Divergent Paths Emerge as First Committee Debates Issues of Cluster Munitions, Transparency of Weapons Sales, Viability of International Arms Trade Treaty

20 October 2009
GA/DIS/3395

Divergent Paths Emerge as First Committee Debates Issues of Cluster Munitions, Transparency of Weapons Sales, Viability of International Arms Trade Treaty

20 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3395
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

First Committee

15th Meeting (AM)

Divergent Paths Emerge as First Committee Debates Issues of Cluster Munitions,

Transparency of Weapons Sales, Viability of International Arms Trade Treaty

Delegates Seek to Balance National Defence Needs with Devastating Humanitarian

Impact of Cluster Munitions; Several Lament Absence of Protocol to 1980 Convention

Paths diverged today over how to address the issue of conventional weapons as the quest unfolded to find a delicate balance between security and humanitarian concerns in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), which continued its thematic debate on conventional weapons and heard the introduction of two resolutions dealing with arms stockpiles and military spending.

At hand was the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, a nearly 30 year-old instrument that encompassed major players endeavouring to control a variety of conventional weaponry.  Indeed, the treaty’s framework provided the most appropriate platform for addressing the use of cluster munitions, said China’s representative, adding that his country was strongly committed to its treaty obligations and had participated actively in the governmental expert group tasked with formulating a protocol on cluster munitions.

China would continue to make joint efforts with all parties, based on balanced treatment of legitimate security needs and humanitarian concerns, in seeking a practical and feasible solution to the issue of cluster munitions at the earliest date, within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, he said.

Several delegates discussed in Committee the need for the “CCW process” to strike an effective balance between the national security obligations of States and the potential humanitarian impact of cluster munitions, with several lamenting the inability of the governmental expert group to have produced such a protocol.

The representative of Switzerland warned that the legal regime would be seriously compromised if the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons legitimized the weapons prohibited in the new Convention on Cluster Munitions.  The task was to find a solution that convinced the producing and using States of the need for a strong instrument that guaranteed security for civilians, while also responding to the needs of the military and respecting the consistency of the existing legal regime.

The Netherlands had signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions and hoped to conclude its ratification soon, its speaker informed the Committee.  The humanitarian consequences of explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines was also close to the heart of his country.  It had started the destruction of cluster munitions stockpiles, a significant part of which –- air-dropped cluster bombs and artillery shells -- would be destroyed by February 2010. The destruction of remaining stocks was subjected to a public call for tender. All Dutch cluster munitions would be destroyed long before the Convention’s deadline of eight years after entry into force.

The question of including small arms and light weapons in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms as an eighth category also dominated discussion, with one representative deeming the absence of that class of weapons “unfortunate”.  Another, Slovenia’s speaker was concerned about the Register’s status, as an international confidence-building and transparency mechanism.  That was a valuable tool, and Slovenia urged all countries to participate actively and provide national reports, which would prove the Register’s relevance. 

Frustrated by the pernicious and persistent negative effects of small arms and light weapons across Africa, Kenya’s delegate said that insecurity scared away investors at the expense of socio-economic development.  Moreover, a new trend of piracy was seeing increasingly sophisticated smalls arms and light weapons in the hands of criminals.

With the insecurity, instability, human rights violations and lost development opportunities caused by the illegal arms trade, there was no more time to waste to establish a strong and robust arms trade treaty, Austria’s speaker urged.  “Current discussions on procedural questions distract us from the main goal -- a strong treaty -- and should therefore be postponed until the International Conference on the ATT itself or its last preparatory committee meeting,” he said.

Future consideration of the arms trade treaty in the United Nations, asserted India’s representative, should be undertaken based on a step-by-step process, in an open and transparent manner with no artificial deadlines, while recognizing that prospects of an instrument of universal acceptance would be enhanced through a consensus- driven decision-making process and outcome.  It was vitally important that any such instrument be consistent with the right of self-defence of States and their right to protect their legitimate foreign policy and national security interests.

The process that had begun in 2006 towards the conclusion of an arms trade treaty would hopefully result in an instrument that fully respected humanitarian law and the sovereignty of States, France’s representative said.  In the process, he underlined the importance of international support and cooperation, of discussions that reflected regional organization’s experiences, and of the need for the voices of civil society to be heard.  France was confident that agreement could be reached.  “Where there is a will there is a way,” he said, adding that France would support the draft resolution on the treaty, before the Committee. 

Introducing the traditional text on objective information on military matters, including transparency of military expenditures, was Germany’s delegate.  The draft recalls the establishment of a group of governmental experts to review the operation and further development of the Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures, commencing in 2010. 

That representative, together with France, also introduced a draft text on the problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus.  That draft appeals to all interested States to determine the size and nature of their surplus stockpiles of conventional ammunition, whether they represent a security risk and, if appropriate, their means of destruction, and whether external assistance is needed to eliminate this risk. 

Statements in the thematic debate on conventional weapons were made by the representatives of Costa Rica, Malawi, Romania, Uruguay (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)), Jamaica, Sudan, Philippines, Iran, Congo, New Zealand, Israel and Senegal.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 21 October, to conclude its thematic debate on conventional weapons and begin discussion of other disarmament measures and international security.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic discussion on conventional weapons and to hear the introduction of related draft resolutions.

Statements

PAUL VAN DEN IJSSEL ( Netherlands) welcomed the increased attention that had been given to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, but said that the international community should remain aware that it was conventional arms, particularly small arms and light weapons, that had a devastating impact on the daily lives of millions of people all over the world.  The uncontrolled and irresponsible spread of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons, and the diversion of legitimately acquired arms into the illicit trade were problems which concerned all and which should be addressed together.  Later this week, he would introduce the traditional draft resolution on transparency in armaments, which dealt with the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

He said that while responsible arms transfers were a legitimate part of international trade and could contribute to international peace, security and stability, irresponsible transfers could fuel all kinds of conflict and set back development.  The entire international community, therefore, had an interest in an arms trade treaty that would establish clear common standards for national controls of international trade in conventional weapons.  His country had supported such a treaty from day one.  It favoured a strong treaty that set parameters derived from the highest possible standards, including human rights.  The full scope of responsibilities of States, under the law and international standards, must be set.

The humanitarian consequences of explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines was also close to the heart of his country.  The Netherlands had signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions and hoped to conclude its ratification soon.  Meanwhile, it had started the destruction of cluster munitions stockpiles, a significant part of which –- air-dropped cluster bombs and artillery shells -- would be destroyed by February 2010.  The destruction of remaining stocks was subjected to a public call for tender.  All Dutch cluster munitions would be destroyed long before the Convention’s deadline of eight years after entry into force. All countries should destroy their stockpiles, if possible, even before being legally bound to do so.

LI YANG ( China) said that his country had always attached importance and supported the work of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, and it had earnestly fulfilled its obligations under the Convention and relevant protocols.  It was firmly committed to enhancing its effectiveness and universality.  China attached importance to the humanitarian concerns related to cluster munitions and supported international efforts at resolving them through practical and feasible measures.  The framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons included all major producers, users and transferors of cluster munitions, and thus provided the most appropriate platform for addressing the use of cluster munitions.

At the same time, he said that China had participated in the governmental expert group on cluster munitions and had constructively promoted its work.  It would continue to make joint efforts with all parties, based on balanced treatment of legitimate security needs and humanitarian concerns, in seeking a practical and feasible solution to the issue of cluster munitions at the earliest date, within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

China had also taken active part in international mine clearance efforts by providing assistance within its capability to mine-affected countries, he noted.  Since 1998, it had provided humanitarian assistance to more than 20 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America by such means of financial donations, provision of mine clearance equipment and training.  Last September, it had hosted a mine clearance training course for Afghanistan and Iraq, with 20 trainees from each country participating.  It had also donated a batch of de-mining equipment to the two countries.

China was also concerned about regional instability and humanitarian issues caused by illicit trafficking and misuse of small arms and light weapons, he continued.  In that regard, it was important to fully and effectively implement existing international instruments, including the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, as well as the International Instrument for Identifying and Tracing Illicit Small Arms And Light Weapons.  There should also be further strengthening of national capacity building of countries, and continuous promotion of the multilateral process of combating illicit trade in those weapons.

Conventional weapons had a direct bearing on political, security and economic interest of states, as well as regional and global security, he said. China supported international efforts in taking proper measures to regulate relevant arms trade, particularly to combat illicit trafficking.  It held that the primary objective of an arms trade treaty was to maintain global and regional stability and enable every country to exercise the right to self-defence and meet its security needs.  Such a treaty should be universal, objective and non-discriminatory.

JAIRO HERNANDEZ (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Central America Integration System (SICA) and Mexico, said that the emergence of new threats had given a multidimensional security focus to the issue of conventional weapons, which affected such phenomena as crime and drug trafficking.  The System, therefore, had been pleased at the convening of the upcoming Fourth Biennial Meeting of States to review the Action Programme, as that instrument was an essential tool to deal effectively with the multidimensional problem of illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons.  Solutions must be found to the humanitarian and security problems created by those weapons.  Also necessary was to consider the relationship between the traffic in those weapons and crime, violence and conflicts.  The System hoped that the Biennial Meeting would generate concrete results.  For the Central America region, the issue of ammunition was also very relevant, and further progress should be made in that regard.

He added that the System believed that armed violence was a permanent threat to international security.  And in that regard, a seminar had been held in Antigua in April 2008 to address the issue.  A seminar had also been held in April in Cartagena, at which the close linkage between armed violence and trafficking had been discussed. Members of the System also stressed the need to face the problems related to unregulated trade in conventional weapons and their illicit marketing. That situation could exacerbate international terrorism and organised crime. The System welcomed the call for an arms trade treaty that was legally binding and would govern weapons transfers.

Also welcome was the offer by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to host the Meeting of States Parties on the Cluster Munitions Convention, he said.  The Central America region had been affected by the massive use of landmines, but thanks to various efforts, the region had been declared mine-free, except for Nicaragua. National coordination had been key to that success.  Large numbers of landmines had been destroyed in the process, and hopefully, Nicaragua would also be declared mine-free by May 2010, rendering the region the first to be able to declare that status.

SANJA STIGLIC ( Slovenia) said that there had been important developments events recently.  Efforts in the framework of the “CCW process” (concerning the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons) and the “ Oslo process” (concerning the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction) were complementary and should be strengthened within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to reach a common understanding.

She said that the new Convention on Cluster Munitions was a historical achievement, a landmark in international humanitarian and disarmament efforts, comprehensively and effectively banning those weapons, which caused unacceptable harm to civilians.  States parties were obliged to assist victims, clear cluster munitions remnants and destroy stockpiles.  Slovenia had begun to implement its national cluster munitions destruction programmes, having ratified the Convention in August.  She hoped that the remaining ratifications needed for its entry into force would be forthcoming before the end of the year.  A universal norm would have a direct impact on the lives of affected people worldwide.  To contribute to post-conflict recovery, Slovenia had established in 1998 the International Trust Fund for De-mining and Mine Victims Assistance, which provided cost-effective and efficient clearing programmes and victim rehabilitation.

Within the framework of the Convention prohibiting certain conventional weapons, Slovenia regretted that the group of governmental experts had not achieved any significant progress last year, and she urged it to step up efforts and try to conclude its work by the end of 2010.  The prospects for success existed and important questions were at stake in the framework of that Convention.

Slovenia supported the efforts to establish an arms trade treaty, convinced that a robust instrument would effectively regulate the international trade of conventional weapons, she said.  “It is time to make a step forward and set a road map for future negotiations for the Treaty itself,” she said, noting her support for the draft text on the topic proposed by the United Kingdom.  The course had been set for the work in the coming, which included the convening of a conference in 2012, where the arms trade treaty should be finalized and opened for signature.  “Soon, we should have a well-functioning ATT as a valuable instrument for effective regulation of the international arms trade.” 

She said that the status of some existing international confidence-building and transparency mechanisms was a concern, namely the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.  That was a valuable tool, and Slovenia urged all countries to participate actively and provide national reports, which would prove the Register’s relevance.  Slovenia fully supported the draft resolution on transparency in armaments, to be presented by the Netherlands, saying that would be a step forward in disarmament and arms control.

SERGE BAVAUD ( Switzerland) said that it was important to decide on parameters for a 2012 United Nations conference on an arms trade treaty that could lead to an effective and inclusive treaty.  Turning to the Register of Conventional Arms, he regretted that the group of governmental experts had been unable to adopt substantive recommendations for strengthening that instrument and had not succeeded in adding small arms and light weapons to the Register as an eighth category.  Switzerland, a member of the group, had desired action on the basis of those few recommendations that had been adopted, particularly the determination to seek the views of Member States on whether the absence of those weapons from the Register had affected its relevance and level of participation.

Welcoming the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, for which his country had initiated a ratification process, he cautioned that the struggle against the harm those weapons caused was far from over.  He pledged his country’s commitment to translating the Convention’s norms into reality on the ground.  Regarding regulation of cluster munitions through the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, he recognized that the legal regime would be seriously compromised if that Convention legitimized the weapons prohibited in the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the task was to find a solution that convinced the producing and using States of the need for a strong instrument that guaranteed security for civilians, while also responding to the needs of the military and respecting the consistency of the existing legal regime.

In other areas, he urged support for the resolution co-sponsored by his country on implementation of the Mine-Ban Convention and voiced hope that the upcoming meeting on the small arms and light weapons Programme of Action would make progress through a focus on specific themes, including the tracing instrument and cooperation as a cross-cutting topic.  He encouraged all Member States to sign onto the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development and to participate in the follow up on the Secretary-General’s report on the topic.

ERIC DANON ( France) said armed conflicts killed 500,000 and injured 300,000 each year, and those numbers would not drop.  Arms control over conventional weapon needed States’ responsibility, transparency and respect of international humanitarian laws.  That required, among other steps, addressing the trade of small arms and light weapons.  France had proposed to improve the Programme of Action at the last Biennial Meeting of States.  Under France’s initiative as president of the European Union, the subject of light arms was spotlighted. 

He said that annual reports should be submitted to the United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons.  France regretted that no agreement had been reached to include small arms as an eighth category in the Register, but prospects were promising.  Turning to landmines and cluster munitions, he noted that France had been the twentieth State to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  There was a possibility of reaching agreement on a Protocol on cluster munitions within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and he hoped discussions initiated in 2008 would continue.  This year, France and Germany were presenting a draft resolution on the problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus, and trusted it would be adopted by consensus.

The process that had begun in 2006 towards the conclusion of an arms trade treaty would hopefully result in an instrument that fully respected humanitarian law and the sovereignty of States, he said.   France was confident that agreement could be reached on a legally binding treaty regarding the export, import and transfer of conventional weapons.  “Where there is a will there is a way,” he said, adding that France would vote in favour of the draft resolution on the treaty, which was before the Committee.  In the process, he underlined the importance of international support and cooperation, of discussions that reflected regional organization’s experiences, and of the need for the voices of civil society to be heard.

GRIFFIN SPOON PHIRI ( Malawi) applauded recent progress in the field of disarmament, including the Conference on Disarmament’s programme of work, the Security Council’s summit last month and the talks between the United States and the Russian Federation.  Still, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons continued to have a devastating impact.  In Malawi, small arms had made civilians and business developers scared, and other countries were similarly affected by that scourge.  He called on the international community to implement initiatives to combat the spread of those weapons, including the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action.  Bolstering those efforts required an effective arms trade treaty, and he noted that open-ended working group meetings on the treaty had addressed the issues.

Turning to the landmines scourge, he applauded the Mine-Ban Convention.  Malawi had signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions this year and urged others to do so.  He reaffirmed his dedication to achieving a positive outcome of the Committee’s work this session.

The sluggish economy reduced income and foreign direct investment in landlocked countries, he said.  A total of 19 of the 31 landlocked developing countries had annual per capital incomes of less than $1,000.  Very few of those nations would attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  Despite their vulnerability and need for infrastructure funding, the 31 landlocked developing countries received little official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment.  They were victims of the multiple global crises and they expected more solidarity from the international community in investment, trade, facilitation, ODA and foreign direct investment.  He expressed hope that they would receive more specific attention.  He appealed to all Member States to be flexible and to resume and successfully complete the Doha trade round.  Landlocked developing countries trying to join the World Trade Organization also support to do so.  He called for fully integrating the Almaty Programme of Action and the commitments made during its mid-term review. 

HELMUT HOFFMANN ( Germany) introduced two draft resolutions on Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus (document A/64/C.1/L.44) and on Objective information on military matters, including transparency in military expenditures (document A/64/C.1/L.43).

He said that the draft text on objective information on military matters, including transparency in military expenditures, which was being co-sponsored with France, had been presented for the first time in 2005 to draw attention to that neglected aspect of international arms control.  The most urgent aspect of that issue had to do with in Cyprus.  Subsequently, a governmental group of experts had been set up under the 2006 resolution.  That group had developed a set of conclusions to help States to manage their stockpiles.  The 2008 resolution, adopted by consensus, had endorsed the group’s report and encouraged States to make voluntary contributions.  The present draft further encouraged Member States to implement the group’s report.  The draft was a straightforward follow-up to the 2008 version and only contained technical updates and no changes.  Germany hoped that it would be adopted by consensus.

The second draft resolution, being co-sponsored with Romania, was a biennial draft on objective information on military matters, including transparency in military expenditures, he continued.  Again, it only contained technical amendments.  The sponsors believed that increased transparency could contribute to building confidence, in the interest of global peace and security.  The establishment of a governmental group of experts in 2007 to review the reporting instrument had sent a clear message that the United Nations devoted attention to transparency in military spending.

Paragraph 6 of the current text encouraged Member States to provide ideas on how to standardise the reporting instruments, he noted.  More than 200 Member States had already participated in the United Nations reporting instrument but, in the last two years, there had been a decrease in reporting, pointing to the need for improvement.  Within the past decade, military expenditure had risen to unprecedented levels.  A fully updated reporting system could provide better information on those expenditures.  The draft already had more 60 sponsors, but it remained open for sponsorship.  Germany hoped for its consensus adoption.

SIMONA MIRELA MICULESCU ( Romania) said that, as a co-sponsor of the draft resolution on objective information on military matters, including transparency in military expenditures, her country believed that the resolution was still meaningful under the present circumstances.  There had been a significant rise in the number of participating States in recent years.  The standardised reporting instrument could not lag behind, but should be updated accordingly.  Hence, the establishment of the group of governmental experts, and the current text requested the input of Member states in its updating.  Such input could be a valuable source of inspiration for the governmental expert group.  Other Member States were welcome to join as co-sponsors of the draft resolution, which she hoped would be adopted without a vote, as in the past.

FEDERICO PERAZZA (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), stressed the members’ commitment to the Programme of Action as the main instrument for the adoption, in the regional and international context, of measures to control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  Issues of ammunition and explosives should be taken into account, as those were among the current challenges to the Programme’s implementation.  The non-binding nature of the Action Programme instrument also challenged its implementation.  MERCOSUR also supported the conclusion of a legally binding instrument to regulate the illicit traffic of small arms and light weapons.  That instrument would make it possible for States to trace and track illicit weapons, establish systems to check final user certification, check against diversion, and achieve reconciliation and finalisation of end-user certificates.

He said that confidence building measures were important tools for strengthening peace and security.  By reducing uncertainties, such measures were great instruments for integration through greater transparency, and the MERCOSUR region had pioneered their implementation.  The group proposed that new measures be sought to deal with cross-cutting areas of defence, as a complement to pervious ones.  MERCOSUR supported the total ban on cluster munitions.  The States of the region also believed that one of the top dangers to peace and security emanated from the use of anti-personnel landmines.  In that regard, it welcomed the upcoming Conference of States Parties to the Mine-Ban Convention, to be held in Cartagena.  They hoped that it would be decisive in dealing with the landmines problem.  The Convention must become universal.

ANGELA HAMILTON BROWN ( Jamaica) commended the recent positive developments of the global disarmament and non-proliferation agenda, and hoped that renewed desire would stimulate changes in the area of conventional weapons.  She particularly sought coordinated decisive action was essential to arriving at a permanent solution to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, as the  uncontrolled access and proliferation of those weapons and ammunition posed severe humanitarian and socio-economic challenges to many States.  For Jamaica, a causal nexus existed between drug trafficking, the illicit proliferation of small arms and the presence of criminal gangs, a connection that gave rise to a highly organized crime network supported by various sophisticated criminal organizations, within and outside the region.  That had created a subculture that glorified violence and gun ownership.

She said that, since 2000, Jamaican police had recovered more than 5,000 assorted weapons and more than 127,000 rounds of ammunition, but those seizures had had little impact on escalating gun-related crimes.  Over the past five years, crime-fighting measures had been implemented, aimed at tackling the import, transit and export of narcotic drugs and illicit firearms and ammunition.  Those efforts had included the establishment of a counter-narcotics and major crimes task force, the passage of the Proceeds of Crime Act to confiscate illicit firearms and other assets of drug dealers and the consolidation of intelligence agencies.  Collaboration with the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean remained crucial to Jamaica’s efforts.

Jamaica continued to call for the full and prompt implementation of the small arms and light weapons Programme of Action, noting the inability of many developing countries to effectively implement that instrument.  Jamaica also called for closer international cooperation to assist developing countries in a timely manner to satisfy their implementation commitments.  She hoped the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States in 2010 would build on past accomplishments.

“One very important element in the fight against the illicit trade in [small arms and light weapons] will be the development and adoption of an arms trade treaty,” she said.

PHILIP RICHARD O. OWADE ( Kenya) said that small arms and light weapons had made crime flourish across the continent.  In addition to their humanitarian impact, the spread of these weapons meant that insecurity had scared away investors at the expense of socio-economic development.  A new trend of piracy was also having a serious negative impact off the Horn of Africa, at a time when the disturbing threat of small arms and light weapons falling into the hands of criminals and terrorists was gaining traction.  Pirates had indeed acquired increasingly sophisticated weapons.  Kenya anticipated the coming Fourth Biennial Meeting of States to address these and related issues.

He said that Kenya had partnered with civil society to work on finding solutions, and the Government had developed a system of marking firearms.  However, international assistance was needed to bolster those efforts.  The arms trade treaty open-ended working group had reaffirmed last summer that international cooperation was needed.  He urged Member States to support the draft resolution before the committee on an arms trade treaty.

Having hosted the First Review conference of the Mine-Ban Convention, Kenya anticipated the Second Review in Cartagena would advance the issue.  Kenya was not a mine-affected State, but strongly supported the Mine-Ban Convention, as well as the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Sustainable development was not possible without long-term security, and in that light, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on promoting development.

KAMAL KHAIR ( Sudan) said that illicit small arms and light weapons affected poor and developing countries.  Sudan was dedicated to fighting the spread of those weapons and was working to strengthen existing efforts on an international and national level.  Sudan had worked towards destroying its munitions, tracking and marking firearms and related endeavours.  However, financial assistance was needed, in accordance with chapter II of the Programme of Action against those weapons.  Sudan supported a proposal for a fund towards the programme’s implementation.  Training and capacity-building processes were imperative, as were strengthening border and police operations.

He said that the easy access to those weapons by groups of terrorists was a real threat, and he implored producer States to refuse to export those arms to non-State actors.  The bilateral efforts of Sudan with neighbouring States were redefining boundaries and better strengthening border control to stem the flow of those weapons and of transnational crime.  Sustainable development should be a consideration in that regard.

HAMID ALI RAO ( India) said that conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, posed a grave danger to the security of States and carried serious humanitarian concerns.  Those weapons disrupted political stability and social harmony, derailed pluralism and democracy, hampered growth and development and fuelled international terrorism and internal conflicts.  The Programme of Action outlined a realistic, achievable and comprehensive approach to address that problem at national, regional and global levels.  National Governments bore the primary responsibility for preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade.  Arms transfers should be banned to non-State actors and terrorist groups.

He said that India was pursuing the goal of a non-discriminatory universal and global ban on anti-personnel mines.  The process of completely eliminating those weapons would be facilitated by effective non-lethal and cost-effective alternative technologies.  The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons remained the only forum of a universal character that joined main users and producers of major conventional weapons, thus ensuring that the emerging instruments had greater prospects of making meaningful impacts on the ground.  India had proposed a broad-based dialogue to consider a new and strengthened format for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which would, by common agreement, reaffirm and strengthen the application of international law in regulating and protecting victims of warfare. 

India had regularly provided national submissions to the United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons, he said.  Careful consideration should be given in the future work of the governmental expert group to a new class of equipment, which was now being used in combat operations, before their inclusion in the Register.  India had participated in the open-ended working group on the arms trade treaty.  The group had acknowledged the respective responsibilities of exporters and importers, based on United Nations Charter principles and it had recognized the need to address the problems relating to unregulated trade in conventional weapons and their diversion to the illicit market.  Considering that such risks could fuel instability, international terrorism and transnational organized crime, the group supported international action to address that problem. 

He said that future consideration of the arms trade treaty in the United Nations should be undertaken based on a step-by-step process, in an open and transparent manner with no artificial deadlines, while recognizing that prospects of an instrument of universal acceptance would be enhanced through a consensus- driven decision-making process and outcome.  It was vitally important that any such instrument be consistent with the right of self-defence of States and their right to protect their legitimate foreign policy and national security interests.

RAPHAEL HERMOSO (Philippines), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed deep concern over the continuing illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, calling on producer States to strictly apply legal restrictions on that trade, to supply only responsible Governments with them and to strictly use international instruments to identify and trace illicit arms.  His country diligently complied with international regulations on those arms, which were similar to its national laws, although in its laws, the term “firearms” was used in an even stricter sense than in the United Nations Programme of Action.  It had made progress in the area by maintaining partnerships with the local firearms industry, private security firms, gun clubs and civil society. 

Placing high value on cooperation with the United Nations system on small arms and light weapons, the Philippines, he said, was also taking measures to prevent exports of the weapons that would violate sanctions regimes or contravene bilateral, regional or multilateral commitments on non-proliferation.  The country shared information on illicit transfers, ensured that there was control of imports and exports and did not re-transfer previously-imported weapons.  His country also supported the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the Mine-Ban Convention, as well as a future arms trade treaty, which he hoped could address the instability, terrorism and organized crime derived from illegal arms transfers.

KAZEM ASAYESH TALAB ( Iran) said that having experienced eight years of imposed war, during which Iranians in defenceless cities were under constant missile attacks, his country was obliged, for its self-defence, to develop its indigenous missile technology.  Restrictions imposed on it, and the “generosity” of certain Powers in providing all kinds of missiles to Saddam Hussein’s army, had taught the country a valuable lesson, namely, that it should stand on its own feet in defending itself.  Meanwhile, Iran supported any comprehensive and non-discriminatory approach to addressing the issue of missiles in all its aspects.  A resolution had been jointly proposed by Egypt, Indonesia and his country on that issue and had been continuously supported by Member States.  Given the lack of internationally-agreed norms or arrangement, Iran believed that the only way to deal with the issue of missiles in all its aspects was to pursue it within the United Nations framework.  A discriminatory approach outside the Organization had already failed and would not contribute to addressing that issue comprehensively.

He said that Iran also attached great importance to the issue of conventional weapons within the United Nations.  While the major problem for developing countries was the transfer of illicit small arms and light weapons, some countries tried to mislead others by implying that the problem was the trade in seven categories of weapons, including warships, jet fighters, missiles, armoured vehicles and tanks.  The best approach to dealing with the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was to focus on the main issue and to work constructively, taking into account the concerns of all.  Member States had participated constructively in the working group on an arms trade treaty, and the first consensus report had been a positive step.  In the view of many delegations, new proposals for jumping to the next stage, namely at the United Nations conference, however, were hasty and premature.

The unabated production of arms by major producers on a very large scale, with the aim of exporting most of them, was a matter of serious concern, he went on.  Overproduction of weapons could lead to excessive supply of armaments and, consequently, could facilitate their entry into regions of tension.  The ambitious and irresponsible export of arms to the Middle East region represented a clear example in that regard.  The export of billions of dollars worth of arms and military assistance to certain Middle East countries was a cause for concern, not only for Iran, but also for many peace-loving countries across the international community.  Most of those exported arms involved offensive weapons to the Zionist regime.  Given the well-documented United Nations reports of various war crimes by military officers and high officials of that regime, the main suppliers, whose names were registered in the United Nations report, should immediately stop exporting weapons to that regime and refrain from feeding its war machine.

BONIFACE LEZONA ( Congo) said that the entry into force of the African Nuclear Weapon-Free-Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba) had been a clear message from Africa to the international community of its determination to work for a safe world, free of nuclear weapons and fear.  Conventional weapons, especially small arms and light weapons, were also a source of fear.  It was true that international law recognised the right of States to such weapons, but the exercise of that right could lead to excessive accumulation.  That, in turn, could lead to insecurity and instability, when the weapons wound up in wrong hands.  Each year, thousands of people were killed worldwide and many more thousands became refugees and displaced persons in conflict zones created as a result of the use of those weapons.  The result was isolation of populations and exacerbation of poverty. Congo, therefore, reiterated its position in favour of an arms trade treaty, which was legally binding and negotiated on a non-discriminatory basis.

He said that the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons was the relevant reference document on which the international community should rely on to combat that scourge.  Notable progress had been made in its implementation, but the international community should continue its efforts along that line.  The biennial meetings to evaluate its implementation had been useful.  Congo had high expectations for the upcoming meeting.  His country had endeavoured to implement the Action Programme at the national level.  It had collected some 3,000 weapons, and reintegrated more than 5,000 demobilised combatants, including 500 child soldiers.  The country had also undertaken the destruction of anti-personnel mines.  The Government also attached great importance to cleaning up its cross-border zone.  It appealed to the international community for aid to carry out that task.

DELL HIGGIE ( New Zealand) urged continued tangible progress on the full range of conventional weapons issues, adding that Colombia would soon host the second Review Conference of the Mine-Ban Convention.  New Zealand looked forward to strengthening the Convention’s implementation, but acknowledged that there was still much to be done.  Victims’ needs were not being sufficiently met and mined land had yet to be cleared in many countries.  Also, while landmine use had been curbed, use by non-state actors was a challenge, which the Review Conference must address.  New Zealand looked forward to participating in the first Meeting of States Parties of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  New Zealand had ratified the treaty and urged others to do so as well.

He said that his country had worked with its partners to deal with the flow of illicit arms, a complicated problem that could not be ignored.  The Government looked forward to working with other States towards a strong outcome to next year’s Fourth Biennial Meeting of States to the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.  The open-ended working group on an arms trade treaty had allowed for a frank airing of views, and regional meetings had made his region more aware of the impacts of unregulated arms trade.  All were ready to move to the next phase –- substantive negotiations -– and New Zealand welcomed the path that resolution “L.38” had laid.  Globally applicable, legally binding standards to redress the “patchwork” of inconsistent controls on weapons transfers were needed.

Finally, he said that the arms trade treaty could not hope to shut down the arms trade or curtail resources used by States in legitimate arms purchases.  Rather, it would require exporters to seek prior approval from their national authorities, which, in turn, would consider approving export applications against standardized international criteria.  On the rules of procedure governing a United Nations Conference to adopt the treaty in 2012, he said the prospect of taking decisions on a consensus basis only was referenced in operative paragraph 5 of “L.38”.  New Zealand would be content if all participants in 2012 wished to support the treaty’s adoption without a vote.  A consensus outcome was optimal, but could be elusive.

MEIR ITZCHAKI (Israel) said for some time now, the international community had been witnessing the humanitarian effects resulting from illegal conventional arms transfers, which had allowed terrorist groups to gain access to those weapons, undermining stability.  The Middle East had been particularly vulnerable to such transfers to terrorists, despite standing restrictions.  The recent conflict in the region had shown that those weapons were not outside the reach of the terrorists.  Hizbullah, supported by Iran, continued to use those weapons. Israel was encouraged to hear Iran say that illicit transfers posed a threat to the Middle East.  In recent months, transfers from Iran and Syria had continued to Hizbullah, in contravention of Security Council resolutions.  That had been coupled with Hizbullah’s effort to entrench itself in the Lebanese political scene.

He said that the principal priority of the international community should be the prevention of arms transfers to terrorists, and a norm banning those transfers must be created.  Curbing illicit transfers to terrorists must begin with strong national action.  There could be no justification for such transfers or for turning a blind eye to them.  Israel had submitted a working paper on that issue, demonstrating the need for immediate and comprehensive action.  Practical steps should be identified to advance the issue, including identification of national programmes.  Israel looked forward to continuing discussion with other delegations on that paper.  His country had long maintained vigorous export control over arms. Those controls met the highest international standards.  On 31 December 2007, its new export control law had entered into force.  That law gave high priority to the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.

Small arms and light weapons were the weapons of choice of terrorists and that they had humanitarian consequences, with disturbing statistics, he stressed. Action, therefore, must be prioritised to address that the illicit trade in those weapons.  The United Nations Action Programme was the cornerstone of international action to curb those weapons.  Its adoption had pushed States to act on that issue, but challenges remained.  Israel looked forward to the biennial meeting to review implementation, and it was ready to play its part.  The meeting’s successful outcome would be a step towards preventing arms transfers to terrorists. 

PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) said that upheavals in regions around the world were rooted in the illicit transfer of conventional weapons, which perpetuated conflict, spread crime, heightened the risk of terrorism and undermined development.  An arms trade treaty would only be effective and viable, however, if it included all conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, and ammunition, brokering activities, and fully respected international humanitarian law.  The treaty should also build institutional capacity and international cooperation and be underpinned by a transparent process that included transporters, importers and exporters in good-faith negotiations.

He said that the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms should continue to receive support from Member States, especially arms-producing States.  Small arms and light weapons compromised Africa’s development, and he appealed for the implementation of the final document from the Third Biennial Meeting of States on the Programme of Action to stem the spread of those weapons.  Support and active commitments were necessary to combat the illicit trade, and the same commitment should encourage a legally binding instrument on marking and tracing.

Regarding anti-personnel mines, he said that the continued support of the Mine-Ban Convention should hold the international community’s full attention.  Senegal supported the coming review conference, hoping for progress.  The determination to eliminate anti-personnel mines should be as great as the suffering of the child who could no longer play with his friends or the mother who could no longer hold her child.  Senegal hoped that a Security Council summit on conventional weapons would be held, just as the Council had held a recent summit on nuclear disarmament.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.