TALKS CONCLUDE ON MARKING, TRACING ILLEGAL SMALL ARMS, LIGHT WEAPONS, AS BIENNIAL MEETING OF STATES SEEKS TO STRENGTHEN POLITICALLY-BINDING GLOBAL INSTRUMENT
TALKS CONCLUDE ON MARKING, TRACING ILLEGAL SMALL ARMS, LIGHT WEAPONS, AS BIENNIAL MEETING OF STATES SEEKS TO STRENGTHEN POLITICALLY-BINDING GLOBAL INSTRUMENT
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Third Biennial Meeting of States
on Illicit Trade in Small Arms
7th & 8th Meetings (AM & PM)
TALKS CONCLUDE ON MARKING, TRACING ILLEGAL SMALL ARMS, LIGHT WEAPONS, AS BIENNIAL
MEETING OF STATES SEEKS TO STRENGTHEN POLITICALLY-BINDING GLOBAL INSTRUMENT
Just ahead of the conclusion tomorrow of the week-long Biennial Meeting of States to consider ways to boost efforts to eradicate the illicit small arms trade, delegates today adopted, ad referendum, a draft outcome paper to strengthen implementation of the global instrument on marking and tracing those weapons.
The draft outcome paper included “the way forward”, measures in which States agreed to ensure the full and effective implementation of the instrument, first adopted by the General Assembly in December 2005. Formally called the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons, it committed States to mark existing stocks of weapons held by Governments, armed and security forces, in order to reduce the chances of their flow to war zones and the illicit market.
This was the first Biennial Meeting of States since the instrument’s adoption, and delegates said it was a chance to discuss the instrument’s effective implementation. Today’s paper on tracing was to be included in the draft report of the Third Biennial Meeting of the 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. The draft report would be considered at the final meeting tomorrow. Meetings of States have been held every two years since 2003 to consider the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action.
Earlier today, Member States focused on the crucial role that the marking and tracing of weapons played in international efforts to curb the growing global trade in illegal small arms and light weapons. Following the exchange, it was agreed that the “way forward” would include a paragraph expressing the importance of adopting a legally-binding tracing instrument -- the existing tool is politically binding only -- as a natural development of the Programme of Action. The “way forward” also emphasized that the character of the tracing instrument had been decided through negotiations and the critical task now was to implement it.
The representative of Iran, however, pressed for more time to examine the draft document before Member States agreed to the outcome paper. That led the Chair to stress that the agreement was ad referendum, which meant that all States had the opportunity to consult their capitals and raise any concerns.
The Executive Secretary of the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA) in Nairobi, Kenya, said that, since most illegal weapons first entered circulation through legal channels, the implementation of the tracing instrument would help States close off transfer channels for illicit weapons. It would also enable arms suppliers and recipients to exercise sufficient control over their arms trade, in accordance with national export and import legislation. It was of concern, however, particularly in the Great Lakes region, Horn of Africa and bordering countries, that the instrument was still not legally-binding.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, France’s representative said that the instrument was the most important practical achievement of the Programme of Action. His delegation was among those that would have preferred an instrument that was “more legally-binding and broader in scope”. Nonetheless, the existing tool had the Union’s unreserved support, and he called for full implementation of all of its provisions. Stressing the importance of mutual cooperation, he said that the member States of the European Union in February had adopted a joint action, and had allocated €299,825 to support the instrument’s implementation, notably by financing three regional workshops.
A senior researcher from the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based clearinghouse on arms issues, said that the tracing instrument required that weapons be marked by the manufacturer, while import markings were strongly recommended. Stocks of weapons held by Governments, armed and security forces were required to be specially marked. The instrument also contained instructions on the characteristics and placement of marks, which were essential for record-keeping and useful in reconstructing a weapon’s history. States were also required under the instrument to respond to requests for information, whenever sought.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Switzerland, Brazil (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)), Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Benin, Guatemala, Japan, Algeria, Indonesia, Uruguay, Kenya, Italy, United States, China, Republic of Korea, Ghana, Netherlands, Australia, Argentina, Lithuania, Norway, Mali, Dominican Republic, India, Israel, Peru, Bolivia, Zambia, Paraguay, El Salvador, Colombia and Germany.
A representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also spoke.
Earlier today, the Meeting of States also heard from several non-governmental organizations regarding challenges and opportunities connected to the fight against illegal arms: Securitas Congo; South Asia Partnership – Nepal; Implentando el Instrumento Internacional de Marcaje y Rastreo; Egyptian Organizations for Human Rights; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; PIR Centre; Philippines Action Network on Small Arms; International Action Network on Small Arms; and a physician from Puerto Rico.
The representatives of Egypt, United Kingdom and Australia stressed the value of civil society partnerships.
The Meeting of States would meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 18 July, to conclude 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 today. The Meeting was expected to hear from non-governmental organizations and civil society, and also focus on identifying and tracing small arms and light weapons.
Statements by Civil Society
MISSAK KASONGO, representative of Securitas Congo, said that stockpile management was a priority in combating the illicit small arms trade. Since the 2001 adoption of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects, thousands of people had been killed by unexploded arms caches in numerous locations, from Mozambique to Belgrade. Governments must make sure those stockpiles were managed adequately. They must implement measures to restrict access to the stockpiles and take the necessary steps to dispose of them safely, including through adequate supervision of the transport and destruction processes.
SHOBHA SHRESTHA, South Asia Partnership -- Nepal, noted that the world was currently celebrating the second anniversary of the Geneva Declaration, which recognized the important role to be played by civil society on the issue of small arms control. Indeed, civil society organizations had long participated at international conferences on the issue of arms control. Their connection with the grassroots was particularly useful, especially in conflict-ridden Nepal, where armed violence had resulted in the deaths and injuries of thousands and the withdrawal of public services. Innocent citizens were being deprived of their rights by the Government, itself.
She said that civil society had begun pressuring the Government and political parties to halt the violence, through a non-violent movement. Eventually, the ruling Maoists had been convinced to end their campaign of violence, demonstrating that partnerships between civil society and Governments were always useful in bringing about peace. In the same year, the Geneva Declaration had been launched, embodying principles in which civil society had always believed.
PABLO DREYFUS, Implentando el Instrumento Internacional de Marcaje y Rastreo, said that the marking and tracing of arms was helpful to achieving justice and curbing arms trafficking. Justice systems must also act. Measures such as the marking of weapons were not a requirement, but should be. Ammunition should also be well marked, and the registration of weapons should be computerized. The exchange of information was necessary for tracing. There should also be mutual cooperation among the legislative, judicial and executive bodies of States.
SHERIF AZER, Egyptian Organizations for Human Rights, noted that the Middle East was a hot spot of violence, having witnessed the outbreak of many armed conflicts. Violence was rampant, even in countries not party to armed conflict, owing to the abundance of unlicensed arms in the region. For instance, violence had broken out recently in Egypt between Christians and Muslims, over a land dispute. A Tunisian singer had been killed by her husband with an automatic weapon.
He explained that some Arab cultures believed that owning weapons was part of their heritage, and was linked to their dignity and honour. Therefore, most Governments took a passive position in terms of ending the culture of weapons possession. Weak laws, allowing unqualified people to own weapons, with corruption among Government authorities, exacerbated the problem. In some countries, people could even own weapons without licenses.
Other factors encouraging the culture of violence were the lack of punitive measures in the misuse of weapons, and laws that did not limit ownership of weapons. Similarly, there were no laws controlling re-export of weapons. Laws must be amended, therefore, along the lines of international norms. Arab Governments must adopt a document to control the transfer of weapons in their region, and civil society must take part in drafting such a text. Arab culture must also change, and police must be given more authority to prevent the spread of weapons.
MARIE-CLAIRE FARAY, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, said the group viewed this meeting as a way to make progress on issues concerning women and violence. The illegal circulation of small arms had an extremely negative impact on women, in general, and had a devastating impact on women in the Great Lakes region of Africa. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, firearms had been used while women were raped in front of their families, or kidnapped and forced to serve as sexual slaves. Many women had unwanted pregnancies as a result of those incidents. Measures to reduce the trafficking in illegal firearms were crucial to helping those women.
VADIM KOZYULIN, PIR Centre, Russia, noted that 50 United Nations Member States had laws governing arms brokering, while another 30 had reported that they were in the process of developing measures along those lines. That meant that more than half of the world’s countries could serve as havens for arms smugglers since an absence of legislation allowed such people to register companies, conduct payments, and open offices and so on. Until all countries established adequate control measures, sanctions violators would always be able to conduct business.
He said that Russian citizens had been known to broker arms in other countries, while the Government looked on powerlessly. For that reason, he urged all Governments to include extraterritorial provisions in their laws, to enable them to govern brokering activities of foreign arms brokers within their borders, as well as of their own citizens in countries where they were residing. Countries and international organizations -- such as local air transport authorities and INTERPOL -- must be able to exchange information about such activities in a timely manner, in order to stymie their activities. “Mixed-brokering” activities -- such as transport and finance, for example -- must also be controlled. In his opinion, the document produced by the Group of Governmental Experts on arms brokering was a good starting point for the Meeting of States in its consideration of the issue.
JASMIN GALACE Philippines Action Network on Small Arms said that the implementation of projects on small arms control required cooperation with many different actors: Governments; community leaders; faith-based groups; women’s groups; academics; and advocates. Numerous cooperative activities in the “real” world had yielded good results, such as South Africa’s gun-free zones, which had helped reduce deaths by guns, since 2000.
She called on the international community to improve cooperation at the community, national, regional and global levels, and called for the widening of the range of potential partners, as well as an active partnership with civil society, and the use of research groups.
DIEGO ZAVALA, a physician from Puerto Rico, said that firearms injuries were terribly expensive to treat, and burdened public health systems. They also diverted resources away from more pertinent public health needs. Some time ago, United Nations Member States had adopted a resolution in the World Health Assembly to implement a national plan on violence prevention, which had provided an entry point for the greater involvement of health ministers in arms control matters. In fact, countries in the Americas had agreed to examine the issue of violence prevention from a public-health angle.
He said that civil society organizations in South America were also becoming increasingly active in campaigns against armed violence. In one country, a civil-society initiative, the “ Gun-free Township Project”, had helped reduce homicide rates by 50 per cent. Similar initiatives had been implemented in Africa. The probability of dying from firearm injuries was 46 times higher than from other interpersonal violence, suggesting that the issue of small arms should indeed be examined from a public-health angle. Good policy, however, required reliable data on the impact of violence on health, so that Governments could develop rational strategies. In addition, Government strategy must be part of a country’s long-term plans, making use of inputs from officials from defence, security, police, customs, and the public-health fields.
REBECCA PETERS, International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), said that the Programme of Action recognized the importance of mutual cooperation and urged Governments to work with members of civil society. Many Governments had already included non-governmental organizations in their delegations, and she hoped that others would do so in the future. By working with grass-roots groups, Governments could learn about the situation on the ground and more effectively curb the illicit small arms trade. She asked that those States that were still uneasy about working with civil society groups engage with States that were already doing so.
Statements by Delegations
HOSSAM ALY ( Egypt), aligning himself with the positions of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African and Arab Groups, said that his Government was eager to develop constructive partnerships with non-governmental organizations to address arms control issues. It had long engaged in extensive dialogues with those organizations, and it had been disappointing, therefore, to hear a statement earlier by a non-governmental organization that had been filled with misrepresentations. Egypt had a long record of providing best practices at the regional level to regulate the use and possession of small arms and light weapons, and his country’s national report reflected that fact.
He said his Government wished to advise the speaker to examine his sources of information more closely. He considered that organization’s statement, where it had referred to Egypt, to be baseless. For decades, the Egyptian Government had exerted much effort to foster national unity and to build on its successful experience in national stability in combating radicalism and terrorism. His Government stood ready to work with responsible and well-informed non-governmental organizations.
PHILIP TISSOT ( United Kingdom) said he appreciated the contributions of civil society, as that was essential to the implementation of the Action Programme. The United Kingdom was at the forefront of efforts to prevent the unauthorized use of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) by terrorists. He noted the country’s work with Australia on that issue. Attacks on civilian aircraft, with the use of MANPADS, deterred foreign investment and had devastating effects on the economy of a country in which the attacks occurred. Those also impeded the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
ANGELA ROBINSON ( Australia) echoed the sentiment expressed by many others regarding the importance of integrating gender and development perspectives in arms control projects, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions. Australia had been pleased to support the study on the economic impact of MANPADS, with the United Kingdom. In addition, it had produced a booklet on the threats posed by those weapons, which discussed efforts to counter proliferation of those weapons to non-State actors. Copies could be made available to interested parties.
Statements on Tracing
GLENN McDONALD, Senior Researcher, Small Arms Survey, recalled that the international tracing instrument had been adopted in December 2005 and applied to all United Nations Member States (it can be found in the annex to United Nations document A/60/88). The instrument was politically binding, and encompassed both crime and conflict situations, covering small arms and light weapons. Although it did not cover ammunition, a recommendation of the working group on the subject had recommended in its report that ammunition should be addressed through a separate United Nations process.
He said that the international tracing instrument contained a precise definition of small arms -- covering a full range of civilian and military weapons, with the exception of vehicle-mounted light weapons -- based on descriptions found in a 1997 panel report on small arms, as well as the Firearms Protocol to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
The tracing instrument required that weapons be marked by the manufacturer, while import markings were strongly recommended, he said. Government armed and security force stocks were required to be specially marked. The instrument also contained instructions on the characteristics and placement of marks, which were essential for record-keeping purposes and were useful in reconstructing a weapon’s history. States were also required under the instrument to respond to requests for information, whenever sought.
He explained that, in conflict situations, weapons tended to change hands many times over and were often several decades old. Record-keeping chains were almost always broken as a result. Therefore, import marks made to an old weapon upon transfer to a new country would increase the chance of a successful trace. However, while the instrument was being negotiated, some countries expressed concerns about the cost of import marking.
Regarding record-keeping, he said that States could decide on their own methods, although a general commitment had been made to maintain records in such a way as to ensure timely and reliable tracing. The instrument did, however, specify the length of time that records needed to be kept: 30 years in the case of manufacturing marks; and 20 years for import markings. In many countries, however, records were not computerized, making retrieving difficult. In addition, the instrument had set out detailed modalities on tracing, but States could refuse cooperation for reasons of national security.
He said that effective implementation of the instrument required that States put in place administrative procedures and strengthen existing laws, if any. They should also explore ways to strengthen national capacity, including by consulting with the arms industry. International assistance would go a long way in helping countries to engage in proper import marking, marking of Government stocks, upgrading their record-keeping systems, and in ensuring that tracing systems functioned as intended. This Meeting was the first gathering of States since the instrument’s adoption, and as such, it was a good opportunity to discuss how the instrument could be effectively implemented.
JÜRG STREULI ( Switzerland) said that his country was very committed to the tracing of weapons to help curb the illicit trade in small arms. As part of a working group on the subject, Switzerland was convinced of the importance of the implementation of the provisions of the resulting global instrument, for which the development of national capacity was fundamental. The record-keeping of Government stockpiles was also very important, as those were an important source of weapons in conflict zones. He also stressed the need for mutual cooperation with agencies, such as INTERPOL.
MIKAEL GRIFFON (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that while drafting the document on tracing throughout 2004 and 2005 had been a complex process, his delegation was among those that would have wished to agree on an instrument that was more legally-binding and broader in scope. Nonetheless, the existing tool had the Union’s unreserved support, and he called for full implementation of all of its provisions. Together, the European Union member countries, and other States, were indeed the international instrument’s architects, and to date, it was the most important practical achievement of the Programme of Action.
He said that the European Union was determined to play its full part in the effort to facilitate proper implementation of the instrument, which was why, in February, its member States had adopted a joint action, which had allocated €299,825 to support it, notably by financing three regional workshops. United Nations Member States had also undertaken to submit a report to the Secretary-General every two years on activities carried out to implement the instrument.
FABIO DE OLIVEIRA DIAS ( Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that those countries had binding rules on the marking of light weapons. In accordance with the international tracing instrument, they had required manufacturers and importers to adequately mark small arms and light weapons. Other measures focused on explosives and related material. His delegation had also drawn up a Memorandum of Understanding on exchanging information among members and was fully committed to implementing the international instrument. He expressed support, on behalf of the group, for a legally-binding marking and tracing instrument, adding that he wished to see that reflected in the final document of this week’s Meeting. In closing, he stressed that activities on tracing were linked to international assistance and cooperation.
MOHAMMAD IQBAL DEGIA ( Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the tracing instrument should have been made legally-binding and it should have included provisions on ammunition. The CARICOM had taken some steps to implement the tracing instrument, but it needed help to set up a computerized record-keeping system, to train officials in confiscating weapons, and to set up systems for intelligence sharing.
BONAVENTURE D’OLIVEIRA ( Benin) said that his country had adopted a policy to control local production of arms and had identified 350 weapons manufacturers within its borders. Annual production stood at several hundred thousand units per year. However, the Government needed assistance to train those producers on proper marking procedures, and it would welcome any assistance from partners to help build national capacity in that area. Regarding tracing, effective exchanges of information among focal points was essential. Assistance was also required to help organize communication networks between them, as well as to guide them on how to set up archives.
OSMAN AMILCAR CONTRERAS ALVARADO ( Guatemala) said his country had implemented new measures through the Departamento de Control de Armas y Municiones (DECAM) to mark weapons that were not already marked by manufacturers. Guatemala had also adopted measures to crack down on companies that did not follow proper practices. In 2007, nine companies that bought and sold weapons had been closed, owing to irregular practices.
He said that the challenge included bridging the gap between the practices of manufacturers and countries’ provisions for marking and tracing. Greater use of technology, such as computerizing records and creating online information databases of buying and selling records, would help improve tracing. Guatemala supported a legally-binding instrument to identify illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
YOSHINOBU HIRAISHI ( Japan) said that to ensure effective implementation of the tracing instrument, countries must first set up a system for marking weapons entering the country. A good starting point was to raise awareness among the police, customs authorities and other import and export control agencies about the issue’s importance. The international community must also work to enhance cooperation and assistance. Japan was helping the Office for Disarmament Affairs to host workshops in every country and region to build up their capacity in that regard. Some of those workshops were being held in Western and Central African countries, while others were being held for the benefit of Asian countries. For example, it was helping Sri Lanka’s Government to set up a database of licensed weapons, which had proven efficient in tracing and finding lost weapons.
LARBI EL HADJ ALI ( Algeria) noted that the non-legally-binding nature of the tracing instrument had had an adverse impact on its effectiveness. Nevertheless, it was a good start. National authorities must have functioning tracing mechanisms before it could ascertain whether weapons entering their country were legal or not. Since the instrument did not make explicit references to the need to establish administrative bodies for tracing, it was essential to include such a provision in the Programme of Action. Such a provision should define the role of non-governmental organizations that were already maintaining databases.
He said his country’s national report contained details on how that instrument was being implemented there. Of note, local laws now stipulated that local districts keep records of all persons possessing weapons. Provisions to those laws also required that weapons leaving Algeria be accompanied by a written agreement from the recipient country, so that the record-keeping chain was not broken. The country was now preparing to require commercial weapons to be marked, with a view to notifying INTERPOL of weapons entering the country. In addition, Algeria had a national focal point devoted to weapons tracing, and owners of illegal weapons could be tracked down and punished. They were also keeping records on ammunition. Those records were kept for only 15 years; steps were currently being taken to extend that time to 30 years. It was believed that Algeria’s strict implementation of weapons tracing had “wiped out” the illegal weapons in its territory.
He supported the idea of drafting a resolution to mandate the establishment of an open-ended working group to negotiate a similar instrument for ammunition.
MAJOR GENERAL SYAIFUL RIZAL ( Indonesia) said that this meeting was the first time that States had the opportunity to consider the implementation of the international tracing instrument after its adoption two and a half years ago. Indonesia affirmed its commitment to the instrument’s implementation.
He said that PINDAD, the State-owned weapons manufacturer in Indonesia, had been using a unique marking method to identify its products and components. The circulation of PINDAD small arms products were limited for use by the Indonesian military and police forces. One way to combat the alteration or removal of markings was to enhance the capacity of police forensic laboratories to effectively scrutinize such illegal alterations.
FEDERICO PERRAZZA ( Uruguay) agreed with the statement made by Brazil on behalf of MERCOSUR. He noted that Uruguay was not a producer of weapons. The country had legislation that included binding rules on marking of weapons for tracing purposes, whichapplied to any possible producers, as well as importers. Since 1943, Uruguay had maintained a national registry for firearms, which coordinated record-keeping for all customs operations, trading and possession of firearms. This registry had served as a good instrument to achieve justice inside the country and outside its border. Technology, technology transfer and the training of customs officials were very important. Uruguay supported a legally-binding instrument on tracing weapons.
FRANCIS T. KIMEMIA ( Kenya) said that the purpose of the international instrument was to enable States to identify and trace in a timely, reliable manner the movement of illicit small arms and light weapons. Indeed, tracing was a function of good marking and record-keeping practices, which enabled States to identify the recipients of small arms and light weapons.
He noted that the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons had held two workshops for 12 States to acquaint them with marking methods, and facilitate the establishment of electronic databases. The Centre had provided States, including Kenya, with one marking machine and two computers for storing data. For Kenya, the marking exercise would begin by year’s end and it will have marked all State-owned firearms and light weapons, in line with the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa, and the international tracing instrument. Also, the Central Firearms Bureau would likely be given a wider role in maintaining a register of all such arms and weapons, also by the end of the year.
PAOLO CUCULI (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, said the Firearms Protocol to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime required States to cooperate in tracking down illegal arms, by providing prompt requests for information regarding those weapons. It also stipulated strict standards for weapons marking, especially for weapons being transferred from military stocks for civilian use. He suggested that a reference be made to the Firearms Protocol in the present Meetings’ outcome document. The text should also include provisions specifying data-processing requirements, which enabled the exchange of standardized data among States, in real time, ideally through electronic means. Additionally, the document should mention the Brussels Convention on trade.
STEPHANIE PICO ( United States) said that her country had been able to successfully carry out its policies on stockpile management and destruction because it had a reliable marking and record-keeping system, backed by strong enforcement mechanisms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had established rules requiring that tamper-proof markings be grafted onto weapons, containing a unique serial number, name and location of manufacturer or importer, gauge of weapon and other details. Because of that, the Bureau was able to conduct hundreds of thousands of traces per year, with a significant portion done on behalf of foreign law enforcement agencies. It cooperated with the firearms industry to upgrade marking methods, as new technologies became available. In addition, confiscated firearms were also marked. Non-compliance was met by criminal penalties; the military and police, in addition to the general public, were governed by the same rules.
She said that, since 2006, the United States had helped RECSA (Regional Centre on Small Arms) with an array of small arms and light weapons activities, including the purchasing of arms-marking machines and computers for record-keeping. It also provided the associated training.
United States licensing records were kept for 20 years, while manufacturing records were kept indefinitely, she said, adding that those must be made available for inspection any time during a criminal investigation. Civil penalties for non-compliance included license revocation, fines and imprisonment. The Department of Defense kept a central registry of all weapons in circulation, and to ensure that no weapon carried the same serial number, the United States encouraged all others to keep a detailed list of weapons in their stockpile. At present, the country was supporting an electronic tracing in the western hemisphere called the “e-Trace System”, which was being used in Mexico and the Caribbean. The system was also being used by countries as far away as the United Kingdom.
The United States Government was willing to provide expertise to other States, and would willingly help trace firearms originating from the United States. The database of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) for matching needs and funds could be used by States needing assistance to implement a robust tracing and marking system, and to set up reliable information-sharing systems.
SHI ZHONGJUN ( China) said that since the instrument’s adoption three years ago, States had adopted many measures to implement it, but many challenges remained. Greater international cooperation and exchange of information were needed to strengthen laws. China attached great importance to the instrument and had adopted a series of measures to strengthen the marking and tracing of weapons. Each weapon had to include a unique mark with the country code, factory code, year of manufacture and manufacturer’s serial number. Imported products had to be stamped with similar information. Markings had to be clearly visible and their duration should be longer than the life of the firearms. Detailed records were kept during the entire process, from manufacturing to end-users. She acknowledged that comprehensive implementation of the instrument was a complicated task.
JEE-WON PARK ( Republic of Korea) said that the primary responsibility for implementing the instrument rested with each State, and she stressed the importance of legislation. The illegal trade in small arms and light weapons was particularly damaging in the developing world, and those countries could not combat the problem alone. International cooperation and assistance among all players, from Governments to international police agencies, was essential. She pointed to a recent seminar, held in the Republic of Korea this spring, in conjunction with the European Union, as an example of that mutual cooperation. Technical assistance for training was important, and greater public awareness of the issue could help spur States into action.
NANA OBIRI BOAHEN Ghana said his country viewed the marking and tracing of weapons as critical to combating the illicit trafficking in small arms, and was reviewing national laws in that regard. Ghana had developed software for record keeping of small arms serial numbers, which would be ready by September. Further, the country was creating a centralized computer system that linked to all sectors, including the military, customs agencies and, later, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) -- to share information regionally and help trace requests.
Among the challenges, he highlighted the need for training in marking, record-keeping and tracing. Tracing required understanding of forensics, and most West African States lacked capacity in that area. Marking weapons effectively was also expensive, since Ghana sought to mark all military and security stocks to prevent leakage from its stockpiles. He requested assistance in terms of capacity and knowledge, saying that the hands-on experience provided to national police by the South African police had been invaluable. Ghana was willing to share its experience and its record-keeping software.
JOHANNES LANDMAN ( Netherlands) remarked that a compilation of a best practices guide would facilitate the process of implementation. The Netherlands had had an active hand in developing the tracing instrument and was currently sponsoring various capacity-building activities throughout the world to promote its implementation. Proper marking, recording and tracing systems were vital in dealing with the illegal small arms and light weapons trade. Stockpile management and security would also be impossible without adequate marking.
GARY FLEETWOOD ( Australia) said that his country had robust regulatory arrangements covering the use of firearms. Legally imported firearms must be marked with a serial number; in the absence of a number, the Government provided one. It was an offence to own firearms with defaced serial numbers. Each territory maintained a registry of firearms, and brokers must advise on all sales and purchases. That data was then submitted each month to a national database, which was managed by the Australian Crime Commission.
He said that the firearms database also contained information about firearms recently located in illicit markets, bringing the total number of recorded weapons to 700,000, in the space of 5 years. It cost AUS$800 to set up. He would be happy to discuss Australia’s low-cost implementation of a record-keeping system.
Sharing the best practices gleaned by the country’s experience with firearms information management, he said it was important to maintain a good relationship with the firearms industry. Gathering data on historical firearms sales was also helpful. Engaging in the covert marking of firearms was useful as well, since criminals tended to deface firearms’ serial numbers, rendering them difficult to trace. Tracing firearms in the law enforcement arena could be different than in the military arena, and he was willing to discuss that issue with interested parties, as well.
MARIA MARTINEZ GRAMUGLIA ( Argentina), aligning herself with MERCOSUR’s statement, said that Argentina’s laws were in line with the instrument. Manufacturers of weapons had to use reliable markings during all parts of the manufacturing process. Importers also had to follow rigorous marking rules.
She said that the international tracing instrument was indeed a fundamental tool to combat the illegal trade in arms, but its success depended on its full implementation. Argentina was in a position to provide technical assistance to other countries on tracing, marking, record-keeping and related activities.
RITA KAZRAGIENE ( Lithuania), associating herself with the statement by the European Union, said her country had fully supported the instrument since the start of the process. It was essential to have global standards on the marking and tracing of arms and Lithuania would favour a legally-binding document.
She said her country’s national report had been included on the dedicated United Nations website. The country’s arms registry kept records on all weapons. As a manufacturing country, Lithuania believed more cooperation and sharing of experience on imports marking would help combat the illicit trade. Interpol’s electronic records system could provide useful information on arms, as well as on traders and brokers that had been refused licenses.
NICHOLAS MARSH ( Norway) said the adoption of the tracing instrument constituted a milestone in the fight against illegal small arms, but could only be effective if successfully implemented. In order to do that, Governments must obtain the necessary technology to create tamper-proof markings on firearms and develop adequate record-keeping systems to respond adequately to tracing requests. The international community must think creatively about how to use available resources to bolster the capacity of countries to carry out that task.
He said that national reports were a means to assess the effective implementation of the tracing instrument. So far, reporting on that subject had been thin, and for that reason, he reminded all States that the reporting was not voluntary, but a requirement, and the Meeting’s outcome document should reflect that fact.
“Guns don’t kill people, bullets do,” he said. For that reason, the Meeting must consider the issue of ammunition seriously. There were technical differences in the process of marking ammunition versus the marking of firearms. Perhaps, in the future, the Meeting could talk more about “microstamping” and other technologies used for marking ammunition. Since the instrument’s adoption, Norway had been a main sponsor of regional workshops, organized by the Office for Disarmament Affairs.
SIRAKORO SANGARE ( Mali) said the tracing of small arms was always important as a way of learning where legal weapons shifted into illegal trade. Adequate tracing could determine who was responsible for diversion into the illegal arms trade and also fight corruption and violence. Traceability and record-keeping went together, and the advance marking of weapons was vital to that process. He called for international assistance to help combat the illicit arms trade.
ROBERTO LAMARCHE ( Dominican Republic) said the outcome document should contain a provision highlighting the need for the tracing instrument to be legally binding, and for the conclusion of another instrument governing ammunition. All States should consider establishing laws making it compulsory for commercial entities to keep records of arms that were imported and exported into the country, and to submit those to the State. States should also consider establishing a central database, accessible to all States. The international community should not waste the opportunity to implement a binding tracing law. The Dominic Republic was currently creating a database of “ballistic prints”, which it could make available to others.
PRABHAT KUMAR ( India) said firearms imported into the country were to be properly marked by weapons importers. Arms dealers were required to keep accurate records. Most weapons seized from terrorists and criminal groups were not marked. Full implementation of the international instrument would go a long way towards fighting international terrorism and crime, he said.
ISRAEL TIKOCHINSKI ( Israel) said that the Instrument was very important, and Israel had participated actively in its negotiations. Marking and record-keeping activities would enhance efforts between States to curb the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons. Israel’s national report was available on its website.
RICARDO MOROTE ( Peru), aligning himself with MERCOSUR, said his country’s national report contained information on how it was implementing the tracing instrument. Peru supported the notion of establishing a legally-binding tracing instrument, and its Government believed that the outcome document should reflect that position. On illicit brokering, international efforts should be directed at improving national laws. As for stockpile management and surplus disposal, Peru believed it was the prerogative of every State to decide how best to carry out that task. In the meantime, the United Nations should continue its role in assisting countries to strengthen their national institutions governing the control of arms.
ERIC YOSHIDA (Bolivia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, and MERCOSUR, said his country was committed to fighting the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons. Its experience with terrorism and organized crime had made it particularly sensitive to the need to eliminate surplus arms and to carefully manage weapons stocks.
He expressed support for the establishment of strict conditions to control arms transfers, including close monitoring of brokering activities. Marking and tracing were also important. However, he cautioned against taking international action that impinged on national sovereignty, although he supported the idea of increased cooperation between States and experts, and specialized agencies.
The Bolivian Government had passed a decree on arms control, by which the armed forces, working together with the Ministry of Interior and the police, would improve border controls, raise standards on record-keeping, and step up seizures of illegal weapons, he said. Bolivia was willing to work with development partners to modernize national systems for marking and tracing, and would also welcome technological support from non-governmental agencies.
GRAPHEL MUSAMBA (Zambia), aligning himself with the statements made on behalf of the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, called for the full implementation of the tracing instrument, in order to curb the illicit arms trade. Cooperation was very important and Zambia subscribed to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Firearms and Related Ammunition. These efforts fed into the Programme of Action. Zambia was looking forward to an outcome document of the Third Biennial Meeting, which could be used to advance the Action Programme.
DORIS GONZALEZ ( Paraguay), aligning herself with the statement made on behalf of MERCOSUR, said her country did not manufacture firearms. In addition, imported weapons had to meet certain requirements to enable the competent authorities to identify each weapon. Paraguay was using technology to advance implementation of the Action Programme. It had a database that included information on the manufacturing, possession and transfer of light weapons within its borders. He repeated the need for technical assistance. He wished to see MERCOSUR’s position incorporated in any final outcome document of the Meeting.
JOSE ESTRADA ( El Salvador) noted that the harmful consequences of the illegal arms trade, with its connection to the drug trade and organized crime, were wide-ranging. Armed violence disturbed a country’s social peace and had adverse effects on the national economy. International and financial assistance for national capacity-building was crucial to help developing countries meet their obligations under the Programme of Action. In particular, manufacturing countries should strengthen institutional controls over arms producers registered to them, to help counter the illegal arms trade. It was equally crucial for the international community to establish a legally-binding tracing instrument, since Governments needed legal backing to fully implement the Action Programme.
He noted that the ready availability of small arms contributed to an atmosphere of criminality, and fostered conflict. For that reason, his country was seeking to establish controls to prevent illicit arms trafficking, through stronger national laws with fewer loopholes. El Salvador was actively destroying illegal weapons seized within its borders. The Government also kept records of those weapons, in a process overseen by a special office.
NOHRA QUINTERO ( Colombia) said that international cooperation was especially vital in the area of marking and tracing and it was also crucial to move ahead on legislation and the harmonization of laws. Uniform standards were important, and markings should include the name of the manufacturer, the country of manufacture, and the serial number. A legally-binding instrument should be adopted on tracing, and cooperation with international agencies, such as INTERPOL, was invaluable. Colombia had been a victim of organized crime, such as drug trafficking, and the cost to developed countries of illegal arms was immense. Colombia welcomed the recommendations made by MERCOSUR and believed that the implementation of the Action Programme should be accelerated.
MICHAEL HASENAU ( Germany) said that, despite provisions in various regional and international agreements, tracing mechanisms were not yet fully sufficient to reliably trace arms and ammunition from their production through to various owners. The adoption of the international instrument in 2005 represented a major contribution towards combating and controlling illicit arms trafficking.
He said that marking was the basis for tracing illicit small arms and light weapons, and essential to national efforts towards introducing sound stockpile management. Registration into a national database was vital to any marking and tracing process; it was needed to monitor arms and ammunition stockpiles. Tracing provided a “trail of ownership” to conduct criminal investigations, while the marking of ammunition was an essential prerequisite for tracing illicit diversion. International cooperation on marking, tracing and record-keeping must be enhanced, and training was crucial for all marking and tracing efforts. Germany had paid particular attention to training requirements.
FRANCIS SANG, Executive Secretary of the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA), noted that the international tracing instrument, adopted by the General Assembly on 8 December 2005, committed States to mark existing stocks of weapons held by Governments, armed and security forces to reduce the chances of their flow to war zones and the illicit market. That was a noble cause in the efforts to reduce the serious negative impact of illicit arms proliferation on global populations. However, it remained a matter of concern in his region -- the Great Lakes region, Horn of Africa and bordering States -- that the instrument was still not legally-binding. He, thus, called on Meeting participants to ask that the necessary process be launched to make it legally-binding.
He said that, as most illicit weapons first entered the market legally and then were diverted to the illicit trade, the implementation of the tracing instrument would help States close off transfer channels for illicit weapons, as well as enable arms suppliers and recipients to exercise sufficient control over their arms trade, in accordance with national export and import legislation. Despite that challenge, the countries of the region had made commitments and had begun to mark weapons in State possession.
He said that the Regional Centre had purchased electronic arms-marking machines for each Member State and computers for database creation, with the help of the United States and Germany, through an East African Community project on small arms and light weapons (Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) (EAC-GTZ). The marking of Government-held stocks was in line with the Nairobi Protocol and the regional best-practice guidelines. Marks would be on exposed surfaces, conspicuous enough to be noted without technical aids or tools, easily recognizable, readable, durable and technically recoverable. The marks would include the country “ISO” code, which indicated the regional code, national code and, if available, the arms serial number. He supported development of regional data creation and management software for national-level use. He noted with concern, however, that Member States’ efforts would not yield much if manufacturers and suppliers did not comply with the instrument’s provisions that arms be marked at the source before transfer to a purchasing entity. He called on producers to comply with the marking requirements.
NATHALIE WEIZMANN, International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC), urged countries to gather weapons used during armed conflicts. She also suggested that Government experts meet on a regular basis to share information.
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