|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Fifth Biennial Meeting of States
on Illicit Trade in Small Arms
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Strong Collective Efforts Needed to Keep Small Arms, Light Weapons
from Proliferating, Meeting of States Hears
Against a backdrop of fragile security, illegal guns, grenades and rocket launchers had ripped communities apart while fuelling terrorism, and would require strong collective efforts to halt their spread, delegates heard today as the fifth Biennial Meeting of States to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons opened its 2014 session.
Virginia Gamba, delivering a statement on behalf of Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that despite previous progress in battling the pernicious illicit trade, hundreds and thousands of people were threatened by small arms. In hopes of a productive outcome to the five-day Meeting, the main agenda items — stockpile management, consideration of the international tracing instrument, and international cooperation and assistance — would all be vital in the fight against the proliferation of illicit small arms, she said, adding that civil society, including non-governmental organizations, was an important partner in helping to raise awareness among decision-makers.
Since 2003, Member States have gathered to consider implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, adopted in 2001. The Programme of Action prescribes measures for controlling the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, including legislation, destruction of confiscated weapons and the strengthening of State capacity to identify and trace small arms. The current Meeting will run until 20 June, and earlier ones were held in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010, with review conferences held in 2006 and 2012.
Zahir Tanin (Afghanistan), elected Chair of the Meeting, said that his Government was highly sensitive to the negative impact of illicit weapons since it had faced a challenging security situation over past decades. The illicit trade continued to wreak havoc and to delay development efforts in many regions, he said, emphasizing that the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument remained the cornerstone of efforts to tackle the complex problem.
Providing an update regarding national reporting on the International Tracing Instrument was Daniel Prins, Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch of the Office for Disarmament Affairs, who said that 60 submissions had been received in 2014, in addition to a number of requests for assistance in areas including manufacture, transfer, confiscation and seizure.
When the floor opened for a thematic debate on stockpile management, delegates presented national and regional scenarios as well as updates on their efforts. Nigeria’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group, said that in order to stop the violence, States must work together to stop the illicit arms trade. Speakers representing Iraq and Mali explained how illicit weapons were fuelling violence in their countries
Describing stockpile management as the key to full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action, some speakers said storage facilities were the starting point where many weapons entered the illicit realm. Indeed, poorly managed and insufficiently secured small arms and light weapons as well as ammunition stockpiles remained the prime means through which they were diverted from the legal to the illegal markets, the delegate of the European Union Delegation said, expressing support for greater prevention efforts to ensure that stockpiles were well guarded, managed and controlled.
Pakistan’s representative said upon entering the illegal market, “cheap, easy-to-transport and easy-to-conceal” arms dominated as the key tools of criminal violence and warfare. Stemming the trade required a comprehensive approach and greater attention to the demand side, fuelled in part by the burgeoning drug trade.
Pointing to the illicit ammunition market as a critical area for action, some speakers called for it to be brought under the Programme of Action, with Jamaica’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), arguing that unless it was included, effective implementation of stockpile-management measures would not be achieved. Building on the successful 2012 Review Conference, the current session must examine how the Programme of Action could be more effectively implemented, especially since illegal weapons posed a pervasive threat to the well-being of many nations.
Elaborating on that point, some speakers noted that the Programme of Action excluded the illegal trade’s damaging effect on development efforts. In that regard, Costa Rica’s delegate proposed adding text that would clearly recognize how illegal arms and weapons threatened social cohesion, ravaging communities and hobbling development.
Echoing a view heard throughout the debate, Qatar’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed hope for a balanced text that would consider the concerns of all States. More specifically, the final document should not impose a heavy burden on developing countries, and it should take into account, among other things, national capacity, available technology and fair pricing. Developing countries should receive the necessary resources for the transfer of technology and for building the capacity to help their efforts, he added. As for arms producers and exporters, they should take the necessary steps to combat the illegal trade.
The Russian Federation’s representative said that urgent action requiring no additional financial burden included the prohibition of transfers not authorized by the Governments of recipient States as well as re-exports or the diversion of imports without State authorization. Pointing out that there was no universal multilateral agreement currently prohibiting the transfer of small arms and light weapons to non-State actors, except for man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), he said that such a ban should cover other light weapons that were in great demand by terrorists, including grenade launchers, portable anti-tank missile systems and portable infantry rocket-assisted flamethrower systems. It would also cut off one of the channels of diversion to the illicit market and meet the national security demands of all States.
Representatives of Israel, Canada and the United States expressed regret over the State of Palestine’s participation in the Meeting, saying they did not recognize it as a State.
Acting by acclamation, delegates elected representatives of Algeria, Argentina, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, Iran, Liberia, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova and Romania as Vice-Chairs of the Meeting. They also adopted the Meeting’s provisional agenda (document A/CNF.192/BMS/2014/L.1), rules of procedure (document A/COF.192/L.1) and provisional programme of work (document A/CONF.192/BMS/2014/L.2), and approved the attendance of non-governmental organizations (document A/CONF.192/BMS2014/INF/1).
Also participating today were representatives of Japan, China, South Africa, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Venezuela, Cabo Verde, Colombia, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Spain, India, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Brazil, France, Egypt, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Australia, Malaysia, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belarus, Benin, Nicaragua and Austria.
Others participants included an observer for the State of Palestine and a representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The Meeting will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 June, to continue its work.
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