13 January 2006

Need for Global Action to Combat Illicit Arms Brokering Highlighted, as Preparatory Meeting for Small Arms Conference Continues

NEW YORK, 12 January (UN Headquarters) -- As the Preparatory Committee for the upcoming gathering to review the 2001 Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons continued today, representatives of civil society and intergovernmental groups weighed in on what they believed were crucial elements for the success of the Review Conference, foremost among them the need for effective global action to combat illicit arms brokering activities.

Without a global regulatory framework, stated the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), unscrupulous arms brokers could continue to facilitate illicit weapons transfers into conflict areas where persistent and grave violations of international humanitarian law occurred, by taking advantage of loopholes and inconsistencies in national and regional laws and control mechanisms.  To be effective, efforts to prevent the illicit arms trade should include measures to regulate the activities of those who often orchestrated such transfers.

The representative of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) pointed out that, by transferring weapons, those "dealers of death" were responsible for many casualties around the world, especially in countries in conflict.  The recipients of such weapons were frequently guilty of human rights violations, including genocide.  He drew attention to a feasibility study Interpol was presently conducting, together with the International Criminal Court, on launching a pilot project consisting of collecting and analysing information regarding key figures involved in such activities and their "modus operandi".

Offering some insight on the issue from the "legal" brokering community, the representative of FAIR Trade Group, a trade association of firearms importers, expressed concern that the proposed efforts to combat illicit brokering would have too broad a scope and as a result have an unintentional negative impact on legitimate international trade.  It must be kept in mind that most of the international trade in firearms was for the civilian hunting and sport shooting market.

Currently, he said, the brokering definitions were somewhat broad and unclear, undermining their effectiveness in curtailing illicit brokering.  The answer to that weakness was for the definition of brokering to be tightened.  Noting that a mere expansion of brokering regulations would not result in real progress against the problems posed by the illicit trade, he suggested the enforcement of existing export controls paired with the narrowing and clarifying of existing definitions.

Also addressing the Committee was the representative of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, Inc. (SAAMI), who felt that while the illicit small arms trade was, by itself, a complex issue, it could be made even more complex and difficult if it included an effort to broaden its scope by including sporting firearms.  Firearms were tools and, like any tool, they were capable of great good and great harm.  However repulsive the criminal acts of violence, the worse crime would be for the Committee to unintentionally create a new class of victims.  That would erode public confidence in the United Nations and make future progress in all its activities more difficult.

Among the other issues proposed for consideration at the Review Conference were common standards for arms transfers; strengthening international cooperation and assistance for building national capacities; the availability, excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons; and the impact of poverty and underdevelopment on the illicit trade in such weapons.

The Committee concluded its general exchange of views today, hearing from the representatives of Oman, Nigeria, Brazil, Solomon Islands and Zambia, as well as from the observer of Palestine.

Statements were also made by the representatives of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA), the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities (WFSA), and SCI First for Hunters.

In addition, member organizations of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) made presentations covering three clusters:  the human impact of small arms proliferation; norms and regulations; and accumulation and misuse.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 13 January, to begin its interactive thematic debate.


The Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects met today to conclude its general exchange of views, and to hear statements by international and other organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).


MOHAMMED AQEEL BA-OMAR ( Oman) said that his Government attached enormous importance to implementation of the 2001 Action Programme.  The abuse of arms and the illicit trade in them represented a major economic, social and security problem.  That was evident in the smuggling of those arms and other related crimes, such as murder or attacks against security forces.  Out of a desire to preserve public order and human life and property, and to enable its citizens to live in peace, his country had been rigorously tackling the phenomenon and had taken several steps to eliminate it.  There was a new law in place, and publicity campaigns had heightened awareness of the dangers of those weapons, among other steps.  In addition, all crimes committed each year were recorded and categorized by nationality and age, in order to gauge emerging trends in the use and trade of small arms and light weapons.  The transfers of those arms through Oman's seaports and airports were also monitored.

He said his country also cooperated with the international community to stem the illicit trade in both arms and drugs, and confiscated cargo was carefully examined.  There had been numerous successes associated with the United Nations action plan, but the international community should redouble its efforts towards the elimination of the illicit small arms scourge and strengthen the programme, by adopting well coordinated measures among all States.  That could be accomplished without reopening the outcome text or taking steps backward.  He was convinced that it was possible to adopt many additional steps to strengthen international cooperation in that regard and to end the illicit small arms trade.  For example, the production of those weapons should be voluntarily limited by the States that manufactured them.  Exports should also be curtailed, especially to States beset with armed conflict, unless efforts were under way to combat an occupier.

Governments should monitor the use of the weapons they produced, and ensure their physical security, he said.  Security organs should be given every opportunity to combat smuggling, and States should be able to trace the origin of weapons that entered or departed their territories.  States should be provided the necessary assistance to undertake those efforts, especially when those weapons were a lucrative source of income for those States.  International and regional cooperation should be encouraged, and the role of the relevant international and regional organizations should be strengthened accordingly.

SIMEON A. ADEKANYE ( Nigeria) said that the reports submitted at the first and second biennial meetings revealed that little progress had been made in addressing the menace of small arms and light weapons since the adoption of the Programme of Action.  Despite efforts at various levels, the illicit circulation of small arms had continued and their devastating effects on the concerned States and regions today seemed to mock the political will that States had exhibited in 2001.  That was evident in the increased number and prolonged nature of armed conflicts, in the increasing number of victims, ruined economies, and large-scale humanitarian crises.  The Review Conference must not only assess the progress made in implementation of the Programme, but also map out an effective strategy for addressing the many areas of failure.

He said one of the greatest challenges was how to accord priority to the issue of easy accessibility of non-State actors to small arms and light weapons.  Nigeria called for the early conclusion of a legally binding international instrument, in that regard.  Linked to that was the issue of brokering.  The Conference should recommend that any international regime that would emerge on brokering be of a legally binding character.  The Conference should also explore the link between the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and the illicit exploitation of natural and other resources, and agree on effective strategies to break that linkage.

While underlining the importance of practical measures to eliminate the threat of illicit small arms, his delegation did not wish to ignore the need for conflict prevention measures and the pursuit of negotiated solutions to conflicts as the most effective means of minimizing the demand for illicit small arms.  The Conference should pay special attention to the need for adoption of those measures as the best strategies for peace.  In addition, the Conference should revisit the current reporting system of biennial meetings that permitted the outcome of the meetings to be determined by the Chairman alone, on the basis of his or her own assessment of the proceedings.  Reports of those meetings should be considered and adopted by Member States, so that views expressed duly represented national positions.

LUCIA MAIERA ( Brazil) expressed her full support for the Action Programme and its effective implementation.  With that goal in mind, her country had launched a series of initiatives in all areas related to the illicit flows of arms and ammunition, as well as cooperation ventures with other Governments at the regional and subregional levels.  Those steps had been reinforced by civil society's important contribution, but the collective experience in implementing the action plan at national, regional and global levels had revealed some shortcomings.  The Programme's ambitious goals were still far from being achieved, owing, in large part, to the lack of clarity and specificity of some of its provisions and because the Programme had ignored some vital areas.  Thus, the Review Conference should address those "weak sports" and adopt substantive decisions aimed at strengthening the Programme.

In particular, she said that the Conference must deal with the problem of ammunition as an issue of utmost priority.  It was time for the Action Programme to be brought in line with established jurisprudence set by regional and global instruments, which recognized the need to deal with small arms and light weapons and their ammunition in a coordinated manner.  That understanding had been pervasive at the recently concluded open-ended working group, which negotiated an international marking and tracing instrument.  While it had not been possible to reflect such an understanding in the instrument, the report of the Chairman had contained a clear recommendation that the issue of ammunition must be addressed comprehensively, as part of a separate process conducted within the United Nations framework.  She also sought substantive agreement on the regulation of civilian possession of such arms, to which the action plan had indirectly referred in paragraphs 3, 8 and 9 of its section II.

There was widespread consensus that loss, theft or the unlawful resale or transfer of legally acquired weapons were among the sources of the illicit market, she noted.  Absence of national regulations on weapons accession or possession had contributed to the negative consequences of the misuse of those weapons.  The adoption in Brazil of a new firearms law with strict penalties for violators had reduced the number of deaths from firearms.  Transfer controls were another important issue, and Brazil supported global control over transfers.  The Review Conference should adopt clear procedural and operational guidelines for imports, exports and transit, and require the modernization of regulations at the regional and global levels.  An effective ban on arms transfers to non-State actors was also urgently needed, for which the United Nations was the sole legitimate forum, as that would guarantee the involvement of all States in that matter of highest international priority.  A five-year strategy for implementation containing concrete measures should also be adopted, and the Conference should establish an effective follow-up mechanism to safeguard the implementation of such measures.

COLLIN BECK ( Solomon Islands) said he would like to see the momentum and facilitation of the Programme of Action strengthened.  The weakness of the international system had seen his country turning to its region to prevent and eradicate a gun culture that was emerging during its ethnic conflict.  The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands in mid-2003 had restored the rule of law and collected some 3,700 guns within a period of three months in a small society of less than half a million people.  Today, the country was still in the process of healing the social and economic wounds inflicted years ago.

His country would like to see a more defined form of coordination within the United Nations system in implementing the Programme, he said.  The international framework had grown so huge and wide that at times it was difficult to see who was doing what within the United Nations system in terms of assisting Member States in implementing the Programme, both in terms of resources and capacity-building.  Also, there needed to be greater focus in creating a secure economy that reached out to people within society.  That was the most effective preventive measure, as it brought about an environment of stability and discouraged those that turned to arms to demand their share.  Finally, the Programme should also address the emergence of homemade guns, which were untraceable.  A starting point was to deny the manufacturers from having access to ammunition for the guns.

AMMAR HIJAZI, observer for Palestine, said it was crucial to review the implications of underdevelopment and poverty on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The social and economic conditions produced by underdevelopment and abject poverty produced fertile grounds for a host of illicit trades.  In order to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, it was important to address the factors that either caused or encouraged it.  Also, it was important to address the indiscriminate policies of countries that fed civil wars, drug lords, and other sources of conflict in the world.  Conflicts were not just fuelled by the illicit trade.  Instead, individual countries that made a policy choice to sell weapons to countries mired in civil war or other conflicts also fuelled violence and contributed to the problem.

He believed the Review Conference should afford due attention to two important issues.  The first was that implementing the Programme of Action could not be in contravention of existing international laws and provisions, especially international humanitarian law.  Second, the Programme of Action and its implementation mechanisms must not adversely affect the rights of peoples to self-defence and self-determination.  The atmosphere of hostility, tension and perpetual conflict that had been imposed on the Middle East, and particularly on the Palestinian people, had made the region susceptible to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

He noted that small arms and light weapons were just as devastating when used by a regular army against a civilian population and in contravention of international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention, as when used by irregular forces.  In that regard, he pointed out that arming and protecting militias that resided unlawfully in occupied land must be addressed, as such militias were involved in causing untold suffering and violence amongst the defenceless and occupied civilian population.

ANDA FILIP, observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said the role of parliamentarians and parliaments in combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was of paramount importance.  Parliaments were called on to develop a clear and effective national legislative framework in that field, with norms and regulations that covered all aspects during the "life cycle" of a weapon, from production to shipment and including secure warehousing, stock management, trade, regulation of brokering and intermediation activities, as well as the possession, carrying and use of firearms.  Also, in order to reduce the risk of weapons being diverted for illegal purposes, parliaments were responsible for creating a legislative system of effective control, providing mechanisms for the identification of responsibilities in the case of violation, accompanied by a system of penal sanctions, where necessary.

In particular, she said, parliaments were called on to pass adequate legislation and monitor the implementation of regulations aimed at substantially strengthening the penalties under penal law for those who armed, recruited or used children or minors in armed conflicts or operations and/or those who committed atrocities against children and other vulnerable groups.  Also, parliaments that had not already done so were urged to expedite the ratification of the multilateral small arms and light weapons control treaties that their Governments had signed, and to report on progress made in that direction.

A further role for parliaments stemmed from their constitutional function of oversight of the executive branch, making sure that national policies and international commitments were carried out in a timely and effective manner.  National parliaments were encouraged to take a more active part in verifying transfers made or received by their Government, setting up where that did not already exist, a parliamentary committee with which the Government systematically communicated in that domain, thereby facilitating a greater scope for debate and exchange of views at the national level, as well as greater transparency and accountability in national and international practices.

CRISTINA PELLANDINI, representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighted four issues the Review Conference should address.  First, it was essential that an effective international framework was established to put an end to illicit arms brokering activities.  Without a global regulatory framework, unscrupulous arms brokers could continue to facilitate illicit weapons transfers into conflict areas where persistent and grave violations of international humanitarian law occurred, by taking advantage of loopholes and inconsistencies in national and regional laws and control mechanisms.  To be effective, efforts to prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons should include measures to regulate the activities of those who often orchestrated such transfers.  The Conference should ensure that the group of governmental experts had a clear mandate to propose to States elements of an international legal framework to regulate arms brokering activities.

Second, the Conference should define common standards for arms transfer decision-making.  It could identify the key elements of an effective transfer control system and the relevant international legal responsibilities of States.  The latter should include the obligation of States to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law.  Third, it was important that the Conference recognize the need for increased efforts to address the demand for small arms and light weapons.  Illicit markets were after all driven by an existing demand.  Unless a reduction in the demand for such weapons could be achieved, attempts to better control their supply were likely to be only partially successful and might merely shift the source of supply to the weakest link in the control chain.

Finally, the Conference should support further measures to reduce the misuse of weapons in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, she said.  Enhanced respect for existing norms and principles, such as those in international humanitarian law, could only increase people's safety and security.  There was a need for further efforts for capacity-building for military, security and police forces, as well as other weapons bearers, in the practical application of international humanitarian law.  That must be combined with the establishment of effective sanctions for those found responsible for violations of those rules, be they State or non-State actors.

WAEL AL-ASSAD, Director of Multilateral Relations of the League of Arab States, said there was a growing awareness among Arab States that the problem, given its transborder nature, required coordinated regional effort in support of national efforts.  The League was identifying national needs and outlining the coordination and cooperation required at the regional level.  Regional coordination had been augmented by the establishment of the regional focal point at the League.  In the past three years, significant progress had been achieved at the regional level, which was a clear indication of the increasing awareness of the problem and the importance of tackling it.  For example, in 2002, a model Arab Law for Firearms, Ammunitions and Explosives was adopted, and since the adoption of the 2001 Action Programme, 14 Arab States had established national focal points, a number that was expected to increase in the lead-up to the Review Conference.  Several steps had also been taken towards raising awareness of the problem.

He noted that, at the first meeting for Arab national focal points three weeks ago, several important conclusions and recommendations had been adopted.  Those had included a request for the League to hold regular annual meetings for national focal points, to organize regional training courses in areas of common interest, and to establish a database and a regional information network within the League, which was also requested to conduct relevant research and devise awareness campaigns.  Despite the progress achieved in implementing the Action Programme, the various dimensions of the problem remained frightening and unacceptable.  Thus, there was a need to work together to provide the environment conducive for proper implementation and to increase international cooperation and assistance.  Despite the clarity of the problem and the human suffering it caused, the adoption of the Action Programme had not been easy.  Although the result did not satisfy the ambitions of all the parties, it was a model of the pragmatic solution that could be reached through multilateral negotiations.  Thus, it was imperative to preserve and protect it and to focus on its implementation.

TUGAY ULUÇEVİK, First Deputy Secretary General, International Secretariat of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), said that a process of economic cooperation and development could only evolve successfully in a secure and stable environment.  Organized crime and terrorism not only posed a major threat to international, regional and human security, but also constituted an impediment to establishing an economic environment conducive to international cooperation and foreign direct investment.  Hence, the BSEC launched in 1997 the process of regular meetings of Ministers of the Interior, resulting in the signing in 1998 of the agreement on cooperation in combating crime, in particular its organized forms.  That agreement was later complemented by its two additional protocols, including one on terrorism.

Under those instruments, the members of the BSEC had undertaken to cooperate and exchange information to prevent, suppress, detect, disclose and investigate crimes, including illegal trafficking in weapons, ammunition and explosives.  The steps taken by members of the BSEC at the regional level were very much in line with the measures provided for in the 2001 Programme of Action.  The Review Conference would no doubt provide a valuable opportunity for the international community to renew its resolve to eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons with all its nefarious consequences.

ULRICH KERSTEN, Special Representative of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to the United Nations, reminded delegations that Interpol's primary task was to support the police forces and services in its member countries in their efforts to prevent crime and to conduct criminal investigations as efficiently and effectively as possible.  In order to provide that support, Interpol conducted all of its activities within the following three core functions:  global police communications services by a secure state-of-the-art private network known as "Interpol 24/7" or "Interpol 124/7"; operational data services and databases for police; and operational police support services.  The Interpol was specifically mentioned in the text of the new international marking and tracing instrument; its paragraph 35 encouraged States to make full use of Interpol's mechanisms and facilities in implementing the global instrument, and it requested Interpol to assist States with the facilitation of tracing operations conducted within the instrument's framework and investigations to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons.

He said that Interpol was continuing to develop and refine its weapons electronic tracing system, the purpose of which was to provide member countries with a communication and information sharing tool to enhance both national and transnational criminal investigations related to firearms tracing.  The Interpol, together with various partners, would launch pilot programmes to test the system in an operational context.  The active participation by member countries in utilizing the electronic system would make a significant contribution to curbing the illicit flow of weapons by identifying and tracing firearms at the international level.  Furthermore, Interpol, through its respective partners, would provide States with training and technical assistance.  It would be useful, therefore, for each country to nominate a central contact point responsible for all requests relating to the tracing and identification of weapons.

The United Nations, as well as Interpol, was also extremely concerned about the illicit brokering of small arms and light weapons, especially due to the threat such brokers posed to safety and security, he said.  By transferring weapons, those "dealers of death" were responsible for many casualties around the world, especially in countries in conflict.  The recipients of such weapons were frequently guilty of human rights violations, including genocide.  Interpol's role was already clearly established during the drafting process of the 2001 Action Programme, when participating States undertook to encourage States and the World Customs Organization to enhance cooperation with Interpol to identify those groups and individuals engaged in illicit small arms and light weapons trade, in order to allow national authorities to proceed against them in keeping with domestic laws.

The Interpol was also presently conducting a feasibility study, together with the International Criminal Court, on launching a pilot project consisting of collecting and analysing information regarding key figures involved in such activities and their "modus operandi".  That could provide an additional tool to the international law enforcement community in the prevention and combating of such criminal activities.  He assured participants of Interpol's full support wherever possible in all law enforcement-related issues involving the illicit small arms and light weapons trade.

VANESSA FARR, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), commended Member States for the increasing attention being paid to the connection between arms control and other issues such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and other post-conflict strategies.  She also commended the commitment of States to address the humanitarian consequences of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  She called for greater attention to the demand side of the problem.  In addition, she was pleased that increased attention was being paid to those most affected by the illicit trade, particularly men.

KATHLEEN CRAVERO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the main purpose of the Preparatory Committee was to review progress in the implementation of the Programme of Action, and agree on concrete measures to ensure its full implementation.  The UNDP was fully committed to the implementation of the Programme.  It had provided both financial and technical assistance to more than 40 States in the last five years.  As a result of its experience in providing assistance, the UNDP had identified a number of obstacles which limited implementation, as well as measures necessary to ensure the full implementation in the coming years.  She noted three areas that required further action.

The first area, she said, was the impact of poverty and underdevelopment on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  The small arms issue was both a disarmament and development issue.  Underdevelopment fuelled the demand for, and illicit trade in, small arms and light weapons.  It was also a development issue, because the availability and misuse of small arms could have a range of developmental impacts. By way of example, she noted that nine out of the 10 lowest countries on the human development index had experienced some kind of armed conflict since 1990.  That link must be made more explicit in the final outcome of the Review Conference.  It was crucial to incorporate small arms and related security issues into national development policies, including poverty reduction strategies.

Second, she wanted to draw attention to the availability, excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons.  Efforts to fully implement the Programme of Action were undermined by the millions of small arms and light weapons already in circulation.  It was important to address the supply side of the illicit trade, especially those weapons already in circulation, and to prevent the further diversion of legal weapons into illegal channels.  That could be done by strengthening controls and applying comprehensive civilian disarmament strategies.  The outcome document could include specific measures on technical and financial resources to assure management and security of existing stockpiles, as well as measures to ensure the full implementation of the new international instrument on tracing.

Third, she emphasized the importance of building national capacities. It was clear that a key challenge for many States was the lack of capacity to implement the Programme of Action.  It was necessary to match needs with resources.  The UNDP was committed to exploring new and creative ways to build capacity in addressing small arms.  It had supported the participation of 11 parliamentarians at the Preparatory Committee, in order to build the capacity of national parliaments to support the implementation of the Programme of Action.  More specific measures for capacity-building should be considered for inclusion in the outcome document of the Review Conference.

FRANCIS SANG, Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA), explained that the regional centre was an intergovernmental organization based in Nairobi, Kenya.  Its aim was to coordinate implementation of the Nairobi Declaration and protocol on the prevention and control of small arms and light weapons in the Great Lakes region.  It was in conformity with the Action Programme's call for the establishment of regional and national institutions.  Since the Programme's adoption in 2001, significant implementation processes had been undertaken in his region, including the identification of focal points, and the management and control of small arms and light weapons flows, which had seen laudable progress.  Several member States had developed action plans for implementation, and the remaining countries were in the process of elaborating theirs.

He said that the public destruction of thousands of weapons was another manifestation of the States' commitment to addressing the problem, as was the signing of the legally binding protocol.  States had also developed a set of best practices guidelines and many were in the process of harmonizing legislation in that regard.  The regional centre was also working closely with parliaments in the region to collectively support measures requiring parliamentary action.  The Great Lakes region attached great importance to measures aimed at reducing the demand for small arms and light weapons, and a series of measures had been implemented by Governments in the region in the past five years to create an enabling environment for peace and stability.  Those might be undermined, however, if reciprocal measures were not taken globally to ensure strict regulation of supplies to the region.

Hopefully, the Review Conference would come up with viable measures to strengthen the Action Programme, he said. Special attention should be given to the need to enhance cooperation and support for the victims of the small arms scourge.  He looked forward to the further elaboration of transfer control measures to complement the recently concluded instrument on marking and tracing.  He recognized the collaborative role played by civil society organizations, and he acknowledged the financial support extended to RECSA by the United Kingdom and others, without which some of its activities would not have been realized.

TENS C. KAPOMA (Zambia) said that Zambia had continued to implement the Programme, in harmony with all relevant organs in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member States.  It was gratifying that the SADC members had strengthened their regional position by ratifying the necessary protocols.  Nationally, the Zambian Government had set up a national coordinating agency and a national focal point committee to map out strategies for implementation of the Bamako Declaration and the SADC protocol on the control of firearms, ammunitions and other related materials.  Through various legal instruments, his Government had developed a system of accountability with respect to the manner in which small arms were acquired and disposed of by both the State authorities and private individuals.

He said that the presence of small arms and light weapons in Zambia was a result of liberation and the civil wars of neighbouring countries.  It was the responsibility of the Zambian Government to sensitize and warn its citizens of the dangers of keeping those weapons in their communities, given the risk that they might end up in the "wrong hands".  Towards that goal, the Government, through the police, the arms, the media and, in some cases, through chiefs, had been carrying out sensitization programmes to encourage those in possession of the weapons to surrender them.  To do that, several projects were being carried out, such as an amnesty programme and a buy-back and operation clean-up.  The media also played a major part in disseminating information on the actions taken by the Government.

The question of brokering was another very important element in addressing the problem, he said.  His country hoped that the outcome document of the upcoming Review Conference would include clear guidelines on that question.  Equally important was the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons, which served as a preventive measure.  His Government adhered to the marking and tracing standards by ensuring that all imported firearms were properly registered at the point of entry, according to legal requirements.  Through its national focal point agencies, Zambia had developed capacity-building programmes for various organizations and individuals, although they had been affected by a lack of logistical support, and he called on the donor community for assistance.

THOMAS MASON, American Executive Secretary of the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities (WFSA), noted that the Programme of Action, and indeed all other United Nations efforts in the field of small arms, had not been without controversy.  It served little purpose to blame one country or one group, if expectations had not been met.  There needed to be an appraisal of past efforts and a focus on any future efforts.  For 10 years, the United Nations had engaged in efforts regarding illicit small arms, but it had never properly and effectively taken into account the undeniable fact that a majority of the 630 million small arms in the world were legally owned by civilians.  Instead of accommodating or working with that fact, some had treated those legitimately owned civilian firearms as part of the problem.  They were not part of the problem, and their status should be considered purely a domestic political matter.

RICHARD PATTERSON, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, Inc. (SAAMI), described SAAMI as an association of manufacturers of sporting firearms, ammunition and components.  Since 1926, it had been publishing voluntary standards related to the quality and safety of firearms, ammunition and components.  The basic goal of the Action Programme, namely to attack the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, was a critically important one.  The illicit small arms trade was, by itself, a complex issue.  It could be made even more complex and difficult if it included an effort to broaden its scope by including sporting firearms.  Firearms were tools and, like any tool, they were capable of great good and great harm.  However repulsive were criminal acts of violence, the worse crime would be for this body to unintentionally create a new class of victims.

He said that that would erode public confidence in the United Nations and make future progress in all its activities more difficult.  In addition to the danger of creating unintended consequences was the danger of creating lofty solutions that were unrealistic and unfeasible in their implementation.  The SAAMI was knowledgeable about the technical aspects of design, manufacture, transport and storage of firearms and ammunition.  It was also knowledgeable about distribution systems for sporting firearms and ammunition, and it had practical expertise in firearm safety education.  The firearms industry had made safe and responsible ownership of firearms a priority.  The SAAMI had taken a two-pronged approach:  ensuring the safe and reliable operation of firearms and ammunition; and educating firearms owners and the general public about proper operating procedures.  The focus here should remain on the very specific task - combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

MARK BARNES, FAIR Trade Group (a trade association of firearms importers), said he wanted to offer insight from what could be considered the "legal" brokering community.  He was concerned that the proposed efforts to combat illicit brokering would have too broad a scope and as a result have an unintentional negative impact on legitimate international trade.  It must be kept in mind that most international trade in firearms was for the civilian hunting and sport shooting market.  Currently, the brokering definitions were somewhat broad and unclear, undermining their effectiveness in curtailing illicit brokering in small arms and light weapons.  The answer to that weakness in definition was for the definition of brokering to be tightened to those activities which truly represented brokering.  It was essential that discussions and evaluations of brokering should include experts from the private sector, since those were the individuals who dealt in that area on a daily basis.

A mere expansion of brokering regulation would not result in real progress against the problems posed by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he said.  In fact, if such regulations were not thoroughly evaluated, such expansion might only exacerbate the situation by making a complex area even more complex.  The best method for limiting the illicit trade was the enforcement of existing export controls paired with the narrowing and clarifying of existing definitions.  In addition, he stressed that if a group of governmental experts was to be appointed to study the issue of brokering, it was imperative that the group be made up of real experts.  Unfortunately, he had heard that a group of governmental experts could not have members from the trade itself as members because they would not be "government experts".  He hoped that would not be the case.  The import-export industry stood willing to offer its time, resources and expertise to assist in every manner possible.

SEZANEH SEYMOUR, SCI First for Hunters, said she represented sportsmen and women around the globe, and she was here to highlight the important role that hunting played in international development and in the prevention of action that would inadvertently interfere with Member States' pledges to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Everyone present would acknowledge that some of the world's poorest countries were also the most biodiversity rich.  The sustainable use of biodiversity was vital to the economic development of capital-poor countries.  Communally managed hunting programmes, developed with the input and expertise of indigenous persons, were among the most successful natural resource programmes of their kind.  Words could not describe the way hunting programmes had changed the lives of the most disadvantaged and marginalized people.

She said that the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resource Areas, also known as CAMPFIRE, operated in some of the poorest communities in Zimbabwe.  The programme was built on a philosophy of sustainable rural development, and it enabled indigenous communities to manage and benefit directly from wildlife and other resources.  The CAMPFIRE generated profits by providing hunting opportunities to foreign hunters.  The fees generated by big game hunts stayed in local villages, and the communities used those resources to build infrastructure like schools, clinics and clean water facilities.  Programmes like CAMPFIRE existed in many African States, and they were changing lives and playing an important role in achieving the Development Goals.  The Organization of American States Firearms Protocol acknowledged the need to facilitate the international activities of hunters and sport shooters.

The United Nations Member States must explicitly recognize the wishes to neither discourage nor diminish lawful hunting and sports shooting activities, she said.  Failure to do so would put at dire risk the very programmes that enriched the lives of indigenous persons worldwide -- the very programme that accomplished the Goals the international community had set out to achieve.  She respectfully requested that legitimate firearm owners, hunters and competition shooters received a similar acknowledgment from this meeting -- that they were equal and recognized stakeholders in efforts to combat illicit small arms trafficking.

REBECCA PETERS, International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), said her organization was a global network of civil society organizations working to prevent the proliferation and misuse of small arms.  It had been the coordinator of civil society in the United Nations process on small arms since the 2001 Conference.  Around 400 civil society organizations had applied for accreditation to the current meeting, and about 100 were attending.  Unfortunately, a number of civil society representatives had been unable to attend due to a lack of funds and the inability to obtain visas.

The Programme of Action, she said, had called on States to include civil society in efforts to curb the illicit trade in small arms.  The members of IANSA had participated in the reduction of gun violence through, among other things, advocacy, research, policy development and technical assistance.  The importance of the current meeting could not be underestimated, as it would be crucial for determining the agenda of the Review Conference and would shape global small arms policy for years to come.  There were some elements that were not included or sufficiently clear in the Programme of Action, that were essential to combat the proliferation of small arms.

She hoped NGOs would be able to participate fully in both the Preparatory Committee and in the Review Conference, as they played a unique and necessary role in the small arms process.  Grass-roots activists encountered daily in the communities in which they worked the human consequences of small arms proliferation.  The small arms problem required a broader human security perspective.  Non-governmental organizations could help in providing creative solutions.  The presentations about to be made covered three clusters:  the human impact of small arms proliferation; norms and regulations; and accumulation and misuse.  The IANSA had 10 position papers expanding on the presentations about to be made to the Committee.

IANSA Presentation on Human Dimension of Small Arms Problem

NADIRA MALLIK, South Asia Partnership in Bangladesh, said that the link between violent crime and armed conflict and sustainable development had been established by several studies by NGOs and international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UNDP.  Insecurity deterred investment, and countries often had to spend more money dealing with the consequences of violence than on health and education.  For example, in 2003, violence cost El Salvador the equivalent of 5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), or more than twice it spent on education and health.  Fortunately, the humanitarian and development impacts of small arms were increasingly recognized in United Nations summits and General Assembly resolutions, and the link between security, development and small arms control was being explicitly articulated in those forums.

Turning to the gender aspects of the small arms problem, CARMEN ROSA DE LEON said she represented the Institute for Education for Sustainable Development in Guatemala, which was part of a Central American network focusing on light weapons.  For those countries emerging from long-term armed conflicts, such as Guatemala, the proliferation of firearms among civilians led to a situation of poor governance, which affected peace consolidation and sustainable development.  Deaths by firearms also had a high economic price.  Some 90 per cent of the victims of firearms were men, especially young men.  Rarely did women own firearms, but they were frequent daily victims of those weapons.  The violent crimes against women remained invisible in the system of justice throughout most of the country.  The problem was worsening in societies where there were indigenous women.  Each year, more women died, increasingly from firearms.  In Venezuela and other countries of the region, most women had died from firearms accompanied by mutilation and torture.  Yet, the Action Programme had not truly developed that angle.  There had also been very little reference made to gender in the statements by Governments.

VLADIMIR DJUMIC, Assisting Survivors Youth, said he came from Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro.  Many of the violent conflicts in the post-cold war era had been asymmetrical warfare, whereby regular forces were confronted by non-state groups, such as militias and guerrillas.  The latter were often comprised of the young and unemployed, many of them children, and their tools were small arms and light weapons.  The vast army of unemployed youth often fell prey to warlords and bandits.  Child protection systems were often weak, making children vulnerable to kidnapping and forced recruitment.  For everyone killed by small arms, many more survived, often with permanent disabilities.  The effects of armed violence were huge, both on individuals and society.  An ex-combatant in his country held a loaded gun to a colleague's face at a famous pub for about two hours -- he had mistaken the colleague for someone he had argued with in Bosnia.  The colleague, although uninjured physically, was still unable to talk about the event and continued to suffer nightmares 10 years later.

IANSA Presentation on Norms and Regulations

On the issue of regulating international transfers, OCHIENG ADALA, Africa Peace Forum ( Kenya ), said the experience of IANSA members in gun-affected areas showed the need to address controls for arms transfers.  The international arms trade was dangerously out of control.  The illicit trade fuelled conflict, hindered development and threatened human security.  Earnings from illegal arms exports -- about $4 billion a year -- were paltry compared to other forms of international trade, and insignificant when compared to the human, social and economic costs associated with their misuse.  The Programme of Action had recognized the rights of States to acquire weapons for self-defence and law enforcement.  But that right must be balanced with the rights and responsibilities to ensure that transfers were not misused.  States must exercise control over arms transfers.

He noted significant progress in elaborating transfer principles at the regional and subregional levels, including the adoption in Central America of a code of conduct on weapons transfers.  The IANSA was recommending that the global principles on arms transfers be incorporated into the outcome document of the Review Conference to promote the full implementation of the Programme of Action.

Regarding national small arms regulation, MARIA PIA DEVOTO, Asociaci ón de Polic ías P úblicas ( Argentina ), noted that 60 per cent of small arms were in the possession of civilians, and posed a significant threat.  While there had been some progress since 2001, there was a need for appropriate national legislation and regulations on the civilian acquisition of weapons.  At the national level, several countries had strengthened their national legislation.  However, the progress made had not been sufficient to decrease gun violence.  It was necessary to review legislation to regulate the acquisition of weapons by civilians, and to have a system for the legal use of guns.  She noted that just two months ago, on a highway in Argentina, an 18-year-old was killed following a dispute, and the killer legally possessed his weapon.  In addition to regulations on the civilian possession of weapons, it was also necessary to limit the sale of ammunition to legal users.

On the subject of illicit brokering, BRIAN WOOD, Amnesty International, said the global arms trade was becoming differentiated and diverse.  A consequence of that was the increasing reliance on intermediaries.  Very few illicit arms brokers had been prosecuted and most continued to work with impunity.  Many cases of illegal arms brokering had received widespread international publicity, and the public perception was that the United Nations was failing to enforce its arms embargoes and the international community was turning a blind eye to those that aided and abetted violators of human rights and humanitarian law.  Member States had been far too slow to address the problem.  Less than 40 States had laws to tackle illegal arms brokers and, in many of those cases, the laws were too weak.

He recalled that, in 2001, a group of United Nations governmental experts had made useful recommendations.  Subsequently, the United Nations Firearms Protocol had entered into force, recommending, among other things, the registration of brokers and the licensing of brokering activities.  The Protocol's provisions had featured in most regional and international arrangements on brokering.  Last year, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his "In Larger Freedom" report, had urged the negotiation of a legally binding instrument on arms brokering.  Would the Governments represented here heed the call of the Secretary-General? he asked.

Despite a growing convergence on how to control arms brokering, the current agreement had been to establish yet another group of governmental experts, he said.  So far, the group was not specifically instructed to study the feasibility of an international instrument on brokering.  Thus, the IANSA was urging Member States to develop a legally binding international instrument on the brokering of small arms and light weapons.  The proposed group of experts should report at least by the end of 2007.  Also, the violation of United Nations arms embargoes should be made a criminal offence.

IANSA Presentation on Accumulation and Misuse

HECTOR GUERRA, Amnesty International, Mexico, speaking about the misuse of weapons by law enforcement officials, said that Amnesty International had seen many communities victimized by the vicious cycle of excessive arms use by the police.  That, in turn, had created situations of insecurity, as law enforcement officials failed to protect communities from violence.  The arms used violated people's integrity.  Those were not the origin of violence and human rights violations, but they were the means by which human rights were violated.  States must control the use of weapons by law enforcement officials and have basic principles for the use.  Amnesty International was concerned about the fact that many Governments did not protect the right to life, in accordance with global standards, and very few had included the necessary provisions in their national standards.  Law enforcement officials who had misused force often enjoyed impunity.  The United Nations said that arms should be used by police only as a means of self-defence, or defence against an imminent threat of death or grave harm.  Police should be trained in human rights in a practical and relevant way.

Turning to the need to reduce the demand for small arms, ZAHA AL MAJALI, Assistant Director, Amman Centre for Human Rights in Jordan, said that the demand for those weapons had increased for several reasons, including abject poverty and tribal extremism.  The supply of weapons to the various parties to the conflict in the Middle East had led to grave human rights violations.  In order to combat and eradicate that scourge, efforts should be intensified to contain and "dry up" arms sources and reduce the demand.  The Action Programme had called for that in 2001, by emphasizing the need to contain sources and reduce demand.  In 2005, the biennial meeting of States had also called for reducing the demand for both small and light weapons.  The conflict raging in the Middle East and past wars had raised the demand for weapons to the extent that no single household was without a small or light weapon, and that posed a real danger to the communities of the region, whether or not they were parties to the conflict.

She said that the success of the Action Programme could not be realized by the efforts of the countries, alone.  It was important to involve civil society and institutions and organizations, as those were very important to realizing the desired change and they were key to change in the local communities.  The international community, Governments and civil society and its institutions were the means to renounce weapons and promote a culture of tolerance and understanding, that resorted to arbitration instead of wars and conflicts.

ROSLYN MUNGAI, OXFAM-GB in Kenya, drew attention to a programme that had successfully reduced the demand for guns in northern Kenya.  The area was arid and lacked basic resources and opportunities for trade, so the scarce resources were carefully and jealously protected.  The border areas were surrounded by countries that had undergone civil strife.  Ethnic tensions between groups also persisted, because of clan differences and competition for water and pasture for cattle.

She said that, despite the political will of the Government to protect its citizens, the protection of people across large swaths of land was virtually unmet.  Communities had been forced to arm themselves to protect families and property, and some small number had used the weapons for criminal purposes.  Travel in the region had been extremely dangerous, and the road from Nairobi to Algiers had been completely impassable without an armed escort.  On several occasions, OXFAM vehicles had been stolen and its staff seriously injured.  Even police escorts were sometimes attacked.

To address the problem, OXFAM, in partnership with other organizations and the Government, had designed a programme to support indigenous approaches to conflict resolution, she said.  That had included revitalizing the traditional system of justice and enhancing community and police initiatives.  The programme strove to develop a culture of peace through peace education in the schools.  It also actively enhanced women's participation.  OXFAM sought to address one underlying cause of conflict by supplying water, health services, schools and humanitarian assistance.  The programme's success had meant that communities could now manage their own conflict.  Police training, especially in women's rights, had promoted confidence, and people were voluntarily handing in their firearms.

She said that the root causes of conflict or violence must be addressed and people must be given alternatives to "picking up the gun".  Those steps included, among others, security sector reform and promotion of locally led initiatives.

PAMELA COLE, National Network Coordinator of the West African Network for Peacebuilding, Gambia, said that draining the existing pool of weapons was a significant part of the comprehensive effort to reduce the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  Information about exact numbers of arms and their movement was difficult to gauge, owing to poor transparency and monitoring.  However, the Small Arms Survey had estimated that some 640 million such weapons were in circulation worldwide.  It was critical to reduce that excess, as those arms often were recycled from one place to the next, one war zone to another, criminal to criminal, and so forth.  Firearms kept in the home could also contribute to suicides and domestic violence fatalities.

She said that poorly managed stockpiles of State-owned weapons also found their way into the hands of criminals.  Fatal outcomes from poorly managed stocks had occurred in several countries, including in Ukraine, Russian Federation and Nigeria.  Police arsenals were another source of weapons moving into illicit circulation.  The World Bank estimated that there was a "significant chance" of a relapse into violent conflict within five years of signing a peace agreement.  Current efforts to reduce existing stocks of guns and ammunition were insufficient to stem the flow of new and recycled weapons.  The Action Programme had attempted to address the problem by mentioning weapons collection as a specific part of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

The Gambia had not experienced violent conflict per se, but it was surrounded by countries that had, she said.  Thousands of weapons had been taken out of circulation permanently, and thousands of civilians had benefited from new health clinics.  Porous borders and outdated national regulations also affected arms flows through and over borders in West Africa, taking their toll on nations such as hers.  The programme to which she had referred had as its goal -- in the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Conakry -- to reduce the small arms and light weapons proliferation by building local communities' capacities through training on weapons-related issues.  That favourably affected sustainable development.  The training also involved sensitization of communities, particularly women and youth.  There was also a voluntary surrender of arms in exchange for development projects, such as the building of health centres and schools, and awards of microcredit.  The project was now moving into its second and most important phase -- incorporating the gender dimension.  Women were consistently excluded from peace and violence reduction initiatives, although they were dramatically affected by armed conflict and gun violence.

As States moved towards the Review Conference, she urged consideration of the following policy suggestions, among others:  adoption or strengthening of national legislation to seize and destroy surplus and obsolete small arms and light weapons; incorporating weapons collection and stockpile management programmes into peacebuilding strategies; ensuring that the long-term goal of post-conflict disarmament was to establish a societal norm that the possession of guns was a responsibility carrying with it a range of obligations; and ensuring that disarmament processes were inclusive and designed with specific regional characteristics in mind.

FLORY SHAMBA, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the main objective of the current meeting was to reduce the suffering of civilian populations that were faced with the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  He was here today to be the voice of those not present, those who had hopes, those who bore the scars of the wounds and abuses committed with small arms, which still circulated uncontrolled.  By way of example, he mentioned three young people he met in Kinshasa, who were aged 17, 14 and 11.  They were all at school, where they were taken by force and enrolled in the armed forces, with no knowledge of the weapons they were to use.  They used rocket launchers without any protection.  Initially, according to them, it was fun and exciting, and made them feel invincible.  Today, they were all ill and had no one to count on.

He also mentioned a woman who had been raped and brought to Kinshasa for care.  Like thousands of women who suffered from sexual violence, her name would never be listed among those victimized by firearms.  Would her rapists have seemed threatening enough if they had not brandished weapons?  In addition, he mentioned the case of demobilized child soldiers who, abandoned and rudderless, had joined armed gangs.  Those young people represented a "security time bomb"; when it might explode, no one could predict.  He stressed how those examples were representative of a situation with a much broader dimension. 

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