11 January 2006
Progress Made against Small Arms Scourge, but Weapons Remain Massive Problem, Delegates Told, as Preparatory Meeting Opens at Headquarters
Two-Week Session to Lay Groundwork for June/July Conference Aimed at Review of 2001 Action Programme against Illicit Trade
NEW YORK, 9 January (UN Headquarters) -- While significant progress had been made in combating the illicit small arms scourge, those weapons remained a massive problem -- killing, maiming and threatening individuals daily, and destabilizing States and regions and hampering their development, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe, said today at the opening of the preparatory meeting for the small arms Review Conference in June/July.
Warning that combating the spread of illicit small arms and light weapons was a long-term challenge, Mr. Abe said that the goal of the two-week preparatory session was to prepare the groundwork for a thorough examination of the issue at the Review Conference. The 2001 Action Programme had heightened awareness and fostered an unprecedented rise in actions by governmental and intergovernmental institutions, as well as civil society. Delegations should reflect on the effectiveness of their Governments' actions and ask whether they had done enough.
The newly elected Preparatory Committee Chairman, Sylvester E. Rowe (Sierra Leone), agreed that an assessment of what had and had not been done was needed. He encouraged the Committee to design a forward-looking strategy for further action and for States to avoid dwelling on the obvious -- that they were not here to reopen or renegotiate the Action Programme. The Committee's work was about the victims and potential victims of the unbridled use of those weapons worldwide. With a focus on building on the strong foundation laid five years ago, and with the recognition of the urgency of eradicating the illicit arms menace, the Committee should be able to complete its work within the next two weeks.
When the general exchange of views got under way, broad agreement emerged that the goal of both the preparatory process and the Review Conference was not to renegotiate or open the 2001 Programme of Action -- considered to be politically, but not legally binding -- but to identify those measures that could be agreed upon to complement or enhance it. Many speakers expressed the view that the existing framework, while not exhaustive of all related issues, covered all relevant ones.
There was nothing "small or light" about those weapons, or their collective impact on people throughout the world, Canada's representative asserted. There were more than 600 million small arms and light weapons in circulation and, last year alone, those weapons were instrumental in the deaths of more than half a million people, or 10,000 people per week. The vast majority were civilians, and at least a third were struck down in countries at peace. The Review Conference was a seminal opportunity to set a clear timetable for continuing the United Nations process, increase momentum and produce substantial, concrete results over the next five-year period in implementing the Programme of Action.
On behalf of the European Union, Austria's speaker suggested that delegates focus on the crucial areas where significant obstacles to full implementation remained, such as transfer controls, including end-user certification, marking and tracing, brokering regulations, ammunition and the integration of small arms measures into development assistance. Among those, brokering controls remained a high priority for the Union, which supported the recent Assembly resolution calling for the establishment of a group of governmental experts on brokering to be convened as soon as possible after the Review Conference, to decide on the measures necessary to combat the harm done by unscrupulous arms brokers.
Deeming the Action Programme a "watershed" in efforts to curb the illicit small arms trade, Bangladesh's representative said that the Review Conference later this year would be the first formal opportunity to assess progress made in its implementation. Unfortunately, that progress had not been sufficient, nor had it been consistent and even for all. The preparatory process was an opportunity to identify the obstacles and find ways to assist nations in fighting the menace. In compliance with the action plan, Bangladesh had put in place tougher legislative norms and set up a national stockpile management programme. Strict procedures were also in place to ensure appropriate storage for stockpiles, their physical security, control of access, and inventory management.
Elected by acclamation to the post of Vice-Chairpersons were: Robert G. Aisi, Papua New Guinea; Yoshiki Mine, Japan; Leslie Gatan, Philippines; Rosita Sortye, Lithuania; Jacek Januchowski, Poland; Serghii Shutenko, Ukraine; Janne Taalas, Finland; Dorothea Auer, Austria; Roman Hunger, Switzerland; Pedro A. Roa Arboleda, Colombia; and Jean Wesley Cazeau, Haiti. At the conclusion of the morning meeting, the Chairman announced that Janne Taalas of Finland would be replaced by Kari Kahiluoto, also of Finland.
Representatives of the following Governments also spoke in two meetings today: New Zealand, China, Australia, Indonesia, Norway, Cuba and Nigeria on behalf of the African Group. The Permanent Observer of the Holy See also spoke.
The Preparatory Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 11 January, to continue its general exchange of views.
The Preparatory Committee for the 2006 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 began its session this morning. The Conference will be held in New York from 26 June to 7 July 2006.
The Programme of Action, adopted on 20 July 2001, expresses States participants' grave concern about the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world. They resolve to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade by: strengthening or developing agreed norms and measures at the global, regional and national levels; developing and implementing agreed global measures, placing emphasis on the regions of the world where conflicts come to an end and where serious problems with the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weapons have to be dealt with urgently; mobilizing political will throughout the international community; and raising awareness of the character and seriousness of the interrelated problems associated with the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in those arms. (For additional details of the Action Programme, see United Nations document A/CONF.192/15).
The mandate for undertaking the follow-up process emanates from two General Assembly resolutions adopted in pursuance to the 2001 Conference. Resolution 56/24V, adopted in November of 2001, welcomed the adoption by consensus of the Action Programme and decided to convene both the 2006 review conference and the biennial meetings, commencing in 2003. The following year, by resolution 57/72, adopted on 22 November 2002, the Assembly emphasized the importance of the Action Programme and decided to convene the first of the biennial meeting of States in New York in July 2003. The second biennial meeting was held in July 2005.
NOBUYASU ABE, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, said the task at hand was a challenging one: delegates needed to build consensus on key recommendations to the Review Conference while ensuring that the Review Conference had the depth and latitude necessary to address all the important issues of concern to the international community and to produce a valuable outcome for the implementation of the Programme of Action. The 2001 Programme of Action was an enabling instrument, not subject to renegotiation here or at the Conference in June.
Combating the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons was a long-term challenge, he continued. While significant progress had been made since the adoption of the Programme of Action in 2001, those weapons still represented a massive problem for the world community. They continued to kill, maim and threaten men and women and children every day, cause human misery and suffering, destabilize States and entire regions and hamper their political, economic and social development.
Since its adoption in 2001, he said, the Programme of Action had led to a heightened awareness of the small arms and light weapons problem and fostered an unprecedented rise in actions by governmental and intergovernmental institutions, as well as civil society. That was evidenced by the huge increase in activities carried out at the national level, the high level of commitment demonstrated by States and civil society during the biennial meetings of States that were held in 2003 and 2005, as well as the high volume of national reports -- 103 national reports were submitted to the Department for Disarmament Affairs for each of the biennial meetings. Also to be commended were the efforts being made at the regional and subregional levels to promote dialogue, common understandings and enhanced cooperation among States, to create or strengthen subregional and/or regional institutions to assist States in building their capacity to implement the Programme of Action and other relevant instruments.
At the global level, he underscored the efforts made by States to negotiate the international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons, which was adopted by the General Assembly on 8 December 2005 -- the first international instrument negotiated in the context of the Programme of Action. He was also pleased with the recent advances in addressing the issue of illicit brokering in small arms and light weapons. In that regard, the Secretary-General would 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. The Group would begin its activities after the Review Conference.
He said that much of the efforts of the United Nations had focused on capacity-building, which was critical to the countries most affected by the problem of illicit small arms and light weapons, where the lack of capacity to develop and implement measures and activities to tackle the many dimensions of the problem constituted a serious obstacle to their efforts to implement the Programme of Action. In order to maximize the capacity of the United Nations to provide a meaningful coordinated assistance to efforts to implement the Programme of Action, it had continued to invest considerable time and resources to improve the functioning of the Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA) mechanism and enhance its effectiveness. To that end, a comprehensive Internet database had been developed to improve information exchange, and a strategic framework for CASA had been adopted, which provided guidelines for consultation and cooperation.
Efforts to reduce the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons must go hand in hand with initiatives in such fields as public health; safety and security; the protection of children, women and refugees; socio-economic development; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; human rights; and humanitarian assistance in the affected communities. In that context, he was pleased with the recent adoption of Assembly resolution 60/68, which addressed the negative humanitarian and development impact of the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation. By emphasizing the multidimensional aspect of the small arms and light weapons problem, that resolution reaffirmed the very essence of the CASA mechanism.
In carrying out the review of progress made in the implementation of the Programme of Action, delegates should highlight the achievements, but also focus on the constraints faced in the implementation, identify the shortcomings and learn from the experience gained and the lessons generated in the implementation process since 2001. "You need to reflect on the effectiveness of our actions, especially in terms of how they actually impact those most affected by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons", he said. "We need to ask what else needs to be done and how we can improve our performance. We need to ask ourselves, very frankly, have we done enough?"
Incoming Preparatory Committee Chairman, SYLVESTER E. ROWE (Sierra Leone), said that one of the best credentials he had for the assignment was coming from a country that had experienced, and was still experiencing, the agony and the devastating consequences of the illicit trade, circulation and use of what were euphemistically described as small arms and light weapons. Given the gravity of the problem and the magnitude of human casualty and suffering among children, and given the continued threat those weapons posed to peace, security and stability, "we shall and we will work together, conscientiously, to bring this two-week session to a successful conclusion". As the Secretary-General had rightly observed, the international community must strive as hard to eliminate the threat of illicit small arms and light weapons as it did to eliminate the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Gradually, there was an emerging recognition that small arms and light weapons were, in fact, weapons of mass destruction.
He said that the official purpose of the Preparatory Committee meeting and the Conference in June/July was to review progress made in implementing the 2001 Action Programme. The "real" purpose, however, was not merely to review progress made, but to prepare the groundwork for a thorough examination, indeed, an assessment of what had been "done and not done" in implementing the action plan. At the same time, the Committee must design a forward-looking strategy for further action. The second biennial meeting of States last year had acknowledged that further action was required to fulfil the commitments undertaken in the plan. States should resist the temptation to re-emphasize what was, or was not, in the Action Programme. They should also resist the urge of reiterating what they were not here to do. For instance, States should try and avoid dwelling on the obvious -- that they were not here to reopen or renegotiate the Action Programme. Such an approach in the review process would serve no purpose.
The work of the Committee and the review process was about people, and not about progress, per se. It was about reducing, and even eliminating, the human suffering caused by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and to enhance the respect for life and the dignity of the human person. It was about the victims and potential victims of the unbridled use of those weapons throughout the world. Everyone was a potential victim, and the Action Programme adopted almost five years ago was a great document, and for obvious political reasons, "we don't want to meddle with it, notwithstanding the fact that it is not legally binding, and that reports on what we (States) have done to implement the Programme of Action are submitted on a voluntary basis", he said.
While acknowledging the progress made, he said it was also important to realize that a lot had happened in the area of human security since the action plan was adopted. The number of people who had been gunned down by those illicit weapons since its adoption must be remembered, not only in areas of armed conflict, such as in Africa, but also in criminal encounters, some organized, and others at random. There was an imperative of responding to threats against human safety and security. The Action Programme was intended to prod States to place the life and welfare of people at the centre of their deliberations. That was why he had chosen human/humanitarian and other dimensions as the theme of the first cluster of the thematic interactive debate, for in-depth consideration.
He stressed that, with determination, with a focus on building on the strong foundation that was laid five years ago, with acknowledgement that further action was required to fulfil the commitments undertaken in the action plan, and with the full realization of the increasing human suffering attributed to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, as well as with a recognition of the urgency of eradicating that scourge, he had no doubt that the Committee would complete its assignment within the next two weeks.
DOROTHEA AUER (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said it was clear that the goal of the Review Conference was not to renegotiate or reopen the existing Programme of Action. It was a comprehensive and positive document and, although it was not perfect, it was a key starting point for enhanced action on small arms. The key issue was to identify which integrated and parallel measures might be agreed on to complement, elaborate upon, or enhance, the Programme of Action and its implementation. The Programme of Action framework was ample enough to cover all relevant issues, but it could not be exhaustive of all related issues. Some, such as an arms trade treaty, which the Union supported, for example, were wider in scope than the Programme and would require later and separate action.
She suggested that delegates focus on -- under the thematic discussions -- the crucial areas where significant obstacles to full implementation still existed. The Union believed those areas were transfer controls, including end-user certification, marking and tracing, brokering regulations, ammunition and the integration of small arms measures into development assistance. Among those, brokering controls remained a high priority for the Union, which supported the First Committee resolution calling for the establishment of a group of governmental experts on brokering to be convened as soon as possible after the Review Conference to decide on the measures necessary to combat the harm done by unscrupulous arms brokers. The Union also encouraged the use of minimum common standards including criteria or guidelines to determine whether a proposed transfer of small arms or light weapons would aggravate conflict, repress human rights or undermine development.
She said that assistance should be provided to conflict-affected countries with the aim of fostering security, disarmament and demobilization, as well as the reintegration of ex-combatants into civil society. Also, the easy availability of small arms and light weapons, and high levels of armed violence, acted as a major barrier to development. She encouraged countries to explore the link between the two and to routinely address armed violence and arms availability as part of their development assistance programmes.
The new European strategy on small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, adopted in December 2005, formalized the Union's existing small arms policies, she noted. It was a strategy with a global geographic scope and made several proposals for progress at the Review Conference. The Strategy identified Africa as the continent worst affected by the impact of internal and cross-border conflicts aggravated by the destabilizing influx of small arms and light weapons, but also covered Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America. The Union stood ready to provide support, both financial and technical, to Governments, non-governmental organizations and arrangements engaged in the fight against small arms and light weapons trafficking and misuse, and the elimination of dangerous small arms stockpiles.
NICHOLAS KIDDLE (New Zealand) said that this year would be critical to making progress on the Programme of Action, and the Review Conference would provide an opportunity to enhance commitments and strengthen efforts to counter the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons. It might also help counter their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world. He welcomed progress already made to strengthen and enhance controls over those weapons, and he considered particularly important the adoption of the international instrument to identify and trace those illicit weapons and the entry into force of the United Nations Firearms Protocol. While his Parliament had yet to complete the required legislative processes, his Government was fully committed to becoming a party to the Firearms Protocol. Whenever possible, Governments should be leading by example.
He said that since the last biennial meeting of States, his country had remained active in promoting the action plan regionally. It continued to place priority on assisting the effective implementation in the Pacific. Through the Mutual Assistance Programme, New Zealand had continued to assist Pacific Island countries' defence and police forces to improve armoury, security, storage, maintenance and management of weapons. It was also engaged in the Australia-led Pacific Regional Policing Initiative, and, in Bougainville, it continued to support community policy. In the Solomon Islands, the Regional Assistance Mission had met with such success that its conflict-resolution duties had been refocused on longer-term social and economic stability activities. Looking ahead, as early as next month, New Zealand would be hosting an International Firearms Safety Seminar. In contrast to progress at the regional level, there appeared to be much work to do at the international level before fully realizing the goals. He did not, however, wish to renegotiate existing commitments under the Action Programme.
Renewed attention to new and additional elements, such as the proposal to establish a group of governmental experts, had been welcome, he said. Also welcome had been further progress on transfer controls. The establishment of import, export and trans-shipment controls for small arms and light weapons would be an important further step towards strengthening the action plan. So, he supported the United Kingdom's proposal to develop common international standards for small arms and light weapons transfers. The issue of transfer controls should be formally added to the agenda of the Review Conference in June. He also sought further progress in other areas, especially illicit brokering and the safe management and destruction of stockpiles. He also continued to see merit in the Arms Trade Treaty, and hoped that, in the course of discussions over the next two weeks, the best means to move it forward would become clearer.
EARL TURCOTTE (Canada) said he was always struck by the innocuous sound of the words "small arms and light weapons", since their collective impact on people throughout the world was anything but small and light. There were in excess of 600 million small arms and light weapons in circulation. Last year, small arms alone were instrumental in the deaths of more than half a million people -- 10,000 per week. The vast majority were civilians, and at least a third were struck down in countries at peace. The proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons exacerbated violence in countries in conflict, hampered post-conflict stabilization and peacebuilding efforts, restricted the delivery of humanitarian assistance and longer-term international development, and contributed to violent crime. The 2006 Review Conference was a seminal opportunity to set a clear timetable for continuing the United Nations process, increase momentum and produce substantial, concrete results over the next five-year period in the implementation of the Programme of Action.
Canada believed the practice of meeting on a biennial basis except during a review year was simply inadequate, as it clearly did not afford the small arms and light weapons issue the time and attention it warranted, he said. Thus, his delegation would be circulating a short working paper for consideration at the Review Conference that proposed, among other things, adoption of an informal intersessional programme of work that would bring States together semi-annually to develop ideas and recommendations for consideration during formal meetings of States and review conferences. Also, he recommended establishment of at least one contact group on communication and resource mobilization to develop strategies to raise the resources required to put words into action.
Among the critically important thematic areas that required further attention were transfer controls and brokering; national regulation including civilian possession; appropriate use by officials and security forces; stockpile management and destruction; and disarmament and demobilization of combatants and their full reintegration into civil society. It was necessary to better understand and address factors that gave rise to demand for such weapons in the first place, including gender, since men, particularly young men, were the primary perpetrators and victims of gun violence. It was also necessary to further explore linkages with other areas of peace and human security, human rights, and international development.
In addition, he said, it was important to strengthen the global partnership that had emerged on the issue, as well as to continue to cultivate the culture of openness, transparency and inclusiveness in deliberations, while respecting obvious differences in roles and responsibilities. Further, it was necessary to respect the right of nations to protect themselves, of legitimate producers, brokers and retailers to do business, and of responsible individuals to own and use firearms within clear parameters.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that the Action Programme had been a watershed in efforts to curb the illicit small arms trade. The Review Conference later this year would be the first formal opportunity to assess progress made in its implementation. There had indeed been some progress, but that had not been sufficient. There was no room for complacency, and the scourge persisted. Hundreds of thousands of civilians, including women and children, were killed yearly in conflict, as well as non-conflict situations. In addition, the progress achieved had not been consistent and even for all. The preparatory process was an opportunity to identify the obstacles and find ways to assist nations willing to fight that menace.
He said he remained deeply concerned at the global proliferation of small arms and light weapons, as such illegal and uncontrolled circulation had extracted a "high human cost" in terms of humanitarian and socio-economic consequences to many populations. Those weapons had threatened peace, safety, security and sustainable development across the globe, and had generated and exacerbated conflict and the situation of displaced civilians. "We must stop this menace", he urged. The action plan was an important instrument to achieve that through actions at the national, regional and global levels.
His country was committed to implementing the plan and alleviating the avoidable human suffering caused by the illegitimate use of those weapons, he said. It was deeply convinced that promotion and realization of a culture of peace was essential to saving people from the illicit small arms scourge. Bangladesh's commitment and contribution to United Nations peacekeeping also emanated from a similar conviction. In compliance with the action plan, Bangladesh had put in place tougher legislative norms and administrative procedures to regulate unlawful possession, manufacture, conversion, sale, export, import and transport of small arms and light weapons. It had also adopted "destruction" as a most effective means of disposal of illegal small arms and light weapons. Under a national stockpile management programme, all confiscated small arms and light weapons were destroyed. Some of those arms, however, if found usable, were allocated to Government agencies for legitimate use.
Strict procedures were also in place to ensure appropriate storage for stockpiles, their physical security, control of access, inventory management and accounting control, he said. Greater international assistance and cooperation, however, were essential for effective implementation of the Action Programme. Significant capacity-building efforts in the form of technical, legal and financial assistance were also crucial, as was the training of relevant officials, including customs, police, intelligence and arms control officials. Transfer of relevant technologies should form a significant component of such an international framework. Marking and tracing small arms and light weapons had been an important element in combating the scourge and, although his preference was always a legally binding instrument, he considered the consensus adoption of the political declaration on marking and tracing to be a firm step in the right direction.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said there was still a long way to go in the implementation of the Programme of Action. He hoped the upcoming Review Conference would achieve substantial results to further promote global, regional and national efforts to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Efforts should focus on seeking ways to resolve the most difficult and urgent problems in implementing the Programme of Action. At the same time, it was necessary to avoid any premature and controversial new topics that would distract attention and undermine existing international consensus. He believed the Review Conference should focus on the following areas.
First, the Conference should further identify the primary responsibility of States in combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and assist States, in light of their national situation, to enhance their capacity, so as to more effectively prevent weapons that had been legally manufactured and transferred from ending up in illegal channels. Second, the Conference should encourage States to press on with the follow-up of the Programme of Action, including effective implementation of the international instrument on marking and tracing, and the timely initiation of the work of the Group of Governmental Experts on combating illicit brokering. Third, it should take further feasible measures to enhance international coordination and cooperation, and give full play to the leading role of the United Nations.
Fourth, he continued, the Conference should further promote international assistance in the economic development of relevant countries, so as to eradicate starvation, poverty, social injustice and other security hazards. That, in turn, would remove the root causes for the use of illicit small arms and light weapons. Among the measures taken by his Government was the establishment of relatively comprehensive domestic legislation and the adoption of export control measures, as well as the exercise of strict administration over the production, stockpiling, transport, trade, use and confiscation of small arms and light weapons.
FRANCES LISSON (Australia) said her country's priority for the forthcoming Review Conference was to focus on implementation of the Action Programme. She urged participating States to encourage implementation through capacity-building assistance in specific areas of identified need. Australia's experience in the Asia-Pacific region highlighted the need for assistance in stockpile management and security, including the documented destruction of confiscated weapons, in order to stem one of the major sources of illicit weapons and ammunition. Australia stood ready to assist its neighbours in identifying and implementing transfer controls appropriate to the region, in order to prevent the destabilizing accumulation of arms.
She said that one aspect of the Action Programme with which her country was particularly concerned was the link between the illicit small arms and light weapons proliferation and terrorism, including the illicit spread of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS). The unauthorized access to, and use of, those weapons by terrorist and other non-State groups posed a continuing serious threat to civil aviation. Meanwhile, she was grateful for the consensus adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution on preventing the illicit transfer, unauthorized access to and use of MANPADS. She urged all Member States to support international, regional and national efforts to combat MANPADS' illicit transfer, in order to ensure that such weapons were exported only to Governments or their authorized agents. She also encouraged initiatives to exchange information and mobilize technical expertise to assist States, at their request, aimed at enhancing national storage and export controls and destroying surplus stockpiles.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, said that, as well as being an important chance to update the debate on the mechanisms and regulations in the field of tracing and brokering, the 2006 Review Conference should agree to establish major international cooperative programmes and mechanisms to promote key parts of the Programme of Action, which might include stockpile management and security, weapons and ammunitions collection and their safe and secure destruction, and national controls on the production and transfer of small arms and light weapons. Therefore, it would be most useful to start serious reflection on the possibility of negotiating a legally binding instrument on the international arms trade, such as an arms trade treaty. Such an instrument could greatly contribute to uprooting the illicit traffic in arms and to underlining the responsibility of States to further strengthen the international regime on small arms and light weapons.
He noted that attention was often focused on the supply side of arms sales, as could be seen from a careful reading of the Programme of Action itself. However, if one considered both the humanitarian costs of small arms and light weapons and the profound connection between them, and the process of human and sustainable development, then it became clear that greater attention now needed to be paid to reducing the demand for small arms and light weapons. Drastically reducing the demand for small arms required not only political will, but better focused research into the dynamics of conflicts, crimes and violence. Adequate international norms and programmes to address the issue of demand were also needed urgently, as well as the implementation of educational and awareness activities through, among other things, the involvement of civil society.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said that, although the action plan was generally considered to be only a politically binding document, it had provided the global framework for the further elaboration and development of international cooperation in dealing with that illicit trade. The first and second biennial meetings of States had recognized that progress had been made in implementing the action plan. In Indonesia, the smuggling and trafficking of small arms and light weapons posed grave threats to the country's territorial integrity, by sustaining separatist movements and fuelling criminal activities. The illicit circulation of those weapons was not only untenable, but it was detrimental to Indonesia's national security and stability. His Government had discovered that separatist armed groups had been involved in arms smuggling with the intent of using small arms and light weapons in conflict areas, such as Aceh and Papua.
He said that, in an effort to implement the Action Programme nationally, Indonesia had committed to putting in place the necessary foundations for further cooperation, information exchange and coordination among the relevant agencies. It had also submitted its national reports for consideration at the first and second biennial meetings of States, and it had designated points of contact and national coordinating mechanisms. In the post-conflict situation in Aceh, the Memorandum of Understanding between his Government and the Free Aceh Movement, signed in August 2005, had committed the parties to decommissioning all arms, ammunition and explosives and handing over 840 small arms and light weapons. The surrender of such armaments had been in four stages and successfully concluded by the end of 2005. His country had also made progress in its efforts to address the dangers posed by illicit trafficking and smuggling, particularly in the larger context of combating transnational crimes.
Prior to the Review Conference, recommendations must be formulated, which would flow directly from what had and had not been achieved in implementation, he said. Substantial work should be done to identify those issues, requiring thorough consideration at the upcoming Review. If necessary, adopting additional measures within the framework of the action plan should be considered, which would help strengthen implementation and not hamper Government-to-Government transfer and cooperation. The achievements in resolving the issues related to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons stood in contrast to the existing overall lack of progress in many areas of arms control and disarmament. However, four years was not sufficient time to implement the action plan in all its aspects, and it would take a few more to sufficiently curtail the illicit trade and to achieve significant overall impact on the scale and magnitude of such weapons. The Action Programme was the cornerstone of the comprehensive effort to building global cooperation to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit arms scourge, and he, therefore, called on Member States to demonstrate serious efforts towards implementing all existing commitments under the Programme.
JOHAN L. LØVALD (Norway) said the next step in implementing the Programme of Action was to enhance international cooperation on brokering. He believed there was already a large degree of international consensus on the need for global brokering controls, and on the means to be employed. The group of governmental experts that would be established next fall should look into the feasibility of a legally binding instrument on brokering and make precise recommendations on a negotiating mandate. The outcome document of the Review Conference could provide that precision to the mandate of the group of governmental experts.
The issue of brokering needed to be accompanied by progress on developing end-user certificates for the trade in small arms and light weapons, he said. Norway supported the United Kingdom's Transfer Control Initiative, and the Review Conference should agree on developing common international standards for the transfer of small arms. Also, efforts to control the flow of arms and secure their stockpiles must comprise ammunition if they were to be effective.
Arms control measures alone would not stop the flow of illicit weapons, he noted. It would be a great challenge for the Review Conference to properly address the factors behind demand, and the complex interlinkages between development, human rights and security. "We should look for ways to increase security for the individual", he said. A key motivation for acquiring small arms and light weapons was a sense of insecurity. Governments, law enforcement agencies and civil society all had crucial roles to play to enhance security at the level of the individual.
Misuse of small arms and light weapons by State agents and non-State actors should be addressed, he added. Civilian ownership remained a vital issue. Most illegal weapons originated from legally acquired weapons, which were later diverted. The Programme of Action would remain words on paper until practical measures were taken to implement the obligations and recommendations therein. Therefore, it was necessary to strengthen the mechanisms for implementing the Programme. The Review Conference could elaborate arrangements that enhanced capacity for management and oversight.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ (Cuba) said that, nearly five years after the adoption of the Action Programme, an estimated 200 million small arms and light weapons continued to circulate worldwide. In other words, for every 25 persons on the planet, there was an illicit light weapon. The progress made in terms of the destruction of surplus, legislative improvements, and the submission of national reports was undeniable. Also notable had been the agreement on identifying and tracing small arms and light weapons. Nevertheless, he wished to reiterate some key points, including that the 2001 Action Programme had deemed, in its preambular paragraph 17, that activities undertaken in the sphere of small arms and light weapons should not jeopardize the priority given to nuclear disarmament and other mass destruction weapons, or to conventional disarmament in general.
He said that States should remain the main actor in implementing the action plan and Governments had primary responsibility to tackle the phenomenon. Also vital was the reaffirmation of the right of all States to manufacture, import and keep small arms and light weapons for their security and defence needs. For almost half a century, Cuba had been the victim of the use of illicit small arms and light weapons by terrorist individuals and organizations, which had committed acts of aggression against his country. As a consequence of those abhorrent acts, 3,478 people had died and another 2,099 had been injured. What was very worrying was that some of those terrorist elements lived freely in United States territory. Cuba strongly condemned the terrorist acts and was aware of the links between them and the illicit small arms trade. Its national legislation had the necessary regulations on possession and identification and punishment of the offenders.
Emphasizing Cuba's support for the Action Programme, he said his country was prepared to cooperate with those initiatives and practical measures to increase international cooperation leading to implementation of the plan. His country also supported the establishment of an expert governmental group to analyse the steps that States could take to further prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit small arms trade. The drafting of Cuba's second national report was under way, and should be ready in time for the Review Conference. He emphasized that the review process was intended to assess the progress achieved in implementing the action plan, while not seeking to expand its scope. If a consensus was reached on its extension, therefore, that should be carried out in a gradual manner and according to the previously agreed mechanisms.
CHUKA UDEDIBIA (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced the African Common Position to the Review Conference, adopted at the Second Continental Conference of African Governmental Experts on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, held in Windhoek, Namibia, from 14 to 16 December 2005. The Conference, among other things, reaffirmed the 2000 Bamako Declaration on an African Common Position on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons. However, it noted that, although the Programme of Action and the Bamako Declaration represented key elements in peace and security, not all issues pertaining to small arms and light weapons were encompassed in the mandate of the Programme of Action.
The Conference expressed Africa's belief that tackling the problems associated with the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons could only be done in a coordinated and multifaceted manner. It agreed on the implementation of the Programme of Action at national, regional and international levels through the application of various measures. At the international level, the Conference requested multilateral and regional institutions to include provisions for small arms and light weapons programmes in reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in post-conflict areas, in the consolidation of governance issues, in the area of strengthening legislation and improving the operational capacity of law enforcement agencies on small arms and light weapons, and in the promotion of socio-economic development agendas that included public awareness on small arms and light weapons.
The Conference, he continued, encouraged regional support for national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. It also urged all States and appropriate international and regional organizations to render assistance, including technical and financial assistance where needed, such as small arms funds, to support the implementation of the Programme of Action, as well as to assist in building capacities in various areas. The Conference reaffirmed that ensuring the reduction of the availability, supply and demand for small arms and light weapons was critical for the well-being of African States and could be achieved through various actions or initiatives at national, regional and international levels.
In addition, he said, the Conference recommended that the Review Conference produce a report on the progress made in the implementation of the Programme of Action, and that another review conference be convened not later than 2012 with biennial meetings of States in 2008 and 2010.
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