27 August 2012 — The Second Review Conference on the United Nations Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons opens today at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The conference will run through 7 September.
The Programme of Action, which Governments adopted by consensus in 2001, contains concrete recommendations for improving national legislation and controls over illicit small arms, fostering regional cooperation and promoting international assistance and cooperation on the issue. It was developed and agreed as a result of the growing realization that most present-day conflicts are fought with illicit small arms and light weapons, and that their widespread availability has a negative impact on international peace and security, facilitates violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, and hampers economic and social development.
Delegations from all Member States gather every six years to review the progress made in implementation of the Programme of Action. The first Review Conference, held in 2006, concluded without agreement on an outcome document. In addition to the Programme of Action, the Conference also reviews implementation of the International Tracing Instrument, by which Governments commit to cooperate in efforts to track illicit small arms and light weapons.
While great strides have been made in tackling the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons since the Programme of Action was adopted — such as the strengthening of national import and export control systems and improvements in the security of weapons stockpiles — many challenges still remain. Illicit weapons continue to circulate in conflict and post-conflict areas; pilferage from State stockpiles remains a major source of supply for black markets; and urban gun violence is still a great problem in many regions. The Review Conference will provide an opportunity to identify remaining challenges and to discuss and agree on practical, actionable plans to address them.
Aiming only to review implementation of the Programme of Action, the Conference seeks neither to revise or expand it, nor to prohibit citizens of any country from possessing authorized firearms. Additionally, the Conference does not address the legal trade in weapons.