Non-Governmental Organizations Question Member States’ Commitment as Preparatory Committee Continues Debate on Small Arms, Light Weapons
Non-Governmental Organizations Question Member States’ Commitment as Preparatory Committee Continues Debate on Small Arms, Light Weapons
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Preparatory Committee for Review Conference
on Illicit Small Arms Trade
5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)
Non-Governmental Organizations Question Member States’ Commitment as Preparatory
Committee Continues Debate on Small Arms, Light Weapons
Meeting also Discusses International Tracing Instrument, Elects Vice-Chair
Ending human suffering was the primary purpose of the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, a Nigerian doctor reminded delegates today as they prepared for an upcoming review conference.
“I am here as a medical doctor,” said Hakeem Ayinde of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War — International Action Network on Small Arms. “Why are you here? I trust that is because we share a common goal,” he told the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
He recounted the story of a 40-year-old Ecuadorean man whose two gunshot wounds had resulted in two surgeries, a 10‑day hospital stay and a bill of $10,000 — a sum equal to the health-care coverage for 200 Ecuadoreans. The costs of the man’s long-term rehabilitation, loss of employment and children dropping out of school for lack of funds illustrated the long-lasting damage that guns could cause, Dr. Ayinde said.
A number of other non-governmental organizations emphasized the importance of incorporating the human aspect into discussions leading up to the August Review Conference on the Implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action. Felix Kokou Aklavon, National Focal Point of the International Action Network on Small Arms in Togo, described the deadly toll that massive explosions at arms depots around Africa had taken on human life, citing the most recent example earlier in the month, which had killed hundreds of people and left thousands more homeless, following an explosion and fire at an arms dump in Brazzaville, the capital of Congo. “The entire world, and particularly the many survivors and victims, are waiting for a very strong signal of your engagement,” he said.
Other representatives of non-governmental organizations stressed the need to include ammunition in the Programme of Action, citing their role in causing thousands of deaths. Hector Guerra, also of the International Action Network on Small Arms, said that with the Review Conference just five months away, the international community increasingly had a need to know about the impact of the Programme of Action’s implementation on gun-violence levels on the ground. “One of the main lessons learned since 2001 is that although guns kill more people than any other weapons, most gun deaths occur in countries or contexts unrelated to war,” he said.
Progress in implementing the Programme of Action remained wanting, he said, noting that few of its 60 paragraphs had been put in place by more than “a handful of States”. About 158 Member States had reported at least once since 2001, with 34 others never having submitted a single report. The creation of national focal points had been “underwhelming at best”, and many questions remained, including how to measure implementation, he said. “This year’s Review Conference will shape global arms policy for years to come, and therefore must ensure that the United Nations small arms process is continued and strengthened beyond 2012.”
The Programme of Action contains substantial agreed norms and programmes on several issues, including preventing and combating the illicit production and trafficking of small arms and light weapons; ensuring effective controls over the legal production of those weapons, their holding and transfer; weapons collection and destruction; and control over those arms in post-conflict situations. Earlier biennial meetings were held in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010, and a Review Conference was held in 2006.
Earlier today, the Preparatory Committee concluded its thematic debate on the follow-up to the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, and opened discussion on the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons.
In another business, the Preparatory Committee elected Indonesia’s representative, by acclamation, as a Vice-Chair of its Bureau.
Speaking during today’s thematic debates were representatives of Jamaica (also on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Israel, Iran, Australia, Argentina, Cuba, Belgium, Chad, New Zealand, Kenya, Switzerland, Philippines, United States, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Algeria, Russian Federation, China, South Africa, Morocco, France, Colombia, Ghana, Niger and Côte d’Ivoire.
Representatives of the European Union delegation; African Union; International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL); Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States; East African Community; and the Organization of American States also spoke.
Also delivering statements were representatives of the non-governmental organizations Defence Small Arms Advisory Council and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute.
The Preparatory Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 22 March to continue its thematic debate.
The Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects met this morning to continue its thematic debate on the status of the action plan, adopted by the General Assembly in 2001. For further information, see Press Releases DC/3326 of 19 March and DC/3327 of 20 March.
Before the Preparatory Committee were the following documents: the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (document A/CONF.192/15); the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons (document A/60/88); and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (document A/RES/55/255).
The Preparatory Committee first concluded its thematic debate on the follow-up to the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
RAYMOND WOLFE(Jamaica) said that commitments to the Programme of Action at the national, regional and international levels were mutually reinforcing and could not be “divorced” from each other. International entities must work together towards the Programme’s implementation in critical areas such as border management. Noting that the process of reviewing progress since the instrument’s 2001 adoption had been hampered, he called for measurable targets to ensure that the next Review Conference could make an assessment, but pointed out that Member States would have to proceed without additional resources. Much remained to be done in that area, he said. With a view to restricting costs, national reports could also include assistance needs, he suggested.
Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), he said the International Tracing Instrument was an “indispensable companion” to the Programme of Action. Describing the Caribbean region as a victim of the scourge of illegal arms, he said the Instrument held great promise for curbing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons since it could help to identify trading routes and other key information. The new regional ballistic identification network would gather and share information with the relevant authorities, he added. Pointing out that none of the CARICOM countries produced arms, he said the regional body participated in marking and tracing projects, and emphasized that weapon-producing States bore the responsibility of marking their products. What was needed was awareness-raising, particularly in the area of border control, a broad binding marking regime as well as international assistance and capacity-building.
ERAN YUVAN (Israel) said his country attached great importance to the Programme of Action and viewed its effective implementation as crucial in combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The illicit trade and uncontrolled transfers of such weapons had severe destabilizing effects and humanitarian consequences, and Israel was ready to engage constructively with other Member States in contributing to a successful outcome of the upcoming Review Conference on the Implementation of the Programme of Action. That would help in preventing the transfer of arms to terrorists and reduce human suffering, he said.
Emphasizing the importance of enhancing the level of cooperation in preventing trafficking, border control and post-conflict smuggling management, he welcomed the successful completion of the preparatory process for the arms trade treaty aimed at addressing illegal arms transfers. Israel looked forward to the negotiations later in the year in hopes that it would lead to a legally-binding instrument. However, he expressed deep concern over the widespread illicit proliferation of man-portable air defence systems, saying they posed a threat to civilian as well as military aviation. Israel was all too aware of the dangers they posed when they fell into the wrong hands, especially those of terrorists, he added.
SEYED HOSSEIN GHOLAMI(Iran) said that while his delegation was open to a meaningful balance of suggestions for the Programme of Action, the possible rejection of such proposals must be taken into consideration. Proposals should be designed to solve a real and commonly proven problem, taking into account and observing fully a State-driven, consensus-based process. Any United Nations-related meetings should be planned in such a manner as to ensure the full participation of all Member States, particularly developing ones, he stressed, urging Member States to avoid introducing new topics that did not fall under the Programme of Action while emphasizing the importance of putting forward practical recommendations.
The value and effectiveness of the resolutions adopted by consensus in respect of small arms and light weapons could not be undermined, he continued. It was obvious that delegates had not been convinced that there was a serious problem in the current follow-up process, he said, adding that it should remain unchanged in terms of format, frequency and mandate. Holding two meetings and one preparatory meeting was the best way to review the Programme of Action. That was the appropriate document to address the issues and there was therefore no need to rewrite it. He warned against establishing complicated templates that would hinder the submission of reports. “Let us be realistic and practical,” he said. “Let us put rhetoric aside and help developing countries deal with the issues of small arms and light weapons.”
CLAIRE PAULIEN ELIAS(Australia) said a balance must be struck in terms of expert meetings, which consequently fed into political commitment. The pros and cons of meetings of governmental experts and the group of governmental experts should also be addressed. While meetings of governmental experts involved all States, with high possibilities of having successful outcomes, meetings of the group of governmental experts did not represent all members, but were useful for technical matters. On the biennial meetings of States, she expressed support for clear follow-up steps, with the early development of agendas, among other things. There was some benefit to exploring an implementation plan from the Review Conference, she said, adding that, while that was an ambitious activity, it would see States breaking down implementation steps.
The Committee then began its thematic debate on the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons, commonly referred to as the International Tracing Instrument.
ROLAND TRICOT, European Union delegation, said States should seek the widest possible exchange of information to trace illicit small arms and light weapons, and the Review Conference should promote increased exchanges on tracing results to prevent their diversion. The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) should play a key role, and full advantage should be taken of the possibilities offered by its illicit arms records and tracing-management system, iARMS, which helped member countries report on, search for and trace stolen and lost firearms. The continuous and sustainable training of law-enforcement officials in terms of registering the marks of firearms remained crucial to the full and effective implementation of the International Tracing Instrument. A pool of civilian and military experts, as well as possible changes to mission structures, should be considered to enable them to contribute effectively to the tracing of illicit small arms and light weapons, he said.
MATEO ESTREME (Argentina) said his country had established a national firearms registry, which covered related data, repair parts, explosives and armament material. Information on imports, exports and domestic sales helped to contribute appropriately to the registry. National registries must create clear policies on the destruction of firearms, he stressed, recalling that since the establishment of its policy on the destruction of firearms in 2006, the Government had destroyed 128,734 small arms, which represented 10 per cent of civilian-owned weapons. That had been made possible by the help of civil society and non-governmental organizations, he said, pledging to provide technical assistance in national capacity-building in the areas of marking and tracing to countries that needed it.
YADIRA LEDESMA HERNÁNDEZ (Cuba) said that, since small arms and light weapons were the only defensive resources that many countries possessed, the International Tracing Instrument must be implemented in accordance with the principles and purposes enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Cuba had set forth norms on security measures, exports, licenses and additional activities tied to small arms and light weapons, she said, adding that there were no arms brokers in her country. All activities relating to small arms and light weapons were controlled by the State, and all weapons belonged to the Ministries of the Armed Forces and of the Interior. They were used for the safe defence of the country, she added. National legislation required individuals who possessed firearms licences to stay up to date with the developments and requirements of the two ministries. While expressing support for marking, she reaffirmed that the option of carrying it out was the State’s prerogative.
VINCENT WILLEKENS (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union, said his country’s Government had launched new initiatives with regard to implementing the International Tracing Instrument and encouraged the sharing of tracing results in an appropriate format in order to ensure effectiveness. Exchanging information was not only sufficient on the national level but must also be implemented on the regional level, he said. Tracing weapons in conflict and post-conflict countries remained a mostly theoretical idea, he said, stressing that particular attention must be paid to conflict-ridden nations and regions where the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was prevalent.
NOURENE ABDERMAN MAHAMAT (Chad) said porous borders and armed conflicts had triggered the proliferation of weapons in his country and the broader region. Chad had collected and destroyed 15,000 firearms, but sorely needed international assistance to continue demining and tracing projects, among other activities. Given the transnational nature of the illicit arms trade, the Preparatory Committee should determine a concrete way ahead in the implementation of the Programme of Action.
ANTHONY SIMPSON (New Zealand) noted that, almost seven years since the Instrument’s adoption, effective marking, record-keeping and tracing were still of considerable importance for identifying points of diversion to the illicit market and for enabling successful prosecutions for related offences. Further discussions should be held during the Review Conference on several ideas raised at the meeting of governmental experts, including the establishment of a technical committee to assess the implications of recent trends and developments in small arms technology, ways to facilitate enhanced information sharing on national marking practices and measures to strengthen national capacities to ease accurate identification of weapons and markings.
JOSEPHINE OJIAMBO (Kenya) said regional organizations could play a significant role in the Instrument’s implementation. The Nairobi Protocol and the best practice guidelines, to which Kenya was a party, required the marking of all arms at the time of manufacture, she said, adding that her country’s Central Bureau for Weapons Registration ensured that all firearms were marked. Legislative and administrative procedures were also under way.
ALEXANDRE FASEL ( Switzerland), stressing the importance of implementing the Tracing Instrument, proposed the establishment of a technical committee to draft recommendations on marking. Such recommendations should take into account new developments in weapons design and manufacture, including the challenges posed by similarly designed weapons and the trend towards modularity in their design. Acknowledging the lack of qualified personnel as well as the shortage of equipment and relevant technologies, he invited those States in a position to do so to assist in those areas. He also expressed support for specific means of following up on the ideas, proposals and lessons shared in meetings of governmental experts.
RAUL D PETRASANTA (Philippines), calling for the timely and expeditious implementation of the Tracing Instrument, said his country’s Government required markings on every level as a part of the national production process. Securing appropriate licensing was also critical to the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons. All manufactured firearms had the appropriate markings and were registered within the country, he said, adding that firms manufacturing firearms where required to submit monthly reports to national agencies on the types, calibres and quantities of their finished products, as well as sales.
WILLIAM KULLMAN (United States) stressed the need for sharing information, particularly with regard to revealing regional trafficking routes, citing a project by which the Organization of American States had helped arms-importing States to mark their weapons, identifying them by serial number, country name and year of importation. The Instrument would become fully successful when individual nations made a priority of training their law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in marking and tracing their weapons, he said. In the Western hemisphere, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had done a good job in that regard, he noted. Each nation was a lawful user of small arms and light weapons, he recognized, acknowledging that they were a lawful and practical commodity. While the tracing of weapons in conflict zones had great value, it must be acknowledged that certain information was sensitive, and law-enforcement channels must be used in that context. The Instrument was a helpful tool in terms of growing international efforts to make a vibrant and functional network a reality, he noted.
CHUKA UDEDIBIA (Nigeria), expressing support for a legally-binding Instrument, said it would provide a much better chance of achieving its goals. A second review conference should take into account the concerns of States relating to the Instrument’s implementation, he said. It was encouraging that INTERPOL had recorded many requests, but it was to be hoped that such requests would be realized on the ground as well. He said the Tracing Instrument should be extended to peacekeeping missions under United Nations mandates, adding that it was critical for peace-support missions to have the authority to request reports on weapons circulating in their areas of operation.
RODNEY CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago), associating himself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his country’s Government had taken a number of measures to mark and trace small arms and to cooperate in combating the illicit trade in them. On the national level, Trinidad and Tobago was working to establish a computer database containing a registry of every firearm in the country, adding that every firearm entered had been test fired. The database also helped authorities to determine how the firearms, whether obtained legally or illegally, were being used. At the bilateral level, the Government had entered into an agreement with the United States which granted Trinidad and Tobago access to that country’s computer database, he said.
RODRIGO PINTADO (Mexico) said it was unfortunate that, in many cases, the diversion of illicit weapons occurred through individuals. To help stem the flow, Mexico had worked through the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunitions, Explosives and Other Related Materials, and with the United States through the e-Trace programme. The Tracing Instrument should be implemented in a uniform manner, bearing in mind each State’s capacity. Doing so would reduce the spread of illicit weapons. Proposals by the group of governmental experts for the creation of a harmonized marking system and cooperation in the area of tracing were of key importance in attacking the illicit arms trade, he said.
DJAMEL MOKTEFI (Algeria) said marking would help prevent the illicit flow of arms, and additional approaches based on the links between security and development should also be kept in mind. Algeria had made efforts to rein in the illicit weapons trade, focusing on sharing information and experiences. Trans-border operations entailed training security and customs officers and providing equipment that would help officials face the challenges of arms smuggling, he said. Algeria had hosted several relevant conferences, including on regional activities in the Arab and Africa regions. The Government had established plans to combat threats, including terrorism and the smuggling of arms and drugs, and would be issuing a national report on the implementation of international instruments later this year, he said. Combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons required a global cooperative approach focused on the vectors of smuggling and on its root causes — poverty and socio-economic problems.
DENIS DAVYDOV (Russian Federation) said the Interior Ministry was responsible for keeping weapons records, including those reported lost, stolen or seized. The Ministry of Defence also maintained a database that included seized arms. Inventory check-ups took place every year and the authorities had established departments to deal with arms circulation and tracing. The Russian Federation was using physical and chemical techniques to determine the true origin of seized arms, he said, adding that more details on his country’s activities in related areas were contained in its 2011 report to the United Nations Secretariat.
Ms. LU (China) urged States to ensure that arms manufacturers applied visible markings to identify the countries of origin. Although forms of markings could vary according to production operations and management, it was imperative that each piece could be easily traced, she said, adding that recordkeeping also played an indispensable role in tracing. States should also establish national focal points on the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument. Calling on developed countries to provide assistance in institution-building and technical training, she said that her country, for its part, ensured that each individual weapon produced had a serial number and manufacturing code, among other marks.
DAVID ROBIN WENSLEY (South Africa) said marking and tracing were the main pillars of the implementation of the Programme of Action, which hopefully would be done in a timely manner. Recalling that there had been talk about including ammunition in a strengthened Tracing Instrument and making it legally binding, he noted that there was no consensus on either of those two issues. From a national point of view, ammunition was part of the problem, he said, adding, however, that he did not get the sense that there had been any change in the view of delegations on that matter.
BOUBKER SABIK (Morocco) welcomed the efficacy of the Tracing Instrument, which allowed agencies to trace small arms and light weapons. Databases were vital, as law-enforcement and judicial agencies could turn to them when seeking critical information. That made it easier to determine the particular weapons used. If a weapon was imported, Morocco sent a letter to the producer country requesting that it be traced, he said, calling on countries to harmonize information on all seized weapons as soon as possible. That would allow technical, policy and judicial officials to access the database. Calling for the creation of focal points in certain countries to ensure efficacy in the process, he reiterated the importance of databases while emphasizing also that technical assistance in respect of computer support was critical, because mere paperwork was not sufficient. It was also necessary to avoid falsification and fabrication of information, he said, offering Morocco’s ballistics expertise, especially to neighbouring countries.
Ms. ELIAS (Australia) expressed hope that the Review Conference would encourage the exchange of best practices in relation to the Tracing Instrument. Given its transnational nature, tracing relied on international cooperation, and it was to be hoped that it would reinforce police organizations. On the national level, the Australian Crime Commission traced domestic weapons, but also assisted in and accepted requests for the tracing of weapons from the international community. The Commission was conducting a national assessment to better understand the national firearms market, she said, adding that she would be happy to share the information gathered from that exercise with other countries. She expressed support for the implementation of clear and simple marking and tracing mechanisms, and expressed hope that the United Nations would continue to push for that.
PATRICK LE MÉNÈS (France), associating himself with the European Union, said tracing and recordkeeping in respect of weapons was at the forefront in combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Tracing and marking specifically were a national implementation issue, but they would benefit from the involvement of the largest number of countries possible. However, implementation of the Instrument would only be effective if it was done on a global basis, with a focus on cooperation, he stressed, noting that INTERPOL played a major role in that regard.
CAMILO LOUIS (Colombia) said his country’s arms-manufacturing industry was under the guidance of the authorities, which, among other things, ensured the traceability of all weapons. All small arms and light weapons in the security and armed forces were duly marked, he added. Colombia’s standards and procedures were being implemented, he said, noting that arms-related data and licence holders were also recorded, thereby ensuring that the State held full control over weapons. The tracing of arms must be strengthened to prevent their diversion to the illicit market, he stressed.
JONES APPLERH (Ghana) said his country had been among the first of a group of countries to benefit from a joint Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and European Union programme, having received training and two marking machines. The accumulation of illicit arms posed serious challenges to security, and marking weapons in an easily identifiable manner was essential, as was maintaining a database. “Marking weapons is also the very least we owe to victims of illicit arms,” he added. Information exchange and lessons learned could also guide countries now embarking on weapons-control programmes, he said, calling for increased cooperation to prevent the proliferation of illicit weapons.
TÉTE ANTÓNIO, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said the African Union Commission had established a mechanism to help coordinate regional bodies. It had held a meeting of experts in September 2011, which had resulted in a proposed African Union strategy to prevent, combat and eradicate the proliferation, circulation and trafficking of illicit arms. Ever increasing problems arising from illicit proliferation, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel belt, included escalating instability as well as rising terrorist activities and piracy. They underscored the need for a comprehensive approach and for global political will and commitment. The African Union was committed to continue its efforts to harmonize and coordinate regionally developed strategies aimed at enhancing the implementation of the Programme of Action, based on the principles of national and regional ownership, he said.
Mr. YUEN, INTERPOL, urging the use of marking, tracing and cooperation, said the firearm trace request system was an international tool that allowed countries to request the origin of firearms. There was also a tool that gave investigators access to numerous aspects of a given firearm, including brand name and country of origin. The INTERPOL database was updated regularly and disseminated information in a timely manner, he said. However, the system’s full value could only be effective when more countries participated. A new European Union-funded database that would allow countries to report lost and stolen firearms was in development, he said.
FRANCIS WAIRAGU, Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States, associated himself with the African Group and the African Union, and said his organization had helped to develop national policies in 8 of its 15 member countries. While national action plans and policies must be enhanced and developed, regional cooperation on implementation of the Programme of Action had proven very useful, especially in Africa. National reporting on implementation of the Programme of Action and the Tracing Instrument was a crucial way to stay up to date, in the region and beyond. It was focusing on synthesizing national reports into regional reports, he said, adding that the Centre had cooperated with regional and other countries to contribute to national and regional capacity-building, technology transfer and assistance.
YOUNOUSSA ABDOULAYE (Niger), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said his country had land borders with seven others, and although he was fully aware of steps to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, challenges persisted. Niger was at a crossroads vis-à-vis the many factors that influenced the movement of arms in the region, such as drug trafficking and instability in Libya. Describing the international cooperation and assistance set forth in the Programme of Action as the cornerstones of its implementation, he said an important role should be afforded to civil society and non-governmental organizations. Regarding the Tracing Instrument, he emphasized the need for implementation, especially in least developed countries such as Niger.
Mr. YUVAN (Israel) said Israeli companies manufacturing small arms and light weapons were obliged by regulations to mark them with unique markings, which included the name of the manufacturer, country and a serial number. Licences for the private possession of firearms were granted per weapon and not as a general licence for possession, he emphasized. Increasingly, more components of small arms and light weapons were made from materials other than metal, which had a direct impact on the marking method and the permanency of the markings. That was crucial to States’ ability to trace small arms and light weapons. Another challenge was marking the weapons at the time of import by States of varying capabilities in terms of expertise and machinery, he said.
BAFÉTIGUÉ OUATTARA(C ôte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said the Tracing Instrument allowed the international community to trace the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. That required States to live up to their responsibility to eliminate the illicit trade. He said his country was emerging from 10 years of conflict and attached great importance to implementation of the Programme of Action. Recalling that weapons had been destroyed with the assistance of United Nations agencies and Member States, he said that in the next two years, Côte d’Ivoire would focus on strengthening legislation, borders and the storage and disposal of weapons. There was a need to promote better coordination and cooperation with regard to implementation of the Programme of Action, he said, calling upon all States to move ahead with the improved follow-up.
LEONARD ONYONYI, East African Community, said his intergovernmental organization had undertaken regional interventions, coupled with cooperation with governmental authorities and civil society, to address issues related to the illicit arms trade. A wider regional action plan had been adopted to deal with sea-related crimes, and the Community was also working with INTERPOL. More needed to be done towards implementation of the Tracing Instrument, he said, adding that synergies should be developed between the Programme of Action and the proposed arms trade treaty.
ALISON AUGUST TREPPEL, Organization of American States, said the regional body’s member States had been making significant progress in preventing and combating illicit firearms trafficking. They had improved additional model legislation to complement provisions of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunitions, Explosives and Other Related Materials, and had improved marking practices in Latin America and the Caribbean. More than 200,000 firearms would be marked in the region over the next 12 months, she added. Hundreds of tons of munitions, including white phosphorous, as well as obsolete weapons, had been destroyed under programmes in several countries. “We firmly believe regional organizations have a key role to play in combating illicit firearms trafficking,” she said.
HECTOR GUERRA, International Action Network on Small Arms, said that, as the designated coordinator on small arms in the United Nations process since the first official conference in 2001, and as part of civil society, his non-governmental organization was particularly mindful of the Programme of Action’s key objective: reducing human suffering caused by the illicit arms trade. Because of their specific field and research experience, non-governmental organizations had significant expertise to offer Governments and diplomats, he said, noting that, with the Review Conference just five months away, the international community increasingly had a need to know about the progress made and the impact of the Programme of Action’s implementation on gun-violence levels on the ground. “One of the main lessons learned since 2001 is that although guns kill more people than any other weapons, most gun deaths occur in countries or contexts unrelated to war,” he said.
“The issue is, therefore, a public health, human rights, social and development problem — an issue of human security rather than only national or military security,” he continued. The issue touched on questions of poverty, gender, human rights, humanitarian aid, democratic governance and cultures of violence, in addition to other areas such as border control, police training and manufacturing standards. Progress in implementing the Programme of Action remained wanting, he said, noting that few of its 60 paragraphs had been put in place by more than “a handful of States”. About 158 Member States had reported at least once since 2001, with 34 others never having submitted a single report. The creation of national focal points had been “underwhelming at best”. Many questions remained, including how to measure implementation, he said. “This year’s Review Conference will shape global arms policy for years to come, and therefore must ensure that the United Nations small arms process is continued and strengthened beyond 2012.”
FELIX KOKOU AKLAVON, National Focal Point, International Action Network on Small Arms-Togo, recalled that less than a month ago, explosions at massive arms depots in Brazzaville, Congo, had killed 250 people, injured 1,500, left 15,000 homeless and destroyed 5,000 homes. Since 2000, other deadly explosions at munitions depots in Kinshasa, Conakry, Lagos, Maputo and Dar-es-Salaam had killed more than 1,000 people. The manufacture, sales, stockpiling and circulation of illicit small arms and light weapons always imposed a grave danger on civilian populations, he noted. Storing munitions obviously also posed serious problems, yet the Programme of Action made no substantial mention of them.
He went on to emphasize that munitions were, in fact, an integral and indispensable part of all small arms and light weapons, and their storage posed a number of dangers. International cooperation and assistance should take into account the need to manage and inspect arms depots, to secure storage sites and undertake rigorous inventory programmes. Noting that most arms depots in Africa were located in cities, he said it would be advisable to consider moving them to less populated areas. “The entire world, and particularly the many survivors and victims, are waiting for a very strong signal of your engagement,” he told delegates.
HAKEEM AYINDE, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War — International Action Network on Small Arms, said “I am here as a medical doctor. Working together, we can prevent much of the human consequences of gun violence, including injuries, death and oppression.” Human suffering was the primary reason for the Programmes of Action’s existence. The answers to questions about why people thought they needed to own guns outside sport or hunting activities, and why guns were used in personal violence would help formulate programmes and policies, he said. Anecdotes collected by colleagues around the world and published as One Bullet Stories had revealed a sobering but representative account of a 40-year-old Ecuadorean whose two gunshot wounds had resulted in two surgeries, a 10-day hospital stay and a bill of $10,000 — an amount equal to the health-care coverage for 200 Ecuadoreans. The costs of his long-term rehabilitation, job loss and children dropping out of school for lack of funds completed a dismal picture of how much damage just two bullets could do.
Cross-sector cooperation had helped to prevent and reduce gun violence, with women’s groups often the first to initiate micro-disarmament projects at the grass-roots level, he said. Including women as well as health professionals in the development and evaluation of interventions was important, he said. Silent victims of gun violence included those threatened by personal violence, most of which was reportedly committed by men. Sex- and age-disaggregated data and action-oriented research was needed to increase knowledge about gender-based and armed violence. All those approaches were well within the scope of the Programme of Action and were critical to its success, he stressed. “So I’ve told you why I am here,” he said. “Why are you here? I trust that is because we share a common goal.”
NOUNOU BOOTO MEETI, International Action Network on Small Arms, said that, at a time when “meetings fatigue” was on everyone’s lips, it was important to ensure that all meetings where effective and productive. That would improve cooperation on the national, regional and international levels. Consideration of the aims of reports was long overdue, she said, urging delegates to ask themselves whether the right questions were being asked and whether the answers were adequate. It was important to update and improve the Programme of Action so that it could better meet the needs of the millions of people who had suffered, she said, pointing out that the Programme of Action made no mention of regulating civilian holding of small arms. There was also no mention of ammunition, which was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Those were just some of the Programme of Action’s shortcomings that civil society wished to see addressed, she said. “A shooting just takes a few seconds, but its effects can be long-lasting; negotiations can take a long time, but once adopted, implementation can be very quick.” However, real concrete results required much more decisive actions by Governments, she added.
ALLEN YOUNGMAN, Defence Small Arms Advisory Council, said he had a unique perspective as a representative of the only participating non-governmental organization comprised entirely of companies manufacturing small arms and light weapons that met the legitimate military and law-enforcement requirements of States. The international trade in small arms and light weapons should be strictly and effectively regulated by States, he emphasized. “Because we are perhaps the only NGO participating in the Programme of Action review that deals with various national regulations concerning production, export and import licensing of military small arms on a daily basis, we believe we have a unique perspective on where and how the system might be improved.”
He went on to raise a cautionary note concerning the role that civil society would be permitted to play in the process, saying that the “arbitrary” process of dividing non-governmental organizations into two sides was “overly simplistic”, logically untenable and needlessly divisive. Such a two-side approach reinforced the false notion that there were only two sides — presumably one for and one against the Programme of Action — that could lead to depriving delegates of a full understanding of the important differences between military arms and those designed for hunting, sport and other lawful purposes. Hopefully, the Preparatory Committee would find a more effective way to receive information from civil society, he said.
RICHARD PATTERSON, Sporting, Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, said the group was part of the United Nations Coordinating Actions on Small Arms project to create the International Small Arms Control Standards, being developed within the framework of the Programme of Action. However, its efforts would continue to fail due to dogmatic adherence to unsubstantiated assumptions and biases, he said, noting that contrary opinions supported by studies were routinely dismissed. In addition, “inflammatory rhetoric” in International Small Arms Control Standards drafts included a comment that dealers in the United States looked the other way when selling weapons to individuals who posed a risk. “The [ United States] does have the gold standard for firearms regulation,” he said, adding that the International Small Arms Control Standards process could not result in good guidance. It remained a promise unfulfilled and should neither be part of the United Nations nor part of the Programme of Action.
* *** *