice was slightly modifying a weapon when producing it under a license, without the consent of the country-supplier of the technology, and then exporting it as a self-designed product.
He also advocated strengthening control over the re-export of small arms and light weapons; denying the supply of man-portable air defence systems and other types of small arms and light weapons to non-State actors; tightening control over man-portable air defence systems in the context of combating international terrorism; and introducing tough State regulation of brokering activities related to the trade in small arms and light weapons, including possibly limiting the number of such brokers.
INGUNN VATNE ( Norway) said the participation of civil society was very important, and it was unfortunate that Member States could not agree on its greater inclusion in their Biennial Meetings. The meetings of other organizations and past experience had showed that the coordination between civil society and Member States could be very useful. Member States would gain valuable information by learning about conditions on the ground in nations affected by the illicit small arms trade.
JAVED CHEEMA ( Pakistan) said that the participation of civil society organizations in the discussion was welcome, but the Meeting of States must clarify that their role was different from that of States. As for international cooperation on increasing the capacity of individual nations to implement the Programme of Action, he noted that there was no central coordinating body at present, and he suggested that the Meeting might specify whether the Office for Disarmament Affairs might be an appropriate body to play that role. He cautioned against using national reports as a way of making requests for assistance by countries with capacity constraints.
FABIO DE OLIVEIRA DIAS (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), produced a list of issues that the region considered important: to analyse whether the legally non-binding nature of the Programme of Action was a barrier to progress; whether the Programme should take into account ammunition and explosives; how to enhance participation of civil society and the private sector, in accordance with provisions of the Action Programme; including the gender- and age-sensitive perspective into Meeting of States’ future discussions; how to create an effective verification system for end-user certificates; and developing an international framework to authenticate such certificates.
MIKAEL GRIFFON (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, agreed with the proposal of the biennial working group to strengthen the sessions by having meetings of experts. Another good idea was to set themes for future meetings. France also favoured the group’s recommendations on national reporting and the use of electronic formats for reporting.
FRANCIS T. KIMEMIA ( Kenya) said that his country was addressing the small arms issue through a community-based policing programme, with the help of the non-governmental organization Saferworld. The programme aimed to build trust between the police and the public, which, it was thought, would reduce demand for small arms and light weapons.
He said that efforts to reduce the demand for small arms and light weapons should address other underlying factors, including underdevelopment. Within Kenya’s national action plan on small arms control, the country had set out a number of steps that included increased community-based policing, integration of small arms and light weapons control issues within national poverty eradication and development strategies, and the strengthening of peaceful conflict-resolution methods. Improved border controls were also necessary to effectively combat the flow of small arms and light weapons, as well as tighter control over refugee movements. Kenya recognized the crucial importance of partnering with civil society in tackling the issue of small arms and light weapons, as a whole.
JILLIAN DEMPSTER ( New Zealand) agreed with Australia’s proposal to add predictability to the schedule of the Biennial Meetings, in order to make the sessions more useful to Member States. She also agreed with the working group’s recommendation to use a combination of focus and flexibility during the sessions to boost their value and usefulness. More presentations by experts and the greater participation of civil society would also make the Meetings more valuable for Member States.
MARYSIA WEJS-DOMZALSKA ( United Kingdom) said that her Government had learned several lessons throughout its experience as a donor State, including that it would be useful to engage more frequently at the expert level to enhance the support given at both practical and policy levels. She also voiced support for the idea of convening intersessional expert meetings that would report its non-binding findings to future Meetings. Meanwhile, the participation of civil society organizations could include coordinating donor assistance, participating in stockpile management processes, and crafting strategies to monitor arms brokering and improve legislation, border security, preventing diversion to unintended users. They could also be useful as national focal points and as focal points within commissions.
ANDREW SHORE ( Canada) said that, last August, his country had chaired an informal meeting in Geneva to advance implementation of the Programme of Action, building on work being done by civil society. That discussion had been constructive, and had increased awareness regarding transfer control instruments and the need to strengthen capacity and identify human and technical resources to curb the flow of illegal weapons. Participants had discovered that transfer control principles were being applied with a fairly high degree of commonality among regions.
In terms of future priorities, he said that the Meeting of States could begin considering the issue of children who were affected by the illegal arms trade. It should also focus more on uncovering the factors that led to the demand of those weapons for illicit purposes. The Biennial Meetings were important in fostering inter-regional cooperation, but to maximize the Meeting’s value, he suggested that dates and themes of future Meetings be set early on. Also, he encouraged States to hold regional meetings more regularly.
SANI RAMBI ( Papua New Guinea) said that the fight against small arms could not be fought by Government law enforcement officials alone, but only with the combined efforts of concerned citizens, institutions and nations. He thanked Australia for its assistance. The illicit arms trade was a critical national security and development concern for Papa New Guinea. It fuelled criminal activities, from armed robberies and tribal fights, to transnational crime, drug trafficking and terrorism. The fear of firearms kept children away from schools, farmers away from markets, and voters away from polling stations. It also deterred investment in countries and subsequently hindered their sustainable development.
He said his country had instituted measures, such as a gun amnesty programme, a gun buy-back scheme and a moratorium on the issuance of new gun licenses to help address the issue. But, the country needed additional technical and financial assistance to implement the schemes, which were estimated to cost $5 million. He stressed that international cooperation was necessary for developing countries like Papa New Guinea to address the small arms issue.
TETE ANTONIO ( Angola) said his country had held a workshop in February on the disarmament of civilians. Its objective had been to sensitize the political class and civil society to the danger posed by firearms. That exercise had also been aimed at gaining support for the voluntary surrender of weapons. The workshop had led to the establishment of a national commission on disarmament, coordinated by the Prime Minister and tasked with collecting, storing and containing small arms and light weapons in the illegal possession of the civilian population, former military and police officers and private security companies.
He said his country would also revise the laws on possession and use of firearms, as well as legislation on the trade of weapons of defence, recreation, hunting and fishing. The Government would also update the military and police regulations and procedures on the use of firearms, and create conditions for adherence to the Bamako Declaration to the Nairobi Protocol, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Control of Firearms Protocol, and the United Nations Convention on Organized Transnational Crime and its additional protocols. So far, more than 20,000 weapons and 50,000 units of ammunition had been surrendered.
LIDIJA BUBANJA ( Serbia) took the floor to say that Serbia had taken into account the request made by the Chairman to refrain from general statements and deliver only the key messages. In order to save time, the Serbian delegation would not read its statement, but would have it posted on the “BMS” (Biennial Meeting of States) website.
SEYED ROBATJAZI ( Iran) said that the small arms and light weapons problem varied from country to country. Iran had endured much more than its fair share of the cost of fighting heavily armed drug traffickers. The number of armed groups and mafia-type networks involved in drug trafficking in Iran had increased. He stressed the need for the intensified, sustained efforts of the international community to combat the illicit trade in the region. Poor social and economic infrastructure, as well as poverty, had created an enabling environment for drug traffickers. Iran had cooperated with Afghan officials on border control. It was also necessary to create a culture of awareness to help root out the problem. The international response should be to address the issue from both the supply side and the demand side.
NOHRA QUINTERO ( Colombia) said that the exchange of information on experiences was important to improve international assistance and cooperation, especially with regard to tracing and arms brokering. Concerning tracing, States should create a universal identification process, with distinct markings containing the name, manufacturer, country and serial number. As for brokering, the world needed a legally-binding instrument to prevent illicit brokering. INTERPOL and the United Nations could help in both those areas.
She said that Colombia’s experience with the drug trade had familiarized the Government with organized crime and terrorism, which fed on the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. She urged that progress be made to strengthen national laws and mechanisms for the exchange of information and international assistance. She encouraged States to refer to the working papers produced by the Latin American and Caribbean Group, MERCOSUR and the Non-Aligned Movement.
D. WENSLEY ( South Africa) said he had no objection to having various themes at future Meetings, but that the Chairperson would need to be consulted on and made aware of the themes beforehand. It was not for Japan, South Africa or Colombia to determine the dates of the future meetings. He fully supported making use of the Programme of Action at the regional level. While he supported the idea of a legally-binding instrument on illicit brokering of small arms and light weapons in principle, it was extremely difficult to develop one.
BONIFACE LEZONA ( Congo) said one priority area of importance to his country was to preserve the security of national borders. Traders, brokers and financiers involved in various illegal activities found it easy to operate in countries with porous borders; some of them included those trading in arms or drugs, and people involved in organized crime or terrorists. Financial resources should be made available to help such countries train the personnel they needed to monitor their borders.
PRABHAT KUMAR ( India) said that the illegal arms trade was a major factor behind drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism. For that reason, the Programme of Action must include a ban on the transfer of arms to terrorists and non-State actors. States also needed a strong follow-up mechanism on that issue, along the lines of the Geneva Process on Small Arms. The use of small arms depended on the regular supply of ammunition, and, thus, the Action Programme must also include a mention of that issue.
SIMABATU REMY ALBERT ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that a gap in theory and reality remained in the framework of the fight against illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. The issue deserved a solution that was acceptable to all, and efforts to combat that trade must take into account poverty, social injustice and underdevelopment. The ineffectiveness of existing texts was due to the lack of political will of States. The United Nations Programme of Action was an important step in international cooperation and efforts to address the issue in a forward-looking manner. He called for regulations and control over the activities of brokers, regional and subregional cooperation on information exchange, awareness-raising and other methods to stem the illicit trade. His country was contributing to efforts of the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes region; it was working to draw up and harmonize legal texts on the small arms and light weapons trade.
D.J. OTARU ( Nigeria) said it was important to modernize storage facilities and record-keeping systems so as to carry out effective stockpile management and surplus destruction activities. His country was currently heavily involved in updating armoury procedures and training staff. In addition, it was destroying obsolete and illicit weapons in line with international commitments. However, Nigeria required capacity-building assistance to maintain progress.
Ms. QUINTERO ( Colombia) said other issues that should be discussed in future Meetings were the transfer of small arms to non-State actors and their subsequent possession of those weapons, the importance of a follow-up mechanism, and the need to convene a new Review Conference in 2011.
ISRAEL TIKOCHINSKI ( Israel) said that the illicit transfer of small arms to terrorists was a major concern for Israel, posing a real risk to its security. He noted that it had been seven years since the Programme of Action had been adopted, and it should actively contribute to curbing the transfer of weapons to terrorists. Nothing could justify the action of States that condemned terrorists and then transferred weapons to them.
Ms. INGLETON ( Jamaica) welcomed South Africa’s views, agreeing that more frequent civil society participation at the Meetings would be useful, particularly in light of the link between the small arms issue and development. Civil society was close to the community and better able to assess the impact of the illegal arms trade from a variety of angles, including the effects on children and health, as well as the psychological trauma and other intangible effects.
Mr. WENSLEY (South Africa), responding directly to the intervention by Jamaica’s delegate, cautioned that, while there was no denying the cross-cutting nature of the small arms issue, it should not be viewed as a “development issue”. Indeed, South Africa had a very large illicit arms problem, which impinged on safety, security and the nation’s development. At the moment, the South African national firearms strategy was seen as a security issue, but the donor community seemed to want to turn it into a development issue. However, it should be aware of the impact caused by setting conditionalities on aid, particularly if progress on the small arms issue was linked to issues of social and economic development.
MARIO CHAN ( Philippines) took the floor briefly to say he supported the holding of meetings between governmental experts, believing them to be useful in the discussion on curbing illicit small arms and light weapons.
ROLAND KAPOTSRA (Togo), speaking on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in lieu of Burkina Faso’s representative, said the subregional bloc was committed to fighting the spread of small arms and light weapons because the damage caused by crime and violence undermined the development of those States. The Community had sought since 1988 to impose a moratorium on the import/export and manufacture of arms and, related materiel such as ammunition. Five countries -- Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone -- had deposited instruments of ratification with the relevant Convention while Togo was in the process of ratifying it. Hopefully, the Convention would enter into force later in the year.
Noting that Government experts from ECOWAS member States had adopted a plan of action for the Convention’s implementation, he urged the Meeting to act resolutely on the issue, and welcomed ongoing discussions on illicit brokering in small arms and on poor management of weapons stocks. States must act in concert to enact the proper standards and provide each other with the necessary financial and material assistance to implement those standards. While the present Meeting was an opportunity for States to make their concerns felt, efforts towards small arms control would never be complete without clear principles to govern weapons transfers. It was also important to establish close partnerships within regions and with civil society in order to advance the cause.
SIRAKOVE SANGARE ( Mali) said his country supported a review in 2011 and hoped the process would continue in the General Assembly as well.
FADI HANNA ACHAIA (League of Arab States) said he hoped the Meeting would lead Member States to important results in combating the illicit trade in small arms. The Meeting was very important because it was a new phase following the failure of the 2006 event to issue a final communiqué or a review mechanism.
He said the Arab League had established a mechanism to convene meetings in 2007 and 2008 for Arab focal points. There were now 20 focal points, some of whom had visited Germany to review best practices. The fact that the United Nations had established an Internet site on small arms and light weapons was very important. Several Arab countries were laying down measures for the safe stockpiling of weapons and most of them supported international efforts to implement global agreements, and national legislation against illicit brokerage was being adopted. The League was unhappy with Israel’s continuing occupation of Arab territories and felt that disarmament should be achieved in a non-discriminatory regional manner.
HARPER BOUCHER, International Police Organisation (INTERPOL), said the body had developed a number of tools to trace weapons, which it was happy to share with States wishing to avail themselves of them. So far, a few States had been using those tools to share information in real time, and INTERPOL provided training on their use. National or subregional bureaus were helpful in that regard. The exchange of information enhanced intelligence and prosecution processes, but there was a need to improve the framework for information sharing, so as to make full use of that information. Laws governing information sharing were too restrictive at times, and some laws could be incompatible among nations, even if there was a willingness to share information.
He said those engaged in the illicit arms trade often made use of advanced skills -– including counterfeiting and elaborate schemes to hide the destination of funds -- that demanded expert police responses. INTERPOL had developed training materials that captured such expertise and created a referral centre where interested parties might direct their queries.
THATO RAMOELETSI, also of INTERPOL, then took the floor to highlight the organization’s activities in the SADC region, in coordinating the activities of regional police and law-enforcement officials. Despite several successful operations, there was a need to upgrade firearms databases and harmonize legislation across SADC countries.
LILA HANITRA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said the regional grouping addressed issues relating to the conflict and insecurity associated with the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons through the African Peace and Security Agenda and the African Peace and Security Architecture. The latter comprised the Continental Early Warning System, Peace and Security Council, Panel of the Wise, Africa Standby Force and the policy on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development. It explicitly acknowledged the serious impediment posed by the illicit proliferation of weapons to Africa’s social and economic development.
A regional meeting had been held in Mombasa, Kenya, in June to address the situation, she said. One outcome had been agreement that the African Union should develop a comprehensive and holistic strategy encompassing all security and development issues while also delineating responsibilities, including in the area of capacity-building. A Steering Committee comprising African Union members would spearhead the strategy’s elaboration.
She said the Togo-based United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament would be mainstreamed into the regional body’s African Peace and Security Agenda to enhance its presence on the continent. The United Nations would be invited to participate as an observer in a Steering Committee meeting in October. Concerted international cooperation to enhance the capacity of the African Union and its member States, along with technical and financial support from international partners, would lead to an end to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The issues of supply and demand, consumers and producer, must be addressed in equal measures.
MICHAEL MIGGINGS, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said the body supported full implementation of the Programme of Action. As part of its contribution to its implementation, NATO offered courses on anti-proliferation and control of small arms and light weapons. It also focused on best practices in those areas, such as stockpile management and the physical security of weapons and warehouses.
He said NATO also helped a wide range of regions -- from North Africa through Central and Eastern Europe to Afghanistan -- through its Partnership for Peace and Trust Fund project. The trust fund had helped eliminate more than 1.5 million small arms and light weapons, 145,000 tons of ammunition and 4.1 million landmines.
GALA REDINGTON, Organization of American States (OAS), said the Inter-American Convention against Manufacturing and Trafficking in Arms and Munitions had several aspects in common with the Programme of Action. However, that regional instrument on its own was insufficient for the eradication of gun flows throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, which was thought to be the most violent region in the world. Overall, national laws in the region were lacking with regard to marking, record keeping and export licensing, and greater efforts must be made to encourage States to modernize their national legal frameworks. At present, OAS had created five model legislations to help States in the following areas: harmonizing brokerage law; regulations on marking; rules on international movement of firearms; laws to establish criminality; and laws to control arms transfers at export points. The regional grouping would soon draft additional laws on security measures, confiscation and exchange of information, among other areas. OAS stood ready to offer technical support to anyone requiring it.
DAVID MEDDINGS, World Health Organization (WHO), said a great deal had been done in addressing the supply of small arms, but much work remained to be done in addressing the demand for small arms and light weapons. Surveys showed that high levels of armed violence fuelled the demand for weapons. Public policymaking and social programmes could help reduce armed violence. WHO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for example, had successfully collaborated on programmes to prevent armed violence and develop best practices. Reducing human suffering could not be done by arms management alone. The Programme of Action could be implemented more comprehensively if the international community addressed the entire array of risk factors, including the lack of social programmes that fuelled armed violence.
VASILY PAVLOV, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said 6.4 million small arms and light weapons had been destroyed in the body’s member countries from 2001 to 2006. A document adopted in 2007 committed member countries to a set of standards that would help them abide by the Programme of Action. From 2007 to 2008, OCSE States had reviewed their compliance with regional standards, and begun working on a draft decision to facilitate the exchange of information on arms transfers, with a special focus on the illicit air transport of illegal light weapons.
For some members, implementing those standards amounted to a heavy burden and, for that reason, OCSE had established a mechanism to help such countries, he said. Assisted projects were currently under way in Belarus and Tajikistan, and there were many more requests for assistance. OCSE had held numerous training seminars and conferences that were open to international audiences. Over the last 10 years, it had contributed much to the Programme of Action, but much more remained to be done to close loopholes in the existing norms and regulations of OSCE member countries before the Programme could be implemented fully.
Mr. BUNYONI, Minister for Internal Security of Burundi and Chairman of the RECSA Ministerial Council, spoke on behalf of the signatories to the Nairobi Declaration on the Problem of the Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and Horn of Africa and to the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region, Horn of Africa and the Bordering States.
He said the region had made remarkable progress in implementing the Programme of Action. Kenya, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania had completed the development of their national action plans while the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda were developing their plans and Djibouti and Ethiopia would start later in the year. As the marking of weapons was vital in stockpile management, RECSA had purchased 12 electronic marking machines, one for each member State. Manufacturing and exporting parties should ensure that arms destined for the region were marked at the source. RECSA had also provided each member State with two computers to commence data creation and management. The Centre called for technical assistance in harmonizing record keeping and data management.
Although much had been done on small arms in the region, little had been done on the issue of light weapons, he said. In order to fill that gap, a seminar on man-portable air defence systems had deliberated on a regional study concerning the proliferation of those weapons and agreed on a way forward. Others should take action in that regard, given the security threats they posed to air travel. Member States in the region had destroyed 150,000 obsolete or surplus small arms and light weapons, as well as ammunition, to keep them out of illicit circulation.
BEATRICE B. KIRASO, East African Community (EAC), associating herself with member countries Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, said progress on implementing the Programme of Action had been slower than desired and it was crucial that the present Meeting lend renewed momentum to its implementation.
She said unregulated brokering remained an issue of concern for the Community, which strongly supported the outcome of the Governmental Experts Working Group on Brokering. The Community looked forward to the development of a workable mechanism for regulating brokering without undermining the commercial legitimacy of such undertakings. Furthermore, proper stockpile management must be preceded by a determination of national small arms and light weapons needs, proper marking and record keeping, and disposal of excess stock to reduce the prospect of leakage.
On marking, destruction and record keeping, she said recent efforts by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) to create an electronic forum for matching needs and resources marked a major step towards improving access to assistance. It was time that actions proposed in the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and its regional derivates, such as the Africa Declaration on Armed Violence, were mainstreamed into the Programme of Action process. Civil society played an important role in small arms control.
SINGO STEPHEN MWACHOFI, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, said the 11-member regional group had been formed to promote peace, security and development in the Great Lakes region. A pact towards that end had been signed in Nairobi in 2006, and it had entered into force in June after ratification by eight member States. Implementation of peace and security projects focused on the linkage between insecurity and underdevelopment. Small arms and light weapons posed an enormous threat in the region, and curbing proliferation by strengthening capacities and cooperation was a priority. Disarmament was another priority and mine action a third.
The group’s peace and security initiative was informed by an action-oriented strategy aimed at building synergies among member States and other stakeholders, he said. It was also aimed at facilitating joint coordinated responses to challenges under the presumption that regional problems could only be addressed effectively through well-coordinated cross-border responses.
He said support for the group’s activities came from the United Nations, African Union, the European Commission and other development partners. However, implementation of action programmes under the pact required enormous resources. A Special Fund for Reconstruction and Development had been created, but an enormous level of material and technical assistance was still needed. The second Summit of Heads of Conference States would be held in Kinshasa in December, and the results of the current Meeting would be presented for consideration and collective action by the Heads of State attending.
ANIBAL QUINONEZ, Central American Integration System, said the Central American region’s strategy to control small arms and light weapons had come about as a result of the Programme of Action. Its purpose was to promote sustainable development through the reduction of armed violence, by updating laws so they were in harmony with international instruments, and strengthening institutions intended to combat illegal arms. That strategy was complemented by a regional programme to combat organized crime, which comprised a network of police agencies. In addition, there were efforts to set up information and registration systems that would be accessible to countries in the region. There was also an initiative to match needs with available resources.
Organized crime and the presence of arms traffickers in Central America was a great concern, he said, stressing that the subregion must improve its system for licensing brokers wishing to import or export arms. Mexico, Japan and the United States were currently engaged in a dialogue towards that end. Countries in the Americas had long been marking and registering weapons with a view to preventing counterfeiting. There was a strong commitment on the part of the Central American Integration System to bring about full implementation of the Programme of Action in the region.
PASQUALE CAPIZZI, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said the agency’s “Safer Cities Programme” assisted local authorities in preventing crime and establishing a culture of violence prevention. A significant number of small arms, illegally trafficked around the world, were eventually used within cities. There was a direct link between violence in the urban context and urban deprivation, and it would seem that urban inter-personal violence and crime was closely linked to broader development issues.
He suggested that local governments work to ensure urban safety and security for the poor. The prevention of small arms and light weapons proliferation should be based on broad partnerships encompassing development partners and the private sector. UN-HABITAT had long-standing experience in working directly with the urban poor, and welcomed the partnership of local authorities wishing to create greater synergies. Meanwhile, the Programme would continue to document the state of safety and security in the world’s cities, while its forum on urban crime continued to bring together urban development and security authorities at the national level. UN-HABITAT would also continue to work with youth.
DANIEL PRINS, United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA), said the mechanism was created in 1998 to foster a coherent, multidisciplinary approach within the United Nations system on small arms issues. CASA members had contributed to the implementation of the Programme of Action, particularly through analyses of national reporting, capacity-building, and weapons collection and destruction.
The Secretary-General had identified the revival of CASA as one of his disarmament priorities for 2008. The mechanism was showing new vigour as it developed a vision for a more operational role for itself. Among its recent activities, the mechanism had launched a Web-based comprehensive information management tool built on the existing CASA database. It was also starting to develop recognized standards for small arms control, which would supplement existing instruments such as the Firearms Protocol, while building upon global, regional and national practices.
ABDULHADE AL KAMDE (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Arab Group, said his country was dedicated to upholding world safety and security, and believed strongly that small arms and light weapons should be prevented from falling into the hands of terrorists. Saudi Arabia was currently looking to enact new laws for the systematic control of small arms and light weapons through regulation, restrictions and penalties for possession, and to prevent their illegal import/export, transfer or stockpiling. The country was a signatory to the Firearms Protocol of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.
To implement the Programme of Action, Saudi Arabia had established special depots for storing firearms, he said. It had enacted laws to curb illicit brokering and obtained the technology to trace and detect weapons at airports and border crossing points. With its “top notch” land border controls, the country was trying to achieve the highest level of safety and security for all citizens, signing bilateral treaties with its Gulf neighbours to harmonize efforts to tackle the spread of small arms and light weapons. The Arab League was currently compiling data and holding annual meetings for national focal points, so as to keep each of them abreast of recent trends. Military and security personnel were well-trained in detecting and confiscating illegal arms, thus minimizing the dangers posed by terrorism.
C. EDWARD ROWE, World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities, said his organization represented the interests of 100 million sports shooters throughout the world. It had been involved with the Programme of Action from the very beginning, having conducted workshops on marking and tracing, brokering and definitions. The World Forum believed in the individual right to legitimate ownership and possession of firearms, in accordance with the laws of each United Nations Member State.
Looking forward to the Beijing Olympic Games, the World Forum commended China for the excellent shooting facilities it had prepared, he said. Shooting sports tended to attract some of the highest numbers of participants at the Olympic Games, with 390 athletes competing in 15 shooting events. They were expected to use shotguns, rifles and handguns. The legitimate and legal use of firearms by individual citizens must be protected rather than ignored in the quest to prevent the illicit and illegal use of small arms and light weapons.
GARY MAUSER, National Firearms Association of Canada, said that his analysis of publicly available data from United Nations studies and the Small Arms Survey, intended to examine the link between civilian firearm ownership and rates of homicide and suicide, contradicted claims that the availability of firearms was problematic. For example, though Norway had one of the highest rates of firearms ownership per capita in Western Europe, it had the lowest murder rate. Bans were rarely effective and, in nations where guns were less available, criminals obtained them anyway. The reason why nations or regions with more guns tended towards lower violence was political. Research showed that banning civilian guns increased people’s vulnerability, failed to reduce violence and empowered criminals and terrorists at the expense of the innocent.
DAVID PENN, British Shooting Sports Council, stressed that civilian shooting sports were safe and well-embedded in the United Kingdom culture. That picture was mirrored widely across Europe, among many Commonwealth nations and in North America. Winning the Queen’s Prize in annual competition continued to be the highest honour in British target shooting. A quarter of a million people regularly enjoyed target shooting with rifles, muzzle-loading pistols and air weapons, and the British were “rather good at it”.
However, target shooting was not a spectator sport with a huge fan base susceptible to economic exploitation, he said. A target shooter posed no threat, and as a law-abiding citizen, he or she did not deserve consideration by the United Nations in any measure to control the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Target shooters had a right to travel internationally with their firearms for legitimate sporting and cultural purposes.
He noted civilian sport shooting and firearms collecting organizations had proposed a number of amendments to the European Parliament with regard to the 1991 European Union Directive on the Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Weapons. The Meeting was urged to consult with similar groups as they proceeded with the United Nations process on small arms and light weapons.
TONY BERNARDO, Canadian Institute for Legislative Action, said his country had had civilian firearms controls for more than 135 years, and the Government, as part of its obligations under the Programme of Action, had passed legislation requiring the marking of firearms upon import. That legislation had been developed without meaningful consultation with interested stakeholders, creating laws that were impossible for importers to comply with and which would have forced many legitimate civilian firearms businesses to close their doors.
Noting that such an eventuality would have eliminated the first line of defence against the illegal market, he said the Government had delayed the implementation of the new provisions for two years so the issue could be studied and a practical solution found to fulfil Canada’s obligation. Most countries recognized that legitimate firearms owners and collectors did not contribute to crime, terrorism or war. The Institute was pleased that the Canadian Government had chosen the path of practical consultation.
MARK BARNES, Firearms Importers Roundtable of the FAIR Trade Group, said the legal sale of military-surplus firearms for collectors in the civilian market was an old and respected practice. Some of them were collected for their historic value while others were used for recreational target shooting or as hunting weapons. The trade was well-recognized and broadly practised in the international community. In the United States, for instance, the import of those firearms was heavily regulated. That country’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms required that imported surplus military firearms must be accompanied by an official purchase order from a Government agency. Furthermore, the weapons could not be introduced into ordinary commercial channels within the United States. Any discussion on surplus military firearm disposal must keep such commercial laws in mind, and recommendations on the matter should avoid an adverse impact on a legal and legitimate trade.
TIM BANNISTER, Sporting Shooter’s Association of Australia, said the non-governmental organization, presently in its 160th year, represented 120,000 law-abiding recreational shooters and hunting members. The Association had worked closely with its Pacific neighbours to promote the safe and responsible use of firearms and would continue to support the Australian Government’s efforts to stamp out the trade in illicit firearms in the South Pacific. Reforms, laws and treaties should always be crafted on the basis of honest and evidence-based foundations, not pious hopes or best intentions. Hopefully, representatives at the Meeting would take all stakeholders into account in the creation of any treaties.
RICHARD PATTERSON, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, said that body had been created in 1926 at the request of the United States Government. It had created the technical standards for safety and reliability in the design, manufacture, transportation, storage and use of firearms, ammunition and components. The Institute supported legitimate law enforcement efforts to trace firearms used in crimes in a timely manner.
He said the key information required on a firearm to make any trace accurate and efficient was simple: the name of the manufacturer, country of manufacture, and the serial number. That information must be placed on the weapon’s frame, also known as the receiver. Any other information was superfluous and inefficient, and it could even prohibit effective tracing. The proper marking and tracing of firearms was an important law enforcement tool, and the Institute supported efficient tracing via the existing unique serial number on every firearm’s frame, as required by United States law since 1968.
* *** *