|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
16th Meeting (AM)
Conference on Disarmament President Tells First Committee ‘Do Not Ask What the CD
Can Do for Your Country, Ask What Your Country Can Do for the CD’
Stifling Gruesome Consequences of Conventional Weapons Poses
‘Insurmountable Challenges’, Delegate Says as Thematic Debate Continues
In a long-awaited address, the President of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament shared with the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) his insights about the 16-year impasse in that treaty negotiating body and, summing it up this way, said, “Do not ask what the CD can do for your country, ask what your country can do for the CD”.
Discussing the impasse in the Conference and tasks waiting to be tackled in disarmament and non-proliferation, Helmut Hoffmann said that, ultimately, States had a shared responsibility to make sure their disarmament institutions worked and could actually deliver. While he “could not prophesize” whether the next session of the Conference would finally yield a work programme, in light of the experience of recent years it was “rather difficult at this point in time to be optimistic”.
While some States believed that a “lack of political will” was at fault for the decade-long stalemate, others felt the problem lay in the rules of procedure, most notably in the rule of consensus. That juxtaposition was “somewhat sterile”, he said, noting that if the political will had always existed to start substantive work, the international community would have solved all the problems a long time ago. On the other hand, it undeniably was much harder to accomplish anything when “anybody around the table can block even to start work on a given problem”.
H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, Chairman of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, said the Board had spent a good deal of time on the question of the revitalization of the Conference and thought that revisiting the consensus rule was neither desirable nor prudent, since what ailed the Conference had mostly been political in character and not solely procedural.
The Secretary-General, he said, should consider initiating a process of consultation to build consensus to commence substantive work on negotiations in respect of a fissile material cut-off treaty. Parallel to his consultations, the Secretary-General might also wish to consider encouraging members of the Conference to establish groups of scientific experts with a mandate to explore technical and scientific issues to support work on a future cut-off treaty.
Theresa Hitchens, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), said that the Institute, which had been established in part to be of service to members of the Conference, was dedicated to breaking the disarmament stalemate and had provided support and analysis to end the current deadlock.
Also addressing the malaise afflicting the disarmament machinery was Disarmament Commission President Enrique Roman-Morey, of Peru, who said that during negotiations this year the Commission had agreed by consensus to consider recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, a well as practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.
He said, however, as the Commission’s report before the Committee indicated, it had not been possible to put forward recommendations on those issues. That was indeed a missed opportunity to recommend consensus proposals to the disarmament negotiating forums for further action by the international community. It was however close to reaching universal decisions. In his view, the procedural arrangements of the Commission could benefit from modification, including an overhaul of its working methods.
When the Committee resumed its thematic debate on conventional weapons, countries across various regions decried the devastating consequences of the arms trade. Noting that approximately 70 per cent of all homicides committed in his country and the wider subregion featured the use of firearms, Jamaica’s representative said his Government had been obliged to divert scarce resources from its national development budget in a bid to stifle the gruesome consequences of gang violence, which had increased due to the accessibility of illegal firearms.
Similarly, said Belize’s representative, illegally circulating firearms had fuelled rising incidences of crime and violence in her country. Since January, 67 per cent of all homicides had been committed with firearms — well above the 42 per cent global average.
On the African continent, small arms and light weapons were “weapons of mass destruction,” stated Togo’s representative, recalling the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire and the prevailing insecurity in the Sahel and northern Mali. Also from Africa, Algeria’s delegate said his country was directly affected by the increase in terrorist and criminal activities caused by the influx of small arms and light weapons in the wake of the Libya crisis.
From Europe, Iceland’s speaker drew attention to the way conventional arms and ammunition facilitated “gender-based violence” against women. That was a cross-cutting issue that demanded progressive actions and strong language in a treaty, he declared.
The year 2012 should be the year the international community looked back on as a defining one in the mission to transform words and negotiations into a secure arms trade treaty, said the United Kingdom’s representative. Suggesting that the 26 July President’s text was a strong basis for finalizing that work in 2013, she said, “we are nearly there”, adding that a small amount of additional work would make the text “more coherent and effective”.
The Disarmament Commission’s President introduced the draft resolution on the report of that body (document A/C.1/67/L.5). Sweden’s representative introduced the resolution, “Convention on Prohibitions and Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects” (Conventional on Certain Conventional Weapons) (document A/C.1/67/L.12). The representative from South Africa introduced the draft resolution titled “The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” (document A/C.1/67/L.48).
Also speaking were the representatives of Canada, Switzerland, Uganda, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Ecuador, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Iceland, China and Cuba.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Syria.
The First Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Monday, 29 October to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons, hearing first from a panel of experts on the disarmament machinery cluster.
HELMUT HOFFMANN, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that the following sentence captured the problem: “The Conference on Disarmament could indeed play a most useful role, but, alas, it has not been in a position to do so in well over a decade”. He did not know anybody in the disarmament community who did not share a sense of frustration and disappointment at the situation. That did not exclude differences in temperament. While many regarded the impasse as entirely unacceptable — some even started to call into question the further raison d’etre of this forum if the deadlock continued — others advised to remain patient and wait for more conducive overall circumstances.
He said that the first duty of the Conference members was to seek to agree and implement a Programme of Work, because without it, the Conference simply could not start its actual substantive work of negotiating new instruments. Yet despite the endeavours of the past few years, that work programme could not be implemented. Nevertheless, when the Conference’s report to the General Assembly came up for negotiation in August, he was pleased to report that after intensive discussions it had been adopted by consensus. That, in his judgement, more accurately described the current reality of the situation. While its accomplishments were celebrated, concern remained that the Conference was no longer living up to the world’s expectations of it to overcome its impasse and advance the disarmament goals.
Conference members had different views about why it had not been possible for so long to start their actual work, the most basic contradiction being between those who believed that a “lack of political will” was at fault, while others felt the problem lay in the rules of procedure, most notably in the rule of consensus. Personally, he found that juxtaposition to be “somewhat sterile” because both statements struck him as true: if the “political will” had always existed to commence substantive work, the international community would have solved all the problems a long time ago, yet it was also difficult to deny that it was much harder to get anything done when anybody around the table could block that.
He did not know whether the next session of the Conference would finally yield a work programme, but in light of the experience of recent years, he was afraid to say that it was rather difficult at this point to be optimistic. In view of the tasks waiting to be tackled in disarmament and non-proliferation, he hoped that States would look at the Conference in the spirit of a quotation familiar to all. Paraphrasing it, he said, “Do not ask what the CD can do for your country, ask what your country can do for the CD”, because ultimately its members had a shared responsibility to see to it that their institutions worked so they could actually deliver.
ENRIQUE ROMÁN-MOREY (Peru) speaking in his capacity as President of the Disarmament Commission, said that this year marked the beginning of a new three-year cycle for that United Nations foremost deliberative body tasked with considering and making recommendations on disarmament issues. During negotiations this year, the Commission had agreed by consensus to consider recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, a well as practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.
He said, however, as the Commission’s report before the Committee indicated, it had not been possible to put forward recommendations on those issues. That was indeed a missed opportunity to recommend consensus proposals to the disarmament negotiating forums for further action by the international community. It was however close to reaching universal decisions.
The procedural arrangements of the Commission, he said, could benefit from modification, and it was perhaps time to consider real reform of its working methods. He suggested having a substantive session of the Commission for two weeks early in a given year, instead of three, followed by one week in the last quarter of the year, when the First Committee began its work.
He then formally introduced the draft resolution, entitled “Report of the Disarmament Commission” (document A/C.1/67/L.5). He noted that the draft updated the resolution adopted at the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly, while recommending in its operative paragraph 7 the continuation of the consideration of the substantive items at its 2013 session. In operative paragraph 8, the dates of the 2013 session reflected the decision of the Committee on Conferences. He looked forward to its adoption by consensus.
H.M.G.S. PALIHAKKARA, Chairman of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, said that the Board had a singular role within United Nations disarmament structures. Its task was to do independent analyses and submit recommendations to the Secretary General on disarmament and related security matters. The Board sought to provide basically non-governmental inputs, because its members served on an honorary basis. Its work this year covered three major areas: ways to improve its work; conventional arms regulation; the future United Nations architecture; and follow-up discussions on the issue of the revitalization of the Conference on Disarmament. The Board also examined the work of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.
In the context of ongoing efforts by the Secretary General to affect much needed in-house reforms, he said, the Board’s work had much relevance in terms of supporting and shaping those reforms consistent with the mandated substantive work of the institutions involved. The end product of the restructuring or reform process should be such that it should enhance and not diminish UNIDIR’s ability to continue and develop its research work.
On the issue of conventional arms and the related United Nations infrastructure, the Board stressed the need for a consistent and non-redundant architecture based on the centrality of such United Nations tools as the Register of Conventional Arms and of negotiations conducted by the General Assembly, he continued. To that end, the Secretary-General could request an in-house entity to study and report on, for example, overlaps between existing instruments, ways to improve communication between instruments, ways to assist States and how the United Nations and regional instruments related to each other.
The Board spent a good deal of time on the question of the revitalization of the Conference, he said, stating that the Board was inclined to take the general view that revisiting the consensus rule was neither desirable nor prudent since what ailed the Conference had mostly been political in character and not solely procedural. The Board joined those who found the inertia in the Conference disappointing. Promoting a dual-track approach, the Board recommended that the Secretary-General continue his efforts to achieve a breakthrough in the stalemate and consider initiating a process of consultation to build consensus to commence substantive work on negotiations in respect of a fissile material cut-off treaty.
Parallel to his consultations, the Secretary-General might also wish to consider encouraging members of the Conference to establish groups of scientific experts with a mandate to explore technical and scientific issues to support work on a future cut-off treaty, he continued. Additionally, the Secretary-General should continue his efforts to raise public awareness and encourage civil society groups to provide inputs on ways to break the stalemate.
Also of critical importance was adequate and predictable funding for UNIDIR to sustain itself, he said. The current subvention philosophy, which fell below the minimum required even to keep the basic staff, put at risk the viability of the Disarmament Research Institute. The Board, therefore, reiterated its recommendation that the financing be increased to fully fund all core staff costs.
THERESA HITCHENS, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, said that the Institute had an autonomous role within the United Nations to promote informed participation in negotiations and other disarmament efforts. It had a long history of work towards nuclear disarmament and recently had begun research on the consequences for humanity of any detonation, accidental or not, of a nuclear weapon. The Institute had placed understandable focus on implementing the Nuclear-Non-Proliferation Treaty 2010 Action Plan. In recent years, it had also been strongly associated with the arms trade treaty, especially through seven regional seminars. The Institute’s research continued on emerging threats, specifically regarding the increasing space and cybersecurity, and on helping Member States battle small arms and light weapons by assisting with the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action.
Noting that the Institute was completely funded by voluntary contributions across all organizations, she said that the lack of predictability of voluntary funding could lead to a distortion of programme priorities, critical shortages of core resources, all of which negatively affected its ability to support programming. Unfortunately, the Institute was increasingly beset by all of those problems. There was no standing research staff and the Deputy Director and part-time editor had been lost this year due to lack of funding. To remedy that situation, the Institute was exploring options such as public-private partnerships. However, proper resources came down to member States’ support, and she thanked those members, especially the donors, for their support.
RAYMOND WOLFE (Jamaica), associating with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while Jamaica and countries in the Caribbean region were not affected by armed conflict, they faced insurmountable challenges related to armed violence in many countries. Approximately 70 per cent of all homicides committed in Jamaica and the wider subregion featured the use of firearms, and his Government had been obliged to divert scarce resources from its national development budget in a bid to stifle the gruesome consequences of gang violence, which had increased due to the accessibility of illegal firearms.
Against that bleak backdrop, CARICOM was disappointed that the international community had failed to take decisive action on a robust and legally binding arms trade treaty in July. He welcomed the resumption of negotiations next year, and urged countries to work harder to overcome their differences. Jamaica was strongly committed to the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action on the illicit small arms and light weapons trade, which was underpinned by Jamaica’s National Development Plan: Vision 2030, and other efforts to review legislative firearms policy. Despite such efforts, however, there was a need for technical assistance and capacity-building support from the international community. In conclusion, Jamaica looked forward to continuing its very fruitful engagement with the United Nations Regional Disarmament Centre in Latin America and the Caribbean, which had proved to be of tremendous benefit to the entire region.
ELSA MOUELHI-RONDEAU ( Canada) said her country believed the goal of creating an instrument to impede the illicit flow of arms to criminals, terrorists and human rights abusers was an important one. An effective arms trade treaty would provide the international community with greater transparency and confidence that efforts were being made to hinder the irresponsible trade in conventional weapons. A future arms trade treaty should recognize the legitimacy of lawful ownership of firearms by responsible citizens for their personal and recreational use and should in no way burden lawful firearms owners in Canada. National discretion was also important.
She said her country was in the process of ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions, with domestic implementing legislation currently being considered by Parliament, she said. With respect to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention), several States parties still needed to complete their overdue stockpile destruction obligations, and others, their clearance commitments.
ULF LINDELL (Sweden), subscribing to the statement delivered by the European Union, presented the draft resolution on the “Convention on Prohibitions and Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects” (Conventional on Certain Conventional Weapons) (document A/C.1/67/L.12). The purpose of the Convention was to ban or restrict the use of certain specific types of weapons that caused excessive injury or unnecessary suffering to combatants or affected civilians indiscriminately. The instrument was an essential and integral part of international law applicable to armed conflict. It was designed to provide a framework within which humanitarian concerns regarding conventional weapons could be dealt with. Today, it had 114 States parties and five signatories.
He said the purpose of the draft resolution was to express continued support for the Convention, with particular focus on its universalization. The text reflected the ongoing work since the text’s adoption last year, and included references to the outcome of the Fourth Review Conference. The draft was an expression of support for the Convention as an important international humanitarian law instrument.
Speaking next about the arms trade treaty, he said that the international community should conclude an instrument that had the strength and breadth to make a real impact on the problems caused by poorly-regulated trade in conventional arms. The international community should have a new round of negotiations within the United Nations as soon as possible, and begin where they had left off at the end of the July diplomatic conference, using the negotiating text on the table as the starting point, under the same rules of procedure. Sweden joined others in encouraging all delegations to support draft resolution “L.11” on the treaty.
URS SCHMID ( Switzerland) stressed that Member States should pay the same degree of attention to conventional weapons as they did to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and pursue vigorously their common endeavors to reduce armed violence, increase human security and promote sustainable development. He regretted that the arms trade treaty conference in July had not produced the expected result, but remained convinced that it was a “significant step in the right direction” and that the foundation for the completion of the work; the rules of procedure and the Conference room paper of July 26 were already in place. He called on Member States to “seize the unique opportunity” and to reconvene as early as possible in 2013 to adopt an treaty that met the high expectations attached to it.
He said his country was particularly pleased at the outcome document of the Second Review Conference the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons, which strengthened aspects such as cooperation and assistance and established a follow-up mechanism for the next six-year cycle. He was also pleased by the reference to the concept of armed violence, which underlined the international community’s readiness to adapt policies to new, evolving and changing environments. The universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions was solidly on track and should remain another priority. Switzerland had concluded its own ratification and looked forward to becoming a State party early next year. The third Meeting of the States parties to that Convention in September had been an opportunity to assess current implementation progress and to take additional steps to further the gains, as well as to highlight the treaty’s contribution to the protection of civilians and persons active in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and socioeconomic reconstruction. States parties should continue seek to agree swiftly on the consolidation of the Convention’s implementation architecture.
He concluded with a reference to the Mine-Ban Convention, saying that despite steady progress in achieving a mine-free world, those weapons had reportedly been used in various conflicts this year. He urged all States to join that instrument and for all actors to refrain from using those “indiscriminate weapons.”
ARTHUR KAFEERO ( Uganda) said that all were aware that the continued absence of commonly agreed international standards for the trade and transfer of conventional arms contributed to conflict, terrorism and displacement of innocent civilians and adversely affected regional and international security and stability. The adoption of an effective arms trade treaty would enhance Member States’ efforts to curb illicit proliferation of arms and their ammunition while preserving the legitimate right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms and their ammunition for their self-defence.
He said that one of the main obstacles to implementing the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons was the lack of adequate resources and technical capacity. She called for greater support from regional and international partners to facilitate the Programme’s implementation.
LOIS M. YOUNG (Belize), associating with CARICOM’S statement, said that illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was a reality for her country as it was concomitant to the drug trade. Illegally circulating firearms had fuelled rising incidences of crimes and violence in Belize — since January, 67 per cent of all homicides had been committed with firearms, well above the 42 per cent global average.
The draft arms trade treaty text covered the trade in small arms and light weapons, but it should also address ammunition; conventional arms transferred as gifts or loans; transfers where there was a risk of diversion to illicit trade, and brokering. It should also incorporate a transparency dimension, and remove the provision that obligations arising from the treaty could not be cited as grounds for voiding contractual obligations. Believing that consensus should not be used opportunistically by those few who opposed an arms trade treaty, Belize had been disappointed to hear that some States wanted to continue an exchange of views on a treaty, when it felt they were beyond that point.
At the same time, she said, her country was pleased that the international community had been able to find agreement on a final document at the Second Review Conference of the Programme of Action. However, Belize held that ammunition must be fully incorporated into that Programme as well.
ALEXIS AYITE ATAYI ( Togo) said that illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons had disastrous consequences. On the African continent, those were “weapons of mass destruction”. She cited as an example, the crisis experienced by Côte d'Ivoire and the insecurity prevailing in the Sahel and northern Mali. After reviewing the initiatives of his country at the national level to curb the illicit trade, he stressed the importance of regional and subregional cooperation, welcoming in particular the programmes launched in partnership with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union.
In that context, he highlighted efforts to provide his country with equipment for marking and tracing, as well as some financial and organisational support for training the staff of the National Commission on “SALW” to implement registration and marking of weapons throughout the territory, especially in rural areas. He also welcomed the adoption by the Second Review Conference of the 2001 Programme of Action of a final document. However, he regretted the lack of consensus on the draft arms trade treaty, reminding delegates that the stakes were high because, in Africa, small arms sowed desolation and negated all development efforts.
VISASACKSITH SNOOKPHONE (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that although conventional weapons did not have the same effect as weapons of mass destruction, they had the same impact, and caused long-term consequences. Explosive remnants of war caused unacceptable harm to civilians and seriously impeded social and economic development in many nations.
He said the people of his country knew “so well” the consequences of the use of conventional weapons, such as cluster munitions. As one of the most affected nations, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic fully endorsed the objective of achieving the total elimination of cluster munitions. To that end, the implementation of that Convention was vital. In that context, he welcomed the 77 States parties and encouraged other countries to follow suit.
JOSÉ EDUARDO PROAÑO ( Ecuador), associating with the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country was committed to negotiation on conventional weapons. Reiterating its commitment to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Ecuador stood ready to share its expertise in the area of destruction and clean up of those weapons. Ecuador supported cooperation through development projects with neighbouring countries, such as mine clearance programmes. Regarding small arms and light weapons, Ecuador underscored the importance of the United Nations Programme of Action. Cooperation was needed in marking such weapons. Disposal of munitions required further examination. Ecuador’s approach to destruction was to melt down weapons or detonate them in an open-sky area.
Stressing that an arms trade treaty would help to combat the diversion of weapons to the illicit market, as well as to promote transparency, he said that it was regrettable that the July conference had produced no results. The effectiveness of an arms trade treaty lay in universality and balance. Decisions should be adopted by consensus. Duties and commitments had to be equal among States. Arms trade treaty negotiations should take into account concerns about importing States. Unfortunately, discussions in July had contemplated the risks of international transfer but not self-supply. Negotiating safeguards was also very important to achieving a balanced treaty.
JOANNE ADAMSON ( United Kingdom) stated that 2012 should be the year that the international community looked back on as a defining one in the mission to transform words and negotiations into a secure arms trade treaty. The Conference in July had achieved a great deal, and while the negotiations had not easy, they were characterized by drive and determination. The President’s draft text of 26 July was a strong basis for finalizing that work at the March 2013 conference. “We are nearly there,” she proclaimed, adding that a small amount of additional work would make the text “more coherent and effective”. An arms trade treaty “will bring benefits for all States, and we want all States to be involved in its implementation”.
On the subject of small arms and light weapons, she added, the United Nations Programme of Action remained a vital component for tackling problems caused by the unfettered proliferation of conventional arms. The international community had recognized that small arms and light weapons could be used to undermine human rights laws. She advocated creation of a voluntary sponsorship fund to provide assistance to States on those issues. The Convention on Cluster Munitions had flourished in a community of countries that had taken bold steps to prohibit those weapons, destroy their stockpiles, and remove their devastating humanitarian legacy.
The need to rid the world of those weapons was “as strong today as it has ever been” she said, adding that recent reports about their use by Syria against its own population were “extremely concerning”. The Syrian Government had a responsibility to fully adhere to its obligations under applicable international law and to protect its people from the devastating effect of those and other indiscriminate attacks.
IAN KELLERMAN (South Africa), associating with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that an arms trade treaty should regulate all arms transfers, both military and commercial, and should not be limited to the weapons covered by the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms, but should include “small arms and light weapons” as well as ammunition. In terms of the 2001 Programme of Action, a lack of adequate national controls posed a critical risk that legally held or State-owned small arms and light weapons could be diverted to the illicit trade.
He said his country attached great value to the phrase “in all its aspects” in the title of the Programme, because it implied that in combating the illicit trade, States should take special care by means of physical security, legal and administrative structures and instruments, as well as systems and arrangements that legally held and transferred small arms and light weapons did not enter the illicit trade.
He introduced the draft resolution entitled “Illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” (document A/C.1/67/L48), which contained technical updates from last year’s resolution 66/47, adopted without a vote. He trusted that all Member States would be able to join the consensus this year.
DJAMEL MOKTEFI (Algeria), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and Arab Group, agreed there was a need to consider possible overlaps between existing United Nations instruments regarding conventional arms, as well as ways to improve communication and assist States with implementation and reporting.
His delegation also noted concern about the reported influx of small arms and light weapons in the wake of the Libya crisis, which had a detrimental impact on the security situation in the neighbouring Sahel region. Algeria was directly affected by the subsequent increase in terrorist and criminal activities and had constantly made efforts to control its borders. He called on all States, in particular major producing States, to ensure that the supply of small arms and light weapons was limited only to Governments or to entities duly authorized by them, and to apply legal restrictions and prohibitions preventing the illicit arms trade. He also emphasized the importance of the effective implementation of the Programme of Action and of the International Instrument on Marking and Tracing.
His country regretted that the July conference on the arms trade treaty had been unable to elaborate a legally binding instrument, he said, adding that it looked forward to a resumed session in 2013 to finalize the treaty. It was necessary to define its basic principles, which should be based on United Nations principles, in particular, the sovereign equality of States, the right of peoples to self-determination, and the right of States to self-defence, among others.
DER KODA ( Burkina Faso) said today’s world faced many peace and security challenges. Small arms and light weapons were the origin of many human disasters throughout all continents. They fuelled conflicts and were responsible for thousands of deaths. Those weapons also threatened the permanence of States, as well as their socioeconomic activities. The situation meant that the international community needed to realize the necessity of struggling against the proliferation of those weapons.
The arms trade treaty did not see the light of day as had been hoped, but despite that failure, the international community must remain mobilized so that by the start of 2013 that key instrument could be adopted. Even a make-up session could help build on the work that was already started. Burkina Faso was a committed partner in the struggle against the proliferation of conventional weapons and their abuse. Political will and action on the ground should go hand-in-hand.
JÓN ERLINGUR JÓNASSON ( Iceland), aligning with the European Union, said there was widespread support among the Icelandic public for an arms trade treaty. For Iceland, it was imperative that there be a strong focus on ensuring absolute respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, to prevent arms ending up in the hands of those who would, or who were likely to, use them to violate international human rights and humanitarian law. Furthermore, a gender-sensitive approach was crucial, owing to the relationship between arms trade and gender-based violence.
During the summer, he noted, a few delegations had expressed some difficulty with using the term “gender-based violence”. He urged those delegations to “let go” of their opposition to using that well-established and widely-used term. The ways in which conventional arms and ammunition facilitated violence against women was a cross-cutting issue that demanded progressive actions and strong language in the treaty. It was the international community’s obligation to “do right” by the victims of such violence and ensure that the arms trade treaty acknowledged, addressed and tried to prevent it.
WU JIANJIAN ( China) said that poverty and social turmoil was a primary cause of the illicit small arms and light weapons trade, and a comprehensive approach should be adopted to address both the symptoms and root causes. The international community should take effective measures to counter starvation, poverty and social injustice, and to maintain peace, development and social stability.
He said that China had taken a prudent and responsible attitude towards arms export, exercising strict and effective controls over those activities, in accordance with its international obligations and national laws and regulations. China also attached importance to military transparency and was committed to enhancing mutual trust with other countries in the military field. It would continue to submit relevant data to United Nations standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures and United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.
YADIRA LEDESMA HERNÁNDEZ ( Cuba), associating with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the development of conventional weapons had increased their destructive power, making them more deadly. There was an imbalance between industrialized and developed nations regarding trade in those weapons, she said, urging industrialized nations to reduce production and trade, with a view to promoting international peace. Cuba was pleased that the Second Review Conference on the Action Programme had adopted by consensus its outcome document. Such texts should become useful working tools to combat small arms and light weapons. In order to eradicate the illicit weapons, its deep-seated causes should be tackled.
She said her country attached priority to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and she noted the importance of its amended Protocol II on mines, booby traps and other devices. As a State party, Cuba shared the humanitarian concerns over the use of mines that were not anti-personnel mines. The country had participated in a meeting of experts in Geneva on that issue, on which there had been no consensus. It was well known that Cuba had been subjected to a policy of hostility by the greatest military super-Power in the world, so it could not renounce the use of that weapon, which guaranteed Cuba’s sovereignty. Citing self-defence, Cuba was not party to the Mine-Ban Convention, but it urged all States that were capable of providing assistance for clean-up operations and victim rehabilitation from those weapons to do so.
Concerning cluster munitions, Cuba felt those should be completely banned because they led to a large number of civilian deaths, particularly among children, she said. With regard to an arms trade treaty, true success of that process lay in its transparency. Such an instrument should contain norms protecting the right of all countries to import and export conventional weapons and use small arms and light weapons for the legitimate right of defence. No criteria in any future treaty should weaken the United Nations Charter.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Syria said that armed groups and terrorists, backed and funded by foreign Powers, were sowing terrorism and destruction in his country. Even among certain members of the United Nations, those groups were finding support. Those who had spoken of Syria during the course of the meeting had not been following the international media, which had confirmed in a number of reports the presence of terrorists and armed groups in Syria, including Al-Qaida, for which the biggest Powers of the world had created an alliance, for the purpose of pursuing it to the corners of the Earth.
Referencing a New York Times article from 21 June 21, he said that weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some anti-tank weapons, were being funnelled mostly across the borders of a neighbouring country with Syria, by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria's Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by regional and Arab States, in coordination with a western intelligence agency, officials had reported.
He said that MANPADS (man-portable air-defence systems), United State-made stinger missiles, and small arms and light weapons of all kinds, were given to terrorist groups by Member States of the Organization, which held as one of its most important principles maintaining international peace and security. However, that seemed not to extend to Syria. That double standard was seen in countries that turned a blind eye to arms smuggling and illicit trafficking of all types of small arms and light weapons. Those weapons were supplied to terrorists in his country, leading one to believe that those supplier countries condoned terrorism carried out by Al-Qaida and similar organizations in Syria.
Regarding the representative from Norway, he referenced an online article from The Foreigner, a newspaper, stating that seven Norwegians were engaged in operations in Syria, together with Al-Qaida-related groups. Moreover, there were indications that more Norwegians wanted to travel from Norway to Syria to join in the fighting. Most of the Norwegians in Syria were connected to the radical Ummah group in Norway, he added.
Regarding remarks from the representative from the Netherlands, he said those allegations were altogether unfounded and invalid. He drew the representative’s attention to a report entitled "worldwide investments in Cluster munitions", regarding Dutch companies investing in those weapons, which prompted a response from the Dutch Foreign Ministry that the Convention on Cluster Munitions “cannot be applied to private institutions or persons”. That report spoke for many in the West, including Switzerland and the United Kingdom, where major financial institutions invested in the manufacture of cluster munitions without being stopped by their Governments
* *** *