27 June 2006
Proliferation of Illicit Small Arms Has Spawned "Culture of Violence and Impunity", Says Secretary-General, as UN Review Conference Opens at Headquarters
Two-Week Session Aims to Assess Progress against Illegal Small Arms Trade since Adoption of 2001 Action Programme
NEW YORK, 26 June (UN Headquarters) -- Warning that the billion-dollar small arms and light weapons trade was still costing tens of thousands of lives each year, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged Government leaders gathered in New York to step up their efforts to support -- and enforce -- the United Nations five-year-old blueprint for action to staunch the unregulated flow of guns and other weapons, which had spawned a "culture of violence and impunity."
Although "significant progress" had been made in dealing with the problem of illegal guns since a Programme of Action had been endorsed by all Member States in 2001, "important challenges remain", Mr. Annan said in his opening address to the five-year small arms Review Conference, which runs through 7 July.
The Conference aims to boost worldwide support for the 2001 Programme's guidelines, under which States made a commitment to collect and destroy illegal weapons, curb illicit small arms trafficking, and, among other things, regulate the activities of arms brokers and impose import and export controls.
"The problem remains grave", the Secretary-General said, adding: "In a world awash with small arms, a quarter of the estimated $4 billion annual global gun trade is believed to be illicit. Small arms are easy to buy, easy to use, easy to transport and easy to conceal. Their continued proliferation exacerbates conflict, sparks refugee flows, undermines the rule of law and spawns a culture of violence and impunity."
Highlighting in particular the urgent need for Member States to introduce or update legislation meeting the standards outlined in the Programme of Action, he stressed that countries also required better stockpile management and security procedures to reduce weapons pilferage. "And we must reach agreement on a realistic and effective approach to end-user certification", he said, warning that without such certification, any effort to regulate the trade and brokering in small arms "will be found lacking."
Mr. Annan added that the conference was not negotiating a global ban on guns, nor did it wish to deny law-abiding citizens their right to bear arms in accordance with national laws. "Our targets remain unscrupulous arms brokers, corrupt officials, drug trafficking syndicates, criminals and others who bring death and mayhem to our communities, and who ruin lives and destroy in minutes the labour of years. To halt the destructive march of armed conflict and crime, we must stop such purveyors of death", he said.
Also speaking at the opening of the Conference, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson of Sweden, echoed the Secretary-General's call for more to be done to curb the illicit trade, which also hindered efforts to promote reconciliation in post-conflict areas. "The importance of this Review Conference cannot be overstated. We must maintain the momentum generated by the 2001 Conference. We must ensure that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons remains high on the agenda of the United Nations."
He voiced hope that participants would agree on measures to strengthen the implementation of the Programme of Action. "It is only through our joint, tangible and effective efforts on the ground, that we will be able to combat the scourge of illicit trafficking of small arms", he said.
The Conference opened with the election by acclamation of its President, Sri Lankan Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam, who urged delegations to agree on measures to ensure further implementation of the action plan, in a forward-looking manner, while preserving the delicate balance that had been achieved in 2001. He said that it was incumbent upon the Assembly to display to the world that the Organization could successfully address yet another issue of importance. "And I am confident that with your commitment and support we shall not fail", he added.
In the afternoon, he presented the Conference's programme of work, chiefly regarding negotiations on the outcome document. Stressing that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" he said he would circulate an updated President's non-paper containing a composite text that could serve as the basis for a four-section final document at the end of tomorrow's meeting, and hoped delegations would use it as a starting point for negotiations. He warned that the Secretariat had informed him that there was absolutely no possibility of the conference extending beyond next Friday's 6 p.m. deadline, so talks on the outcome document should be completed by Thursday, 6 July.
When the Conference's high-level debate began, Raymond Johansen, State Secretary of Norway, said the only yardstick for success would be the reduction of human suffering caused by the illicit trade in small arms. And since there was little indication that the flow of illicit arms had diminished significantly in the years since the adoption of the Programme of Action, it was high time that States gained real control over arms transfers. In addition, controls on arms brokers were also sorely needed, and the Conference should agree on guidelines to prevent misuse by private persons -- the group that accounted for more than half of the world's small arms. Such weapons must not be allowed to slip into the illegal market, into the hands of warlords and criminals, he warned.
Christopher Hackett of Barbados, who spoke on Behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the presence of small arms and light weapons in his region were continuously being used by criminal networks involved in the trafficking of drugs and weapons intent on destabilising the Caribbean. The increasing crime in the CARICOM region was compounded by relatively easy access to, and use of, firearms. The CARICOM member States had been seeking to implement their commitments at the national and regional levels, but had faced a number of challenges. For that reason, CARICOM had urged the provision of increased international financial and technical assistance and support so as to assist capacity-building in the region. Data collection and coordination of intelligence activities must be strengthened.
M. Slamet Hidayat, Director-General for Multilateral Affairs, in Indonesia's Department of Foreign Affairs, agreed that, despite wide political support for the Programme of Action, there was not much evidence that implementation initiatives were having much impact in reducing human suffering. He was among the many speakers calling for biennial meetings of States to review implementation of the Programme and a concrete timeline set for further review conferences to establish more targeted measures. He cautioned against attempts to take the review and follow-up process outside a United Nations framework, and called on the Assembly to exhaust all means to advance the Organization's relevant efforts, as it was best placed to make concrete headway in the combat against the illicit trade.
The Head of Security Policy Division in Slovenia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Stanislav Vidovic, who spoke on behalf of the members of the Human Security Network, said there were in excess of 640 million small arms in circulation throughout the world and such arms were instrumental in the deaths of more than half a million people annually. The issue needed to be addressed as a discrete area of humanitarian activity and as an element of a broader effort in conflict prevention and resolution, post-conflict stabilization and longer-term development, he added.
Convinced that assistance to countries affected by armed violence should be provided as an integrated part of development strategies, Hans Winkler, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Austria speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that given the close link between security and development, the Conference should call on States that require assistance to increase their capacity to control small arms and reduce armed violence, and to address those issues within their poverty reduction planning processes. Highlighting the new European strategy on small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, adopted in December 2005, he expressed the Union's readiness to provide financial and technical support to Governments, non-governmental organizations and regional organizations involved in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, as well as the elimination of dangerous small arms stockpiles.
At the opening of the meeting, the Conference confirmed as its Secretary-General Saijin Zhang, Senior Political Affairs Office of the Department for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management.
It also elected its Vice-Presidents from the following countries: Algeria, Benin, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa (African States); Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Iran and Japan (Asian States); Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia (Eastern European Group); Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Peru (Latin American and Caribbean States); and Austria, Canada, Finland, Israel, Span and Switzerland (Western European and Other States).
Sylvester Rowe (Sierra Leone) presented the report of the Conference's Preparatory Committee.
The State Secretary of Argentina (on behalf of MERCOSUR and associated States) also made a statement, as did the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium and the Deputy Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Japan and Colombia.
Also making statement were: the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of International Development of the United Kingdom; the Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order of Sri Lanka; the Under-Secretary of Multilateral Issues of Human Rights of Mexico; the Deputy Secretary of State of the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland; and the Head of the Department for International Security of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Croatia.
The representatives of Myanmar (on behalf of ASEAN), Albania, Papua New Guineas (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group), Germany, Canada, Jamaica, Australia, China, Brazil, Chile, Morocco, Fiji and Mali also made statements.
The Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 27 June, to continue its general exchange of views.
The United Nations General Assembly met this morning to begin the two-week review of worldwide efforts to implement the Programme of Action of its 2001 special session on preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects.
For background, please see Press Release DC/3027 issued 20 June.
Opening Statement by Conference President
Following his election by acclamation by the Assembly as President of the Conference, PRASAD KARIYAWASAM (Sri Lanka) said that ill-gotten arms killed people -- sometimes on a massive scale -- in many societies and in several ongoing conflicts. The convening of this Review Conference was yet another manifestation of the international community's serious concern about the accumulation and proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons and that this scourge was considered a threat to stability and sustainable development in many parts of the world. It had been against that backdrop that, five years ago, Member States had adopted the Programme of Action aimed at addressing the issue at national, regional and international levels.
Since that time, that action plan had mobilized a broad cross-section of the global community to take action to combat the proliferation of illicit small arms and their trade. It derived its strength from its consensus adoption, and that involved a wide range of stakeholders, including civil society. It also recognized the need for flexibility by taking into account specific concerns and aspirations of different States and regions. "After five years, it is now our duty to review the Programme with a view to charting the course for further implementation of the Programme of Action", he said, adding that in that effort, Member States could be encouraged by the specific reference to the review process world leaders had made in the Outcome of the United Nations 2005 World Summit this past September.
He said that the Conference's focus would be to agree on measures to ensure further implementation of the action plan, in a forward looking manner, while preserving the delicate balance that had been achieved in 2001. He went on to highlight the wide range of national and regional meetings and activities that had been held during the run-up to the Review Conference, including two biennial preparatory meetings in 2003 and 2005. Finally, he said that, it was incumbent upon the Assembly to display to the world that the Organization could successfully address yet another issue of importance. "And I am confident that, with your commitment and support, we shall not fail", he added.
Statement by General Assembly President
General Assembly President JAN ELIASSON of Sweden said the 2001 adoption of the Programme of Action had marked a "new beginning" in that it placed a long overdue and important issue on the Assembly's agenda. "By this, we provided the United Nations with a framework to address the human tragedy, injury and death, resulting from conflicts fuelled by illicit small arms and light weapons", he declared, adding that every year since, the Assembly had decided on further actions to implement the Programme, in particular, with the adoption three years ago of a resolution (58/241), which began the process that led to the adoption of the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons.
He went on to mention another resolution (60/81), which requested the Secretary-General to establish a Group of Governmental Experts to consider further steps to enhance international cooperation to prevent, combat and eradicate illicit brokering in small arms and light weapons. Indeed, the Assembly attached great importance to the issue of the illicit small arms trade and its consequences for the lives of millions of people around the world. By exacerbating and sustaining conflicts and banditry, such illicit trade undermined the world body's efforts to secure lasting peace and to prevent States from sliding back into conflict. It also hindered efforts to promote reconciliation in post-conflict areas, to protect human rights and to fight poverty and hunger.
Because of the illicit trade and proliferation of such weapons, progress had been delayed towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which were vital to improving the well-being of millions of people, he said, adding: "I, therefore, consider every step towards implementing the Programme of Action as a step both towards social and economic development commitments and towards enhancing security and human dignity." But the mere availability of weapons did not in itself necessarily lead to armed conflict. Indeed, it was a combination of factors, often associated with political tensions and low levels of socio-economic development, which fostered the demand for the use of illicit weapons. "Thus a vicious cycle of misery and insecurity is created", he said.
"While we implement measures to choke the sources of illicit small arms and light weapons, we must deepen our understanding of the links between the illicit trade ... and development, as well as the factors that fuelled the demand for such weapons", he said, adding that the international community needed to explore ways to adopt a more integrated approach in addressing the issue "in all its aspects", as had been called for in Assembly resolutions. The Review Conference's importance could not be overestimated, he said, calling on the Assembly to maintain the momentum generated in 2001 and to ensure that the illicit trade remained high on the Organization's agenda. At a time when most of the multilateral disarmament agenda faced setbacks, it was vital that all Member States stood united in their commitment to the Programme's full and effective implementation.
He said that he was confident that, throughout the review, Member States would continue to ask themselves whether the Programme of Action had made any difference in the daily lives of those people affected by the threat of illicit small arms. He believed that everyone could agree that the Programme was already making a difference in terms of heightening awareness of the problem. There had been a surge in such activities as weapons collection and destruction in over 65 countries in all regions of the world. Further, the international community had also seen the establishment of national coordinating bodies to support national policies and implementation, as well as a multitude of capacity-building projects. But, much more remained to be done, and it was only through joint, tangible and effective efforts on the ground that the world would be able to combat the scourge of illicit trafficking in small arms.
Statement by Secretary-General
KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary-General, said the Programme of Action adopted five years ago represented a landmark consensus against the trafficking in small arms and provided a blueprint to staunch its flow. However, the problem remained grave. A quarter of the estimated $4 billion annual global gun trade was believed to be illicit. Small arms were easy to buy, use, transport and conceal. Their continued proliferation exacerbated conflict, sparked refugee flows, undermined the rule of law and spawned a culture of violence and impunity. Most of the tens of thousands of people who died directly from conflicts worldwide and the hundreds of the daily crime-related deaths could be traced to illicit small arms and light weapons.
The Secretary-General noted the significant progress that had been made since adoption of the Programme of Action. Nearly 140 countries had reported on its implementation and an overwhelming majority had laws to restrict the flow of illicit small arms and light weapons, and more than half had set up national coordinating bodies to check their spread. A third of all States had made efforts to collect weapons from people not legally licensed to hold them. Most States had implemented standards and procedures to secure and manage weapons stockpiles. Regional and subregional cooperation to stem the flow of illicit arms across national borders was on the rise. He welcomed the entry into force of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Nairobi Protocols, and the recent transformation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) moratorium into a legally binding instrument.
Moreover, the Firearms Protocol was now in force, he continued. The United Nations General Assembly had adopted the International Tracing Instrument to identify and trace illicit small arms. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were now part of all United Nations peacekeeping and post-conflict programmes. He noted advances in stemming the illicit brokering of small arms, expressing the hope that the group of governmental experts set to study the problem later this year would come up with concrete recommendations for States.
However, important challenges remained, he said. Member States urgently needed to introduce or update laws meeting the standards outlined in the Programme of Action. Countries needed better stockpile management and security procedures to reduce weapons pilferage. Agreement was needed on a realistic and effective approach to end-user certification, which was key to regulating the trade and brokering in small arms and light weapons.
Still, 55 States had yet to report on the Programme of Action. Some reports submitted contained insufficient data for assessing progress, while many national coordinating bodies lacked capacity or resources to carry out their functions. Weapons collection efforts had destroyed a mere fraction of the illicit weapons available in conflict zones and on city streets. Better international cooperation and increased donor funding to match unaddressed needs was necessary.
States must take the lead in dealing with such complex problems and in clamping down on the illicit trade. But civil society also played a significant role in implementing the Programme of Action, through awareness campaigns, advocacy, community initiatives, research and technical expertise. He said he looked to the civil society organizations present to share their perspective, concern and expertise.
The Review Conference, he stressed, was not negotiating a "global gun ban", nor did it intend to deny law-abiding citizens their right to bear arms in accordance with their national laws. The energy, emphasis and anger were directed against illegal weapons, not legal ones. The priorities were effective enforcement, better controls and regulation, safer stockpiling, and weapons collection and destruction. The targets were unscrupulous arms brokers, corrupt officials, drug trafficking syndicates, criminals and others who brought death and mayhem.
HANS WINKLER, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, noted that the international community was far from achieving full implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action. He was convinced that United Nations efforts to control small arms had to be intensified, in particular in those areas where significant obstacles to full implementation persisted -- transfer controls; marking and tracing, brokering regulations; ammunition; and the integration of small arms measures into development assistance. Also, the question of how to structure the follow-up to the Review Conference was central to the Union in ensuring progress in the Programme's further implementation.
The Union attached great importance to improved controls over the transfer -- exports, imports, transhipment and transit -- of small arms and light weapons, he stated. It favoured the use of minimum common standards, including criteria to determine whether a proposed transfer of small arms and light weapons would aggravate a conflict, repress human rights, undermine development or constitute a risk of diversion in the recipient country. In recent years, the Transfer Control Initiative had been instrumental in developing global guidelines for national controls governing small arms and light weapons transfers. He emphasized that global guidelines were not aimed at imposing supply side controls on the legal trade in small arms and light weapons, but at providing national authorities in all Member States with a set of principles reflecting and summarizing States' existing responsibilities under international law.
For the Union, he continued, the fight against the illicit trade in ammunition was another pressing task. Surplus ammunition could be diverted from military stockpiles into zones of instability or get into the hands of terrorists or criminal gangs. He welcomed the reference to ammunition in the draft outcome document. Also, global standards on marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons were essential in order to track and crack down on the illegal trade in those weapons. A reference to further strengthening the international instrument on marking and tracing in the future, for example by making it legally binding, should be agreed on by the Review Conference. In addition, brokering controls remained a high priority for the Union, as illicit brokering was recognized as a major factor in fuelling the illegal trade in small arms. He also believed the issue of possession of small arms was of relevance in the context of the Programme of Action and should be duly considered.
He was convinced that assistance to countries affected by armed violence should be provided as an integrated part of development strategies. Given the close link between security and development, the Conference should call on States that require assistance to increase their capacity to control small arms and reduce armed violence, and to address those issues within their poverty reduction planning processes. Highlighting the new European strategy on small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, adopted in December 2005, he expressed the Union's readiness to provide financial and technical support to Governments, non-governmental organizations and regional organizations and arrangements involved in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, as well as the elimination of dangerous small arms stockpiles.
KAREL DE GUCHT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium and President in Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), joined Belgium's voice to the Geneva Declaration on armed violence and development, issued on 7 June, and noted from it the expressed will to curb proliferation, illegal trafficking and illicit use of small arms and light weapons.
Touching on the legislative initiatives taken in Belgium since 2001 to implement the Programme of Action, he noted the enactment of the 9 June law introducing strict controls on the possession of arms by private citizens in the country. Henceforth, any firearm would be subject to permit, and the bearing of prohibitive arms would be punishable. That law also provided for the establishment of a central registry for arms and a federal arms service. To promote those latest arrangements, a public awareness campaign had been launched, particularly calling on the country's citizens to comply with the law. Non-regularized weapons would be collected, securely stored and ultimately destroyed. Belgium's approach was based on the notion that the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons could only be effectively addressed by setting forth clear criteria regarding the trade and possession of lawful weapons.
In addition, he continued, Belgium became the first country to integrate into its national laws the European Union Code of Conduct on arms exports. Belgium would actively support any proposal aimed at worldwide adoption of clear criteria for arms transfers. That was why it promoted steps to bring about an international arms trade treaty. Belgium would prefer a legally binding commitment that could draw on the best practices that currently existed, as well as on political commitments made at several levels. He underscored the need to immediately begin negotiations at the United Nations on an effective international instrument on brokering. Since 2001, he added, Belgium, beyond its contribution in the European Union, had earmarked more than €5 million to international cooperation and assistance in the fight against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Turning to the OSCE, he said that regional organization had been devoting particular attention to the development of common standards and guidelines on some of the key issues related to the arms trade. It was resolved to work for the earliest possible implementation of the United Nations document on marking and tracing. It also supported establishing a group of governmental experts on brokering to be convened as soon as possible. The OSCE had played an active role on issues of non-proliferation, and export and transfer control of small arms and light weapons. It had made an important contribution towards countering the threat posed by their destabilizing accumulation and uncontrolled spread.
RAYMOND JOHANSEN, State Secretary of Norway, said the only yardstick for the Conference's success was the reduction of human suffering caused by the illicit trade in small arms. There was little to indicate that the flow of illicit arms had diminished significantly. He highlighted three key issues the Conference should address. First, it was high time that States gained real control over arms transfers. Expressing his support for the Transfer Control Initiative, he said the Conference should reach agreement on common principles, commitments and actions that would improve control of arms transfers. In addition, controls on arms brokers were also sorely needed. Together with the Netherlands, Norway had spearheaded an initiative for more effective international cooperation to stop illicit brokering of small arms and light weapons.
Second, he stressed the need to address the demand for small arms, noting the need for an integrated and comprehensive approach to the complex problem of illicit small arms. He was convinced that it would never be possible to stop the flow of illicit weapons as long as the focus was only on supply. Today, more was known about the complex relationships between the demand for small arms and poverty, insecurity, injustice and the abuse of natural resources. Also known was what development approaches could reduce the availability and misuse of weapons, and improve human security. He strongly advocated better integration of efforts to fight armed violence into programmes for development, peacebuilding and security sector reform.
The third issue was the need to stop the misuse of weapons. Everyone who carried weapons should do so in accordance with standards and norms. The Conference should agree on standards that prevent misuse by private persons -- the group that accounted for more than half of the world's small arms. Those weapons must not be allowed to slip into the illegal market, into the hands of warlords and criminals. It was important to address the issue of civilian possession of small arms while ensuring access to legitimate use.
GARETH THOMAS (United Kingdom) stressed his commitment to full implementation of the Programme of Action at the national, regional and international levels. The Review Conference should focus on transfer controls and small arms control and development. By reaching common understanding on those issues and reflecting them in the outcome document, the Programme of Action could be significantly strengthened. The 2001 Programme of Action referred to the need for consistency of national responsibilities under relevant international law. Since 2001, many countries had concluded that there should be further elaboration in controls in small arms and light weapons transfer. For the past three years, the Transfer Control Initiative had set much common ground. An agreement was not far off. A concrete outcome in the form of global guidelines would send a clear message that Member States were committed to fully implementing the Programme of Action.
He called for including appropriate language on agreed principles on transfer controls in the outcome document. The United Kingdom had submitted a working paper that charted progress made by the Initiative since 2003, and had distributed a reference book outlining all national, regional and international agreements on transfer controls achieved in recent years. He recommended that the Review Conference discuss the Working Paper on international guidelines submitted in April by the Kenyan Government. The United Kingdom had allocated £27 million since 2001 for measures to reduce the supply and demand of small arms, and had supported civil society and United Nations partners in collecting and destroying weapons, improving weapons storage facilities, implementing national and regional control agreements and undertaking public awareness campaigns. Integrating small arms control into national development planning frameworks would ensure that all decisions were made locally and reflected national and local priorities, as well as helping donors tap more resources to support implementation of the Programme of Action.
SHINTARO ITO, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said illicit small arms and light weapons were a humanitarian threat that the international community must work assiduously, with cooperation, to eradicate. He recalled that, during an official visit to Liberia this past January, he had spoken with a former child soldier who seemed so happy to now be learning about carpentry. When he realized how much time the young boy had wasted learning to destroy and kill rather than to build and create, it had driven home how important the success of this Review Conference really was. In the five years since the Programme of Action's adoption, the international community had much to be proud of, in light of the progress that had been made at national, regional and global levels. Furthermore, civil society had taken significant actions to supplement government actions.
Still, much remained to be done, he said, highlighting Japan's contributions and achievements since the 2001 Conference, including the provision of more than $270 million to support projects in affected countries. Japan would also continue to support international efforts, and would urge the Assembly to ensure that the Review Conference's outcome stressed, among other things, the importance of transfer control of small arms. He was proud to note that Japan's small arms were not being used in conflicts around the world, because his country did not export weapons. The wider international community should try to develop international standards on transfer controls, he reiterated, adding that the outcome should also engage the major small arms exporting countries.
He went on to stress that, in the future, Japan would continue to promote institution- and capacity-building for small arms control by assisting small-arms-affected countries to enhance their ownership in relevant initiatives through improving legislative frameworks and enhancing law enforcement capabilities of relevant authorities. Japan would also pay closer attention to individuals and local communities affected by conflict, particularly those in which small arms were most employed, because so many women and children suffered disproportionately.
Even post-conflict, the illicit circulation of small arms posed a residual threat, and in such cases, Japan would support arms collection efforts, as well as the smooth reintegration of demobilized soldiers and assistance to their families and communities. Japan would also search for more effective ways to provide assistance, including taking advantage of best practices implemented by non-governmental organizations and others. He called on the Conference to overcome "small national interests" and to work together to not only adopt a concrete, forward-looking final document, but to pursue the global interest of achieving peace and security for all and the dream of a better future.
GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSA (Sri Lanka) said small arms and light weapons continued to be a serious threat to peace, stability and sustainable development in many parts of the world, and continued to kill people on a mass scale -- as many as 1,000 people daily, according to some estimates. Sri Lanka was the first to set up a National Commission to address the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons in the region. That Commission comprised all stakeholders, including civil society, and worked in tandem with the Government to implement the Programme of Action. More than 35,000 small arms were destroyed at a public weapons event in 2005 organized by the National Commission, generating great public awareness and confidence. Earlier this month, the National Commission teamed with Saferworld to conduct a pilot survey on small arms and community safety in Hambanthota District, in south Sri Lanka. The findings, methodology and lessons learned in this survey would be useful for planning and conducting a national survey.
He called on the Conference to take further measures to interdict and curb the unbridled supply of small arms and light weapons to non-State actors, such as terrorist and criminals. Authorization for arms transfer must be streamlined and effective systems for end-user certification should be put in place to prevent legal transfers from ending up in the hands of unauthorized recipients. He called for strengthening international and regional cooperation through effective border and customs control and information-sharing among law enforcement authorities. In that regard, Sri Lanka was the first Asian country to implement the Container Security Initiative and Mega Port Initiative, which would further strengthen common efforts to prevent conventional arms from falling into the hands of terrorist and criminals. He also supported measures to prevent illicit transfer and unauthorized access to and use of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS). A group of governmental experts should address that issue as part of Conference follow-up.
MARIA DEL REFUGIO GONZALEZ, Under-Secretary of Multilateral Human Rights Issues for Mexico, said her country had consistently stated that the review provided the international community the opportunity to step up its efforts to curb illicit trafficking in small arms, which would also make an impact on anti-terrorism efforts, as well as efforts to eradicate transnational crime. She went on to highlight the "good results" that had been obtained in Mexico since 2001 in implementing the Programme of Action.
She urged the Conference to work towards a strong outcome document that focused on the illicit transfer of arms to State and non-State actors, illicit brokering and the gender dimension of the arms trade and protection of human rights, all issues that were very important for the Latin American and Caribbean region. The Conference should also safeguard the right of citizens to legal ownership, but should also find ways to adopt language which stepped up national controls on such weapons, since it was often those, which had been sold legally, that fell into the hands of criminal networks or even terrorists.
She said that regulating ownership by civilians and ensuring that small arms and munitions did not fall into the hands of criminals was critical. She urged States to agree on an appropriate follow-up mechanism and to consider meeting no later than 2011 for another review conference. Mexico had participated actively in the regional efforts to prepare for the current conference and would call on all States to adopt commitments that would lead to the true and real eradication of small arms and light weapons.
CÉSAR MAYORAL (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) countries and associated States, said that, while the Programme of Action had been a fundamental tool during the past five years to stem the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, the manufacture, transfer and circulation of illicit firearms remained a cause for concern. In many regions of the world, the illicit trade had wide-ranging consequences on the sustainable development of society. It was, therefore, important to continue boosting, within the United Nations framework, consolidation of cooperation at the international level in order to face the threat. It was imperative that Member States renew their commitment to strengthen the Programme of Action by fully implementing it, clarifying its current recommendations and identifying absent topics.
The MERCOSUR and associated States had actively participated in negotiating the final document to be adopted at the Conference, he said. That document must reaffirm the objectives of the Programme of Action, make a reliable assessment of its implementation and launch a negotiation process concerning additional legally binding and other instruments. He noted with satisfaction the inclusion in the document of priority topics, among them cooperation and assistance, marking and tracing, and the issue of brokering and transfer controls.
In addition, technical and normative criteria should be non-discriminatory, objective, balanced and clear, taking into account each region's features, he continued. He noted the multidimensional approach to hemispheric security architecture established in the 2003 Declaration on Security in the Americas. Further, he urged States to strengthen regulations on acquisition and possession of arms to prevent the diversion of legally acquired arms to the illegal market. That was important for the effective application of national controls, as was information exchange on regulation systems.
KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar), on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said since its adoption, progress had been achieved in the implementation of the small arms Programme of Action. But, excessive accumulation, uncontrolled spread and misuse of small arms had the potential to destabilize national, regional and global security. The illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons to non-State actors had caused adverse effects on security, economy, development and societies in various parts of the world. The ASEAN maintained a framework for political and security cooperation among its 10 member countries. It had established mechanisms to combat transnational crimes.
At the twenty-fifth ASEAN Chiefs of Police Conference in Bali, in 2005, the ASEAN police chiefs agreed to encourage member countries to enhance strict control over both legal and illegal firearms and explosives and to call upon member countries to strictly control entry and exit points to prevent smuggling of firearms and explosives. Workshops were also conducted to enhance the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons. The Working Group for South-East Asian States affirmed their commitment to implement the United Nations Programme of Action and to cooperate with other States within South-East Asia and beyond. The ASEAN countries would continue to work within the framework of international cooperation to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade. Member countries reaffirmed the need for closer international cooperation.
ADRIAN NERITANI (Albania) said Albania had partially met its obligations with regard to Section III of the Programme of Action. Albania had entered into the Stability Pact Small Arms and Light Weapons Regional Implementation Plan, the OSCE documents on small arms and light weapons and ammunition stockpiles, and had recently aligned itself with the European Union Code of Conduct. That was proof of Albania's substantial commitments towards responsible international arms transfer control. National and international information exchange was extremely important, as was regional cooperation and better technical and financial assistance for implementation of the Programme of Action, including such key aspects as weapons collection and destruction, stockpile management and security, safe and secure destruction of ammunition and munitions, and national controls on small arms and light weapons production and transfers.
He proposed that the final declaration of the Conference include the statement: "To exercise the highest degree of responsibility in the import, export, transfer and re-transfer of small arms and light weapons, according to State's existing responsibilities under relevant international law and including the use of authenticated end-user certificates, and to apply global guidelines for national controls governing transfers of small arms and light weapons with the view to avoid their diversion to the illicit market, and to non-authorized uses or users."
M. SLAMET HIDAYAT, Director-General for Multilateral Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said the impact of small arms and light weapons had neither been "small" nor "light". Indeed, they had proved their capacity to inflict and prolong human suffering and inhibit economic development. Regrettably, none of this would change unless and until the international community effectively implemented the Programme of Action. Countries could not address the myriad challenges posed by the scourge alone, he warned, and he hoped that the international community would continue to build on the unity of purpose global actors evinced in 2001 to create stronger commitments to tackle the terrible scourge, which took a life every one and a half minutes, and wounded countless more.
Despite wide political support for the Programme of Action, there was not much evidence that implementation initiatives were having much impact in reducing human suffering, he said. He called for such mechanisms as biennial meetings of States to review implementation of the Programme, and a concrete timeline set for further review conferences to establish more targeted measures, building on the agreements reached in priority areas at the end of next week. Here, he cautioned against attempts to take the review and follow-up process outside a United Nations framework, and called on the Assembly to exhaust all means to advance the Organization's relevant efforts, as it was best placed to make concrete headway in the combat against the illicit trade.
Indonesia would like to see the Review Conference's outcome offer the international community's stronger commitment to global assistance and cooperation. Indeed, while the level of assistance had grown over the past five years, considering the magnitude of the problem in most affected countries, it was nevertheless still below what was needed to help. He also reiterated Indonesia's call for an effective way to match needs with resources, and stressed the importance of capacity-building and technical assistance in the field of marking and tracing, record keeping, border and custom control and information-sharing among enforcement agencies.
Further, donor and recipient countries should find ways to bridge the gap between what was available and what was needed, particularly since there was a significant pool of resources available and ready to be distributed in a targeted manner. At the same time, there was a need for developing countries to boost their capacity to implement the action plan. He noted, in that regard, the merit of a centralized mechanism, perhaps within the United Nations system, that could serve as a clearing house or focal point that would help direct resource to needs. He added that Indonesia was in favour of language in the outcome that banned the transfer of small arms and light weapons to non-State groups. Indonesia also believed that regulating civilian possession of such weapons would enhance the international community's efforts to prevent their misuse. He added that the issue of ammunition should also be addressed in the context of the Programme of Action.
ANTON THALMANN, Deputy Secretary of State of Switzerland, said it was imperative for the Review Conference to strengthen the implementation of the Programme of Action in order to ensure that it was an instrument capable of responding to present and future challenges. In particular, it was necessary to learn lessons from States' experiences and to adopt, by the end of next week, a text which marked the way ahead. Among other important issues, he stressed the need for the outcome to take greater account of the negative effects of armed violence on development. And while the 2001 action plan did not go into detail on that point, it was now important to integrate armed violence reduction and conflict prevention programmes into national, regional and international development frameworks.
Turning to arms transfer control and brokering, he said regulating such activities was indispensable in the global efforts to curb the spread of small arms and light weapons. Moreover, the adoption of criteria in that regard was essential not only at the national, but at the international level. At present, the Programme of Action remained vague on the use of such criteria and Switzerland would call for their formulation in order to guide States when they were examining requests for arms transfers. On marking and tracing, he noted the Assembly's adoption last December of an international instrument to improve the identification and tracing of illicit small arms, the first, and so far, only, example of specific implementation of initiatives stemming from the 2001 programme.
"The challenge now is to ensure full implementation of this instrument", he said, stressing that the Conference provided an opportunity to promote and ensure such action. On stockpile management, he recommended better definition of standards and procedures for the physical security and management of stockpiles with a view to strengthening implementation of the Programme of Action. As regards follow-up measures, he noted that the structure for the biennial meetings that had been held in 2003 and 2005 had not proved sufficiently effective, and added that Switzerland supported the recommendation that the Review Conference create an intersessional programme of work to improve coordination and the exchange of experience between States.
CAMILO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Colombia) said five years after the Programme of Action was signed, States needed to renew their commitment to fully implement the Programme of Action's recommendations, identify missing issues and adopt a follow-up mechanism to evaluate progress made. Colombia had made great efforts to nationally implement the Programme and had set up an intersectoral entity that brought together the goals of relevant national institutions to work together. That involved structural control processes to: reinforce police infrastructure, restrict the carrying of weapons; and impose severe penalties for crimes related to alcohol and firearms. Such national programmes, coupled with civilian disarmament projects, had yielded positive results, including a drop in crime in general and a 20 per cent drop in the homicide rate caused by the misuse of firearms.
Despite such national and international achievements, progress in the last five years had been slow and great challenges remained, he said. Progress on the issue of marking and tracing, including ammunition, and on illicit brokering, was essential through negotiation of legally binding instruments. He supported the Group of Experts in drafting the text on brokering. He stressed the importance of legislating against non-State actors in order to effectively combat new threats, such as terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and the illicit trade in small arms. There had not been enough assistance for implementing the recommendations or duties acquired through the various regional and subregional mechanisms. Technical and financial assistance must be made available. In Colombia, border controls were of particular concern, since most weapons sent to illegally armed groups and criminal organizations entered the country clandestinely. Technical assistance was needed to train customs officials, police and other relevant authorities.
ROBERT G. AISI (Papua New Guinea), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said the illicit trade in and misuse of small arms and light weapons gravely impacted development and the exercise of human rights in many countries. The Review Conference must, therefore, set a "strong tone" for dealing with the scourge in the coming years. He said that since the 2001 meeting, countries in his region had continued their struggle to cope with the spread of illegal weapons. The devastating effects of the trade at the community level had "gravely disrupted" development aspirations, including achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
He went on to highlight a number of relevant regional initiatives, including the ongoing Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which was an excellent example of cooperation to combat the effects of the trafficking in small arms, which led to destabilization. In the case of Bougainville province, he said that, following a 16-year war, a successful weapons collection and disposal programme, monitored by the United Nations, had led to the election and establishment of the autonomous government of Bougainville, which was set to celebrate its first anniversary this month.
He said stockpile management and security was another regional priority and, working with Australia and New Zealand, the Forum's member countries had made real improvements in that area. New armouries had been built, but more stringent controls were still needed to prevent leakage from official stocks and still more work needed to be done to help build up regional capacities. He expressed real concern about small arms and light weapons, such as MANDPADS, falling into the hands of non-State actors, including terrorists, who get their hand on such weapons easily and cheaply. He called on the Conference to pay specific attention to that issue when negotiations opened on the outcome document.
CHRISTOPHER HACKETT (Barbados), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the presence of small arms and light weapons in his region were continuously being used by those intent on destabilizing the region through criminal networks involved in the trafficking of drugs and weapons as part of transnational organized crime. The increasing crime in the CARICOM region was compounded by relatively easy access to, and use of, firearms. The CARICOM member States had been seeking to implement their commitments at the national and regional levels, as contained in the Programme of Action. But, it faced a number of challenges. For that reason, CARICOM had been urging the provision of increased international financial and technical assistance and support so as to assist capacity-building in the region. Data collection and coordination of intelligence activities must be strengthened.
There should be improved regulation for firearms dealers, he continued. New and increased levels of crime were forcing CARICOM countries to rethink their national and regional strategies. The capacity of CARICOM countries to deal with that problem had been overtaxed. It was necessary to establish a comprehensive follow-up mechanism as a result of the Review Conference to periodically review progress made in the implementation of the Programme of Action. The CARICOM reiterated the urgent need for the international community to take concerted action to eradicate the deadly use and trade in illicit small arms.
WOLFGANG TRAUTWEIN (Germany) said the goal of the 2001 Programme of Action -- to eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons -- could only be achieved through transparent and effective control of all trade in small arms and light weapons. Therefore, it was crucial that States agreed on international principles that would be fundamental to any transfer of small arms and light weapons. He believed such principles were needed not only with regard to small arms and light weapons, but to any conventional weapon.
The Conference, he said, should pave the way for concrete international guidelines that would enable States to regulate transfers of small arms and light weapons at a national or regional level in accordance with international law. It should be possible to find common ground and work out global rules that would reflect already existing obligations under international law, and respect human rights. Transparent and harmonized rules for the transfer of small arms and light weapons would contribute to preventing those weapons from falling into the hands of criminal gangs and terrorists. There should be no transfer of military small arms and light weapons without official approval by the exporting and the importing State.
The intrinsic link between small arms and light weapons and ammunition should be reflected adequately, he added. The Conference should lead to a global discussion on ammunition that might draw on regional expertise. In addition, Germany was strongly in favour of a follow-up process that would allow States to keep on focusing on implementation and continue discussions on issues that were still not ripe for decisions.
GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said it was necessary to continue strengthening the global regulatory framework governing small arms transfers in order to combat the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons, while respecting the legitimate interests of lawful firearms producers, exporters, retailers and owners. He welcomed the imminent creation of the Group of Governmental Experts on brokering. He also supported development of global principles that would guide the transfer of small arms and light weapons through their active life, as well as a comprehensive, legally binding arms trade treaty that would cover all conventional arms, thus preventing their illicit flow to conflict zones. He commended the excellent work to date of civil society and the United Kingdom's Government on the arms trade treaty initiative and pledged to work closely with all involved to advance its early development and adoption.
It was imperative to reduce the misuse of small arms and light weapons by civilians, since civilians possessed more than 60 per cent of the world's 600 million small arms. While most were used responsibly for hunting or target shooting, others were used for illicit purposes. States could make tremendous gains through simple measures such as implementing licensing regimes that set clear criteria for the lawful ownership and use of firearms. Such criteria should set a reasonable minimum age in order to keep guns away from children, as well as ensure that prospective owners and users were screened for a history of violence or criminal activity and had a basic knowledge of firearms safety. States must also ensure appropriate use by State officials and security agents and should create and enforce standards in line with the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. Further, it was necessary to ensure the security of essential stockpiles of small arms and light weapons and the safe disposal of surplus stocks.
STANISLAV VIDOVIC, Head of Security Policy Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the members of the Human Security Network, said there had been some progress five years after adoption of the United Nations Programme of Action. However, many challenges remained. There were in excess of 640 million small arms in circulation throughout the world and such arms were instrumental in the deaths of more than half a million people annually. The issue needed to be addressed as a discrete area of humanitarian activity and as an element of a broader effort in conflict prevention and resolution, post-conflict stabilization and longer-term development.
Small arms posed a particular threat to children, he continued. Slovenia particularly supported the references to child protection and to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), urging States to consider including child advocates on their national small arms commissions. It was also appropriate to acknowledge the importance of the gender dimension, and consider the diverse needs of men and women. Increased international coordination, cooperation and assistance were necessary. The negative humanitarian and socio-economic consequences of the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms must be emphasized. He expressed strong support for the parts of the draft final document that were related to the negative humanitarian and development impact of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
RAYMOND WOLFE (Jamaica) said the continued use and presence of small arms and light weapons posed grave challenges to development prospects of States and threatened efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in a timely manner. Jamaica did not produce such weapons and continued to be affected by the illicit trade. Universal implementation of the Programme of Action was of the utmost importance. Reducing crime and violence associated with the illicit use of such weapons would have a positive impact on economic growth and economic development prospects. In that regard, Jamaica had launched a comprehensive programme to get guns off the streets. Since 2001, it had recovered more than 30,000 illegal small arms and lights weapons and thousand of rounds of ammunition. Member States must cooperate to promote measures that would help reduce the illegal trade and allow for intelligence and information exchange among law enforcement officials. The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean had assisted Jamaica and other small island developing States in the region with training programmes for law enforcements officials.
Small arms use had led to overwhelming costs in the national health sector, he continued. Money used to treat victims diverted resources from infrastructure projects, social programmes and educational projects. Crime and violence negatively affected families and communities, as well as the development of particularly small States. Gun violence also weakened the rule of law, threatened governance and prevented the delivery of social assistance to vulnerable groups. He called for greater attention to the needs of women and children, and stronger national and regional programmes to address youth crime. States should provide resources and technical assistance to countries affected by gun violence and illicit arms and ammunition trafficking.
ROBERT HILL (Australia) said Australia was firmly committed to implementing the Programme of Action and had enacted some of the world's most stringent laws and regulations regarding firearms ownership, import and export. Australia's domestic firearms control required registration and licensing of all firearms owners, prohibited a range of automatic and semiautomatic long arms and handguns, and mandated minimum firearms safety training and storage. Australia had substantial penalties for illegal possession or selling of firearms, and for cross-border trafficking offences. It also provided assistance to neighbouring countries to address small arms and light weapons proliferation concerns. Through the Defence Cooperation Programme, Australia had constructed armouries and magazines to secure weapons and ammunition for regional military and police forces in Timor-Leste, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. It also supported post-conflict reconstruction in Bougainville, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Burundi, Rwanda and the Sudan.
However, much more remained to be done, particularly in capacity-building, he continued. Renewed disturbances in Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands underlined the importance of effective and sustainable disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and security sector reform, including providing alternative livelihoods for former combatants and discharged military and police officers. The Review Conference must also address the issue of MANPADS as many such systems were unaccounted for worldwide and were likely in the hands of terrorists and other non-State actors. The Review Conference must call on Member States to restrict transfer of such systems to Governments only.
WANG GUANGYA (China) said there was an arduous task ahead in the course of implementing the 2001 Programme of Action. The illicit trade and excessive accumulation of small arms and light weapons had not been fundamentally curbed. Domestic legislation needed to be improved. Implementing the Programme of Action was very important for regional stability and economic development. Efforts should be made to improve the legal system and strengthen law enforcement aimed at combating the illicit manufacturing and transaction in small arms. Follow-up of the Programme of Action should be implemented on a gradual basis.
International assistance and cooperation should be enhanced, he continued. Coordination and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, such as the police and customs, should be strengthened. A comprehensive approach should be adopted to address both the symptoms and the underlying causes. Poverty and social instability were the breeding ground of illicit small arms and light weapons. The international community needed to take effective measures to help countries concerned to eradicate poverty. The Chinese Government was committed to the fight against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The Conference presented an important opportunity to further promote the international efforts in combating the illicit trade.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said the latest version of the non-paper was a balanced and comprehensive compilation of States' views and constituted a very good basis for the Review Conference's negotiations. Since 2001, Brazil had undertaken many efforts to fully and effectively implement the Programme of Action. In December 2003, the Disarmament Statute entered into force, setting a new legal and regulatory framework for the control of small arms, light weapons and ammunition. The new law improved the National Arms Registration System and set more vigorous requirements for issuing gun ownership licenses, as well as much heavier penal sanctions for violators. It also determined that all illegal small arms and light weapons found or seized must be promptly destroyed immediately upon completion of the judicial measures needed for criminal investigation purposes. In 2004, the Brazilian Government and civil society launched a major nationwide disarmament campaign to promote a culture of peace, raise public awareness of the dangers inherent to firearms possession and stimulate their voluntary disposal through a massive buy-back programme. By October 2005, more than 450,000 firearms had been collected, far exceeding original estimates of 80,000.
Since the entry into force of new legislation on firearms, all ammunitions in Brazil must bear a bar code sign identifying the manufacturer, ammunition type and production and delivery lot, he continued. Recent regulations issued by the Ministry of Defence mandated that all ammunition manufactured or imported for official use must have individual markings in each cartridge. The adoption of such initiatives had greatly improved the ability of the police to combat the illicit circulation of ammunition. As a whole, the initiatives had led to an unprecedented reduction of 8.2 per cent in 2004 of deaths caused by firearms in Brazil. That was particularly significant since deaths caused by firearms had been increasing since 1992.
HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said the Conference's job over the next two weeks was not "just another day's work" at the United Nations. Indeed, stemming the flow of small arms and light weapons was an issue that was critical to each and every delegation in the room. Crimes of genocide and other crimes against humanity that had been committed over the past half century had been fuelled by such weapons. To think that this was to be a mere review of what actions had been undertaken over the past five years was to severely limit the international community's ability to come up with a forward-looking strategy. Chile continued to support the notion of multilateral consultations on all matters of international concern and would stress that that was the only way to address the scourge of the trafficking in small arms, while preserving a balance with efforts to promote and protect human rights.
He went on to express his delegation's concern at the reticence of some States to seek the elaboration of international instruments on marking and tracing and weapons transfer. While everyone claimed that they strove for multilateralism that would improve human security and dignity, there seemed to be a huge gap between words and actions. He believed it was necessary to move ahead quickly on international transfer controls, so that national authorities could ensure that arms were not diverted to illicit markets. Chile was seriously concerned about small arms falling into the hands of terrorists, he added. In order to have sustained follow-up to the agreements reached over the next two weeks, Chile believed it would be necessary to hold biennial sessions to enhance the exchange of views and provide more frequent updates on global efforts to implement the Programme of Action and commitments that would be made next week.
SANJA BUJAS-JURAGA, Head of Department for International Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Croatia, aligning herself with the European Union, said it was time to consider adopting the instrument on marking and tracing, to ensure full implementation of the Programme of Action. Calls for improving control over the transfer of small arms and light weapons should be further elaborated, while minimum common standards for arms transfers should be used to ensure that they did not stimulate conflict, suppress human rights or reverse development. In that context, measures to authenticate end-user certificates should be considered.
She looked forward to early commencement of work by the Group of Governmental Experts on brokering and said that Croatia was actively looking forward to incorporating brokering controls into national legislation. The Croatian Armed Forces had seized a substantial amount of small arms and light weapons, ammunition and military equipment, destroying 2,032 units of small arms and light weapons in 2005. As part of an ongoing military reorganization, the Ministry of Defence had identified a significant quantity of surplus small arms and light weapons and was looking for ways to dispose of them. Meanwhile, Croatia exchanged information regularly through the Regional Steering Group for the control of small arms and light weapons under the Stability Pact for the South Eastern Europe Regional Implementation Plan.
MOUSTAFA SAHEL (Morocco) said that, while the adoption of the Programme of Action had placed the subject of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons at the top of the international agenda, it was important to recognize that the African continent still suffered greatly from the trade. It was, therefore, important to learn from the missteps that had been made and the gaps that had been identified over the past five years, as well as to keep the situation in Africa at the forefront of considerations during the negotiations. He said that the Conference's outcome document should be balanced and should reflect the concerns of all Member States. The bottom line should be what could be done to save the most lives.
ISIKIA SAVUA (Fiji) said that the illicit weapons trade in the South Pacific region was small, but it still caused most of the casualties in the armed conflicts there. The region was the depository of many weapons made and left behind after the world wars. Regional efforts had exerted a modicum of control on the weapons' use and movement. Pacific States had taken steps to harmonize their laws and develop a common approach to weapons control through the 2000 Nadi Framework. The challenge remained to fully implement the framework and develop effective brokering legislation and policies in all jurisdictions in the region. He called on the Review Conference to: call on States to increase efforts to adopt and implement national laws governing transfer, production, trade, possession and storage of small arms and light weapons; urge States to take into account the outcomes of the upcoming Group of Government Experts on brokering when re-examining national controls and developing legislation and administrative procedures; and urge further international cooperation and assistance to build the capacity of States.
The Review Conference should urge strengthened implementation of the framework contained in the Programme of Action, particularly articles II.17 and II.18 and underline the need for further international cooperation and assistance in armoury management and stockpile destruction. It should also reaffirm reintegration of ex-combatants and decommissioned military and police personnel as essential to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process; underline the need for accountability of military and civilian police for service weapons; and underscore the added value of external assistance in national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as well as in security sector reform programmes.
CHEICK SIDI DIARRA (Mali) said proliferation and circulation of small arms and light weapons continued to spark tensions and fuel conflicts in Africa some five years after the adoption of the Programme of Action. As a pioneer in the combat against the scourge, Mali was one of the first countries to set up a national commission to deal with the spread of illicit weapons. Adapting the country's norms to the reality on the ground had made it easier for the country to address changing situations. Mali's national legislation also ensured that police and other law enforcement agencies were combating the illicit arms trade and the spread of munitions.
He went on to hail the active contribution of West African civil society in helping to promote arms control initiatives in the region. He said that the wider international community must work together to put an end to the spread of small arms and light weapons, particularly their transfer control and tracing, which would tackle the diversion of such arms to illegal markets. Tracing would provide a clear idea of the path of such weapons and at what point they slipped into illegal spheres.
He welcomed the Assembly's adoption during its sixtieth session of an instrument that was helping the international community in that regard. Indeed, that instrument was helping to save countless lives in Africa. On wider issues, he said that despite scattershot progress, there was a lack of political will to ensure the full implementation of the Programme of Action. He urged the Conference to come up with clear binding instruments that could be adhered to by all States. And the fact that there were some gaps in the Programme, particularly on the ownership of small arms by private citizens, made it all the more urgent to come up with concrete solutions.
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