30 June 2006


30 June 2006
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY United Nations institute for disarmament research

Much more financial assistance was needed to deal with the “humanitarian problem” of small arms abuse and misuse, correspondents were told this morning, at a Headquarters press conference with Patricia Lewis, Director of the Geneva-based United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) on a report produced by her organization on the subject.

She said that, in 2004 alone, $400 million had been put towards the clean-up of landmines, but during five years only $640 million had been put towards the clearing of illegal arms.

More analysis on spending and other trends relating to the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons could be found in UNIDIR’s Five Years of Implementing the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Weapons:  Regional Analysis of National Reports, written jointly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNIDIR, the United Nations Department of Disarmament Affairs and the Small Arms Survey.  The report was based on information from national reports submitted voluntarily by 137 countries.

Drawing from the report, Ms. Lewis said that, out of 640 million small arms worldwide, roughly 40 to 50 per cent were illegally held, and 25 per cent were obtained through illicit trade.  That meant funding for the cause stood at a mere $2.50 per illegally obtained gun.  Considering the massive impact in conflict-prone areas and areas with high violent crime rates, the current Review Conference on the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms (in which UNIDIR was a participant) was examining ways to set up a mechanism to better match needs with resources, and to improve communication between States and organizations.

She said that 50 per cent of the $640 million had so far been spent on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration activities.  Some 11 per cent had gone to the destruction of weapons, mostly in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

According to UNIDIR’s own analysis of progress on the Programme of Action, the most commonly identified areas of need were improving the technical capacities of national authorities for tackling the issue, such as through the collection, storage and use of data to manage stockpiles and legal transfer.  Also, of the countries that had submitted reports, 70 per cent considered civilian possession of firearms to be a problem worth reporting.  A number of countries had also expressed support for the creation of regulations covering the transfer of small arms to non-State actors, a subject not addressed by the Programme of Action, she added.

The UNIDIR’s analysis had been critical and questioning, she said.  For example, when declared funding by a donor country did not match that reported by the receiving country, “we have gone back and asked some very tough questions”.

She also commented on the “limitations of the reports that States have made”, which represented only part of the story regarding the elimination of illegal small arms.  “It’s about a self-revelation, if you like.  Some of it is PR.  Some of it is about getting money, or what they’ve done that they’re proud of.”  But Ms. Lewis was generally encouraged by the seriousness exhibited by Member States on the issue, with 137 having reported on their progress at least once.  Some 55 countries had not yet filed a report, but she said she suspected it was due to a lack of resources.  The reports analysed by UNIDIR had shown an increase in activities through partnerships between donor and affected countries, as well as civil society and international organizations.

Asked for her opinion on an announcement made by the UNDP yesterday, which said that it had halted support for the disarmament programme in Uganda in light of the abuse of civilians by Government troops, Ms. Lewis said she had not known such an action had been taken.  But she said it was natural for donor-based organizations to “have questions” regarding the best use of funds.

An intergovernmental organization within the United Nations since 1980 and home of the Conference on Disarmament, UNIDIR has worked with researchers, diplomats, Governments, non-governmental organizations and other institutions as a bridge between the research community and Governments.  Its work was being funded by Governments and donor foundations.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.