World’s Weapons Stockpile ‘Over-Supplied’, as States Reshape True Aim of Charter-based Article on Self-Defence, First Committee Told
World’s Weapons Stockpile ‘Over-Supplied’, as States Reshape True Aim of Charter-based Article on Self-Defence, First Committee Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
16th Meeting (AM)
World’s Weapons Stockpile ‘Over-Supplied’, as States Reshape True Aim
of Charter-based Article on Self-Defence, First Committee Told
Nigeria Says Stemming Conflict Fuelled by Illicit Arms Costs Country Billions,
Which Few Developing Countries Are Willing to Spend for Peace outside Their Shores
Draft resolutions on conventional weapons tabled at the United Nations Committee rang a “clarion call” for Member States to urgently redouble efforts to stem the flow of those arms into vulnerable communities around the world, where they shattered the peace and wreaked havoc, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today, with the introduction of three such texts.
“How many of these resolutions do we require to come to the realization that the world’s weapons stockpile is presently over-supplied?” asked the Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria. “It is most troubling to note that States have reshaped the true objective of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter,” which protected a State’s right to self-defence, he said.
He put another question to the members on a day when they heard the introduction of a resolution to help States staunch the illicit weapons trafficking, another on the landmines ban, and a decision on an arms trade treaty: “What do we consider to be acceptable, for instance, on the proportion of combat aircraft, aircraft carriers, battle tanks, missiles, mortars, small arms and light weapons, and other armaments needed to defend the territorial integrity of States?”
The use and misuse of those weapons had already caused unbearable suffering and destruction in his region, he said, adding that his country had spent more than $10 billion in the last two decades in efforts to stem the tide of recurrent conflicts fuelled by the illicit circulation of an estimated eight million such arms in the subregion. That was a financial outlay of “monumental proportion, which few developing countries with equal socio-economic challenges may be willing to expend in pursuit of peace and security outside its shores,” he said.
Indeed, the General Assembly would express deep concern by the magnitude of human casualty and suffering, especially among children, caused by the illicit proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons in Africa, according to a draft resolution introduced by Mali’s representative on assistance, States curb the illicit traffic in those weapons and collect them. It called for, among other things, technical and financial assistance for capacity-building of civil society in the fight to curb the spread of those weapons and to collect them.
The crises present in West Africa, said Mali’s delegate, actually helped the trafficking in those weapons. More than ever before, regional States that had known shattered peace needed assistance to be available to help them face the menace posed by the spread of small arms and light weapons. Those weapons have already caused suffering to civilian populations, especially the most vulnerable.
Reaffirming a determination to put an end to the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines, which killed or injured thousands of people — women, girls, boys and men — every year, and which placed people living in affected areas at risk and hindered the development of their communities, the draft on the Mine-Ban Treaty, tabled by Albania’s delegate, together with Norway and Cambodia, urged States that had signed but not ratified the Convention to do so without delay, and it stressed the importance of the full and effective implementation of, and compliance with, the Convention.
Albania’s representative said the Mine-Ban Convention was another important element of “humanitarian disarmament” — besides the total ban on production, use and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines, it required the destruction of all existing stockpiles, the clearance of all mine-contaminated areas, and ensuring assistance to mine victims. For its part, Albania had made assistance to victims of mines a priority.
In an effort to address the unregulated trade, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Conference on Disarmament tabled a draft decision to secure a robust arms trade treaty, “In this way, we can address the problems of the unregulated trade in conventional arms by securing a treaty that will help to save lives and respect human rights, while at the same time supporting legitimate industry,” she said, adding that conventional weapons “destroyed lives and livelihoods, displaced communities and hampered development”.
Also delivering statements were the representatives of Thailand, Romania, Slovenia, Kenya, Uruguay, on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Austria, Cuba, New Zealand, India, Côte d’Ivoire, Finland, Albania, Switzerland, Mozambique, Indonesia, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, United Republic of Tanzania, Spain, Russian Federation and Israel.
The representative of Argentina exercised her right of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 20 October to conclude its thematic debate on conventional weapons and to begin debate on the clusters on other disarmament measures and international security, and regional disarmament and security, also hearing the introduction of draft decisions and resolutions.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic debate segment and hear the introduction of drafts on all disarmament and related international security agenda items, with a focus on its conventional weapons cluster. (For background on the Committee’s session and a summary of reports before it, see Press Releases GA/DIS/3429 and GA/DIS/3436).
Summaries of Drafts
A draft resolution, on the Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (document A/C.1/66/L.4), sponsored by Albania, Norway and Cambodia, would have the General Assembly urge all States that have signed but not ratified the Convention to do so without delay.
Noting with regret that anti-personnel mines continue to be used in some conflicts around the world, causing human suffering and impeding post-conflict development, the Assembly would stress the importance of the full and effective implementation of and compliance with the Convention, including through the continued implementation of the Cartagena Action Plan 2010-2014.
In a related provision, the Assembly would invite all States that have not ratified or acceded to the Convention to provide, on a voluntary basis, information to make global mine action efforts more effective. It would renew its call upon all States and other relevant parties to work together to promote, support and advance the care, rehabilitation, and social and economic reintegration of mine victims, mine risk education programmes, and the removal and destruction of anti-personnel mines placed or stockpiled throughout the world.
Also by the draft, the Assembly would urgeall States to remain seized of the issue at the highest political level and, where in a position to do so, to promote adherence to the Convention through bilateral, subregional, regional and multilateral contacts, outreach, seminars and other means.
Deeply concerned by the magnitude of human casualty and suffering, especially among children, caused by the illicit proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons, a draft resolution, sponsored by the States members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them (document A/C.1/66/L.18), would have the Assembly invite the Secretary-General and States and organizations in a position to do so to continue to provide assistance for curbing the illicit traffic in those weapons and collecting them.
Concerned by the negative impact that the illicit proliferation and use of those weapons continue to have on the efforts of States in the Sahelo-Saharan subregion in the areas of poverty eradication, sustainable development and the maintenance of peace, security and stability, the draft text would have the Assembly encourage the countries in that subregion to facilitate the effective functioning of national commissions to combat the illicit proliferation of those weapons.
Also by the text, the Assembly would call upon the international community to provide technical and financial support to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to take action to help to combat the illicit trade of these weapons.
Recalling its resolution 64/48 entitled, “The arms trade treaty” adopted on 2 December 2009, the General Assembly, by the terms of a draft decision (document A/C.1/66/L.50), sponsored by Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom, would decide to hold, within existing resources, the final session of the Preparatory Committee for the United National Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, from 13-17 February 2012 in New York, to conclude the Preparatory Committee’s substantive work and to decide on all relevant procedural matters pursuant to operational paragraph 8 of resolution 64/48.NARONG SILPATHAMTADA ( Thailand) said many types of conventional weapons were common and widespread, not to mention linked to crime and terrorism. International efforts should be intensified to stem the flow of those illicitly traded weapons. Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects was key to doing so. Thailand had worked to regulate import and export controls. His country was also preparing to participate in the Programme of Action Review Conference next year. Thailand reported to the United Nations Conventional Weapons Register.
He said that an arms trade treaty would regulate trade and address the issues surrounding it. Thailand looked forward, also in 2012, to the conference on that treaty. The country had ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Mine-Ban Treaty), and had completed its own stockpile destruction in 2003. Continued assistance was important to help countries fulfil their obligations within the accepted timeframe. The Cluster Munitions Convention also had his country’s support, and it had participated in meetings on that important instrument. The risk and threat posed by conventional weapons and small arms and light weapons overall was evident and relevant, and resources to address the challenges were critical.
EUGEN MIHUT ( Romania) said he was pleased to have submitted, together with Germany, the draft resolution entitled “objective information on military matters, including transparency of military expenditures” (document A/C.1/66/L.35). He welcomed the hard work carried out by the Group of Governmental Experts, and was pleased with the significant results of its activities, as reflected in its report. The draft resolution had been inspired by that report, and aimed at generating support from Member States to improve the reporting system. He thanked his German colleagues for their cooperation and leadership in their work for the resolution and hoped it would be adopted without a vote, as in previous years.
BOŠTJAN JERMAN ( Slovenia) said that over the past year, many positive developments had occurred in the field of conventional weapons, which would be followed up by several major events in the coming months. Specifically taking up progress made on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he welcomed the outcome of the Second Meeting of State Parties, which had set up important institutional infrastructure. At the next meeting of States parties in Oslo, he hoped that a functioning secretariat, particularly an implementation support unit, with a seat in Geneva. Supporting universalization of that Convention, he called upon other State signatories to ratify the instrument as soon as possible. Slovenia had destroyed its cluster munitions stocks and become a cluster munitions-free country. Universalization of the Mine-Ban Convention should also be high on the agenda, and he hoped Libya would become the next State party to it, paving a new avenue towards its universalization. All countries must do more towards its implementation, particularly in the realm of assistance to mine victims.
Turning to the arms trade treaty, he hoped for its conclusion next year. The Treaty would contribute to preventing the diversion of conventional weapons to the illicit market, and for that reason, its scope should be broad, requiring all States to carefully evaluate applications for arms transfers through thorough risk analysis of diversion to unintended final users. The Review Conference on the United Nations Programme of Action would be another important event next year, which should result in the Programme’s full implementation and expansion of its scope. Likewise, he also recommended broadening the scope of the United Nations Register for Conventional Arms to include new categories of conventional arms, foremost, small arms and light weapons. National submissions to the Register also needed to grow and should increase in number to two-thirds of United Nations Members. Lastly, he mentioned that Slovenia supported the Geneva Declaration on armed violence and development, and he appealed to all States, international organizations and civil society to achieve measurable reductions in armed violence and to fulfil the relevant aspects of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
SILAS MWANIKI KIRAGU ( Kenya) said her country was concerned with the humanitarian aspects of disarmament. She strongly supported the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons, which would address the illicit trade in those weapons. An arms trade treaty would contribute significantly towards international security. The goal of the coming conference on such a treaty needed to produce an instrument that was effective on the ground. She wished to see the chair of the negotiations, Ambassador Roberto Moritan of Argentina, move the process forward. She concluded that the Preparatory Committee leading up to the Conference was an opportunity to evolve a strong treaty.
DILAFERA BEKELE ( Ethiopia) said that progress made so far in achieving the goals of the Mine-Ban Treaty was far from satisfactory. Despite the fact that more than three-fourths of the United Nations members had signed and acceded to it, landmines, especially explosive remnants of wars, and armed conflicts continued to threaten lives in many ways and without bright prospects of putting an end to their full destruction and further production.
He said his country strongly believed that mine clearance must remain a critical element of the international community’s activities in mine action. Mine-affected countries needed enhanced support for mine action operations and mine risk education programmes to create community awareness of the adverse consequences of landmines remaining in the ground long after conflicts were over. And the role of the United Nations, Governments and organizations also needed to be strengthened to eventually achieve a world safe and free from mines. Ethiopia believed that the use of anti-personnel mines was unacceptable, as they were indiscriminate weapons.
Since the establishment in 2002 of the Ethiopia Mine Action Office, a legally mandated institution for the implementation of the Treaty, his Government had taken several important steps, including adoption of a National Mine Action Plan. It had also undertaken large-scale mine clearance efforts in infested areas. Through such concerted actions, valuable data had been collected to prioritize and plan the demining operations and large number of anti-personnel mines and other explosives buried underground had been found and destroyed. In recent years, nearly 59 square kilometres of land had been cleared, involving the destruction 55,000 different types, thereby enabling more than 1 million people to benefit from farming, grazing and other development activities.
JO ADAMSON, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Conference on Disarmament, announced yesterday in London that Burundi had joined theConvention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction(Biological Weapons Convention).
She then turned to conventional weapons, saying that significant progress had been made since her country, along with co-authors Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan and Kenya introduced the original arms trade treaty resolution in 2006. More than 150 States supported the move for negotiations in 2009 and, with limited months remaining before the crucial United Nations negotiating conference in July 2012, the international community must work together to resolve the problems. “If we fail to secure an effective treaty in 2012, they will only become more acute,” she said, adding that those weapons “destroyed lives and livelihoods, displaced communities and hampered development”.
The United Kingdom, she said, remained committed to securing a robust treaty to address those problems and urged all United Nations Member States to engage positively and constructively at next year’s conference. “In this way, we can address the problems of the unregulated trade in conventional arms by securing a treaty that will help to save lives and respect human rights, while at the same time supporting legitimate industry.”
She said her country supported the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons and wanted to see control of those weapons in a broader context of conflict prevention, armed violence reduction and development strategies and interventions, so a more integrated approach could be considered.
A signatory to the Mine-Ban Convention, the United Kingdom had long since stopped using, producing, stockpiling and transferring antipersonnel mines, she said. Her country had allocated £10 million over five years for mine action in Afghanistan and was supporting clearance work and control of abandoned explosive ordnance in Libya. In January, it would launch “phase two” of its Falkland Islands mine clearance pilot project. Phase II would see land released in accordance with international mine-action standards, confirming the extent of some of the minefields near the capital Stanley, accurately defining their boundaries and fencing them on all sides. The project would also confirm that other land within a current suspect hazardous area was free from all mines and other explosive remnants of war and safely release it back to public use. Information gathered during the phase II pilot would inform future mine clearance and land release activity.
Remarkable progress marked the 12 months since the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force, with 111 States joining the Convention and 66 State parties, she noted. Her country had withdrawn all of its 38 million cluster sub-munitions from operational service and was systematically destroying them ahead of schedule. Under current plans, all those munitions should be destroyed by the end of 2013, with 65 per cent so far destroyed. She anticipated the coming Fourth Review Conference 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 Effectsand would like to see a satisfactory outcome from the negotiations for a protocol VI to that treaty, on cluster munitions.
Next, she, along with other treaty co-authors, introduced a draft decision on the arms trade treaty (document A/C.1/66/L.50), which confirmed the dates for the final Preparatory Committee meeting in February.
IMELDA SMOLCIC (Uruguay) speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and Associated States, stressed the urgency of implementing the United Nations Program of Action on small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. In that regard, “indispensable” steps were needed in order to ensure efficient process, including the adoption of a legally binding instrument on identification, tracing and illicit brokering; establishing efficient verification systems of end-user certificates, along with an international framework for the authentication, reconciliation and standardization; and the promotion and strengthening of international cooperation and assistance and national capacity building. The term, “in all its aspects”, should include ammunitions and explosives. Its non-binding nature should not impact its effective implementation.
She underscored the need for continuous follow-up by the international community regarding the Programme’s core role. The recommendations of the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States to consider its implementation enabled continuity in addressing the myriad of issues and concerns. Taking into account their primary responsibility to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade, the MERCOSUR countries had established a Working Group on Firearms and Ammunition, with the aim of sharing national experiences, working on the harmonization of national legislation and coordinating policies in the field. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence of MERCOSUR, within the framework of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), in efforts to strengthen South America as a Zone of Peace, committed to establishing the Mechanism on Confidence and Security Building Measures. That instrument sought to “develop and improve national systems for marking and tracing” weapons and encourage active cooperation among Member States.
Noting the need to address the problems related to non-regulated trade of conventional weapons and their deviation to the illicit market, she said the arms trade treaty that followed the conference in 2012 should among others, be effective and legally binding, negotiated on a non-discriminatory, transparent and multilateral basis, and abide by the “highest international standards possible”. However, it should not affect the right of legitimate self-defence, as recognized in the United Nations Charter, or the right of all States to manufacture, import and export any possible conventional weapons for legitimate self-defence and security needs. MERCOSUR considered confidence-building measures an important tool for the consolidation of peace and security. To that end, essential measures had been implemented throughout the region, enabling an environment that allowed for arms control and limitation of conventional weapons. In that way, Member States could devote more resources to their economic and social development.
ALEXANDER KMENTT, Director for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation of Austria, said that, unlike nuclear weapons, conventional weapons had seen some significant progress in recent years, including the incorporation of humanitarian considerations into the disarmament context and stigmatizing the most insidious weapons, such as antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions. The international community was still struggling to evolve meaningful negotiations in that realm. Austria firmly supported the negotiation of a legally binding international arms trade treaty establishing the highest common international standards for conventional weapons transfers aimed at preventing the illegal trade and regulating the legal trade. He hoped the outcome of negotiations would be a universal instrument covering a wide scope of types of arms and activities. Arms exports should be measured against the highest standards, he added.
Small arms and light weapons caused the death and injury of hundreds of thousands of people, mostly civilians, every year, he said. The illicit trade and excessive accumulation of those weapons adversely affected regional and international security and stability, fuelled conflicts and armed violence and threatened the lives of individuals. As an arms producer and exporter, Austria felt a special responsibility and was committed to working with all United Nations Member States in addressing those challenges within the framework of the Programme of Action.
Austria, he said, also supported the continuous progress on the Mine-Ban Convention, one of the key accomplishments of recent years. The effectiveness of the norm against anti-personnel mines went far beyond the membership of the Convention. The Convention on Cluster Munitions offered a chance to prevent their use, he said, noting that there had been some unacceptable cases of their use, including in South Lebanon in 2006. However, the scale of the cluster munitions problem was not the same for landmines in the 1990s.
The coming Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons next month would review, clarify and strengthen all obligations under that instrument and their implementation, however, most attention would be given to negotiating a cluster munitions protocol, he said. Austria would assess any potential outcome against its complementarity to and compatibility with the Cluster Munitions Convention. He considered the current approach flawed, and restrictions proposed would translate into a legitimization of all cluster munitions not covered by the current proposal, all of which were known to cause terrible humanitarian problems.
He said he had serious reservations about the adverse international humanitarian law precedent resulting from the establishment of an alternative and weaker international norm on cluster munitions. Austria, therefore, had suggested, with other States, a viable alternative approach as a potential result of the negotiation process. There was now no consensus on any of the proposals, which was a requirement for reaching an outcome in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
Austria’s approach on conventional weapons was driven by its overall policy priority to protect civilians in armed conflict, he said. His country would continue to work on conventional weapons, following an approach that looked at the effects of the use of weapons on innocent civilians and in search of establishing conventional weapon norms. Austria was also interested in serious discussion on the threats to civilians posed by other weapons, such as anti-vehicle mines and explosive weapons used in populated areas.
MARIA CARIDAD BALAGUER ( Cuba) said the development of conventional weapons had spread and become ever more sophisticated. The Non-Aligned Movement had already sounded the alert with respect to the imbalance between developing and developed States and about the production and trade of those weapons. There was much left to be done to achieve solutions. Cuba placed a high priority on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and was considering signing that instrument’s protocols IV and V. General and complete disarmament was a high priority, she said, spanning nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
She said that a protocol on cluster munitions needed to be addressed, as those weapons should be banned completely. Work already achieved should progress to address user and producer countries. As a State party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Cuba upheld a State’s right to defend itself. Her country had been the subject of hostility and aggression, and as a result, it could not join the Mine-Ban Treaty. But, it would work hard nevertheless to find a balance between security needs and humanitarian interests.
To combat the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, the roots of the problems must be targeted, she said. Those included poverty and the lack of opportunity for all. She called for the adoption of more measures to attack the illicit trafficking problem, while bearing in mind the severe social and humanitarian consequences, which compromised many countries around the world.
Turning to the arms trade treaty, she said the process towards establishing such an instrument should take place within the United Nations framework. Political and legal implications needed to be examined, and general standards needed to be implemented, which respected the security needs of individual States. The opinions of all States must be taken on board in the process of negotiations.
DELL HIGGIE ( New Zealand) had no doubt that both an arms trade treaty and enhanced implementation of the Programme of Action would benefit human security and sustainable development around the world. The schedule of meetings, especially for that treaty, was not an “artificial imposition of deadlines”, but rather represented the promise of necessary action. The Convention on Cluster Munitions was the gold standard for efforts to address humanitarian suffering caused by those weapons, and New Zealand was pleased to continue as the Convention’s Coordinator on National Implementation Measures.
Two tools to implement that Convention had been developed, she said, citing a checklist of national laws or measures that could be reviewed for compatibility with the Convention and a short example of implementing legislation. There would be an evaluation during the November Review Conference as to whether a humanitarian dividend would be gained from the adoption of a Protocol VI. She noted the opportunity presented by the eleventh meeting of States parties to the Mine Ban Convention chart action in that area.
On the issue of small arms and light weapons, she said that efforts to implement the Programme of Action were incomplete, and a way to address sensitive areas such as border controls had yet to be found. New Zealand had no doubt about the significant humanitarian dividend that would come from a “robust” arms trade treaty, whose conclusion was a priority. Her Government was committed to working intensely in the next year to reach that goal. Capacity-building assistance would be key to that treaty’s implementation. The Chair’s draft paper, circulated in July, offered an excellent basis for shortening the distance to be travelled next year as States worked to conclude that treaty.
SATPAL SINGH RAWAT ( India) said that global measures on conventional arms control contributed significantly to international peace, security and development, as well as to the goal of general and complete disarmament. India’s security interests had been affected by illicit and irresponsible transfers, especially of small arms, light weapons and explosives. Illicit trade in conventional arms was a major factor in armed violence by organized criminals and by terrorists. Priority must be given to combating and eliminating the illicit trade in such arms. India hoped that the Conference in 2012 to review the implementation of the Programme of Action could uphold the commitments undertaken by Member States and give further momentum to their full implementation.
In India’s view, he said, establishing and exercising control over trade in conventional arms was a matter of national responsibility, which States should discharge on the basis of their obligations, under both national and international law and in the light of their legitimate security and foreign policy concerns. India believed that a step-by-step, pragmatic, realistic and consensus-driven approach would enhance the prospects of an instrument of universal acceptance.
India supported the vision of a world free of the threat of landmines, where individuals and communities could live in a safe environment conducive to development and where mine survivors were fully integrated into their societies, he said. Since 1997, India had discontinued the production of non-detectable anti-personnel landmines and observed a moratorium on their transfer. India contributed to international mine clearance and rehabilitation, and it supported the approach enshrined in Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which addressed the legitimate defence requirements of States with long borders.
He said his country was fully committed to the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines. The availability of militarily effective alternative technologies that could perform cost effective landmines’ defensive functions would facilitate the achievement of that goal. India had been participating as an observer in the meetings of the Mine-Ban Convention since the Review Conference held in November 2004, in Nairobi, and it planned to do so again at the forthcoming meeting of the States parties in Phnom Penh. India also shared the international community’s concerns about the humanitarian impact of the irresponsible use of cluster munitions. The use of cluster munitions was legitimate, however, if it was in accordance with international humanitarian law. India supported the negotiation of an instrument in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which struck a balance between military and humanitarian concerns.
TRAORE AMI DIALLO ( Mali) said the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had taken a number of steps to address the illicit spread of small arms and light weapons, including setting up national committees. The crises present in the region actually helped the trafficking in those weapons. More than ever before, regional States that had known shattered peace needed assistance to be available to help them face the menace posed by the spread of small arms and light weapons. Those weapons have already caused suffering to civilian populations, especially the most vulnerable, she said.
Given the relevance of that issue, she introduced a draft resolution on the issue, encouraging the First Committee to adopt it without a vote. The text on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them (document A/C.1/66/L.18) was the expression of States’ political will to create conditions that fostered security, she said. It called for technical and financial assistance for capacity-building of civil society in the fight to curb the spread of those weapons and to collect them.
In response to the many challenges the international community must face, she said that ECOWAS believed combating the spread of illicit small arms and light weapons was of utmost importance. The list of co-sponsors was still open.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( C ôte d’Ivoire) said the vast uncontrolled circulation of small arms and light weapons was a main source of instability, perpetuating a “culture of violence”. Those weapons were cheap, light and easy to use and almost unlimited in their availability. He welcomed the 2001 Programme of Action, which paved the way for national, regional and global efforts to combat the scourge of those weapons. In West Africa, the ECOWAS States had taken action, as the conventional weapons issue was at the heart of the challenges facing the region. Civil wars and conflict situations fuelled by small arms and light weapons and conventional weapons had caused human misery and destruction, leaving many refugees and displaced populations. Cote d’Ivoire was emerging from such a crisis. The Government was implementing actions, with the United Nations Mission to his country, bilateral partners and other organizations.
He called on the international community to collectively work towards combating small arms and light weapons, which had truly become weapons of mass destruction. Tracing and registering weapons was important, and he called for an integrative approach to combat trans-border crime. The region’s States failed to control their borders, and to meet that challenge, so they must rely on the international community for technical assistance to strengthen border controls. Coordinated efforts were needed to identify the transferred weapons. An arms trade treaty would hopefully address weapons transfer issues. The best way to achieve the desired results was to adopt a phased, tangible approach to those issues. Such a treaty should cover weapons and ammunition, and rule out any transfer of weapons if there was a substantial chance they would be used to violate human rights or hamper the socio-economic development of States.
AAPO PÖLHÖ (Finland), pointing out that Finland had been one of the most active supporters of the arms trade treaty, said that he was satisfied with the engagement of Member States and regional groups in preparing its basic legal elements. Engagement by all was necessary to arrive at an effective international legal instrument to regulate the arms trade. The chair’s draft paper on the matter was an excellent basis for the final stage of treaty negotiations, and the Preparatory Committee should submit it to the 2012 conference.
Addressing the context for negotiating the treaty, he emphasized that illicit trade and excessive accumulation of small arms and light weapons resulted in a negative humanitarian impact, contributing to the escalation of conflicts. The United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons was an excellent tool in that regard. The 2012 Review Conference of the Programme should be successful in finding ways to intensify implementation. Additionally, the reports adopted at the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States and at the 2011 open-ended meeting of governmental experts were a good basis for work carried out at the Review Conference. In closing, he took up the subject of mine clearance, noting that Finland had made a political commitment to join the Mine-Ban Convention in 2012 and had supported its implementation through humanitarian mine action, namely in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Chad, Ethiopia, Iraq and Somalia.
PETRIKA JORGJI ( Albania) said that action towards strengthening the international framework for the legal trade of conventional weapons constituted a major contribution towards a safer and more prosperous world. He welcomed the progress achieved during the preparatory process on the arms trade treaty, as such an instrument would be a much needed legally binding international tool. He said that the illicit production, stockpiling and trade of small arms and light weapons continued to pose a serious threat to international security and development.
Regarding the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he said that as one of the signatories, he welcomed its entry into force in August 2010. The Mine-Ban Convention was another important element of “humanitarian disarmament” – besides the total ban on production, use and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines, it required the destruction of all existing stockpiles, the clearance of all mine-contaminated areas, and ensuring assistance to mine victims. For its part, Albania had made assistance to victims of mines a priority and had hosted an international symposium on Strengthening the International Cooperation on Mine Victim Assistance.
This year Albania, together with Norway and Cambodia, had tabled the draft resolution, entitled “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their destruction” (document A/C.1/66/L.4). The text called upon States to accede to and implement the Mine-Ban Treaty and to give strong focus on the humanitarian dimension of the Convention. He called on Member States, especially those who were not party to the Treaty, to vote in favour of the resolution.
ALEXANDRE FASEL ( Switzerland) stressed that conventional weapons should be given the same degree of attention as nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. “Our common endeavours as regards conventional weapons have an important impact on reducing armed conflict and armed violence,” he said. Challenges in the area of conventional weapons remained important and a number of events would provide the opportunity to make progress. The 2012 conference on the arms trade treaty would be an important event in next year’s disarmament agenda. “We will seek to ensure that tireless efforts undertaken over the last few years will be crowned by the conclusion of a strong, comprehensive and legally binding treaty,” he said. Although negotiations were still ahead, he considered the draft papers of the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee to be a useful starting point. The future treaty should cover all conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons as well as ammunition and explosives.
He said that the Review Conference of the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons would be an opportunity to strengthen an extremely important instrument through the adoption of a substantive outcome document. After the failure of 2006, it was important to agree on an outcome at the forthcoming review. In addition, 2011 was the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. He attached particular importance to that major transparency tool. The Review Conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons next month would also be an opportunity to make progress in the field of conventional weapons. Universalization of that treaty was solidly on track, and Switzerland was taking forward its own ratification process. There was steady progress on the Mine-Ban Convention, he noted, stressing the crucial importance of the upcoming Meeting of the States Parties in Phnom Penh for addressing the implementation challenges. The Cartagena Action Plan of 2009 provided an excellent road map. The Geneva Declaration on Armed violence and Development had been signed by 109 States, which had committed to take tangible and demonstrable steps to reduce the incidence and causes of armed violence.
ANTONIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating his statement with that made on behalf of the African Group, said that it was agreed that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons constituted one of the challenges of today’s world, as it represented a serious threat to peace, security, stability, safety and development in many countries, particularly in Africa. The implementation of the Programme of Action was a step forward in consolidating peace, security, stability, and the preservation of law and order with countries and beyond their borders. The international community’s endeavours to prevent and curb the proliferation of small arms and light weapons were multisectoral, and engaged both Governments and civil society stakeholders.
He said that civil society played an important role in civic education to raise awareness of local communities for the risk of illegal arms ownership. An initiative was being carried out by various Government institutions under the Office to Support Women and Children Victims of Domestic Violence and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to disseminate the legal framework on domestic violence and prevent the use of small arms and ammunitions in domestic violence. He commended the political momentum for the arms trade, and he expressed the hope that its negotiations would be based on a fair ground and would culminate in a strong treaty that would address developing countries’ main concerns in that important domain.
FIKRY CASSIDY (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated the founding principles of the Movement, as well as the sovereign right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms for their self-defence and security needs. He expressed concern over unilateral coercive measures, and stressed that no undue restriction should be placed on the transfer of such arms. He recognized the significant imbalance in the production, possession and trade in conventional weapons between the industrialized world and the States of the Movement, and he called for a significant reduction in the production, possession and trade of conventional weapons by the industrialized States with a view to enhancing international and regional peace and security.
He expressed deep concern over the illicit transfer, manufacture, and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world. He emphasized the importance of prompt and full implementation of the Action Programme, and stressed that international assistance and cooperation was an essential aspect in its full implementation. The Movement would continue to deplore the use, in contravention of international humanitarian law, of anti-personnel mines in conflict situations aimed at maiming, killing and terrorising innocent civilians — denying them access to farmlands, causing famine, and forcing them to flee their homes leading to de-population. He invited those States which had not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the Mine-Ban Treaty and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its Protocols.
He recognized the adverse humanitarian impact caused by the use of cluster munitions and expressed sympathy with the affected countries, and he called on all States in a position to do so to consider providing the necessary financial, technical and humanitarian assistance to unexploded cluster munitions-clearing operations. He underlined the importance of General Assembly resolution 65/55, and deplored the harm caused by the use of weapons and munitions containing depleted uranium. Regarding the arms trade treaty, the Movement recognized the need to address the problems relating to unregulated trade in such conventional weapons and their diversion to the illicit market. Considering that those risks could fuel instability, international terrorism and transnational organized crime, the Movement supported international action to address the problem.
LAWRENCE OLUFEMI OBISAKIN, Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said the noble inclusion of numerous conventional weapons draft resolutions demonstrated a “clarion call” for Member States to urgently redouble efforts to articulate the role of those weapons regarding security needs of States, peoples and organizations. However, there should be some reflection on the number of resolutions needed to embrace confidence-building measures being promoted to address the process of arms build-ups, proliferation and reduction in armaments.
“What do we consider to be acceptable, for instance, on the proportion of combat aircraft, aircraft carriers, battle tanks, missiles, mortars, small arms and light weapons, and other armaments needed to defend the territorial integrity of States?” he asked. “How many of these resolutions do we require to come to the realization that the world’s weapons stockpile is presently over-supplied? It is most troubling to note that States have reshaped the true objective of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.”
Nigeria, he said, was deeply concerned at the magnitude of human casualty and unbearable suffering, especially among children, women and the aged, as a result of the illicit trade, proliferation, use and misuse of small arms and light weapons in Africa, including the negative impact on sub-Saharan Africa’s efforts to maintain peace and security, and facilitate development. Nigeria had spent more than $10 billion in the last two decades to stem the tide of recurrent conflicts fuelled by the illicit circulation of an estimated 8 million small arms and light weapons in the subregion. “You will no doubt agree with me that this is a financial outlay of monumental proportion, which few developing countries with equal socio-economic challenges may be willing to expend in pursuit of peace and security outside its shores,” he said.
Small arms and light weapons were “our weapons of mass destruction” in view of the devastation witnessed from their misuse in the region and the destabilizing effects they had had on the region’s socio-economic development, he said. Indiscriminate use and gross accumulation of those weapons in the subregion had led Nigeria to work towards reversing that negative trend, including an amnesty programme in the Niger Delta to address problems associated with militancy.
He said that those weapons wreaked havoc around the world in terms of their indiscriminate use and misuse by all kinds of end-users, especially non-State actors. That range of “havoc” amounted to acts of terror, attacks on civilians and peacekeepers, organized crime, hijacking of humanitarian and relief convoys and many more such vices. Nigeria had been “wholesomely committed” to the fight against the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons, including at the regional level, and it had resolved also to continue to seek assistance where it lacked capacity. It also called on the international community to lend to establishing an arms trade treaty with a view to laying down common international standards for import, export and transfers of conventional weapons.
“We expect no less of a treaty which provides the legal basis for international trade in conventional weapons,” he said. In the area of mine action, Nigeria had taken measures to locate and remove landmines, and had not benefited from any form of technical or financial assistance from the United Nations, but it looked forward to collaboration with the Organization in that regard.
MAHADHI JUMA MAALIM, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that people in his and neighbouring countries suffered on a daily basis from indiscriminate misuse of conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons. The international community had heard or witnessed the horrendous wars and criminal activities occasioned by conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, on the populations in the Great Lakes region of Africa in particular, and the African continent in general. Foreigners, including tourists, had also not been spared those horrors and deaths.
He said that conflicts, transborder crime, terrorism and piracy had been exacerbated by the use of conventional weapons including small arms and light weapons. The United Nations, Africa, and its subregional organizations had spent resources to combat those vices. Only recently had the Organization spent money where it was most needed – on mediation processes in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The African Union had to include a provision of a stand-by brigade in its peace architecture. All other regions of the world were forced to spend financial resources to deal with menacing actions orchestrated by various human elements that expelled peace and security from their countries with concomitant losses of lives, property, and money.
His country did not wish to see the continuation of those losses at the hands of conventional weapons, he said. In addition to human greed, poverty and the need for political aggrandizement, the denial of fundamental freedom and rights constituted a major cause of the use of conventional weapons, and small arms and light weapons, and disarmament should take into consideration all the necessary aspects. That would call for closer cooperation and collaboration of the First Committee and others, and it was the wish of all for the next generation of humankind to enjoy full peace and security.
VICTORIA GONZÁLEZ ROMÁN ( Spain) said her country was committed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and called upon countries that had not yet done so to join that instrument. Spain was also pleased about the arms trade treaty process, highlighting Ambassador Moritan’s dedicated efforts. Such a treaty should achieve the widest number of signatories as possible. Fighting the trafficking of small arms and light weapons, the Programme of Action was a critical part of that undertaking, which also included the international tracing instrument.
In the effort to support combating illicit trafficking and ensuring legal trade, Spain had participated in meetings at the United Nations and the regional and subregional level. The arms registry at the United Nations and standardized reporting instrument were effective initiatives. In recent years, humanitarian disarmament had seen successes, with the Mine-Ban Treaty among them. Her country was committed to the Cartagena Action Plan and had been among the first to have signed and ratified the Cluster Munitions Convention. Spain’s commitment to that instrument went beyond its obligations. In addition, Spain was taking an active role in the area of disarmament regarding conventional weapons.
ALEXANDER DEYNEKO ( Russian Federation) said that on the United Nations agenda regarding conventional weapons, 2012 would hold a special place, as there were a number of upcoming important international meetings, the most significant of which was the review conference on combating and preventing small arms and light weapons and the 2012 United Nations conference on the arms trade treaty. The top priority when combating illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was enhancing practical performance of the Programme of Action. His delegation intended to work together with the international community so as to achieve implementation of its provisions at the maximum level and formulate complementary programmes with tangible measures to cut off channels where weapons could fall into the hands of illegal actors. His delegation was in favour of continuing the process of the arms trade treaty within the United Nations.
He shared the eagerness after the 2012 conference in reaching a truly effective document on a consensus basis, and tackling problems of uncontrolled proliferation of conventional weapons. Concerning transparency, he believed that the main task of the existing instruments, above all the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, should be to trace and identify destabilizing accumulations of weapons. In the interest of acknowledging the importance of technical aspects, such as expanding the Registry and the categories of weapons, he noted the need to strengthen the political aspect of the Register to bolster transparency.
In favour of further bolstering the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, he said that the Fourth Review Conference was an important milestone, and his delegation was determined to take an active role in its work and to adopt important substantive decisions. Ultimately, the effectiveness of the United Nations depended on the harmony of the international community’s actions; to be truly effective, focus should be geared towards decision making, to help prevent conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, from being diverted into the illegal trade. That must be based on the broadest possible consensus among Member States. He was ready to support the drafting of relevant resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly, which were geared towards consolidating international efforts in that sphere.
ERAN YUVAN ( Israel) said his delegation had been calling on the international community to conclude a legally binding norm to ban the transfer of arms to terrorists. A clear and comprehensive norm banning such transfers was essential, and it was important to seek ways to overcome the longstanding problem of how to define a “terrorist”. This issue was not less relevant today than it was in 2007 when Israel had presented a paper on the topic at the Conference on Disarmament. The international community must act decisively and in unison on that important issue.
He welcomed the universalization of an arms trade, and said that the negotiations planned for next summer could lead to the creation of a legally binding instrument, based on achieving the highest standards and taking concrete measures to combat arms transfers to terrorists and non-state actors. Illicit trade and uncontrolled transfer of small arms and light weapons had several destabilizing effects and humanitarian costs. Israel was ready to play its part in constructively engaging to contribute to the success of the next Review Conference of the Programme of Action in 2012. That success could be yet another step in bolstering the resolve to prevent arms transfers to terrorists and to prevent the human suffering that caused.
Unfortunately, he said, some Member States were working actively to thwart efforts to create a legally binding instrument that would have a real impact on the ground. He trusted and hoped that Member States would remember the human costs involved, and bring that instrument to fruition. In addition to the moratorium imposed in 1994 on the transfer and sale of anti-personnel mines, Israel had established a national mine authority. However, unfortunately, as long as the regional security situation posed a threat to Israel, the need to protect its borders, including through use of anti-personnel mines, would continue.
He said further that man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) posed an ominous threat to civilians and aviation alike. As a country that narrowly escaped the shooting down of a passenger craft, Israel was all too aware of the dangers of those devices when they fell into the wrong hands — especially those of terrorists. The international community must allocate the time and energy to address that grave problem.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Argentina, responding to what was said by the delegate of the United Kingdom regarding the Malvinas, reiterated the statement made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) on 21 June. The Argentine Government recalled that the Malvinas Islands, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands, and surrounding maritime areas, were an integral part of the Argentine national territory, were illegally occupied by the United Kingdom, and were subjected to a sovereignty dispute, as recalled by several international organizations. The illegal occupation exercised by the United Kingdom had led the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a number of resolutions recognizing the existence of a sovereignty dispute, referred to as the question of the Malvinas Islands and calling upon the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations in order to find, as soon as possible, a peaceful and lasting solution to the dispute.
Also, she said, the United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee had expressed the same sentiment, most recently through a resolution adopted on 21 June. Likewise, a new pronouncement in similar terms was adopted by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States on 7 June. Argentina reaffirmed the legal sovereign rights over Malvinas Islands, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands, and surrounding maritime areas, which were an integral part of the Argentine national territory.
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