THREAT POSED TO INTERNATIONAL PEACE BY UNCONTROLLED TRADE IN SMALL ARMS CANNOT BE OVEREMPHASIZED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD AS IT HOLDS DAY-LONG DEBATE ON ISSUE
THREAT POSED TO INTERNATIONAL PEACE BY UNCONTROLLED TRADE IN SMALL ARMS CANNOT BE OVEREMPHASIZED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD AS IT HOLDS DAY-LONG DEBATE ON ISSUE
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5881st Meeting (AM & PM)
THREAT POSED TO INTERNATIONAL PEACE BY UNCONTROLLED TRADE IN SMALL ARMS CANNOT
BE OVEREMPHASIZED, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD AS IT HOLDS DAY-LONG DEBATE ON ISSUE
Some 50 Speakers Examine Means of Intensifying Fight against Illicit Trade
With up to 875 million small arms and light weapons in circulation worldwide and responsible for over half a million deaths each year, the Security Council today examined the means of intensifying the fight against their illegal proliferation, being told that the threat to international peace and security posed by the uncontrolled trade cannot be overemphasized.
The Council heard from almost 50 speakers in today’s debate, with particular emphasis placed on fostering cooperation among national authorities; enhancing synergies among various bodies involved in the issue, including the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Peacebuilding Commission; and strengthening the international framework for combating the illegal proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Among existing international instruments to address the problem, the speakers discussed the impact 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 so-called “Firearms Protocol” to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the General Assembly’s International Tracing Instrument and the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.
While noting that the implementation of the Programme of Action had resulted in enhanced awareness of the small arms issues and creation of mechanisms supporting its implementation, many speakers insisted that much more remained to be done. Many country representatives expressed concern that, while politically binding, the Programme of Action was not a legally binding instrument.
With easy availability and high demand for small arms -- which several speakers characterized as today’s weapons of mass destruction, particularly in Africa -- they insisted on the need to develop effective global norms and agreements to prevent and detect illegal transfers of weapons and ammunition. In that connection, there was wide support for efforts towards the elaboration of an arms trade treaty to standardize the international trade in conventional arms and ensure that small arms and light weapons did not end up in the wrong hands.
High hopes were expressed in connection with the Programme of Action’s upcoming review conference in July as an important opportunity to advance the fight against the illicit trade in small arms. Regretting the lack of consensus during the previous biennial meeting in 2006, the United Kingdom’s representative expressed hope that this year all Member States would restore the reputation of the United Nations as a primary forum for addressing the small arms issues by agreeing on a practical outcome document, setting the framework for subsequent years, outlining best practices and identifying areas requiring particular attention.
Presenting the views of the European Union, the representative of Slovenia said that, in order to make real progress, States should focus on strengthening the physical security and stockpile management; surplus destruction; marking and tracing; strengthening export and border control; and controlling brokering activities. States also needed to curb the diversion of legal weapons and ammunition into illicit markets.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that the job of illegal brokers had been made easy, because only 40 countries had laws governing their activities. Tighter control over their activities was, thus, necessary, as was restricting their number. His country had dealt with the issue by allowing only one State intermediary to act as an arms broker. It was equally important to implement international instruments to identify and trace small arms and light weapons, and prevent the use of expired licenses to trade in them. More controls should be imposed on the transfer of weapons to non-State end-users and to promote conditions for safe storage of weapons.
Noting the Secretary-General’s recommendations to create end-user certificates, the United States representative cautioned that illicit brokers were able to produce forgeries. What countries needed was a robust end-user monitoring system, in which they conducted pre- and post-shipment inspections, as well as random inspections following shipment. The purpose of such inspections would be to verify that the weapons had not been transferred without prior approval.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s 13 recommendations on curbing illicit proliferation of small arms, Hannelore Hoppe, Director and Deputy to the High Representative, Office for Disarmament Affairs, said that 6 of them directly addressed the Security Council, including the proposal to encourage strengthened cooperation among sanctions and monitoring groups, peacekeeping missions, States and regional and international organizations.
Other recommendations related to the need to strengthen the synergies between arms embargoes and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts; encourage the use of the new International Tracing Instrument and INTERPOL’s global police communication system; increasingly apply the practice of linking arms embargo exceptions with security sector reform; and encourage States to enhance their efforts to standardize end-user certificates. The Council might wish to consider those recommendations, where it deemed relevant, she said.
The Council President, South Africa’s representative, in his national capacity, supported arms embargoes that contributed to lasting peace and stability and said that peacekeeping operations must be widely backed by the United Nations system in terms of resources, so that their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration components could be carried out effectively. In that regard, the recommendation on the need for increased practical cooperation between international and national components of peacekeeping missions was welcome. In addition, the Council would need to consider ways to strengthen the synergies between arms embargoes and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts, and to create dedicated units within peacekeeping missions to monitor arms embargoes.
Also speaking today were representatives of Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Libya, Viet Nam, Panama, Croatia, Belgium, France, Indonesia, Italy, China, Argentina, Mexico, Israel, Honduras, Japan, Kenya, Benin, Brazil, Guatemala, Netherlands, Congo, Iceland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Canada, Ecuador, Chile, Austria, Peru, Philippines, Switzerland, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Australia, Sri Lanka, Malawi, Liechtenstein, Jamaica, Uganda, Uruguay, Lesotho, Colombia and Syria.
A concluding statement was also made by Daniel Prins, Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch of the Office for Disarmament Affairs.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and suspended at 1:05 p.m. It reconvened at 3 p.m. and adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
For the first open debate on small arms since March 2006 (see Press Release SC/8667 of 20 March 2006), the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on Small arms (document S/2008/258), which was submitted in compliance with a request made in presidential statement S/PRST/2007/24, which asked for a report on a biennial basis containing the analysis, observations and recommendations on the issue, as well as observations on 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 report states that, while a build-up of small arms alone may not create the conflicts in which they are used, their excessive accumulation and universal availability tends to aggravate conflicts and lengthen them. Most present-day conflicts are fought mainly with small arms and light weapons. They are broadly used in inter-State conflict and are the weapons of choice in civil wars and for terrorism, organized crime and gang warfare.
As the dividing line between underdevelopment, instability, fragility, crisis, conflict and war are becoming increasingly blurred, contemporary conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts requires multidimensional responses, according to the report.
The report discusses various aspects of the issue of small arms and light weapons, with an emphasis on the negative impact that illicit small arms have on security, human rights and social and economic development, in particular in areas of crisis and in post-conflict situations. It analyses global instruments of relevance in stemming the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms, including the previously mentioned Programme of Action.
In his report, the Secretary-General makes 13 recommendations. Because the limited progress in stemming the illicit trade in small arms is partly due to a structural lack of data, as well as a lack of coordination and capacity, the Secretary-General recommends that States enhance their efforts to collect, maintain and share data, and that States in a position to do so should increase their support for research on the distribution and impact of small arms, including assessment of the key variables of age and sex. Key quantitative indicators should be developed and used as a base against which to set measurable goals.
The Secretary-General recommends that efforts by States and regional and international organizations to curb the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms should be based on the acknowledgement that security, development and human rights are interconnected. National small arms action plans should, therefore, be integrated into peacebuilding efforts, broader poverty reduction strategies and human security frameworks.
The Secretary-General suggests that the Security Council may wish to encourage a strengthened practical cooperation among relevant sanctions monitoring groups, peacekeeping missions, Member States and their investigative authorities, as well as relevant regional and international organizations. Peacekeeping missions mandated to monitor arms embargoes should increasingly assign that task to a dedicated unit equipped to carry it out.
The Council may also wish to further strengthen synergies between a United Nations arms embargo and possible disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts and, in that case, request the establishment of a baseline arms inventory, as well as arms marking and registrations systems. Member States and peacekeeping missions should, where relevant, be encouraged to use the new International Tracing Instrument and the INTERPOL global police communications system. The Secretary-General further recommends that destruction of surplus ammunition stockpiles be a priority for relevant peacekeeping missions and Governments.
Where relevant, the Council may wish to consider applying more regularly its practice of linking arms embargo exceptions with security sector reform, according to the Secretary-General. States should be encouraged to significantly enhance their efforts to verify end-user certificates. They should develop an international framework for authentication, reconciliation and standardization of end-user certificates. The Peacebuilding Commission, the Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict should increase cooperation on the nexus of children and small arms.
Noting that instruments such as the Programme of Action assume that States have the capacity to undertake comprehensive measures pertaining to the illicit trade in small arms, but that that is often not the case, the Secretary-General recommends that parties in a position to do so should provide comprehensive assistance to States requesting support.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s report, HANNELORE HOPPE, Director and Deputy to the High Representative, Office for Disarmament Affairs, said the threat to international peace and security posed by the uncontrolled trade in small arms and their excessive accumulation and proliferation could not be overemphasized. The report discussed various aspects of the issue, with an emphasis on the negative impact that illicit small arms had on security, human rights and social and economic development, in particular in areas of crisis and post-conflict situations. It also analysed global instruments of relevance in stemming the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms, including the United Nations Programme of Action.
She said the report placed particular emphasis on fostering enhanced cooperation and assistance among national authorities; enhancing synergies between various United Nations bodies involved in the issue, including the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Peacebuilding Commission; exploring possibilities for further improving the monitoring of Security Council arms embargoes; developing forms of standardization of end-user certificates; drawing urgent attention to the destruction of surplus ammunition stockpiles and stockpile management; encouraging the development of measurable goals for reducing arms violence; and building capacity for States that needed it.
The document underscored the importance of developing practical exchanges between the Council and the General Assembly on stemming illicit flows of arms and ammunition to areas of crisis and conflict, she added. In that regard, the Secretary-General considered it promising that the Council had requested a report on the issue on a biennial basis, following the same two-year cycle as the meetings under the Programme of Action.
The report drew attention to the fact that the expanded United Nations Register of Conventional Arms could be instrumental for the Council and the efforts undertaken in the framework of the Programme of Action, since it had opened the possibility for States to report on man-portable air defence systems and small arms. Finally, the report presented a total of 13 recommendations with respect to the negative effects of illicit small arms. Six of them directly addressed the Security Council, which it might wish to consider, where it deemed relevant. Those included the proposals to encourage strengthened cooperation between its sanctions and monitoring groups, peacekeeping missions, States and regional and international organizations; strengthen the synergies between its arms embargoes and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts; encourage States and peacekeeping operations to use the new International Tracing Instrument and INTERPOL’s global police communication system; increasingly apply its practice of linking arms embargo exceptions with security sector reform; and encourage States to enhance their efforts to certify and standardize end-user certificates.
The Secretary-General was encouraged by the continued efforts of the Council to address the challenges posed by illicit small arms and light weapons in the context of matters under its consideration, she said. On his part, the Secretary-General was committed to further improving coordination within the United Nations system, with a view to strengthening its action regarding small arms issues. In that regard, he had identified reviving the United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms mechanism as one of his priorities in the field of disarmament for this year.
MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said the question of small arms and light weapons deserved to be at the core of the Council’s work, since preventing their spread was fundamental to conflict prevention. But, States must keep in mind that the struggle against the proliferation of such arms and weapons was necessarily complex, touching on the need to maintain the territorial integrity of countries. It also touched on the issue of human rights violations and socio-economic development. Efforts to create a legal framework for international cooperation must be stepped up. Already, the 2001 Programme of Action had contributed to greater awareness of the problem’s magnitude. But, concerted action was needed to make good on the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition (Firearms Protocol), the 2001 Programme of Action and the General Assembly decision on the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons, and to ensure adherence to the Council’s arms embargoes.
He said it was important to recognize that local conflicts had the potential to spread regionally. West Africa had a legal and institutional framework to destroy surplus stock of such arms and weapons. The Security Council must support such efforts and pay greater heed to the role of regional and subregional organizations. United Nations regional offices and the Secretary-General’s representatives could play a significant role on the ground. Stronger laws were needed to control the import of small arms, coupled with a commission to oversee its implementation. Indispensable to the goal of monitoring the spread of small arms and light weapons was a legally binding international instrument governing the tracing and marking of such weapons, with a provision on brokering. Also, countries should be given assistance to strengthen their capacity to patrol their borders and to destroy surplus stocks. There was a need to improve the synergy between groups, such as INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization. Also, the Council should be more vigilant in enforcing its arms embargoes and in demanding verification and end-user certificates.
JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said that, for 60 years now, disarmament had been a priority for his country, but small arms were still compromising its security. In fact, few issues encountered so many barriers as arms reduction. Illicit trafficking was an important factor, with enough small arms and light weapons manufactured each year to kill humanity twice over. For that reason, he welcomed the theme of today’s discussion. In fact, the Council was a powerful forum to address the issue.
Since the item of small arms and light weapons had been included on the international agenda, important instruments had been produced, including the Programme of Action, he continued. However, as the Secretary-General had stated, it had not generated all the necessary action. One of the reasons there had been little progress was the fact that it was not legally binding. Mere declarations of principles would not suffice. A while ago, Costa Rica had launched the idea of adopting a code of conduct, leading to a resolution of the General Assembly at its sixtieth session, and he hoped that a binding instrument would be adopted in the future.
Continuing, he supported several recommendations of the Secretary-General, including those on the need to encourage exchanges between relevant bodies, including the General Assembly and Security Council; incorporation of the issue in the mandates of political missions for peacekeeping and peacebuilding; strengthening of the elements of disarmament and destruction of stocks in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes; and revitalization of the monitoring mechanism and establishment of arms embargoes. Those were clearly within the purview of the Security Council.
GIADALLA A. ETTALHI ( Libya) noted that the latest studies on the issue of small arms and light weapons showed that socio-economic damage to Africa amounted to more than $18 billion. It was deeply worrying that around 7.5 million units were being produced annually, which exceeded the need of States for legitimate self-defence. According to the Secretary-General, more than 1,000 firms were involved in producing those weapons in more than 100 countries, all of whom were Member States. Those States needed to be made accountable for the existence of surplus weapons, and should take responsibility for the illicit spread of such arms.
He expressed agreement with the representative of Costa Rica, who had said that controlling the spread of small arms and light weapons was a question of political will. That work fell beyond than the Council’s mandate, however; other bodies, such as the General Assembly and the Peacebuilding Commission must also be involved. Success of United Nations in dealing with risks involved in small arms and light weapons required consensus among Member States on ways to implement the 2001 Programme of Action, while respecting the right of nations to self-defence and self-determination, and the rights of people to resist occupation.
He voiced support for all initiatives on marking and tracing such weapons, and while the current instrument on that subject was non-binding, it was hoped that Member States would implement its provisions. Libya was carrying out international norms related to marking, while working with other Arab States to enhance regional cooperation through regular meetings of focal points in charge of identification and tracing. Members of the League of Arab States were also exchanging data on the proliferation of weapons, and had created a depository of laws and texts regarding small arms.
LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) reaffirmed his country’s support for the Programme of Action and said that remarkable efforts had been made by countries in different parts of the world, resulting in enhanced awareness of the need for effective control of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and the birth of mechanisms supporting implementation of the Programme. Much remained to be done about numerous prolonged conflicts and the growing threats of transnational crimes and terrorism, and the United Nations should be supported, so that it could continue playing its central role in promoting and sustaining international cooperation, in that connection. He shared the Secretary-General’s observation that, within the Organization, coordination on the issue of small arms could benefit from further improvement and looked forward to studying specific proposals towards that end.
He said that Viet Nam supported the inclusion of arms embargo monitoring functions in the mandates of peacekeeping missions, as outlined in recommendation 5, given also that the establishment, deployment and extension of such missions must be implemented with respect for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of States on a case-by-case basis. However, it was necessary to further study the feasibility of the development of quantitative indicators in the area of small arms, to be used as a base against which to set measurable goals and set up the deadline of 2015 for that work, as mentioned in recommendation 2. Discussion in the Security Council and the General Assembly in the past years had shown that there were still different views on the matter, and an early consensus was unlikely.
Member States remained central providers of security and that was their sovereign right and responsibility, he continued. Production, importation and retention of small arms and light weapons in particular, and conventional weapons in general, for national defence and security remained the legitimate right of every sovereign State. International cooperation in fighting the illicit trade in small arms and preventing them from falling into the hands of organized criminals and terrorists was needed, but must be in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter. Since the submission of its report on the implementation of the Programme of Action in 2006, his country had been taking various steps at national, regional and international levels to effectively implement it. Up to now, no incident of illegal trade in small arms from or to Viet Nam had been discovered, and the number of criminal cases where such arms were used had been minimized. The safety of the people was ensured, and domestically manufactured small arms were closely managed and properly marked.
RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said that portable arms such as revolvers and landmines had caused a large percentage of deaths, usually that of children and non-combatants. They had proven more devastating that other weapons and constituted weapons of mass destruction. Reducing the remarkably lethal effects of such weapons should be an urgent matter, yet the world knew more about the movement of nuclear weapons than the more portable types of weapons being talked about today. It was also notable that, in some instances, resources meant for socio-economic projects had been diverted to remedy the effects of small arms.
He suggested that the Council form an ad hoc working group to examine the Secretary-General’s latest recommendations regarding the issue and to study the best way to improve implementation of the Programme of Action. Ideas were also needed to guide States in upending drug-trafficking regimes and the trade in materials used to produce weapons. The world needed a binding mechanism to regulate production, trade and transfer of small arms, especially in light of the number of arms embargoes set by the Council that were violated.
NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia) said there was an urgent need for the international community to show courage in dealing with the issue of small arms and light weapons. He stressed the importance of the issue of accumulation of such arms in post-conflict countries and expressed his country’s willingness to significantly contribute to addressing it, since Croatia had extensive experience in tackling problems associated with small arms in a post-conflict society.
The United Nations Programme of Action was a key foundation for strengthened global, regional and national actions on the control of small arms and light weapons, he said. The upcoming biennial meeting to consider its implementation in July this year was of particular importance. One of the items on that meeting’s agenda would be consideration of the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument, which Croatia considered to be an important tool. His country supported the resolution calling for the establishment of a task force for the preparation of an arms trade treaty, thereby supporting international efforts for more effective arms control. Croatia would support a universal, legally binding instrument to regulate the conventional arms trade in all aspects, and welcomed the beginning of the work of the Group of Governmental Experts, in that regard.
Other efforts aimed at increased international cooperation in the field of small arms was also of great value, he continued, including work in the framework of the Group of Experts to consider further steps to enhance international cooperation on small arms. On the global level, he noted the increasing relevance of the Register of Conventional Arms. At the regional level, he supported the efforts aimed at curbing the proliferation of small arms in South-Eastern Europe. For its part, Croatia hosted one of the most successful stability pact projects, the Centre for Security Cooperation. One of the examples of its activities was the holding of a conference on firearms control initiatives this month. Further, Security Council arms embargoes were a powerful tool that could help address the illicit trade and brokering in small arms. He shared the Secretary-General’s view on the increased potential of arms embargoes as a part of post-conflict peacebuilding.
OLIVIER BELLE (Belgium), aligning himself with the statement to be made by Slovenia on behalf of the European Union, noted that small arms and light weapons had claimed more victims than other types of weapons, with a majority of deaths being that of civilians. The Secretary-General’s report had not noted any positive developments in imposing control over their spread, and the need to act was obvious. Instruments were already available to the international community, such as the legally binding embargoes imposed by the Security Council, which needed to be applied more aggressively. The Security Council, peacekeeping missions, Member States and international organizations such as INTERPOL must strengthen the cooperation among them.
He said the world needed a proper system for managing the legal trade in arms through binding instruments that mandated the marking of weapons for tracing and controlling the activities of weapons brokers. Belgium supported the adoption of a weapons trade treaty, with national laws already imposing strict controls with regard to weapons in its territory. Belgium upheld the European Union code of conduct regarding the export of arms, which banned the export of weapons to countries where children were involved in the armed forces. Belgium had contributed €7 billion to implement the objectives of the United Nations Programme of Action relating to small arms and light weapons. It was also supporting the drafting of national plans of action in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, in which those Governments had agreed to cooperate in terms of border control.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) said the damage caused by small arms and light weapons was enormous, particularly in Africa, and among the primary victims of illicit trafficking were the most vulnerable populations. Today’s debate was at the heart of the Council’s activities, as small arms and light weapons were a threat to peace and security. With frequent violations of the embargoes imposed by the Council, those issues should be included in the mandate of peacekeeping missions. He also welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendation for better synergy between the Council and other players.
France was deeply committed to combating small arms and light weapons and had actively contributed to the drafting of Programme of Action, he continued. Following the Programme’s adoption, the European Union had drawn up a code of conduct on small arms and light weapons. Within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), France had put forward an initiative on illicit air transportation, seeking to strengthen the exchange of information in that regard and promote partnership among relevant companies. It also aimed at establishing a guide of best practices.
Within the United Nations, he placed hope on several initiatives in regard to trafficking, he said. Traceability and marking of small arms was one of the key elements of international efforts, and France and Switzerland had proposed an international instrument, in that regard. A second vital target were brokers, and France was involved in drawing up an instrument, in that regard. He also emphasized the importance of munitions and ammunition, as well as their stocks, stressing the need to work on a treaty that would contribute to a responsible transfer of arms. One should not underestimate the magnitude of the challenges lying ahead. The upcoming biennial meeting was important, and he called on all States to become involved.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he favoured enhancing the role of the United Nations in resolving the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. The 2006 Review Conference had only served to reveal a lack of unity in solving the problem, but, even so, he was convinced that the Programme of Action still carried much potential. The upcoming biennial meeting was a time to discuss the Programme’s limitations and to achieve greater clarity on the next steps. Lack of progress could be explained by a dearth of financial resources on the part of developing countries and an absence of qualified personnel. There was also a lack of political will. Donor assistance was needed to step up the slow pace in implementing the International Tracing Instrument. Submission of annual reports on progress in the marking and tracing of small arms had declined steadily, perhaps demonstrating weakened attention.
He said it would be impossible to settle conflicts, eradicate poverty, ensure sustainable development, combat terrorism and ensure international security without being able to deal with the issue of small arms proliferation. The job of illegal brokers had been made easy, because only 40 countries had laws governing their activities. Tighter control over their activities was thus necessary, as was restricting their number. His country had dealt with the issue by allowing only one State intermediary to act as an arms broker. The security of arsenals, and efforts to collect and destroy surplus weapons, was worsening, revealing a need to strengthen national and regional efforts. It was equally important to implement international instruments to identify and trace such weapons, and prevent the use of expired licenses to trade in them. More controls should be imposed on the transfer of weapons to non-State end-users and to promote conditions for the safe storage of weapons by end-users. Also, there should be tighter controls on the re-export of weapons.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia) said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimated that 90 per cent of recent war casualties had been caused by small arms, which were, unfortunately, in demand and easily accessible in civil wars, terrorism, organized crime and gang warfare. In a wider context, such arms were not only a security, but also a development issue. The strategies for dealing with small arms and light weapons should include not only curbing the illicit trade and brokering, but also dealing with existing stockpiles and surpluses of arms and controlling their spread. Such efforts had begun in such places as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and had been met with considerable success. Greater efforts needed to be undertaken to ensure that surplus and excessive stockpiles were destroyed. Global advocacy could contribute to raising public awareness on the importance of addressing those issues. It was necessary to develop innovative and robust methods for measuring systematically the scope, scale, distribution and impact of armed violence. Concerted efforts were also needed to develop economies, eliminate poverty and create sustainable development, particularly in poor countries, in view of the danger posed by conflicts.
While extremely important on its own, the consideration of the issue in the Council should always be in synergy with the General Assembly, he continued. The Assembly had provided important norm-setting initiatives, including the 2001 Programme of Action and instruments on international tracing and illicit brokering. The Secretary-General had submitted some far-reaching recommendations that could be of benefit to the process. The Council should, on its part, contribute to the ongoing effort by closely considering those recommendations, particularly those regarding liaising with the Assembly; improving the effectiveness of arms embargoes; incorporating relevant measures in peacekeeping mandates; and enhancing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes in countries where the United Nations had missions and in which the Council had a mandate, through establishing a baseline arms inventory, as well as arms marking and registration.
Stressing the great importance of coherence and cooperation among all relevant actors, he said that a comprehensive approach would strengthen the Programme of Action’s full implementation. He supported the creation of a common framework for connecting needs with resources in order to enhance the capacity of States to implement the Programme of Action. He found particularly useful the electronic database that the Secretariat was working on for coordinating small arms programming. Indonesia was in favour of an early multilateral negotiation to establish a legally binding instrument to curb the illicit transfer of small arms, including ammunition. However, the legitimate defence and security needs of States should be also taken into account.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) said the Secretary-General’s report had effectively outlined the steps States needed to take, and listed the tools they had at their disposal to enforce United Nations arms embargoes. For its part, the United States was a key player in the international effort to reduce the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. For example, it applied strict controls on weapons transfers, engaged in robust end-user monitoring and had strong broker controls and stockpile management systems in place. Just as the Council had had encouraged all States to mark all weapons and to trace illicit small arms, the United States was helping to trace 50,000 weapons per year.
He noted the Secretary-General’s recommendations to create end-user certificates, but cautioned that illicit brokers were able to produce forgeries. What countries needed was a robust end-user monitoring system, in which they conducted pre- and post-shipment inspections, as well as random inspections following shipment. The purpose of such inspections would be to verify that the weapons had not been transferred without prior approval. He went on to note that examples drawn in the Secretary-General report were from places where there was a complete or near-complete breakdown of the law. “Hard cases did not make good law,” he said, and as such, the Council should not look to those cases as a source of rules for general application in future arms embargoes or peacekeeping operations.
Those examples had also inferred that the Security Council and peacekeeping missions should play an enforcement role, which was not the case, he said. Enforcement was primarily the duty of Members States, through a comprehensive set of national laws. He cautioned against actions that might increase the burden of States. More assistance, not reports and meetings, were required to reach the goal of eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. He favoured standardizing practices only if there were indications that such standards would be effective and did not duplicate already existing best practices.
KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said her country had submitted comprehensive implementation reports on the Programme of Action and the Tracing Instrument and urged all countries to follow that example. She regretted the lack of consensus during the previous review of the Programme, saying that this year’s event was an important opportunity to advance the fight against the illegal trade in small arms. She hoped all Member States could agree on the need to restore the reputation of the United Nations as a primary forum for addressing the issues. This year’s biennial conference should conclude with a practical outcome document, setting the framework for subsequent years, outlining best practices and identifying areas requiring particular attention.
Outlining her country’s efforts, she said the United Kingdom had contributed some $60 million to conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction, assisted non-governmental organizations and other partners in collecting weapons and was conducting awareness campaigns. The country was also playing a leading role in developing international standards of regulation and was committed to halting irresponsible trading in conventional weapons. In that connection, she stressed the importance of promulgating an effective arms trade treaty to prevent irresponsible trading and welcomed recent steps in that regard.
The United Kingdom was fully committed to other areas related to small arms and light weapons, as well, she added. She welcomed the recommendations of the Group of Experts to enhance international cooperation to halt illegal brokering, and stressed the importance of ammunitions issues. Her country strongly supported the development of a United Nations register of conventional arms. The international community must not close its eyes to the impact of illegal trading in small arms, which adversely affected security, human rights and development -- the issues at the core of the United Nations Charter. Continued work in that regard was imperative.
ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) said the multifaceted nature of the threat posed by small arms and light weapons called for a holistic response. Italy supported the implementation of the United Nations Firearms Protocol, whose universalization was considered essential. Similar support was voiced for the international instrument to trace such arms and weapons. For its part, the European Union had adopted a joint action allocating €300,000 to promote compliance with the Tracing Instrument. Italy looked forward to a successful outcome of the third biennial meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Programme of Action in July, and stood by the decision to focus deliberations on international cooperation, brokering, tracing and stockpile management.
He said it was important to increase cooperation between INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which had developed practices touching on the goal of eradication of the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. The OSCE handbook of best practices was also notable for offering comprehensive terms of reference for national legislation. Meanwhile, the Peacebuilding Commission could play a decisive role in addressing the problem’s socio-economic dimensions, through its strategic integrated peacebuilding frameworks, as elaborated with local authorities. It was also important to bear in mind the need to devote attention to gender-sensitive approaches to solutions. Finally, he noted with interest an initiative undertaken by the United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms programme to draft common standards.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that, in addressing the issue of small arms and light weapons, the Council should coordinate with other United Nations bodies to complement and promote each other’s work. The issue of small arms had drawn increasing attention from the international community, which had made many efforts in recent years and achieved some progress in seeking solutions. Among useful instruments, he mentioned the Firearms Protocol, the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument. Although no final document had been adopted at the Programme of Action review conference in 2006, the Programme still provided important guidance to the international endeavours to combat the illicit trade in small arms. This year’s review conference represented an important opportunity for the parties concerned, and he looked forward to the success of that meeting.
Turning to China’s national experience, he said the country had adopted a series of specific measures in domestic legislation, law enforcement and capacity-and institution-building. It had also actively participated in international exchanges and cooperation through holding international seminars, providing assistance to several countries and regions, and keeping regular operational links with the relevant departments of other countries and international organizations. China was of the view that comprehensive and effective implementation of the Programme of Action and other relevant international instruments, strengthening of capacity-building and continued promotion of multilateral processes on small arms and light weapons were of great significance to maintaining regional stability, bolstering economic development and building a harmonious world of lasting peace.
Council President DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa), speaking in his national capacity, recalled the Secretary-General’s characterization of the issue of small arms and light weapons as complex, because it had a direct bearing on the areas of sustainable development, human rights, poverty and underdevelopment. Small arms had become the weapon of choice for warlords, some of whom viewed children as their preferred soldiers, particularly in Africa. South Africa preferred the Programme of Action on the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons to be far more encompassing. At present, that Programme of Action provided for international assistance and cooperation, and the coordination of efforts, which, along with the issue of stockpile management, would be a key focus at the upcoming third biennial meeting of States on its implementation. It was important that the General Assembly have primary responsibility to oversee and monitor implementation.
He said the issue of small arms and light weapons also had a direct bearing on two aspects of the Security Council’s mandate: arms embargoes and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts. South Africa supported arms embargoes that contributed to lasting peace and stability. Peacekeeping operations must be widely backed by United Nations systems in terms of resources, so that their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration components could be carried out effectively. In that regard, the Secretary-General’s recommendations to the Council on the need for increased practical cooperation between international and national components of peacekeeping missions was welcome. In addition, the Council would need to consider ways to strengthen the synergies between arms embargoes and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts, and to create dedicated units within peacekeeping missions to monitor arms embargoes.
JORGE ARGÜELLO ( Argentina) said the synergies between a United Nations arms embargo and the activities in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration needed to be strengthened. The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was complex and multidimensional, involving questions of security, conflict prevention, crime prevention and humanitarian and development issues. Tackling the problem required joint action by States, intergovernmental organizations and civil society. The Security Council, the General Assembly and the Peacebuilding Commission must analyse ways to increase their interaction on the issue, including to determine the links among illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, the illicit exploitation of natural resources and armed conflicts.
He voiced support for the Council’s decision to request biennial reports on the issue of small arms, in the same cycle as the meetings related to the Programme of Action. Argentina believed in strengthened international cooperation to respond to the problem and that more technical and financial assistance was needed to support local, national and regional efforts. It was also important to address the issues of marking and tracing, control of transfers and the spread of illicit ammunition. To that end, the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms could be seen as an instrument to prevent conflict and encourage transparent behaviour at the State level.
CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said his country attributed particular importance to today’s debate, because of the great impact of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons on international security. There was no clear figure on the exact number of small arms circulating in the world, and it was the only category of arms that was not under State monopoly. The lack of control was exacerbated by illicit trade and brokerage, as well as the huge disparity in national legislations to regulate civilian possession. Small arms were the weapon of choice in civil conflicts, as well as in terrorism, organized crime and gang warfare. Latin America was one of the regions most affected by the illicit trade, being the region with the highest number of deaths by firearms.
In Latin America, and Mexico in particular, one could observe the damage caused by organized crime linked to drug trafficking, which utilized those weapons regularly in daily operations. A comprehensive approach was needed at all levels to address the problem. One question that required a solution related to the disparities in national legislation governing arms possession. If people acquired arms in countries where laws did not allow State control, they could easily then cross borders -- raising security issues that not only affected the receiving country. The situation became even more complicated when organized crime intervened and established a link between drugs and arms. It was important to have bilateral and regional coordination mechanisms in that regard, which had been emerging gradually, with promising results. Combating the illicit trade should be a priority for the international community, as it was for the Government of Mexico.
Stressing the importance of this year’s Programme of Action review meeting, he supported full implementation of the Programme, follow-up mechanisms and resolutions adopted by the General Assembly. Mexico had presented its national report on the implementation of the Programme. Its efforts included large-scale operations against organized crime and awareness campaigns. He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation regarding the need for the Council to encourage States to adopt measures to cooperate in the verification of end-user certificates. Along with other countries of the region, Mexico had insisted on the vital importance of the Tracing Instrument becoming legally binding. Among the aspects where further joint efforts were required, he mentioned international cooperation on marking and tracing, measures to regulate intermediaries and end-user certificates, as well as management of stockpiles.
On the other hand, he added, the Programme of Action had some weaknesses, starting with the fact that it was not legally binding. Mexico regretted that it referred to the issue of irresponsible possession of weapons in the hands of civilians only sparingly and the effects of those weapons in humanitarian terms. It was also necessary that larger producers of such weapons should assume their responsibility and increase the control measures of their production and export. Also, the idea of an international treaty on the arms trade was a good initiative.
DAN GILLERMAN ( Israel) said his country viewed the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and in particular the transfer of such weapons to terrorists, as an imminent threat to international peace and security. Israel had consistently placed the issue of preventing the illicit proliferation of small arms high on its national agenda. The best way to curb it was through strong national commitment and determination. In that regard, Israel’s small arms export control policy included tight controls aimed, among others, at the prohibition of exports to regions or States under Security Council arms embargo, non-State entities, subversive and underground movements, terrorist or guerrilla groups, criminal organizations and to areas of ongoing armed conflict.
In Israel’s region, the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons presented a growing danger due to the role of terrorist organizations, he continued. The terrorism and violence carried out by extremists against Israel -– and civilians in particular -– was enabled by the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian areas and Hizbullah in Lebanon. While State sponsorship of terrorism was not a new challenge, per se, the increase in size, operational capacity and military technology of non-State actors was a reminder that terrorist organizations could not exist without the support of States. Two extremist States in the region, Syria and Iran, were heavily invested in transferring a variety of weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon, including small arms and light weapons. Iran also trained terrorists. The international community must press for an end to State sponsorship of terrorism. Among other threats, he also described daily attempts to smuggle small arms and light weapons by land via underground tunnels and through abusing humanitarian convoys, and underscored the threat that small arms posed to peacekeepers.
The Programme of Action had contributed significantly to international arms control efforts in the past few years, he continued. He looked forward to this year’s review conference, calling for an operational and action-oriented meeting. Israel was ready to continue the efforts to identify standards for transfer control to reduce the illicit trade in small arms. Such standards could include the implementation of the marking and tracing instrument, full compliance with arms embargoes, assessment of the risk of diversion to illicit end-users, a ban on the transfer of man-portable air defence systems to non-State actors, satisfactory management and control of stockpiles and other similar measures.
SANJA ŠTIGLIC ( Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the easy availability of small arms and light weapons, their associated ammunition and explosives was a fuelling factor for the vast majority of conflicts. In December 2005, the European Union had developed a strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of such arms and weapons, placing all political and financial instruments related to fighting that scourge under a single heading. It remained a major financial contributor in Africa, for example, where it was supporting stockpile destruction, and would continue to provide such support to Governments, non-governmental organizations and regional organizations in all aspects of the fight against trafficking and misuse of small arms and light weapons.
She noted that States would soon convene the third biennial meeting and voice support for the idea of focusing on select issues for purposes of improving implementation of the Programme of Action. The European Union shared the view that, in order to make real progress, States should focus on strengthening physical security and stockpile management; surplus destruction; marking and tracing; strengthening export and border control; and controlling brokering activities. States also needed to curb the diversion of legal weapons and ammunition into illicit markets.
JORGE ARTURO REINA IDIAQUEZ ( Honduras) said that small arms and light weapons had the most devastating impact in poor and economically disadvantaged countries. Honduras had not been spared the negative effects of their illicit proliferation and had adopted national, regional and international measures seeking to address the problem. Over the past five years, the Government had sought to improve national legislation regulating possession of arms and establishing a reliable database in that regard. While some 151,000 small arms and light weapons had been registered, it had not been possible to ensure total control over those weapons. In that regard, it was important to take into account the complexity of the issue, which also related to the aspects of trafficking and criminal use of small arms in transnational organized crime. The problem was beyond national context and, thus, had to be addressed at regional and subregional levels.
With the strengthening of democracy in Central America, demobilization of the regular army had been carried out, he continued, adding that the process had not been carried out properly, leaving thousands of former armed personnel without employment. Those people often ended up recruited into organized crime. That experience should be an indication of what should not be done.
He added that, at the regional level, his country was party to the inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Illicit Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosive and other Related Materials. The countries of the region were seeking to establish substantive measures to facilitate cooperation for better exchange of information and experience, criminalization of offences, marking of arms, technical cooperation and assistance, among other things. Honduras supported the declaration of the regional conference for the implementation of the Programme of Action. Within the United Nations system, he also emphasized the importance of the Firearms Protocol to the Organized Crime Convention.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) noted that conflicts were now fought primarily with small arms and light weapons, and their widespread use had given rise to socio-economic problems, such as child solders and disruption of post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery. Japan had actively participated in United Nations efforts to tackle the issue of small arms and light weapons by promoting a General Assembly resolution on the subject almost every year since 1995, and together with Colombia and South Africa since 2001. The adoption of the International Tracing Instrument in 2005 and submission of the report on illicit brokering by the Group of Governmental Experts in 2007 was welcome.
He stressed that the most important task at hand was to make real progress in implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument. International cooperation and assistance should be strengthened to support the needs of countries and regional organizations to build their capacity. For its part, Japan had held a subregional workshop in Central and West Africa on tracing, and was helping countries in Asia and Africa in managing stockpiles, destroying illicit small arms and light weapons and imposing import and export controls. It was also helping to build the capacity of countries in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts. Most recently, Japan had supported the establishment of national commissions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire to tackle the problem. He also voiced support for the creation of a legally binding instrument on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, and said an arms trade treaty would be a valuable initiative to that end.
ZACHARY D. MUBURI MUITA ( Kenya) said that, judging by the number of deaths caused by small arms in Africa, they could be called weapons of mass destruction. The circulation and trafficking in small arms and light weapons in the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and all the neighbouring States had played a significant role in undermining peace and intensifying violence and crime. They had also fuelled regional wars. It was little wonder that the African continent might not achieve the Millennium Development Goals, partly due to the problems associated with small arms.
The countries of the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions had issued the Nairobi Declaration, establishing the Secretariat on Small Arms as a regional platform to contain the problem. In June 2005, the Third Ministerial Review Conference of the Nairobi Declaration had adopted an agreement transforming the Secretariat into the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons. That body had done considerable work in coordinating and assisting Member States in implementing the Programme of Action and relevant resolutions and instruments related to small arms and light weapons. It had also coordinated interaction with national focal points, regional and international agencies, civil society, research institutions, capacity-building and information-sharing.
He went on to outline the work of Kenya’s focal point on small arms and light weapons and said that, at the global level, the international community must agree on practical measures to control their proliferation. Kenya had been at the forefront in supporting the resolution on the arms trade treaty. It was important to put in place a mechanism for responsible trade in small arms and light weapons through a legally binding instrument establishing international standards on import, export and transfer. Such a treaty was feasible and timely, and he implored other States to join in that noble cause. Kenya also supported the Programme of Action, as well as the work of the Group of Experts. He urged other Member States to remain actively engaged in the efforts to combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. A coordinated response at the global, regional, national and local levels was required, and all delegations needed to work together in the spirit of cooperation. That was not an affront to international trade in arms, but a question of being responsible traders and consumers.
JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU ( Benin) said small arms proliferation had a tragic impact on many countries, promoting the emergence of adverse phenomenon that hampered sustainable development. A number of new trends, as highlighted by the Secretary-General, brought particular concern: small arms producers were beginning to work together to increase production; the line between arms trading and brokering had become increasingly blurred; and efforts to collect and destroy small arms brought about mixed results. It was imperative to put effective measures in place to prevent the transfer of arms and to strengthen control over end-users. For its part, Benin was conducting a survey of individual makers of weapons and was monitoring their activities, with the help of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
He said he shared the Secretary-General’s conclusion on the need to deal with underlying factors fuelling the demand for light weapons. Strategies to combat poverty and advance the rule of law needed to pay closer heed to security issues and questions of armed violence. All Member States must play an active role in enforcing Security Council embargoes, since effective regulation could only be strengthened in certain countries if neighbouring States played their part. Regarding the social impact of small arms, he welcomed the emphasis placed on protecting vulnerable individuals, such as women and young girls. The elderly, too, suffered greatly as a result of armed conflict, and attention should also be given to their needs. The international community must reduce the number of arms circulating in the world by raising awareness among weapon-producing countries. Setting quantitative goals would be particularly useful. The Council should work with the Peacebuilding Commission to identify surplus stocks of both arms and ammunition, before proceeding to their destruction.
PIRAGIBE DOS SANTOS TARRAGÔ ( Brazil) said the issue of small arms and light weapons must be discussed in all relevant and appropriate forums. The solution to the problem required the commitment of all States and assistance from civil society, and regional, subregional and other entities. As work to establish effective mechanisms for control of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons proceeded, attention should continue to be devoted to effective monitoring and implementation.
The collective experience in the implementation of the Programme of Action had revealed some of its shortcomings, he continued. The goals of the Programme were far from accomplished and required renewed political will. That was particularly important in light of the upcoming review meeting. Some areas where further progress could be achieved included the development of an international framework for standardization of end-user certificates -– an important step towards improving import and export controls to prevent diversion of small arms to illicit markets. An international instrument was needed that would effectively discipline trade, without interfering with States’ rights to acquire, transfer and retain such weapons. The issue of ammunition needed to be effectively addressed. He also expressed concern about the non-legally binding status of the Programme of Action and Tracing Instrument. Security and safety problems could arise from inadequate procedures of surplus control, but that was within the purview of national authorities, as provided for in the Programme of Action.
The control of firearms in all their aspects was of great importance to Brazil, he said. The country had launched a major nationwide disarmament campaign aiming at promoting the culture of peace and stimulating voluntary disposal, among other things. Some 464,000 small arms had been collected by the campaign, which had also been instrumental in reducing homicide rates in Brazil. Important developments had also been achieved at the subregional and regional levels, particularly in the framework of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR). Multilateral cooperation was required at the international level, as there were still loopholes that allowed diversion of small arms and light weapons to the illegal market.
JOSÉ ALBERTO BRIZ GUTIÉRREZ ( Guatemala) said his Government was engaged in regional arms control efforts involving the exchange of information to facilitate the tracing of illicit weapons. It was felt that the International Tracing Instrument was not having enough impact in the most affected countries, and setting measurable goals would perhaps be useful in that instance. He noted the Secretary-General’s references to the relationship between armed violence and development, adding that Guatemala had hosted a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean countries to create a plan of action to respond to the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development by putting the issue on the development agenda.
He voiced appreciation for efforts expended by the Council’s sanctions committees and their monitoring groups to supervise compliance with its measures against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The Council’s future work should focus on convincing countries that they should create laws to punish those violating Council embargoes. Peacekeeping missions involved in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration should include the destruction of surplus arms as part of their mandate. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had pointed out -- in their Antigua Declaration on the Proliferation of Small Arms -- that the transfer of arms to non-State actors through brokers posed a grave danger, and had put forward a proposal for a binding instrument. More political will was needed to implement the current Programme of Action and to ensure that the United Nations continued to play a key role in combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
FRANK MAJOOR ( Netherlands) said recent developments regarding possible arms shipments to Zimbabwe had shown how topical the issue was in the context of the General Assembly and the Security Council. Building on the statement by the representative of Slovenia on behalf of the European Union, he voiced full support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations and was encouraged by the broad and “fresh” approach taken. In particular, the connection to capacity-building and development; focus on improved cooperation between national law enforcement authorities; and the inclusion of issues such as ammunition flows and poor end-use verification.
He expressed confidence that, in its upcoming biennial meeting of States, the United Nations would propel and steer action on marking and tracing, stockpile management and surplus disposal. Ambitions for a legal instrument on illicit brokering, as recommended by the United Nations Expert Group on the topic, should not be abandoned. It was increasingly understood that problems arising from small arms needed to be embedded in a broader development approach, since armed violence had a major impact on the economies, health sector and general fabric of society in vulnerable countries. The Secretary-General’s recommendations to develop key indicators for small arms dovetailed with efforts by the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development. Signatories to that Declaration had started work on “measurability” in the field of armed violence, and could help bridge the gap between security and development.
LUC JOSEPH OKIO ( Congo) said that most current conflicts were fought essentially with small arms and light weapons. Africa was the largest “arms dump” for such weapons and suffered most from their damaging impact. Taking place a few weeks before the Programme of Action review conference, today’s debate provided an excellent opportunity to consider means of tackling the scourge of small arms and light weapons. Member States should play the primary role in the area of combating the illicit trade, but partnerships were also required to ensure coherent action. He paid tribute to numerous initiatives at various levels in that regard, including several regional and subregional meetings on the matter, as well as the decision by Central African States to prepare a legally binding instrument for control of small arms in their area.
The Council should demonstrate both determination and unity to take active measures to combat the scourge of the illicit trade, he said. The question of small arms proliferation should be dealt with together with the issue of ammunition. He hoped to see a legally binding instrument in that regard. Today, up to 80 per cent of trade in ammunition was not captured by reliable export control mechanisms. It was also important to address the question of the responsibility of manufacturers. Without the participation of manufacturers and the assistance of the States where they were operating, serious results could not be achieved. Also, the question of the respect for embargoes should receive more attention.
In conclusion, he said that the Secretary-General’s 13 recommendations could serve as the basis of important steps forward, if they received unanimous support. While recognizing the importance of the Council’s debate, he regretted that the Council had been unable to send a message that responded to the expectations of the many nations suffering from war.
HJÁLMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland), also speaking on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, said security was a precondition for development and the interlinkages between security issues, humanitarian problems and development were increasingly being recognized. Eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was, therefore, fundamental to improving global security, as well as necessary for social and economic development. He reiterated that the Nordic countries fully supported efforts to deal with the challenges posed by man-portable air defence systems. They also believed that, in addressing the challenges posed by small arms and light weapons, the world must recognize the gender implications of that threat. In turn, the Peacebuilding Commission must take full account of the complexities in carrying out its tasks. The world must also not forget to engage regional institutions and to strengthen partnerships with civil society in resolving the small arms issue.
He said the Nordic countries had met with African colleagues both in Geneva and New York to discuss issues relating to the illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and its negative impact on development in Africa. The third biennial meeting of States could not be allowed to fail, as had been the case in 2006. Nations must aim for a successful meeting that brought Member States together around the priority issues identified by the Chair-designate. The first step would be to take stock of where the world stood in terms of implementing the 2005 instrument on marking and tracing. Most nations would have preferred a legally binding instrument, but the challenge now was to ensure political support for the instrument that had been crafted in its place.
The Nordic countries had long advocated an instrument against illicit brokering, but the United Nations Governmental Group of Experts had drawn other conclusions, he said. That subject should be taken up at the third biennial meeting. A legally binding treaty to regulate the arms trade was needed, alongside the Programme of Action. He looked forward to hearing the outcome of the Group of Experts meeting, aimed at clarifying the modalities for an arms trade treaty.
JOHN MCNEE ( Canada) said that increased interaction between various bodies involved in small arms issues, including the Security Council, General Assembly and Peacebuilding Commission, would allow for creative approaches from a broader perspective. The Secretary-General’s report provided useful recommendations on ways to enhance synergies among those bodies. Targeted sanctions were an important and effective tool for the Security Council. Canada had long sought to improve their effectiveness and to reduce their humanitarian impact, including during its last term on the Council, and had supported a number of studies and other initiatives towards that end. Canada was currently working with the Department of Political Affairs to develop an information management system for use by panels of experts monitoring sanctions.
Continuing, he welcomed the recommendations on possible measures to improve the monitoring of arms embargos and strengthen cooperation between relevant sanctions monitoring groups, peacekeeping missions and Member States. He also supported the inclusion of embargo monitoring functions in the mandates of peacekeeping missions. That task should be given to a dedicated unit equipped to carry it out comprehensively. The management of existing stockpiles and destruction of surplus arms and ammunition must also be a priority. Canada had assisted a number of countries in destroying surplus arms and ammunition. Through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Partnership for Peace Trust Fund, it had been also assisting Afghanistan to render ammunition stockpiles more secure and improve stockpile management. Canada had also contributed to a number of initiatives to examine, promote and strengthen implementation of small arms instruments at the regional and subregional levels, including in Africa and the Americas.
Stressing the need to continue strengthening the global regulatory framework governing small arms transfers, he said that Canada was heartened by the strong support for the Assembly resolution calling for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms. He looked forward to the report of the Expert Group on the feasibility, scope and parameters of an arms trade treaty. Strengthening the global framework, however, should not impede the legitimate interests of legal firearms owners, producers, brokers and retailers. The upcoming biennial meeting of States on the review of the Programme of Action provided an opportunity to take stock of progress and look at remaining challenges. Canada was working with other States, international and regional organizations, and civil society to demonstrate that such meetings could be effective and useful in accelerating global action.
MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA ( Ecuador) said greater cooperation was needed to combat the problem posed by illicit small arms and light weapons, especially in countries in post-conflict situations. The General Assembly could provide the necessary legal framework. However, while it was true that violence could be made worse by poverty, being poor was not the only cause of violence. In some developing countries, urban violence was being brought on by drug trafficking and other problematic cross-border activities. The use of small arms in developed countries was also leading to a great loss of life.
She said she was heartened to learn of Security Council initiatives with respect to monitoring sanctions in post-conflict States. Hopefully, its vigilance would improve in the future. She also stressed that eradicating illicit small arms and light weapons through disarmament, demobilization and reintegration initiatives should be done in specific cases, rather than applied generally. She agreed on the need to strengthen measures to combat trafficking through the International Tracing Instrument, and nations should consider the recommendation of the Governmental Group of Experts to give that instrument some teeth. Ecuador was currently seeing an influx of refugees as a result of armed conflicts beyond its borders, and so believed it was important to deal with the issue multilaterally. Ecuador was meeting its international obligations with regard to the problem through specially designed monitoring systems and would report on progress in July.
HERALDO MUÑOZ ( Chile) said that small arms were difficult to control, as they were easy to transport and hide. Chile had endeavoured to control small arms and light weapons, as well as their ammunition, explosives and related elements. States were leading players bearing the brunt of responsibility for ensuring populations’ security, which must be enjoyed in accordance with the rule of law. Chile assigned the State the role of protecting fundamental freedoms. Protecting people from severe and widespread threats meant creating political, social, environmental, economic, military and cultural systems that gave people the means to live in peace and dignity.
He endorsed all the agreements and resolutions on the subject of conventional weapons, particularly those on the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons. His country attached particular importance to the Programme of Action and was looking forward to the commencement of negotiations on an instrument for tracing illicit small arms. It was important for States to adopt the Programme of Action and be able to incorporate it into their legislation. Assistance to States and international cooperation could be an important incentive for the implementation of that and other international instruments. His country was also prepared to participate in the forthcoming review meeting and activities to be organized in his region to prepare for that event, such as the meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean, to be held in Colombia on 17 and 18 June.
Regarding Security Council embargoes, he said that, if they were to have any real impact there must be effective supervision, starting with strict border controls, allowing for participation by the affected State, respecting its national capacities and providing it with assistance to generate such capacity. There must also be effective sharing of information among various players, including national authorities and peacekeeping missions, as well as international and regional organizations. The Peacebuilding Commission had an important role to play. Among other things, it could generate the necessary synergies between various United Nations organs, so that the countries with which it was dealing in a specific segment could consider including the Programme of Action and other international instruments as effective tools for consolidating peace. Norms and agreements of a global and regional character were needed to prohibit transfers of weapons and ammunition. Adequate international control, based on an integrated and broad strategy, would undoubtedly help to avert threats to international peace and security.
CHRISTIAN EBNER ( Austria) said there had been a lack of tangible progress in global efforts against the illicit accumulation of small arms and light weapons and, as such, his Government had focused its support on regional initiatives that had shown strong potential. Those initiatives had already made significant advances at the regional level. Specifically, Austria had helped to strengthen national and regional legal regimes in Africa and had helped build capacity for the implementation of practical disarmament measures. Capacity-building was also a cornerstone of Austria’s support in the Asia and Pacific region, along with a strengthening of the rule of law in that area.
Closer to home, he said, Austria had supported the destruction of stockpiles and ammunition in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which was in line with the recommendations made by the Secretary-General in his recent report. Two Vienna-based institutions –- OSCE and the Wassenaar Arrangement –- had also made valuable contributions in the fight against the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. Austria’s role as host country to those institutions reflected its conviction that multilateral cooperation was essential in the fight against small arms. Despite such regional successes, progress on a global level remained indispensable. “After all,” he concluded, “in our interconnected world the human security of all of us depends on it.”
JORGE VOTO BERNALES ( Peru) said that, when looking for solutions to problems associated with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, it was necessary to examine patterns of supply and demand. The adoption of the Tracing Instrument in 2005 had been a positive step forward, but it needed to be legally binding in order to be effective. Such an instrument would also need to facilitate cooperation between States, and hopefully the forthcoming report from the Governmental Group of Experts would point the way forward.
He said that more than 875 million small arms and light weapons were in circulation, but because a large number were in private hands, that category of weapons was not widely registered. Greater control over such weapons was essential, especially in light of increased levels of armed crime and the rising number of insurgent groups challenging Governments. Both manufacturing and non-manufacturing States alike should share in the responsibility of eliminating threats to peace and security and, for that reason, they should take steps to adopt mandatory measures to prevent the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons. States had the primary responsibility for controlling the flow of arms, and Peru agreed with measures proposed by the Secretary-General to standardize the end-user certification system. Such measures would go hand in hand with the work being undertaken by the Council to monitor arms embargoes.
HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. ( Philippines) said that so many small arms and light weapons had been produced, with no end to such production. Because they were easily transported and were less expensive than other types of weapons, they were bound to proliferate and could be used in both times of peace and of conflict. It was imperative for all Member States to account for their stockpiles and to ensure that the weapons did not fall into the hands of criminals or terrorist groups. In the Philippines, licensed manufacturers of small arms and light weapons were required to apply a reliable marking system on each weapon, as an integral part of the production process. Extensive records were maintained on the manufacture and distribution of those weapons, and the national police kept all the data on weapons confiscated, captured, surrendered and deposited. That information system had been upgraded recently to verify their routes and destinations. Meanwhile, illegal arms manufacturers were hit by heavy imprisonment and penalties for the manufacture of even weapons parts.
He said the definition of firearms in the Philippines was more strict than the one used in the Programme of Action. On “Small Arms Destruction Day” in July 2007, thousands of confiscated or surrender firearms had been destroyed. Over 50,000 additional weapons had been captured and were scheduled for destruction by the armed forces. The Philippines was undertaking measures to prevent the export of small arms and light weapons that would violate sanctions issued by the United Nations, or contravene bilateral, regional and multilateral commitments. It shared information on illicit transfers through international instruments, such as the agreement on information exchange and establishment of communication procedures. Also, the Philippines was currently making use of end-user certificates, or letters of intent, in the export and import of such weapons.
ANDREAS BAUM ( Switzerland) said his country would continue to support full implementation of the Programme of Action. In that context, particular attention should be given to the International Tracing Instrument. Despite the efforts undertaken so far, the problem remained acute, and further measures were needed, in light of experiences on the ground.
Armed violence represented a major constraint to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, by diverting means and resources away from efforts to improve human security and development, he continued. Switzerland, together with other like-minded countries, had launched, in June 2006, the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development. Open to all States, the initiative had already been endorsed by more than 70 countries, which had committed themselves to achieving measurable reductions in the global burden of armed violence, as well as tangible improvements in human security by 2015.
On the development of key indicators in the area of small arms and light weapons, he said that such indicators should be used as a base for setting measurable goals in the fight against the scourge of armed violence. He shared the Secretary-General’s view that developing measurable goals towards 2015 would offer an opportunity to integrate security-related themes in the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals. Reducing and preventing armed violence in conflict and non-conflict settings was crucial for implementing the Millennium Declaration. The core group of States promoting the implementation of the Geneva Declaration -- coordinated by Switzerland -- was developing a measurability methodology in the field of armed violence. The group had also initiated discussions aimed at developing security for development goals, which should contribute to enhancing security for development as part of the United Nations efforts to promote peace and stability.
RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) said successful implementation of the Programme of Action required national, subregional and regional strategies to complement action at the international level. Meanwhile, collaborative efforts between the Council, the General Assembly and the Peacebuilding Commission should be devised. Nigeria also believed the development and implementation of other international instruments, such as the Firearms Protocol, the International Tracing Instrument, the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms and Security Council embargoes. Producers must furnish accurate data on their trade in those weapons.
He stressed the importance of ensuring the effective collection of weapons, storage and destruction in post-conflict situations in the context of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. The inclusion of such programmes in the policies of States emerging from conflict could help prevent a relapse into conflict. The International Tracing Instrument currently in place was only a stop-gap measure; what the world needed was a legally binding international instrument on the transfer of small arms and lights weapons. Nigeria had joined other countries in the West Africa subregion to implement the ECOWAS moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of light weapons, but that too should be transformed into a legally binding instrument.
AIDA ALZHANOVA ( Kazakhstan) supported the need to develop a legally binding international document regulating production, stockpiles, marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons and related illicit brokering, as well as achieving effective monitoring and compliance with United Nations arms embargoes. Her country stood for strengthening and further development of existing international instruments, including the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument. Revitalization of the Coordinating Action on Small Arms could improve coordination on the issue within the United Nations system. The delegation of Kazakhstan also supported the United Kingdom’s initiative on universal standards in the sphere of transfers of conventional weapons.
She hoped that today’s debate would contribute to the productive work of the upcoming Programme of Action review meeting, she said. Timely submission of national reports on the implementation of the Programme would facilitate effective preparations and process of that review.
FRANCES MARY LISSON ( Australia) said the Council could not work on its own in addressing the small arms threat. It was critical that Member States continue to work actively to implement the Programme of Action, including the marking and tracing instrument. Information-sharing by law enforcement agencies was an integral part of the marking and tracing instrument. At the national level, her country was involved in international cooperation in the tracing of illicit firearms. In 2007, the Australian Crime Commission and the United States authorities had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the sharing of information in relation to firearm trafficking. Australia was also committed to working with regional partners and civil society to address illicit small arms proliferation in the Asia-Pacific and had taken measures to assist regional States, at their request.
The intrinsic link between peacebuilding and development and a secure enabling environment was acknowledged and promoted as a key contribution to the effectiveness of development cooperation, she continued. But, as noted by the Secretary-General in his report, “key quantitative indicators should be developed and used as a basis against which to set measurable goals” in order to facilitate effective project development and evaluation. In March 2008, Australia had funded an activity by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, facilitating the matching of needs to resources for the effective implementation of the Programme of Action in the Pacific region. Australia was also proud to be one of the co-authors of the Assembly resolution 61/89 “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty”. He was encouraged by the spirit of cooperation displayed at the first meeting of the Experts’ Group in February and anticipated further progress on examining the scope, feasibility and parameters of such a treaty at subsequent meetings in May and July.
Some forms of small arms and light weapons posed such a threat that they should be subject to specific transfer controls, she added. In 2005, Australia had announced an initiative to address the threat posed to civil aviation by man-portable air defence systems. The efforts in that regard had culminated in several Assembly resolutions. She warmly welcomed the proposals put forward by the Chair-designate of the next review meeting, the Ambassador of Lithuania, and agreed that the specific themes identified for the meeting -- international cooperation, illicit brokering, stockpile management and the International Tracing Instrument -- represented a strategic focus on key area of the Programme of Action and would facilitate fruitful and targeted discussion.
PRASAD KARIYAWASAM ( Sri Lanka) said the Programme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons had failed to recognize the easy availability of such weapons to non-State actors. The 2006 review conference had failed to make progress on action against non-State actors, and had likewise failed to agree on adequate global measures for its full implementation. Like other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Sri Lanka suffered from violence and terrorism perpetrated by non-State actors using ill-gotten small arms and light weapons, as well as ammunition.
As such, he said, Sri Lanka joined other concerned parties in appealing to the international community to take urgent action to stem the flow of such weapons to those people. Weapons and ammunition should only be held by legal entities and States, who were held accountable for their action under international law and treaty regimes that governed good conduct. However, any measure taken by the United Nations towards that end should not affect the rights of a State to procure and hold arms to ensure the safety of its citizens.
STEVE D. MATENJE ( Malawi) said his country had recently been subject to an increased and alarming flow of small arms and light weapons from conflict-afflicted areas, particularly in Africa. The use of such weapons had destroyed lives and livelihoods, bred insecurity and caused fear and terror among the people. That had imposed enormous costs on the Government, communities and individuals. Malawi called on the international community, led by the United Nations, to intensify efforts to remove illegal arms from African countries and prevent armed violence, in order to help Africa achieve internationally agreed goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Africa could no longer afford the cost of armed conflict, or allow armed conflict to continue to hold back economic growth and livelihoods of the people.
Malawi had endorsed the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, he continued. His country also associated itself with the efforts to establish an effective international regime to regulate the manufacture and transfer of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. Unregulated availability of small arms led to a breakdown of the rule of law, democracy and legitimate State structures. Accordingly, he supported efforts on elaboration of an arms trade treaty, which would be a significant step towards the standardization of international trade in conventional arms and ensuring that small arms did not end up in the wrong hands. He hoped the treaty would control both the supply and demand for conventional weapons and called on African Governments, arms-producing countries and the rest of the international community to work towards achieving a robust arms trade treaty. In the meantime, he supported all the efforts in implementing of the Programme of Action.
GÜNTER OTTO FROMMELT ( Liechtenstein) said that 640 million small arms and light weapons were in circulation and were frequently exchanged between various conflicts. Another 8 million new weapons entered the market every year. With all the attention paid to weapons of mass destruction, the weapons with the most lethal impact were small arms. He supported all efforts geared towards an international framework for authentication, reconciliation and standardization of end-user certificates. The improvement of end-user certificates of man-portable air defence systems could set an important precedent, in that regard.
He said the adoption of an international instrument on marking and tracing was an important step towards achieving a comprehensive regime in the global fight against the spread of small arms and light weapons. The question of ammunition must also be addressed over time. The safeguarding of ammunition warehouses and the destruction of surplus stockpiles should be among the priorities of relevant peacekeeping missions and an initial part of any peacebuilding efforts. Finally, since effective arms embargos depended on the removal of arms from circulation within the embargoed State, arms control measures alone would not resolve the problem and activities in the field of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants would also have to be supported.
RAYMOND O. WOLFE ( Jamaica) said his country continued to work towards effective implementation of the Programme of Action and had ratified several related international conventions, including the Firearms Protocol. At the same time, Jamaica was concerned about the lack of progress towards curbing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. A few steps had been taken in the right direction with regard to the Programme’s specific areas, but to achieve meaningful results, greater emphasis must also be placed on ammunition. The global effort should also focus on the need to examine how implementation could be made more relevant. That would necessitate the development of an approach that would encompass the wider work and activities of the United Nations. In that regard, he looked forward to the third Programme of Action review conference.
The devastating effects of illicit small arms were felt most by the most vulnerable, he continued. It was, indeed, not surprising that the Small Arms Survey reported that much more was known about the number of nuclear warheads, stocks of chemical weapons and transfers of major conventional weapons than about small arms. The international community had failed to respond to that alarming threat, especially where it affected developing countries and where the impacts of those weapons in criminal, gang-related and narcotics-trafficking activities were felt daily. All Member States should cooperate and engage in meaningful action, including the exchange of information, to implement measures that would lead to the reduction in the illegal trade of some 875 million small arms and light weapons in circulation globally. Jamaica reiterated its call for the international community to work resolutely towards the adoption of a legally binding instrument to allow States to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons.
There was also an equal need to address the problem of illegal brokering, he said, enacting effective laws and regulations to govern that issue. While paying due attention to illicit small arms, it was necessary to be resolute in the commitment to regulate the illicit proliferation of ammunition. That was of prime concern to Jamaica. The issue of illicit small arms and light weapons was also relevant to the work of the Peacebuilding Commission, as the levels of illegal weapons circulating in the countries concerned were usually higher at the end of the conflict. The strategic frameworks developed by the Commission could benefit from coordination with existing instruments and work done in other bodies on curbing the proliferation of illicit small arms.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) said that the AK-47 rifle had become a menace in most parts of Africa and, indeed, the world, having been used by gangsters, robbers and rebels. Even in some developed countries, where the bearing of arms was a constitutionally guaranteed right, easy access to small arms had resulted in many deaths. The root causes of the proliferation of small arms in illegal hands must be addressed. Poverty was sometimes at the centre of the issue, and measures to eradicate poverty must be put in place. It was also necessary to strengthen the law and order regime, including setting up efficient courts and law enforcement agencies to replace the need for people to defend themselves. Incentives were needed to induce the voluntary surrender of arms. For example, within the framework of his Government’s Integrated Disarmament and Development Programme in the Karamoja area of Uganda, such incentives included setting up business enterprises, provision of ox-ploughs to communities, seeds for planting and provision of water to herdsmen to enable them to lead a settled life.
He went on to outline Uganda’s national action plan on small arms and light weapons, which had been adopted in 2004, and said that it remained an obligation of Member States of the Nairobi Declaration/Nairobi Protocol within the region to mark their weapons by the end of December 2008. So far, Uganda’s police and defence forces had started marking weapons under State control, as well as those for licensed civilians. In May to June 2006, the national focal point had coordinated a major destruction exercise of over 57,000 small arms and light weapons – the largest single small arms destruction effort in Africa. The second round of that exercise had been carried in July 2007. Financial and logistical support to the country had been provided by UNDP and the United States State Department, as well as the Safeworld organization.
He added that it had been reported in some international media that there was credible evidence that some peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo had been giving arms to illegal militias in exchange for gold and ivory. Among those militias was the notorious Uganda rebel group known as Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Uganda was obviously concerned. A thorough investigation should be carried out. He called on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to undertake robust action to disarm all negative forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that were a threat to peace and stability of neighbouring countries.
GUSTAVO ALVAREZ ( Uruguay) remarked that meetings such as today’s were an effective way to improve the Council’s interaction with the General Assembly and other United Nations bodies. Regrettably, discussions on ways to improve Security Council working methods had been put on hold in favour of political issues, such as finding ways to increase the number of Council members.
Turning to the subject at hand, he said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons had harmful effects on international security, human rights and the socio-economic development of States. As illustrated in the Secretary-General’s report, small arms and light weapons were the most popular choice of weapons in armed conflicts. Many more were in the possession of civilians than police and state institutions. Therefore, curbing the availability of arms to civilians should be a major focus of discussions.
He said Uruguay had taken steps to bring domestic laws in line with its international obligations. Currently, the country had numerous laws, standards and administrative procedures governing the production, export/import and transhipment/re-transhipment of small arms and light weapons, and was party to all international instruments identified by the Secretary-General in his report. In addition, its Government had ratified the Firearms Protocol, according to which all firearms and ammunition imported into the country, including those used by the armed forces, national police and other official institutions, must be marked. There was no trade in small arms and light weapons in Uruguay and no national manufacturers of the same. From 1988 to 2008, it had embarked on a campaign to destroy unregistered or confiscated weapons, resulting in the elimination of 35,000 illegal weapons. As per the Secretary-General’s recommendations, Uruguay supported all calls to adhere to Security Council arms embargoes.
LEBOHANG FINE MAEMA ( Lesotho) said excessive accumulation and the uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons posed a significant threat to international peace and security, human rights and the social development of many countries. Yet, there were still no accurate figures for the number of small arms and light weapons currently in circulation. Meanwhile, the Council -- as one of the relevant actors in the fight against illicit proliferation of small arms -- should continue to improve the enforcement of its arms embargoes.
He said that the Programme of Action remained the main reference for regulating United Nations activities in managing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. But, its effective implementation in countries such as Lesotho proved challenging, because of insufficient resources. It was for that reason that Lesotho had made repeated pleas for technical and financial assistance. Nevertheless, Lesotho remained committed to the 2001 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on the Control of Firearms, Ammunition and Other Related Materials; and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, with its supplementing Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition. It also subscribed to the 2000 Organization of African Unity Bamaka Declaration on an African common position on the subject of illicit small arms circulation. The Government had also made significant strides in reducing the number of small arms held by official institutions, and in collecting and destroying illegal small arms.
JAIRO MONTOYA ( Colombia) said that the impact of some 875 million small arms and light weapons in circulation globally was worse than the loss of lives from nuclear weapons. In such amounts, small arms were truly weapons of mass destruction, but the level of commitment to address their illicit trade had been less than what was being devoted to nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Greater decisiveness was required to move forward towards universal and legally binding instruments to effectively address that phenomenon. Meanwhile, it was necessary to use all the tools available, which required political will and decisiveness. He was confident that the Programme of Action review meeting in July would lead to substantive progress and concrete results. Colombia would work tirelessly towards that end as one of the vice-chairs of the meeting. It would also facilitate the segment of cooperation and international assistance, and host a Latin American and Caribbean meeting in preparation for the review meeting.
He said the issues that must be given priority included capacity-building; training of police and customs officers; exchange of information; support for prevention campaigns; and joint action at regional and bilateral levels. The report before the Council contained a variety of relevant recommendations. He agreed with the emphasis placed on the need for States to enhance their efforts to collect, maintain and share data on small arms and light weapons. Government transparency in that area was crucial. The issue of ammunition needed to be addressed as an element inseparable from the problem of small arms. The development of quantitative indicators would also be a step forward. The development of an arms stock baseline could allow for a real and reliable estimate of the problem.
While illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons could be related to such factors as security, violence, crime, trade, human rights and even human development, the existence of that wide spectrum of factors should not divert attention from the concrete actions that must taken to control the trade. It would be useful to know in greater detail about the objectives and areas of recommended cooperation between the Peacebuilding Commission, the Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. A clear and firm political signal from the Council on those matters would be in accordance with the need to provide decisive support to the tasks of the Assembly and to strengthen interaction between the two bodies within their respective mandates.
ABDULLAH HALLAK ( Syria) said the Secretary-General’s report had touched on international instruments to stem the proliferation of small arms, and he appealed to all States to implement the United Nations Programme of Action towards that end. In addition, the international community must lend whatever support required for the success of the third biennial conference on the subject. For its part, Syria had reasserted its efforts against the scourge, in its report on the implementation of the Programme of Action at the 2006 review conference.
He said the danger lay when such weapons fell into the hands of terrorists. Syria did not produce such weapons. The Secretary-General’s report had said that 30 countries made close to 8 million small arms and light weapons every year; a 2006 report by a Stockholm-based group said that Israel had exported $3.5 billion worth. In addition to not respecting the deadline to retire to its pre-1967 borders, Israel had chosen to adopt the “diplomacy of weapons”. Furthermore, States involved in the export of conventional weapons had undertaken partnerships with Israel to perfect such weapons and to find markets for them. That meant that Israel had no incentive to accept “the hand of peace”. There were reports of Israel offering to become an intermediary for the United States in selling arms. It was, therefore, clear that the statement delivered earlier by the Israeli representative was not in line with the actions being taken by his country. It had trafficked in illicit arms throughout the world, indirectly protecting drug traffickers, encouraging secessionist movements and so on.
DANIEL PRINS, Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch, Office for Disarmament Affairs, said that the Secretariat was encouraged by the comments in the debate and the willingness of the Council to tackle the issue of small arms and light weapons. The urgency of the issue had been highlighted today. As an example, he said that, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), in 2008, some 60 trucks with food had been high jacked, and 26 drivers still remained unaccounted for. Small arms were a factor in those kinds of violence. It was important to continue paying close attention to the issue of small arms.
The Secretary-General’s recommendations having been presented to the Council, it was up to Member States to establish an ad hoc working group to examine those recommendations, as had been suggested, or agree to a presidential statement on the matter. Today’s debate had shown the importance of consistently including the issue of small arms and light weapons in almost all debates held by the Council. For its part, the Secretariat would continue its work towards addressing the illicit trade in small arms and stemming their universal availability.
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