4 July 2003


NEW YORK, 3 July (Department for Disarmament Affairs) -- The first Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects will meet at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 7 to 11 July.  

As part of the follow-up process to the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, held in New York from 9 to 20 July 2001, the meeting will consider implementation of the action plan, which is formally known as the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects.  The follow-up process also provides for a review conference to be held no later than 2006. 

The Conference succeeded in placing the issue -- which the Secretary-General has called a “global scourge” -- on the international agenda.  Small arms and light weapons kill more than half a million people each year -- including 300,000 in armed conflict and 200,000 from homicides and suicides -- of which 90 per cent are civilians.  In the 1990s, small arms were the weapons of choice in 47 of 49 major conflicts.  The Secretary-General has said that those arms exacerbate conflict, spark refugee flows, undermine the rule of law, and spawn a culture of violence and impunity.  In short, he said, they threaten peace and development, democracy and human rights.

The Programme of Action identifies national, regional and global measures, including:  legislation on illegal manufacturing, possession, stockpiling and trade in small arms; stockpile management and destruction of weapons confiscated, seized, or collected; identification and tracing of the illicit arms; international cooperation and assistance to States to strengthen their ability to identify and trace the illicit weapons; and public awareness campaigns. 

The objective of the meeting next week is to consider implementation since the action programme’s adoption two years ago.  It will focus on exchanging information on initiatives undertaken thus far by States, regional and international organizations, and civil society.  It will also review the difficulties encountered, lessons learned, and ways and means of improving and strengthening implementation.  A factual summary of the proceedings by the Chairperson is the anticipated outcome, as the meeting is not mandated to take decisions or negotiate new agreements. 

It was decided during informal consultations in October 2002 that Kuniko Inoguchi (Japan) will chair the meeting.  The following Member States have also been nominated to the Bureau:  Canada; Costa Rica; Czech Republic; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ecuador; Iran; Italy; the Netherlands; Nigeria; Peru; the Philippines; Serbia and Montenegro; Slovenia; and Uganda.  Their elections are expected to be confirmed at the opening session on Monday.

The Secretary of the Biennial Meeting is Pamela Maponga, Deputy Chief of the Conventional Arms Branch, Department for Disarmament Affairs.  For more information, please contact Ms. Maponga at:  tel.:  (212) 963-5521; fax: (212) 963-1121, Room S-3100-A; e-mail:  maponga@un.org, or contact Timur Alasaniya, Senior Political Affairs Officer and Secretary of the Disarmament Commission, Department for General Assembly and Conference Management, Room S-2977-G; tel.:  (212) 963-5143, fax:  (212) 963-5305, e-mail:  alasaniya@un.org.

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