29 June 2006
Marking and Tracing, Stockpile Destruction among Issues Raised at UN Conference, as Speakers Discuss Ways to Strengthen Action against Illicit Small Arms Trade
NEW YORK, 28 June (UN Headquarters) -- During the third day of the United Nations Review Conference on the illegal trade of small arms and lights weapons, delegates continued to discuss an international formula that would build on the global blueprint adopted in 2001 to eradicate the illicit manufacture, use and possession of such weapons.
Speakers addressing the high-level event at Headquarters -- 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 -- also expressed their intent to meet again in 2008 and 2010 to assess developments.
Andriy Veselovskiy, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, noted that the 2001 Programme was the key international framework for combating the illicit trade, but that efforts to implement it were hampered by inadequate national, regional and global capacity to trace the sources and supply lines of those weapons. States must do their best to ensure that the production, export, import, stockpiling, marking, record-keeping and transfer of small arms strictly complied with international and national law. Like other delegates speaking before him, the Deputy Minister called for restricting the unchecked flow of illegal ammunition and the importance of aggressive programmes for destroying munitions and small arms stockpiles.
Ukraine, he noted, had inherited a substantial number of small arms and light weapons in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. That stockpile exceeded the military's current needs and, among other things, was unserviceable or contained hazardous materials. Ukraine had been left with the arduous task of destroying some 2 million tons of conventional ammunition and 15,000 tons of old and decommissioned weapons stockpiles over the next three years. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union were helping it with that weapons destruction campaign.
Noting other obstacles to implementing the Programme of Action, Javed Iqbal Cheema, Director General of the Ministry of the Interior for Pakistan, said the lack of financial and technical assistance, particularly to developing countries, and a real international cooperation framework had made it impossible for most States to craft necessary legislation or implement relevant administrative procedures. Those shortcomings had also impeded their ability to build capacity for security, law enforcement and border control.
Eradicating the illegal weapons supply was only part of the battle, he said. Demand for small arms and light weapons would remain strong in areas where conflicts festered and tensions regularly flared. The Review Conference's final outcome document should send a message that the international community must remain focused on combating the underlying causes of conflict, and it must reiterate the United Nations Charter's principles on conflict prevention and dispute resolution. The Conference should also: identify and propose practical solutions to obstacles to implementing the Programme of Action; consider creation of a survey by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) to assess the scope of supply and demand for illegal small arms; and recommend ways to ensure financing and technical assistance to States.
Manouchehr Mottaki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, said a culture of dialogue, peace, education and public awareness, and resisting hegemonic tendencies and dominance, were crucial to the international community's efforts. Special attention should also be paid to nations recovering from war and those affected by internal conflicts. Iran had suffered greatly from illicit weapons, drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism, but had nevertheless made strides to implement the Programme of Action. But as a transit route for international and regional drugs and weapons trafficking, Iran had sustained heavy human and material losses. The existence of tens of millions of illicit arms in neighbouring countries was also of great concern. Restrictions placed on Iran, in contravention of the tenets of the Programme of Action, had prevented it from taking advantage of the technical assistance needed for further progress, he said, stressing that international cooperation and assistance were crucial to the success of the global fight against the illicit trade.
Also speaking today were the Minister of Justice for Angola, and the Deputy Secretary-General of Malaysia's Ministry for Internal Security, as well as the Interior Ministers of Gabon, Cambodia and the Dominican Republic, and the Head of the Department for Peace and Security in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The representatives of Paraguay, Liechtenstein, Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Benin, Uganda, Philippines, Togo, Qatar and Jordan also made statements, as did the Senior Research Fellow at Papua New Guinea's National Research Institute; the General Director for Non-Proliferation, Disarmament and Counter-Terrorism for Spain; the Director of Zimbabwe Defence Industries; and the Permanent Observer for the Holy See.
The Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 29 June.
The United Nations General Assembly met this morning to continue its two-week review of worldwide efforts to implement the Programme of Action of its 2001 special session on preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects.
ANDRE MBA OBAME, State Secretary, Minister of the Interior, Security and Immigration for Gabon, said that although the fight against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was the only field of disarmament in which there had been any real forward movement over the past few years, Member States must nevertheless acknowledge that much remained to be done towards the implementation of the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action. That framework remained the touchstone for national, regional and international action against the scourge, and while it must be strengthened, it must not be renegotiated.
For its part, Gabon had taken great strides to stem the flow of illegal weapons at the national level, including a progressive weapons collection and destruction campaign, which, among other things, had curbed violent criminal activity and banditry. It was also continuing to develop a registry for legal weapons to ensure transparency in all sales and transfers.
He added that the illegal trade in small arms could only be fully eradicated if it was addressed in the context of socio-economic development and integrated into long-term development strategies, particularly for fragile and post-conflict countries in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world. Specific initiatives should also target the activities of arms dealers, as well as illegal traffickers and brokers. The international community should also move quickly to elaborate a legally binding instrument on tracing and marking of weapons.
MANUEL MIGUEL DA COSTA ARAGAO (Angola) said that, although the Angolan conflict ended four years ago, it was still not possible to determine the number of weapons in civilian hands. Weapons hideaways had been created during the war. Former soldiers -- including deserters and demobilized soldiers -- had hidden weapons from their headquarters. A systematic disarmament process among civilians was currently under way. From April 2002 to April 2005, the National Police collected 75,323 firearms of several calibres, including 15,213 weapons of small calibre, 3,126 landmines and 15,240 ammunition units. From April 2005 to April 2006, Angolan officials collected another 4,712 firearms of several calibres, 27 mortars of several calibres, 39 hand grenades and 2,973 ammunition units. During the same period, the Angolan Armed Forces collected 8,653 weapons of different types from the now extinct Civilian Defence.
In July 2004, Angola set up the National Commission for the Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons, he continued. The National Commission's focus included fundraising for disarmament, promoting voluntary return of weapons by the civilian population, and developing more effective border controls to prevent the entry and exit of illicit small arms and light weapons. Further, the Government had begun to create important juridical instruments to regulate the purchase, ownership and use of weapons nationwide. Angola was also taking concrete steps to ratify the Protocol against the illegal manufacture and trafficking of firearms, their parts and ammunition. He called for adoption of additional measures to the Programme of Action to enable States to continue the fight to end the illicit trade and their illegal proliferation in underdeveloped countries, whose borders were very vulnerable.
MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, said the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons regrettably continued to take a human toll, of which women and children sadly bore the brunt. Worse, ongoing internal strife, and insecurity and increased drug traffic had also undercut some of the international initiatives aimed at combating the trade. At the same time, overproduction and huge existing stockpiles and supplies of the weapons made it easier for them to find their way into regions gripped by tension and strife. So, it was clear that focusing exclusively only on the demand side of the illicit small arms trade would be unlikely to yield a lasting solution to the problem. Indeed, it was necessary that the major arms producers undertake serious commitments in that regard, he added.
Despite the concrete progress that had been made to stem the world's illegal arms trade since 2001, it was clear that more international cooperation and assistance was needed to boost national capacities to implement the Programme of Action. Special attention should also be paid to nations recovering from war and those affected by internal conflicts. He emphasized that, as long as the root causes of conflict, such as poverty, underdevelopment, injustice, aggression and hegemonic tendencies and application of double standards, were not curbed, a sustainable solution to the problem would be beyond reach.
At the same time, it would be deceptive to assume that the scourge could be countered by developing new and ambitious instruments. "We must strive to promote a culture of dialogue, peace, education and public awareness, resisting hegemonic tendencies and dominance ... and try to spread a spirit of justice and compassion", he said. He said Iran had suffered greatly from illicit weapons, drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism, but had nevertheless made strides to implement the Programme.
But, as a transit rout for international and regional drugs and weapons trafficking, Iran had sustained heavy human and material losses. Dealing with a series of "blind terrorist acts" using foreign-made small arms, committed over the past 25 years by a terrorist group backed by the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, had also taken a toll. The existence of tens of millions of illicit arms in neighbouring countries was another major concern. He stressed that, due to restrictions placed on Iran, in contravention of the tenets of the Programme, the country had been unable to take advantage of the technical assistance needed to make further progress. With that in mind, he reiterated that international cooperation and assistance was key to success in the campaign against the illicit small arms trade.
SIENG LAPRESSE (Cambodia) said that there had been excessive accumulation of small arms and light weapons during years of endless war in Cambodia, which officials addressed at the end of 1998. The Government had developed a concrete policy on weapons management that enforced relevant regulations on weapons collection and prohibited the illegal use of weapons in public and weapons ownership. A National Commission was set up to monitor and report on that policy. The Law on Management and Control of Weapons, Explosives and Munitions entered into force on 1 June 2005. The law was part of the European Union's Assistance on Curbing Small Arms and Light Weapons (EU-ASAC) plan launched in April 2000. That initiative also included registration and safe storage of weapons, public awareness projects on the destabilizing effects of weapons and their link to security and development, and voluntary collection of weapons among the civilian population by exchanging such weapons for community-owned development projects.
During the recent Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), held in Bali, Cambodia was designated the prospective organizer of a seminar on small arms monitoring, he continued. During the January 2006 meeting of the United Nations Preparatory Committee that reviewed the Plan of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Cambodia -- as a lead country on prevention and suppression of arms smuggling -- pledged to continue cooperating closely with other countries in the region, other partners and civil society to combat the arms smuggling trade. It also committed to strengthen efforts to monitor the transfer of arms, illegal brokerage, private possession of arms and State arms management. To date, almost 200,000 weapons had been destroyed thanks to the EU-ASAC programme. The EU-ASAC assistance would officially end on 30 June 2006, since small arms and light weapons no longer threatened Cambodia's security and development.
ANDRIY VESELOVSKIY, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said the 2001 Programme was the key international framework to be used to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and he hoped that the follow-up and review process could identify new and more effective ways to promote its aims. Ukraine believed that efforts to combat the illegal small arms trade were largely being hampered by inadequate national, regional and global capacity to trace the sources and supply lines of those weapons.
Indeed, the international community should take more concrete steps to ensure effective control over the transfer and brokering of small arms and light weapons. States should make their best efforts to ensure that the production, export, import, stockpiling, marking, record-keeping and transfer of small arms were carried out with strict adherence to international, as well as national laws and regulations, he said, adding that Ukraine also supported the trend of the past two days' discussion, which had highlighted the threat posed by the unchecked flows of illegal ammunition. He called for restricting such supplies, and stressed that aggressive programmes for destroying munitions and small arms stockpiles may also prove to be an important tool of the international community's battle against the scourge.
To that end, he recalled that Ukraine had inherited a substantial number of small arms and light weapons in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. Those weapons and their munitions were far beyond what Ukraine's military needed, and, among other things, were unserviceable or contained hazardous materials. He added that, tragically, those old ammunition stockpiles sometimes detonated on their own. Ukraine now had to destroy some 2 million tons of conventional ammunition and 15,000 tons of old and decommissioned weapons stockpiles over the next three years. He thanked those that had participated in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union member States that were helping with Ukraine's weapons destruction campaign.
ROBERTO LAMARCHE, Under-Secretary, Ministry of the Interior of the Dominican Republic, said his country and Government had embraced the 2001 action plan and had continued to actively participate in global efforts to ensure its full implementation. It had a particular interest in those that addressed the socio-economic development and security aspects of the illegal small arms trade. He said that the Review Conference should focus on, among other things, the effective control of civilian-held small arms, as well as transfer controls, to prevent the exchange of arms through unauthorized channels, including importation, exportation and other transit. Such measures would help States establish greater control and accountability of the weapons within their territories, thereby reducing the chances that they could slip into the illegal marketplace.
For its part, the Dominican Republic had enacted legislation to regulate the sales and possession of firearms and their components, he said, adding that he was pleased that the Group of Governmental Experts was set to meet shortly to discuss the problem of illegal arms brokering, with a view to implementing international measures on the matter. He also emphasized the devastating affect the illegal light weapons trade had on developing countries, particularly those experiencing or recovering from conflict.
International cooperation and assistance, chiefly in the form of technical and financial assistance and expertise, was essential to help such countries come up with effective responses to the illegal trade. He added that regional and international border and customs control policies needed to be strengthened. He said that all processes had a beginning and an end, and in the context of the current debate, efforts to improve the lives, security and safety of the world's people must not be derailed. The Dominican Republic believed that the international community should continue discussing and debating the illicit small arms trade until every nation was satisfied that the Programme of Action was being fully implemented.
MUHAMMAD HATTA ABDUL AZIZ (Malaysia) said that his country was continuously taking steps to control the production, licensing, manufacturing, stockpiling, brokering, export, import and re-transfer of small arms and light weapons to prevent their illegal manufacture and diversion to unauthorized recipients. He added that Malaysia's Arms Act of 1960, revised in 1989, had proven effective in addressing the issue of illicit small arms and weapons in the country, though he acknowledged the difficulty of preventing such weapons from being smuggled into Malaysia from outside.
He said Malaysia signed a joint communiqué with other ASEAN States on working together to prevent terrorism (including bioterrorism), drug trafficking and arms smuggling. An Internet-based criminal database called ASEANPOL had also been launched to facilitate greater access to information on international criminals and syndicates, including those dealing with illicit firearms. Indeed, the problem of porous borders among countries of the region was an obstacle in their fight against firearms smuggling, which made close cooperation and sharing of information among the police and customs a necessity.
JAVED IQBAL CHEEMA, Director-General, Ministry of the Interior for Pakistan, said since 2001 his country had been proactively combating the illegal light weapons trade. It had submitted two reports, which had described in detail its national policy framework, as well as other actions and contributions towards the implementation of the Programme of Action. He went on to highlight international effort to that end, including the numerous weapons destruction programmes, enhanced management of weapons stockpiles and the conclusion and adoption last year by the General Assembly of a global marking and tracing instrument. But there were still challenges, including the continued lack of adequate provision of financial and technical assistance, particularly to developing countries.
It was the very lack of such assistance or a real international cooperation framework that had hindered a large majority of States from drawing up the necessary legislation or implementing relevant administrative procedures. It was also precisely because of that lack of assistance and cooperation that national capacity-building for security and law enforcement, and border control agencies were lagging in a number of countries. Along with those important issues, he stressed that the Conference should look beyond supply-side arguments and pay equal attention to actions aimed at demand for illegal small arms, particularly in areas experiencing conflict or where tensions regularly flared. "In our view, as long as conflicts and disputes fester and solutions to them are not found, the demand for weapons will remain strong", he said.
Looking ahead to the Conference's proposed final document, he said it was vital that the outcome should send a message that the international community remain focused on combating the underlying causes of conflict. To that end, reiterating the Charter's principles on conflict prevention and dispute resolution would be crucial. He went on to highlight several other areas the Conference should consider: identifying areas where States faced implementation challenges and proposing practical measures to address them; the possibility of a survey by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) to assess the scope of the supply and demand for illegal small arms; and identifying recommendations to address those problems, including ways to ensure finances and technical assistance to States dealing with them.
JAMES LAKI, Senior Research Fellow, Papua New Guinea National Research Institute, said following the 2001 adoption of the United Nations Programme of Action, his country had set up three interim agencies -- the Department of Foreign Affairs, Police Commissioners Office and Department of National Planning -- which jointly acted as the nation's focal point on illegal traffic and trade in small arms and light weapons. He said the trade had seriously impacted his country's economic, social and political development. Indeed, the weapons had been the main source of the misery suffered by the people of Bougainville Island during a decade long civil war, and which had led ultimately to 16 years of regional instability.
That conflict, exacerbated by small arms and light weapons, had led to a generation of lost opportunities in education, health care and economic progress. That said, weapons disposal was now a precondition of Bougainville's autonomy arrangements. He went on to say that, after much public outcry, the Papua New Guinea Government had appointed a guns control committee in 2005 to investigate and report on the illicit trade. That committee had proposed, among others, a national guns and violence reduction council that would oversee, coordinate and direct the implementation of the national strategy against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
Among other things, that strategy aimed to eliminate small arms crime and gun violence, remove illegal weapons and ammunition already in circulation and support regional security by controlling gun trafficking. Even with all this, the challenges for developing countries such as Papua New Guinea were numerous and complex, he continued, calling for the strengthening of relevant control and monitoring agencies. He stressed that such matter could not be dealt with effectively without addressing poverty eradication. There could be no headway in the combat against the illegal manufacture and trade in weapons when the financial incentives remained so attractive. He also stressed that his country needed assistance and cooperation to deal with its large, uncontrolled entry points used by fishing vessels, logging companies and others that had been known to take advantage of the situation by dealing in illegal small arms.
ELADIO LOIZAGA (Paraguay) said that, while progress had been made, much remained to be done to implement the Programme of Action. Small arms and light weapons were a threat to the world's most vulnerable and to international peace and security. The Programme of Action must be fully implemented. Technical and financial assistance and international cooperation, transfer control, marking and tracing of munitions, regulations governing brokering of weapons and civilian possession of weapons were necessary for full implementation. Paraguay was doing its part, harmonizing legislation, setting up working groups and entering into regional cooperation. Before the Programme of Action was launched in 2001, Paraguay had few legal means and programmes aimed at effecting control over small arms and light weapons. Thanks to efforts in the past few years, the situation had improved considerably. The number of small weapons imports fell from 55,000 in 1995 to 13,600 in 1998 and had since then dropped considerably more.
Still, insufficient human resources and technical skills made it difficult to achieve the desired results, he continued. Paraguay planned to create a national control bank on firearms, munitions and explosives in order to maintain control over the quality of firearms. Further, it aimed to effectively trace and control those weapons. It had already destroyed important quantities of firearms and munitions of different calibres and was creating a large, secure weapons depository. Non-governmental organizations played a key role in public awareness campaigns on the dangers of firearms. Amnesty International and the Paraguayan Criminology Society were working together on the Arms under Control programme. Thanks to assistance from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, Paraguay had been able to submit its 2001-2005 national report to the Review Conference. Paraguay had also taken steps to accede to the Protocol on the illicit manufacture and trafficking of firearms and its parts and munitions.
ANGEL LOSSADA TORRES-QUEVEDO, General Director for Non-Proliferation, Disarmament and Counter-Terrorism for Spain, said that his country had taken great steps to eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, including the elaboration of policies that took into account socio-economic concerns, as well as human rights. He called on the conference to consider new ideas, new mandates and creative ways by which the international community could address issues and challenges that had emerged since 2001, including the prevalence of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), civilian ownership of small arms, and increased need to track and trace such weapons.
He went on to say that Spain supported recommendations to address the scourge within and outside the United Nations framework as long as such matters adhered to international norms. It also supported the idea of an international legally binding instrument on the tracing and marking of weapons. He stressed that the more controls there were, the more security there would be, particularly regarding civilian ownership of small arms. An essential pillar of the Programme was the provision of international cooperation and assistance. Among Spain's efforts in that regard had been a number of joint programmes with other countries in the Latin American and Caribbean and African regions training experts in the field to help countries deal with the illicit trade.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) recalled that the main purpose of the Programme of Action was to address the issue of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. As such, arguing that ammunition was not an important aspect of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons amounted to asserting that such weapons could be used without ammunition. It was equally futile to try to prevent the illicit trade without having a closer look at the international arms trade. It was high time for the United Nations to start elaborating international standards aimed at establishing the necessary transparency in the international arms trade in order to be fully able to detect, combat and prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. In that regard, he fully supported the idea of a comprehensive international arms trade treaty.
He said the adoption last year of the international instrument on marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons was an important step towards achieving a comprehensive regime in the global fight against the spread of those weapons. The upcoming definition of possible measures to combat illicit brokering would be another one. Strict domestic legislation on brokering was a prerequisite for international cooperation in that area. Liechtenstein adopted such legislation in 1999 and was fully committed to its implementation. Better control might, however, not be limited to brokering activities, but also encompass the physical transfer of small arms and light weapons. Such control of arms transfers should be based on international standards which prohibited in particular the transfer of small arms and light weapons to end users who did not respect international human rights and humanitarian law.
Expressing his support for the recently adopted Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, he said that, without successful disarmament, conflicts were more likely to break out again, rendering all peacebuilding efforts moot. At the same time, disarmament efforts remained inefficient if the flow of small arms and light weapons into former zones of conflict could not be stopped, he added.
HAMID AL BAYATI (Iraq) said the international community was responsible for providing financial and technical assistance to the regions most affected by the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons and where most of those weapons were present. It was important to help people in those areas with capacity-building, drafting appropriate laws and norms, information gathering, managing and securing weapon stockpiles, devising ways to destroy surplus weapons that could not be stored, providing technical assistance for storage and stockpiling, and intensified training to track and identify firearms. That required adequate funding for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in civil society to ensure that the peace would prevail, especially in post-conflict areas.
Small arms and light weapons were the main cause of the continuance of terrorism, due to their ease of transfer, usage and portability, he continued. Governments should intensify efforts to eradicate the trade through continued cooperation and coordination between the General Assembly and the Security Council, information exchange, sharing best practices and strict border controls to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists. However, priority must be given to destroying weapons of mass destruction, as well as nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in order to confront new terrorists' threats and challenges. Iraq had attempted to eliminate small arms and light weapons, which were a daily problem for Iraqis. It had destroyed large amounts of confiscated weapons and sought to restrict weapons possession to national security forces through constitutional and legal regulations. He also stressed the need for strict monitoring of weapons production and trade through end-user certificates that would facilitate tracking and prevent transfer to armed terrorist groups, and supported the General Assembly's adoption of an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons in a timely, reliable manner.
SVETOZAR MILETIC, Head of the Department for Peace and Security in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said his country had undertaken a series of measures to implement the United Nations Programme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. Among them, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had completed the disposal of 50 tons of chemical ammunition components that were stored in one of the storage sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through UNDP, 2,500 small arms and light weapons had been destroyed. More than 88 tons of unstable ammunition had been identified to be destroyed. More than 9,200 surplus military small arms and light weapons were destroyed through the UNDP project.
With UNDP assistance, Bosnia and Herzegovina intended to develop its national capacities for destruction, collection and demilitarization of small arms and light weapons. The complexity of the small arms problem had prompted countries of the region of South-Eastern Europe to take an integrated approach, resulting in the establishment of several institutions. Bosnia and Herzegovina would remain committed to the full implementation of the Programme of Action and further improvement of small arms and light weapons control. It recognized the importance of the adoption and implementation of minimum common standards that would be applied for any transfer of small arms and light weapons. But, effective follow-up measures were needed.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA (Uganda) said clarifying and elaborating some key Programme of Action commitments was seen as essential for enhancing implementation and promoting the overall objectives. Small arms transfer controls was one of the Programme of Action commitments that was in need of clarifying and elaboration. That related to guidelines to be applied by national authorities in deciding whether to authorize a small arms and light weapons transfer. In Uganda, the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa, uncontrolled transfers and trafficking represented a major source of supply for illicit small arms that had continued to perpetuate conflicts. Uganda called for emphasis by the Review Conference of the importance of the interrelationship between the Programme of Action and development, poverty reduction and humanitarian assistance.
Uganda welcomed the international instrument on tracing. Tracing the origins of illegal arms formed the critical link in the operational initiatives to achieve the reduction and eradication of the illegal pool and criminal use of small arms. There were a number of issues that did not find a place in the Programme of Action text, such as restrictions on transfers to non-State actors. That constituted a major challenge. Implementing the commitments under the Programme of Action demanded considerable international cooperation and resources. The need was even greater for countries that were most affected by the problem of illicit small arms, but had limited technical and financial capacity to address the issue.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) said the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action called on the international community to provide cooperation and assistance to States in implementing measures to combat the illegal trade in small arms. But greater cooperation was needed to help countries, particularly those in Africa, which were most affected by the scourge, to ensure full implementation of its objectives. He also said that more efforts must be made to promote the Charter-based call for the peaceful settlement of disputes, as well as the sovereign rights of States in the struggle against foreign occupation. He also called for more cooperation between the Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and the Peacebuilding Commission to identify the root causes of conflict, as well as the adverse socio-economic effects of the illicit trade.
While there were some indicators that some countries had offered bilateral aid and assistances in the battle against the illicit small arms trade, it was clear that much more remained to be done, particularly to help developing countries or those recovering from conflict, he continued. He stressed that those countries needed help dealing with weapons stockpiles and border controls. He also said there was a need to enhance implementation of the commitments made by developed countries and international financial institutions to provide assistance to developing countries struggling to achieve the goals of the Programme.
There also needed to be more of a focus on the exploitation of natural resources, which was a major source of tension and root cause of conflict in many areas. Indeed, such exploitation had far-reaching consequences, particularly for African countries. Finally, he stressed that major small arms producers bore the responsibility to strengthen their national legislations regulating the production, trade and brokerage of such weapons to prevent them from leaking into illegal markets or conflict zones.
YERZHAN KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) reaffirmed Kazakhstan's determination to fully implement General Assembly resolution 60/463, while expressing concern that the instrument would not be legally binding. Member States should make every effort to create controls over the illicit proliferation and use of ammunition and explosives, which could be eventually integrated into the Programme of Action. Kazakhstan had submitted its detailed report on implementation of the Programme and provided an update before the Review Conference. Kazakhstan supported the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms by providing information regularly and considered the Register the most important part of the export control system. For several consecutive years, Kazakhstan had been submitting its account to the Register, showing zero export of small arms and light weapons. He also supported the United Nations Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures.
Further, he supported the provisions of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons and every year submitted relevant information to the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre on national small arms marking systems used for manufacturing and/or importing. The 1996 Law on Export Control that governed exports of armaments and military equipment was subject to review in line with international non-proliferation instruments. Expanded cooperation between States to improve export control systems was effective in countering international terrorism, particularly at the regional level. The Review Conference should pay special attention to enhanced international control over small arms and light weapons and brokering, their unlicensed production, broader subregional and international cooperation and donor activities, the problems of post-conflict settlements and the relationship between illicit trafficking of such weapons and organized crime and terrorism. It was essential to establish a basis for drafting and implementing legally binding instruments on small arms and light weapons.
SIMON IDOHOU (Benin) said his country had promoted strict implementation and adherence to the United Nations Programme of Action, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) firearms moratorium. Its National Commission had made solid headway in curbing the flow of illegal weapons into the country, but, with limited resources, it lacked the capacity to track down existing caches of weapons. He hoped that, after the Conference, the international community would boost its support for Benin's Commission, particularly because the country was an illegal firearms transit route -- between East and West Africa, as well as through to the continent's landlocked countries.
He said that his delegation believed that both the supply and demand sides of the illegal small arms trade needed to be dealt with. The international community should also ensure the protection of vulnerable groups, particularly child soldiers. Moreover, the Conference's outcome document should strengthen the activities already under way and promote the peaceful development of all peoples.
YOUCEF YOUSFI (Algeria) said there was no doubt that the 2001 Programme of Action had played an important role in directing international and regional efforts to combat the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons. Still, a lack of will and resolve had been apparent during the negotiations on the Programme and that had hamstrung the international community's ability to take bolder actions, including in dealing with massive flows of illegal ammunition and the elaboration of a binding instrument on weapons marking and tracing.
For its part, Algeria had banned the import and export of any unmarked weapons, and required authorization from transit and destination countries ahead of all weapons transfers. Algeria had also organized a regional meeting in 2005 on the circulation and proliferation of illegal light weapons. He went on to say that Member States had the responsibility for dismantling illegal arms brokering networks, as well as for monitoring and regulating legal arms production and transfers. Further, international cooperation and assistance, when and where provided, should be targeted to local or regional specificities.
BAYANI MERCADO (Philippines) expressed confidence that the Review Conference would serve to rally more serious and sustained commitment to address the salient gaps in the Programme of Action and priority issues, such as national controls on small arms and lights weapons production and transfers, stockpile management and security and weapons collection and destruction. The Review Conference should identify a range of doable measures to complement implementation of the Programme of Action, including active assistance to enhance information exchange, tracing, investigation and prosecution of the illicit trade. He said he would welcome efforts to help ASEAN develop operational support tools to implement the Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime that addressed links among smuggling of illegal weapons and terrorism, money-laundering and drug trafficking.
He endorsed the report of the working group of the United Nations workshop on small arms and light weapons held in Bangkok in May, particularly recommendations to organize a capacity-building workshop in the subregion; conduct training for law enforcement officers; increase capacity for effective control of land and maritime borders; provide assistance in stockpile management and surplus destruction; offer assistance in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and help conduct public awareness campaigns. He also noted the need to promote dialogue and a culture of peace, the important role of civil society and follow-up mechanisms in the implementation process.
TOYI ASSIAH, President of the National Commission to Fight against the Proliferation, Circulation and Illicit Traffic in Small Arms and Light Weapons for Togo, said the Review Conference provided Member States an ideal forum to take stock of what had been accomplished since 2001 in the combat against the illicit trade, and for the identification of challenges facing countries in implementing the Programme of Action, particularly in the developing world. For its part, Togo had created a National Commission responsible for finding ways to combat the scourge and was the Government's focal point on the matter. It also led the nation's efforts to educate its people about the dangers of the illegal arms trade.
He welcomed the ECOWAS firearms moratorium, as well as all international initiatives that had been undertaken by the United Nations. He also expressed support for the recommendations of Oxfam and Amnesty International calling for an international treaty on regulating the overall weapons trade. He urged the Review Conference to ensure greater financial and technical assistance for developing countries, so they could tighten their legal arms regulations, as well as their effort to stop in-country flows of weapons. He also urged delegations to increase their support for United Nations-mandated peace and security mechanisms on the African continent.
TSHINGA JEDGE DUBE (Zimbabwe) said that, during the Windhoek conference in December 2005, African governmental experts on small arms and light weapons had agreed that meeting the challenges set forth in the United Nations Programme of Action and the Bamako Declaration could only be achieved in a coordinated, multifaceted manner. African leaders agreed then to present and actively promote that position during all relevant meetings leading up to the 2006 Review Conference. In Zimbabwe, the National Focal Point to implement the goals set forth in the Programme of Action and the Bamako Declaration was the police serving under the Ministry of Home or Internal Affairs.
Zimbabwe had a strict process for acquiring arms, he said. From December 2004 to March 2006, the police recovered 60 unregistered firearms. Some had no traceable record. The police had been able to account for more than 90 per cent of weapons used for murder, armed robberies and other various crimes. Zimbabwe strictly adhered to the end-user certificate for importers and exporters, which made it difficult to access armament without going through a strict vetting process, he said. The country's control system had proven that no arms could be trafficked into the country without an official permit. Further, Zimbabwe had banned the sale and possession of self-loading rifles to individuals and security companies. Zimbabwe had ratified the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Firearms, Ammunitions and Other Related Materials. The 2006-2009 National Action Plan was in line with the SADC Protocol. The SADC region had tasked the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization as its implementing agent.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said the Conference must agree to establish major international cooperative programmes, mechanisms and guidelines to promote key aspects of the 2001 Programme, which could include, among others, setting out adequate standards for the management and security of weapons stockpiles, defining clear criteria for arms exportation, and mechanisms for the collection and destruction of arms as a part of peace accords.
He said that the Conference should also consider seriously negotiation of a legally binding instrument to address the illicit arms trade, such as a treaty based on the relevant principles of international law, including human rights and international humanitarian law. For such an instrument to uproot the illicit arms trade, its negotiation would have to involve: developed and developing countries; exporting, importing and transit States; military industries; non-governmental organizations; and civic actors. He added, in that regard, that the Holy See supported a proposal by the United Kingdom on the elaboration, within a United Nations framework, of a binding treaty on the transfer of conventional weapons, as a self-standing initiative with effective enforcement and monitoring mechanisms.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) said that one of the main obstacles hampering the full implementations of the 2001 Programme of Action was the failure of some Governments to regulate or control in-bound and out-bound movements of the illicit trade in small arms. Those Governments had a duty to regulate such flows and tighten controls, particularly because the arms often found their way into fragile regions and were used to further destabilize weak or war-weary nations.
Qatar would reiterate its support for the passages of the 2001 Programme that reaffirmed principles set out in the Charter, particularly the right to self-determination, and State sovereignty and integrity. The unbridled proliferation of illegal small arms was undoubtedly a source of tension in most parts of the world, as it spawned economic disparity and compromised political rights. Among other things, he called for transparency in all weapons initiatives, stressing that such actions should be comprehensive and not targeted to only one type of weapon. He added that the Conference should also commit to previously achieved results that could be built upon, stressing at the same time the need to evince the political will necessary for the full implementation of the Programme.
ZEID RA'AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said Jordan had contributed to drafting and adopting the 2001 Programme of Action. The Conference offered an opportunity to take stock of progress achieved since then. Jordan had submitted to the Department of Disarmament Affairs updates on its ongoing national efforts to implement the Programme of Action, including promulgation of laws governing the purchase and use of small arms and light weapons and regulations that sought to reduce the phenomenon. He expressed hope that the panel of experts would properly discharge its mandates.
It was also necessary to help countries emerging from conflict with capacity-building to deal with weapons smuggling and develop appropriate framework to deal with required legislation, he continued. Further, it was necessary to tackle poverty, the main cause of weapons use among civilians, and to help poor countries find alternative ways to economically sustain their citizens. Production and trafficking in weapons must be limited. Constraints should be placed on Governments and manufacturers mandating that they comply with export rules and refrain from exporting arms to non-State entities. Cooperation was also necessary for information exchange and should be increased among intelligence services. He called for improved cooperation with Interpol and better monitoring of trafficking. Jordan's close proximity to regional conflicts made it vulnerable to violence resulting from small arms and light weapons. He called for effective cooperation among security and customs services and welcomed the progress made in that regard during the December 2005 meeting of national Arab focal points.
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