14 October 2005
Legally Binding Instrument Needed to Combat Illicit Small-Arms Trade, which Fuels Conflict, Undermines Development, First Committee Told
Hears Introduction of Draft Texts on Tracing Small Arms, Prohibiting Use of Anti-Personnel Mines
(Issued 14 October 2005.)
NEW YORK, 13 October (UN Headquarters) -- With small arms and light weapons fuelling conflicts, facilitating violent crime and terrorism, impeding post-conflict reconstruction and undermining long-term development, speakers stressed the need for an international, legally binding instrument to combat the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) began its thematic debate on conventional weapons and heard the introduction of two related draft resolutions.
Noting that small arms and light weapons had, since 1990, cost the lives of some 4 million people and had forced over 18 million to leave their homes or countries, the United Kingdom's representative, on behalf of the European Union, was convinced that much remained to be done. To that end, the Union was currently drafting its own strategy to combat the illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and its ammunition, which would complement the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The easy availability of small arms and light weapons and high levels of armed violence acted as a major barrier to sustainable development, he added, calling on States and development agencies to increase their capacity to control the supply of small arms, lower demand for those weapons and reduce levels of armed violence.
Within the framework of the 2001 Programme of Action, Canada's representative explained, consensus had been achieved on an instrument to mark and trace small arms and light weapons that would improve tracing throughout the world. The July 2006 review conference would present an opportunity to review that work. Turning to the area of mine action, he said progress had been remarkable, with nearly 150 countries having ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines (Ottawa Convention). Since its entry into force, more than 37 million stockpiled mines had been destroyed, and global trade had virtually ended. Joining other speakers, he urged the 50 States not yet party to ratify or accede to the Ottawa Convention as soon as possible.
Japan's representative said the 2006 Review Conference on small arms would mark a significant turning point for the international community in tackling the problem. The Conference was extremely important for setting the agenda in the field beyond next year. It was essential for the international community to examine all aspects of the small arms problem. Each country or region had different issues, depending on their own special circumstances. States must seek to identify those problems and set the agenda, accordingly. On the issue of land mines, he hoped that States parties meeting in November would succeed in adopting a draft protocol on mines other than anti-personnel mines, which had been under discussion for over four years.
Small arms fuelled conflicts and jeopardized peace negotiations, Uruguay's representative said, on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR). Acquiring small arms was easy, and there were many ways to do it. In that regard, stronger control and broader regulation were needed on the part of State authorities to avoid not only the proliferation of violence, but also the human, social and economic cost that the use of those weapons entailed. The MERCOSUR countries had continuously sought to have negotiations on a legally binding document on marking and tracing small arms and light weapons. Such a treaty should include provisions for the proper marking of all illicit weapons and the marking and tracing of ammunition. Unfortunately, little had been achieved on the instrument.
Sierra Leone's representative asked why there had been such reluctance to come up with a legally binding international instrument to enable States to identify and trace illicit small arms. In the preamble to the 2001 Programme of Action several concerns had been expressed, including on the wide-ranging humanitarian and socio-economic consequences of such weapons. While the Programme of Action was not an international convention, but rather a political declaration, the question was how to translate those expressions of serious concern into something more concrete. Given the wide-ranging consequences for millions of people worldwide, a comprehensive approach to preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was needed.
Following today's debate, the representative of Switzerland introduced a draft resolution on the tracing of small arms and light weapons. Austria's representative introduced a text on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production, transfer and destruction of anti-personnel mines.
Statements were also made in the thematic debate by the representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Papua New Guinea, Mali, China, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, India, Suriname, Norway, Russian Federation, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Bulgaria, and Iraq.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Friday, 14 October, to continue its consideration of conventional weapons.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to begin its thematic debate on conventional weapons, for which it was also expected to hear the introduction of several related draft texts.
BONIFACE LEZONA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said the use of small arms and light weapons cost many human lives each year. Bandits carried out flagrant violations of human rights, which resulted in rape, torture and theft. His Government was very concerned by what was happening in Central Africa and, in order to eliminate the illicit trade in small arms, had implemented a disarmament programme. A programme for demilitarization was carried out from June through August in 2005, which destroyed 910 small arms and 3,085 pieces of ammunition, and the Government planned to continue efforts by launching a disarmament and demobilization programme, with the support of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He welcomed the creation of a working group by the General Assembly, which had been able to achieve a consensus to draft an international instrument on marking and tracing. He hoped the General Assembly would adopt a draft text on the issue during the session.
ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum Group, said the Forum remained firmly committed to the small arms Programme of Action and to its effective implementation. The countries of the Pacific knew only too well the significant costs and destabilizing impact of the uncontrolled flow of small arms and light weapons. Pacific Island countries were encouraged by the progress this year at the international level on small arms and light weapons. He welcomed the entry into force of the Firearms Protocol and the successful conclusion of the negotiations on a marking and tracing instrument, both of which would serve to combat the illicit trade. While the marking and tracing instrument was not all that might have been hoped for, it represented a significant step towards the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action and deserved the Committee's support to ensure its implementation.
At the regional level, he said the Forum was moving forward on the United Nations Programme of Action. The Forum's Model Weapons Control Bill, developed within the Nadi Framework, continued to be implemented, but more work was needed in that area. Stockpile management and security also remained a focus for the region. With Australian and New Zealand assistance, real improvements had been made in that area. Seven new armouries had been constructed for the Papua New Guinea Defence Force at a cost of some $2.3 million. New armouries had been built for the Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru and Samoan police. Existing facilities had been upgraded in Vanuatu, and there were plans to build armouries and magazines for Fiji's Military Forces and Tuvalu Police.
He said the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, known as RAMSI, which comprised civilian and military components from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa and Tuvalu, continued to make excellent progress. Within two years, RAMSI had restored law and order and had reduced crime. More than 3,600 weapons and some 306,700 rounds of ammunition had been seized or surrendered. The Bougainville Peace Agreement had culminated in 2003 in a resolution by the parties that collected weapons would be destroyed and that Bougainville should be weapons-free. In May 2005, the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville had declared the weapon-disposal programme completed, verifying also that the situation there was conducive to the holding of elections. The peaceful elections for the first autonomous Bougainville government, held in May-June, had been a momentous event in the process of establishing permanent peace on Bougainville.
JOHN FREEMAN (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union believed that easy access to small arms and light weapons exacerbated conflicts, facilitated violent crime and terrorism, impeded post-conflict reconstruction and undermined long-term sustainable development. Small arms and light weapons had been the most instrumental factor in regional conflicts that, since 1990, had cost the lives of almost 4 million people and had forced over 18 million to leave their homes or countries. The Union was convinced there was still much to be done. To that end, it was currently drafting its own strategy to combat the illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and their ammunition, which would complement the United Nations Programme of Action. On the Programme, a lot of work remained to be done regarding the implementation and strengthening in particular areas.
It was regrettable, he said, that no operational provisions on ammunition and peacekeeping operations were included in the open-ended working group on marking and tracing. It was also unfortunate that the instrument was not legally binding. It was, however, an important step in implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action. If it was applied by States with the necessary political will, the content of the instrument would help to discourage and, thus, reduce the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. Brokering and transfer controls were a high priority for the Union. Illicit brokering and trafficking were recognized as among the main factors fuelling the illegal global trade.
On transfer controls, the Union encouraged the use of minimum control standards he said, including criteria or guidelines to determine the authorization for transfer, so as to prevent small arms from being diverted and used to fuel conflict, repress human rights and undermine development. The Union welcomed progress made on transfer controls in Central America, the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) region, the Caribbean, the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa. The Union underlined the importance of supporting the ongoing work on end-user certificates with a view to agreeing, in the long term, on a consensus on general principles and best practice in the verification of the recipient. The Union was encouraged by the expansion of the scope of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms to include Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) and welcomed moves to encourage reporting on all small arms and light weapons, as part of voluntary background information. The time was ripe for small arms to be reflected fully within the Registrer's scope, and steps to address that was a priority.
He said he recognized that the easy availability of small arms and light weapons and high levels of armed violence acted as a major barrier to sustainable development. The Union called on States and development agencies to increase their capacity to control the supply of small arms, lower demand for those weapons and reduce levels of armed violence. The use of MANPADS by terrorists, as a tool for threatening civil aviation, warranted worldwide attention and immediate action. The Union welcomed progress achieved in universalizing the anti-personnel mine ban treaty. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons was also an important and influential instrument of international and humanitarian law in restricting the use of certain types of weaponry.
YOUSSOUF KONE (Mali) said the problem of small arms and light weapons continued to be in the forefront of his country's attention, as well as that of the African continent, as such weapons represented a challenge to Africa's peace and socio-economic stability. Collective international action was needed to deal with the issue of small arms and light weapons. In that regard, he welcomed the recent adoption of a political instrument on tracing and marking light weapons. That instrument was one more step in States' growing awareness of the gravity of the situation. Stressing the need to devise legally binding instruments, he hoped that the instrument would be the first step in actions towards that end. Disarmament was a sine qua non for achieving development. In that regard, he called for implementation of Assembly resolution 59/78.
For its part, Mali had taken important steps to combat the proliferation of light weapons, he said. Mali's civil society had been involved in the effort. In that connection, Mali had adopted last year a law that regulated the trade, manufacture and possession of weapons and ammunition. By instituting strict monitoring and establishing sanctions, ranging from fines to imprisonment, the law had proven a strong deterrent. His delegation had submitted a resolution on assistance to States for halting the illicit circulation and collection of light weapons and he hoped that other delegations would support the text.
ENRIQUE LOEDEL (Uruguay), on behalf of MERCOSUR, said his subregion wanted to highlight the responsibility of the international community to act in a more meaningful way in the area of small arms and light weapons. Small arms fuelled conflicts and jeopardized peace negotiations in many countries, while further aggravating violence. The problem was, it was easy for civilians to acquire small arms and there were many way to do it. Stronger control and broader regulation was needed to avoid not only the proliferation of violence, but the human, social and economic cost that the use of those weapons entailed. It was necessary to reduce the cause of the demand in order to cultivate a culture of peace. The international instrument on marking and tracing remained far from what was required. It was designed to be the fist international agreement emanating from the Plan of Action.
The MERCOSUR had continuously sought to have negotiations on a legally binding document. Such a treaty should include provisions for the proper marking of all illicit weapons and the marking and tracing of ammunition. Unfortunately, little had been achieved in the instrument. The results for the MERCOSUR countries constituted a very delicate precedent for future negotiations on the regulation of illicit brokering. MERCOSUR attached importance to taking stock. It was necessary to consider the expectations that had been placed in the review plan for the Plan of Action. Additional decisive agreements should be added. It was essential to determine the sources, resources sand the technical assistance necessary. He also wished to recall that one of his associate States, Colombia, would introduce a resolution on the illicit trafficking of small arms.
SYLVESTER EKUNDAYO ROWE (Sierra Leone) said his country did not reject any multilateral instrument that was designed to enhance international peace and security. Any delays in the ratification of existing instruments were attributable to the sheer volume of legislation that its Parliament had had to address since the end of the rebel war. Turning to the illicit trade, circulation and use of small arms and light weapons, he asked why there had been such reluctance to come up with a legally binding international instrument to enable States to identify and trace illicit small arms. In the preamble to the 2001 Programme of Action several concerns had been expressed, including on the wide-ranging humanitarian and socio-economic consequences of such weapons. While the Programme of Action was not an international convention, but rather a political declaration, the question was how to translate those expressions of serious concern into something more concrete.
If something was illicit, it could not be treated by political declarations alone, but must be counteracted by tough laws, he said. The illicit trade and circulation of small arms and light weapons must be treated accordingly. Because the illicit trade was international in nature, international legally binding instruments were needed to address it. While declarations were good, were they enough for illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and were they enough to combat terrorism? he asked. Given the wide-ranging consequences for millions of people worldwide, a comprehensive approach to preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was needed.
The number of resolutions relating to the illicit trade and circulation of small arms and light weapons in the Committee was unprecedented, he added. While he shared the concern that the 2005 World Summit had been silent on the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation, Sierra Leone welcomed the prospects that the First Committee would articulate, more than ever, the urgency and moral imperative of dealing more effectively with the scourge of illicit trafficking and use of small arms and light weapons.
HU XIAODI (China) said that, while addressing humanitarian concerns, due consideration should be given to the legitimate military and security needs of sovereign States, as well as economic and technological capacities of all countries. China fulfilled its obligations under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and had been dedicated to enhancing its effectiveness and universality. China was deeply concerned about civilian casualties caused by inappropriate use of landmines, in particular anti-personnel landmines. China supported appropriate and reasonable restrictions on the use of landmines, and had strictly implemented the provisions of the Amended Protocol on Landmines (APL).
Continuing, he noted that China had actively participated in the work of the Group of Governmental Experts of States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. China understood the humanitarian concerns caused by anti-vehicle landmines and had taken a practical attitude in exploring proper solutions to the issue with other parties, putting forward many constructive proposals. At the Expert's meeting in August, China had proposed a package solution to the issue. He hoped other parties would consider the Chinese package of proposals and take the opportunity to make progress in the relevant discussions. In recent years, China had been actively engaged in international demining assistance and cooperation.
Combating illegal activities in the field of small arms and light weapons was of great importance for the maintenance of regional peace, stability and development, as well as to the fight against terrorism and organized crime. The conclusion of the international instrument on marking and tracing represented important progress. China supported international efforts to solve the problem of illicit trade of small arms. He hoped that all countries would make efforts to ensure the success of the 2006 Review Conference of the United Nations Programme of Action. Various parties had already laid out many ideas and initiatives for the 2006 review process. Many countries had yet to make a serious study of new ideas and suggestions, however, and he hoped the First Committee's meetings this year would not, in any way, prejudge the outcome of the 2006 Review Conference.
Properly addressing the issue of information security for maintaining international security and stability was in the interest of all countries, he said. It was also the international community's common responsibility. The fact that no substantial results had been achieved this year by the United Nations Governmental Expert Group demonstrated the complexity of the issue and the need for further efforts to find a proper solution. China supported a comprehensive and in-depth examination of the threats and challenges in the field of information security in the United Nations framework, with a view to formulating reasonable and feasible proposals to address the issue.
ERIC WALSH (Canada) said he remained committed to collaborative action to combat the negative effects of conventional weapons. In 2001, United Nations Member States gathered to strengthen the efforts to combat the illicit trade of small arms in all of its aspects, which resulted in a Programme of Action. Within that framework, consensus had been achieved on an instrument to mark and trace small arms and light weapons. It would improve tracing throughout the world. The future Review Conference in July 2006 would present an opportunity to review that work. Among some of the specific areas Canada would like to see discussed were transfer controls, national regulation, appropriate use of small arms and light weapons by State security officials, measures to reduce demand and ensuring that that issue was fully integrated into the national plans of developing countries.
He said, in mine action, progress had been remarkable, as 147 nations had ratified or acceded to the Ottawa Convention. More than 37 million stockpiled mine had been destroyed, and global trade had virtually ended. The First Conference of States parties, the Nairobi Summit, charted a clear course for the future with a 70-point action plan. Canada urged the 50 States not yet party to ratify or accede to the Ottawa Convention as soon as possible. Canada was also pleased to be party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. It was also deeply concerned about all weapons that, by design, were prone to indiscriminate effects. Canada supported the prohibition on the use of undetectable anti-vehicle mines. He knew all to well that the cumulative effect had been nothing less than horrific.
KARI KAHILUOTO (Finland) said, on the issue of brokering small arms and light weapons, he wished to see a more robust outcome than foreseen currently in the draft resolution. The illegal brokering of small arms was a well known and well defined phenomenon. National and regional legislation and regulative measures had already been taken to address the issue and the international community should have in its hands the conceptual tools needed to act more resolutely in tackling that problem, as a priority issue. He expected elaboration on a draft legal instrument on brokering to begin immediately after the 2006 Review Conference.
He said, concerning the assistance in capacity-building and implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action, he believed a more focused debate would be fostered by an independent study on needs and available resources. The review stood to benefit significantly from the commitment and expertise of non-governmental organizations, many of which had a direct and relevant experience from the field. The Programme of Action clearly recognized that partnership and Member States should strengthen it. It would be highly beneficial if the participation of non-governmental organizations could be endorsed to the broadest possible extent in the review process.
DOROTHEA AUER (Austria) said the use of anti-personnel mines had been markedly reduced in recent years. The numbers of States parties to the Convention was nearing 150, and included those countries most affected by landmines. The Convention had established an international standard which was respected by the majority of States that had not yet joined the instrument. States parties had destroyed more than 37 million stockpiled landmines and vast tracts of mined land had been cleared. Many landmine survivors were receiving better care and assistance. To overcome the remaining challenges, the Nairobi Action Plan had been adopted. The plan set out concrete actions, including for the pursuit of mine clearance, victim assistance and resource mobilization. The most significant challenge in the next five years was to ensure that States parties met the 10-year deadline for mine clearance. States parties were to make every effort to identify mined areas under their control. While the Convention did not contain language requiring States to search every square metre of their territory, it did require the destruction of all identified mines.
In November 2005, States parties would gather in Zagreb, she noted. It was reassuring that States parties had not developed "post-summit fatigue". They were proceeding with innovative measures to allow them to identify priority areas for future work. Austria welcomed the appeals made at the 2005 World Summit to provide greater assistance to mine-affected States. She called on all States that had not done so to ratify or accede to the Convention.
YOSHIKI MINE (Japan) said the United Nations Programme of Action adopted by consensus in 2001 provided an essential guide for comprehensive efforts to address the small-arms and light-weapons issue. It was essential for the international community to actively implement it at the national, regional and international levels. Japan, together with Colombia and South Africa, presented a draft resolution entitled "The illicit trade of small arms and light weapons in all its aspects" again this year. Its contents provide concrete steps for the near future, based on the progress achieved in the course of the past year. It hoped for consensus adoption.
When the Review Conference took place in 2006, he said, it would mark a significant turning point for the international community in tackling the small arms problem. The Conference was extremely important for setting the agenda in the field beyond next year. In the conference, it was essential for the international community to examine all aspects of the small arms problem. Each country or region had different issues, depending on its own special circumstances. States must seek to identify those problems and set the agenda, accordingly. The problems the international community must address were gradually becoming apparent. The second biennial meeting of States in July illuminated the challenges and provided very useful indications about the appropriate topics for discussion at the Review Conference.
He emphasized the importance of promoting projects on the ground. Japan continued to provide assistance to projects for collecting and destroying surplus small arms in affected countries and for capacity-building in the areas of law enforcement and export and import control. Japan would also strengthen its efforts to provide aid in the field for conflict-prevention and the post-conflict recovery process. With regard to the draft resolutions related to small arms, it was appropriate, as efforts were being made to reinvigorate the First Committee, that resolutions similar in nature be merged to the maximum extent feasible. Since the adoption of the Programme of Action, each country had been actively tackling small-arms problems and there had been significant progress in the field. However, much remained to be done. Each country had its own ideas on how to address the problems. He believed the thematic debate provided an important opportunity for a frank exchange among countries.
He said he hoped that the States parties meeting in November would succeed in adopting a draft protocol on mines other than anti-personnel mines, which had been under discussion for over four years. There remained a few outstanding issues and the goal was within reach. The coming States parties meeting in Croatia in November and December was the first States Parties Meeting since the Nairobi Summit. Japan hoped that meeting would ensure and promote progress in implementing the Nairobi Action Plan, as well as offer further direction towards its full implementation.
JURG STREULI (Switzerland) stressed the importance his country attached to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its protocols. In the almost 10 years since the first Review Conference had taken place, the States parties had succeeded in making the Convention a dynamic instrument capable of continual adaptation to the development of conventional weapons of modern warfare. They had ventured to address central questions on improving the humanitarian protection of civilian populations, banning in particular blinding laser weapons, incendiary weapons in certain circumstances, and recently adopting -- in the form of Protocol V -- measures to reduce the harmful effects of the explosive remnants of war. The process of ratifying Protocol V in Switzerland had now entered its final phase, and he invited all States which had not done so to ratify the Protocol with a view to enabling it achieves universality.
Although the discussion on mines other than anti-personnel mines had been launched following the second CCW Review Conference in 2001, he said it was only recently that the positions of States parties had converged to justify efforts to search for a global solution to the humanitarian problems caused by those weapons. Civilian populations needed to be better protected against mines other than anti-personnel mines, while remaining fully aware that military considerations also needed to be taken into account. If and when there was a new instrument, such an instrument must increase protection of civilian populations. Current international law must be strengthened and not weakened. Switzerland was in the process of reviewing the working documents submitted by the coordinator of the working group on other mines.
SURESH KURUP (India) said while nuclear, chemical and biological weapons were rightly accorded priority in the area of disarmament and arms control, conventional weapons and small arms and light weapons constituted an important, more immediate concern for humanity. That was because of continuing armed conflicts between States where conventional weapons were used, and also the prevalence of intra-State conflicts and terrorism in different parts of the world. India was deeply concerned that conventional weapons posed grave danger to the security of States. Their indiscriminate and irresponsible use had caused enormous humanitarian concern. Such weapons disrupted political stability and social harmony, derailed pluralism and democracy and hampered growth and development. They also fuelled international terrorism and internal conflicts.
He said the United Nations had had a measure of success in dealing with the threat posed by the illicit trade in small arms. The adoption of the Programme of Action in July 2001 reflected the common commitment of United Nations Member States to address the issue. The Programme outlined a realistic and achievable approach to address the problem at the national, regional and global levels. Efforts to combat and eradicate the illicit trade would contribute to global efforts to fight terrorism. The biennial meeting of States in July 2005 provided a welcome opportunity to take stock of national implementation of the Programme. Now, the 2006 Review Conference would provide an opportunity to review the effectiveness of the Programme in achieving its objectives. India would like the Review Conference to consider additional measures to increase the efficacy of the Programme, including prohibiting the transfer of weapons to non-State actors.
He said he was glad a consensus was reached on a draft instrument to enable States to identify and trace illicit small arms, but he would have preferred a legally binding instrument. India would continue to pursue the objective of a non-discriminatory, universal and global ban on anti-personnel mines in a manner that addressed the legitimate defence requirements of States. Landmines continued to play an important role in the defence of States that have long land borders with difficult and inhospitable terrain. Under the umbrella of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, States Parties had achieved considerable success in dealing with the humanitarian concerns posed by the indiscriminate use of landmines.
EWALD WENSLEY LIMON (Suriname) said the proliferation of conventional weapons in many regions of the world continued to pose an enormous threat to international peace and security and the fact that such weapons ended up in the hands of organized crime could not be denied. The responsibility to control the transfer from licit to illicit lay not only at the national level, but also between States. States needed to take urgent action to stop the illicit flow of those weapons to regions, and he welcomed the already established bilateral and subregional initiatives in the area of cooperation. The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was a difficult problem, which demanded a comprehensive response. It was necessary for States to demonstrate the necessary political will to effectively address identifying and tracing those weapons.
In Suriname, as in the rest of the Caribbean region, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was linked to drug trafficking and other cross-border criminal activity, threatening the country's socio-economic fabric, he said. Suriname was committed to the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action. Like many developing countries, however, his country faced tremendous difficulties in implementing multilaterally agreed instruments. In that regard, he called for increased cooperation at the national, regional and international levels.
Continuing, he noted that the issue of landmines was one of the major issues on the Committee's agenda. With the adoption of the 2004 Nairobi Declaration and Plan of Action for 2004-2009, States had renewed their commitment to achieving the goal of the Ottawa Convention, namely a world free of anti-personnel mines. Suriname had ratified the Convention in 2002 and had recently finished its demining project. In 2005, Suriname had been declared mine-free.
SILJE VIKOY (Norway) said the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons remained a major challenge. The Millennium Development Goals were unattainable in such an environment and that was reflected in the Summit outcome. The Programme of Action remained the international framework for dealing with the problem. The biennial meeting of States reflected a slow, but steady progress. Norway would have preferred a legally binding instrument on the marking and tracing of small arms. The next step in implementation of the Programme was to enhance international cooperation on brokering. She believed there was a large international consensus for brokering controls. Since 2001, six regulations and multilateral agreements had been developed. The time was ripe to build on that consensus.
She said the next milestone was first Review Conference in 2006. It would be appropriate for the General Assembly to give some direction for the preparations by agreeing on some priorities for the next five years. States needed to look for ways to increase the security environment. A key motivation for the acquisition of small arms and light weapons was insecurity. Problems related to small arms and light weapons in the hands of both State and non-State actors needed to be addressed.
Civilian ownership remained a vital issue, he said. Another relevant issue was the gender dimension, particularly how women were affected by the misuse of small arms. At the same time, States should avoid overloading the agenda for the Review Conference. She welcomed efforts by Sweden to obtain support by the General Assembly to work done in CCW. That Convention was a crucial instrument in mitigating the humanitarian impact of certain weapons. The next task was to agree on preventive measures to mitigate suffering caused by the misuse of ammunitions. She hoped to make progress later on this fall.
ANTON VASILIEV (Russian Federation) noted that, during armed conflict, conventional weapons caused tremendous suffering. In the last year, much had been done to control the spread of small arms and light weapons, and the international community needed an instrument for practical work to combat such weapons. The holding of a United Nations Conference in 2006 to survey progress in implementing the Programme of Action would be an important step in that regard. He supported the draft on the topic tabled by the representative of Japan and was prepared to co-sponsor the draft.
Today as never before, there was a problem of controlling such weapons as MANPADS, which presented an immediate danger for civilian aviation. The Russian Federation had been working on the problem of MANPADS in cooperation with its Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) partners. Also, the Russian Federation shared the international community's concern regarding the humanitarian consequences of the use of anti-personnel mines. The world should be free of such weapons. A specific contribution towards that end was the ratification of the Second Protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. While the Russian Federation in principle did not reject the idea of joining the Ottawa Convention at some time in the future, it could only do that when it was able to address certain economic, financial and military issues. Russia's real contribution to demining, however, was its commitment to reduce the stocks of such ammunitions and weapons. In the last few years, Russia had eliminated more than 6 million anti-personnel landmines.
He commended the governmental experts in Geneva for their work on mines other than anti-personnel mines. Continuing research was needed, however, as artificial haste in the manner would be counterproductive. Regarding the situation in the European control of armaments, he said it was not his country's fault that there had been no progress on entry into force of the treaty on conventional armed forces. Russia had done everything in its power to speedily bring the treaty into force. The ball was now in the court of its Western partners. If the current situation did not change for the better, complicated negotiations about its future would be needed at the third review conference next year. The multilateral treaty on open skies was a major step in strengthening trust and security. Together with the convention on conventional weapons in Europe, the coming into force of the Open Skies Treaty had culminated in a regime of transparency and trust in the field of conventional weapons in the Euro-Atlantic space.
LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA, (Mexico) said he wished to reiterate the commitment of his country in making headway in controlling small arms and he hoped their reduction would make a contribution towards the bigger picture. Mexico had been pushing for work on this regionally, as well as internationally. There were areas where work needed to be stepped up. He believed the 2006 Conference should take into account the multi-dimensional nature of small arms. Not enough work had been done to strengthen the Programme and ensure follow-up. Mexico's priority was combating and preventing crime and to make sure there was greater control on the trade of such weapons, as well as the persons involved. The work in the First Committee should expand its focus on that.
He welcomed the initiative taken to try to find a solution to civilian possession. That not only had a negative impact on the civilian population, but had a cross-border effect, as well. Illicit brokering was another matter where Mexico would have liked to see some progress, but unfortunately, there had not been any. Last year, it was agreed a governmental group of experts would explore the topic, but that was not sufficient. The adoption of a legally binding instrument was a topic that should be discussed at the 2006 meeting. Certain areas related to assistance to victims and survivors should be strengthened. Very little had been done on that in the Programme of Action. The gender perspective had also not been sufficiently addressed. Transactions with non-State actors should be emphasized.
He welcomed any efforts made to strengthen the legal framework, he said. However, some steps, particularly on the marking and tracing of weapons, did not yet suffice. In the course of negotiations, Mexico had insisted that the instrument needed to be legally binding. The control of marking, particularly at time of export or import, was omitted in the final document. In the Western hemisphere, the inter-American convention on firearms was adopted. Mexico acknowledged the fact that the instrument had been adopted in a political way, and that was a step forward, but it fell short of the necessary standards. It should serve as a wake-up call, since it was highly inadvisable to adopt texts on the basis of the lowest common denominator. He reiterated the support Mexico gave to efforts to ensure the universality of the Ottawa Convention and the complete implementation of Nairobi Plan of Action. In the future, there should be work to ensure that the Convention would have provisions to give attention and assistance to victims.
PARK IN-KOOK (Republic of Korea) noted that conventional arms had the potential to inflict no less harm than weapons of mass destruction. In sharp contrast to efforts to combat weapons of mass destruction, remarkable progress had been made in the field of conventional arsenals. The United Nations plan of action on small arms identified the tracing of small arms and light weapons as a key mechanism for international and regional efforts to eradicate such weapons. The open-ended working group had successfully concluded its negotiations by adopting a draft international instrument. While his delegation was not completely satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations, he was confident that the instrument would accelerate global efforts to eliminate such weapons. He attached great importance to next year's Review Conference on the plan of action and he looked forward to a frank exchange of views at that session.
Turning to the issue of the explosive remnants of war, he said it would be a pressing task to ensure the implementation of preventive measures included in the Fifth Protocol, and he supported the three step approach suggested by the coordinator. He recognized South Africa's tireless efforts to promote the Chemical Weapons Convention. In that regard, his Government wished to set up a credible, straightforward compliance mechanism.
JOHN FREEMAN (United Kingdom) said he had listened to the Ambassador of Japan, Yoshiki Mine, concerning the draft resolution on the "Illicit Trade on Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects" and had some comments. He respected the role Japan was playing in advancing the agenda, but Mr. Mine acknowledged that a number of countries believed the resolution could be made even better, if some additional considerations were reflected and he touched upon some of those. The first concerned the development of small arms and light weapons transfer controls within the Programme of Action. Mr. Mine said that might be taken to prejudge the Programme of Action. But, he did not agree with that.
A preambular would highlight the ongoing work. As he recalled, at a bilateral meeting of assistance, transfer controls were discussed; indeed, something like forty countries had endorsed it one way or another.
Second, he said making a preambular reference without prejudice would help in the preparations for the meeting next year and would help focus discussion in the preparatory committee, which was only a matter of weeks away. It was correct to focus on key issues. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Mr. Mine made remarks concerning the Governmental Group of Experts (GGE) on brokering. The United Kingdom did not agree that the GGE should set its own agenda. A mandate needed to be agreed upon. Among other possibilities, the brokering GGE could also examine the feasibility for brokering an international instrument. If States were to respond as effectively as possible, there would be an added advantage to reflect on the points previously raised, which were raised again this afternoon.
PETKO DRAGANOV (Bulgaria), referring to the draft resolution presented by the representative of the Netherlands on national legislation on the transfer of arms, military equipment and dual-use goods and technology, said he remained convinced of the continued relevance of that resolution in the Committee's agenda. Effective export control was essential in preventing proliferation activities and in maintaining international peace and security. His delegation saw the initiative as a complementary effort to the measures envisaged in Security Council resolution 1540 and, therefore, as a further reinforcement of political commitments towards the establishment of effective export control norms in arms and dual-use goods and technologies.
A sound export control system was dependent on the ability and political will of countries to adopt common norms and principles, and regional cooperation was of paramount importance, he said. The establishment of a viable national export control system in the area of arms and related goods would not fully achieve its aim without proper regulation of brokering activities. In 2002, with the amendments to the Law on Foreign Trade Activity in Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, Bulgaria introduced the licensing of brokering activities. Licensing applies to both Bulgarian and foreign nationals and to legal and physical persons. The problem of illicit brokering activities should be tackled at the global level by ensuring the adoption internationally of common standards regulating intermediary activities.
GHALIB AL-ANBAKI (Iraq) spoke on two issues of importance to his country, namely, the illicit trafficking in small arms and of anti-personnel mines. Concerning small arms, he said Iraq attached great importance to that, particularly in light of the present circumstances concerning terrorists and their use of different types of small arms, and the proliferation of trafficking in those types of weapons. They were very destructive. He believed there was a great responsibility on the countries producing those weapons to eradicate the illicit trafficking. The international community should move towards a legally binding instrument.
He said Iraq wanted to take part in the Review Conference next year.
In that regard, Iraq had participated in conferences held by the Arab League concerning small arms, and had also participated in a regional seminar. Concerning the agreement on the anti-personnel mines, Iraq joined those who wanted to implement the humanitarian provisions of the Convention, aimed at dealing with the danger of mines and providing assistance to victims. Iraq had faced the dangers of war, and was therefore very interested in joining the Convention. Iraq had established a national committee for mine affairs in 2003, to follow up on the programme of demining, and it had participated as an observer in the Nairobi Summit for a world free from mines.
Mr. MINE (Japan) asked whether delegations would be in a position to react to the issues raised during the discussion.
JURG STREULI (Switzerland) introduced a draft resolution on an "International instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons". He said the new instrument was the first international agreement negotiated within the framework of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and constituted a significant step forward in the ongoing efforts to tackle the problems caused by the illicit trade of those arms.
Austria's representative then introduced the text on the Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, noting that Austria was sponsoring the resolution along with 88 other States. For the first time, all European Union members were co-sponsoring the text. The resolution aimed at reflecting recent developments regarding the convention and highlighted the Nairobi Summit and its outcome.
It also contained the necessary provisions for the proper functioning of the Convention. She invited all States to co-sponsor the important text.
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