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    For information only - not an official document.
      UNIS/DSG/45
        16 October 2000
     Deputy Secretary-General Praises UN Film on Small Arms Plague
     

    NEW YORK, 16 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a statement made this afternoon by Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the premiere of the United Nations documentary “Armed to the Teeth”:

    I am pleased to join you for the screening of a powerful film on a subject that deserves far more attention than it receives today:  the prevalence and destructiveness of small arms in conflicts around the world.  No region, no country is immune from the devastating consequences of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  It is truly a plague that knows no borders.

    With hundreds of millions in circulation, small arms are estimated to result in 300,000 casualties each year.  Every two minutes, someone somewhere on this planet is killed by small arms.  And in most cases, the victims are civilians.  This plague presents a constant and fundamental threat to the United Nations conflict-prevention and humanitarian relief efforts, to our peacekeeping and peace-building operations, and severely hampers social and economic development.  Small arms imperil human security in every way.

    Governments, international organizations and civil society are increasingly recognizing this reality and are calling for action and seeking ways to join forces.  This was reflected at the highest levels by the leaders at the Millennium Summit, who in their declaration pledged “to take concerted action to end illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons”.  Similarly, the Security Council Summit called for “effective international action to prevent the illegal flow of small arms into areas of conflict”. 

    Fortunately, governments are not limiting themselves to mere words.  Stricter laws have been put in place to better control and regulate the manufacturing and transfers of small arms.  

    In Africa, the Moratorium among West African States on imports, exports and manufacture of small arms has been in force since October 1998.  The Organization of African Unity is finding ways to harmonize and unify the continent in its approach and policies in preparation for the major United Nations conference on illicit trade in these weapons in 2001.  The three-year old Organization of American States Convention against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms is proving to be a unifying force in the region for collective action.  A number of States that have emerged from conflict or internal strife -- from Mali and Niger to South Africa, from Albania and Cambodia to El Salvador -- have undertaken programmes for weapon collection and destruction.  

    Thousands of small arms have been burned in Flames of Peace -- most recently last month at a ceremony in Niger where some 1,300 weapons were set afire.  These events have served as important symbols in rallying the people and solidifying the desire for peaceful coexistence.  The United Nations has played a valuable role in supporting these programmes.  All of these measures should be applauded, but even more urgently, they need to be reinforced.  International and regional organizations have an important role to play. 

    One of the important opportunities to translate words and commitments into action is the 2001 United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.  Next summer, the international community must seize the opportunity to demonstrate its political commitment to reverse the trend by taking concrete actions.  The problem is multifaceted and global in nature.  It has no quick fix, no magic solution.  It must be addressed step by step, with persistence and determination, and then progress can be made, and lives could be saved. 

    The documentary you are about to see is another part of the United Nations effort to raise public awareness on this issue.  I would like to congratulate the Departments of Disarmament Affairs and Public Information for their efforts in producing this film, and thank those governments and civil society groups that lent their support.  What we are about to see are powerful, graphic and moving images of the price of this plague -- in lives destroyed, in minds darkened and in societies destabilized.  Let this film be a call to action.

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