June 28th, 2006 05:00 EST
Small arms trade in Africa fuels conflict
The United Nations conference targeting the $1 billion-a-year illicit trade in small arms continued today with speakers from the African continent among those calling urgently for a global crack down on illegal arms dealers and tighter arms regulations -- especially the activities of brokers -- whose deadly wares often fell into the hands of non-State actors and fuelled conflict, contributed to poverty, and stalled development in their fragile countries.
On day two of the General Assembly’s 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, diplomats from developing countries -– some emerging from conflict and others coping with the fallout from bloody civil strife -- called for transparency and accountability in small arms production and transfers, weapons registries, and an international code of conduct to help them stem the massive flows of small arms circulating throughout their countries and moving unchecked across porous borders.
Many would agree that Liberia was one of the countries best placed to testify to the devastating breadth of the small arms scourge, said Conmay Wesseh, Deputy Minister for International Cooperation and Economic Integration in the long-troubled West African country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. He painted a vivid picture of his homeland’s brutal 14-year civil war, which had been fuelled by illegal guns and light artillery. One of the more tragic consequences had been that youth had borne the brunt of the armed violence, and they were still suffering -- struggling to cope with high HIV/AIDS rates, low levels of education and poor employment.
Despite the unprecedented impediments, Liberia had committed itself to tackling the proliferation of, and traffic in, small arms. The new Government -- the first on the African continent to be headed by a woman, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf -- was actively erecting barriers to stem the flow of small arms and promote the aims of the United Nations Programme of Action. Liberia was also tackling one of the major fallouts from the illicit flow of small arms by trying to create jobs in order to keep its children and youth from falling prey to charlatans, traffickers and demigods that were still looking for ways to drag the country back into war.
The Minister to the President Responsible for National Defence, Former Fighters and the Disabled of War of the Congo, Jacques Yvon Ndolou, said Africa was aware that it must face the scourge of illicit small arms and light weapons on a collective basis, as evidenced by the December 2000 signing of the Bamako Declaration. The proliferation of firearms was contagious and was a major cause of insecurity in Central Africa. During the 1993-1999 civil war and conflict in the Congo, approximately 74,000 weapons had been acquired by the militia. The country was doing its utmost to end the illicit circulation of firearms and implement the Programme of Action.
Considerable progress had been made to protect and maintain national security, he continued. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were an integral part of strengthening peace, political stability, security, national reconciliation and socio-economic reconstruction. From 2003-2005, some 17,371 weapons had been collected. A comprehensive demobilization and reintegration programme adopted on 14 February 2006 aimed to reintegrate 19,000 ex-combatants, and collect the equivalent of 10,000 weapons and munitions. In January 2006, the Congo and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) signed a $17 million agreement to support demobilization and reintegration programmes.
Cyrus T. Gituai, Permanent Secretary, Provincial Administration/Internal Security, Office of the President of Kenya, said that, despite global concern over armed violence, precipitated by illicit arms movement and use, there were still visible covert arms transfers to non-State actors in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. Those transfers fanned violence, eroded human development and seriously undermined peace efforts that the region had heavily invested in.
Citing the situation in Somalia as an example of how material and financial support to non-State actors undermined the consolidation of peace and security by the Transitional Federal Government, he appealed to the Conference to take note of the consequences of such activities and their impact on regional security and stability, especially in the context of transfer controls and support to non-State actors. He urged States to support the Somali people. In the absence of institutions of governance or administration in the country, security there would remain a “pipe dream” without international assistance.
Burkina Faso’s representative, François Oubida, said success in implementing the Programme of Action would depend on international cooperation. African countries had, within their limits, done everything possible to eradicate the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. However, limited resources made it difficult to accomplish that task. Burkina Faso had set up a commission to regularly follow up that progress and had established an annual budget to operate it. However, funding was insufficient and a serious handicap for the commission, given the subregion’s many needs.
International partners must lend a hand, he said. The Programme of Action recognized that international cooperation and assistance by all stakeholders was a necessity. However, many international partners had not been very visible and had exhibited themselves very selectively. Although the road ahead would be long and the impediments many and sundry, Burkina Faso remained optimistic about making progress in the fight against illicit small arms and light weapons.
Boniface G. Chidyausiku of Zimbabwe, who spoke on behalf of the African Group, presented his delegation’s position on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, which had been adopted by the 2005 Second Continental Conference of African Governmental Experts on the trade in Windhoek, Namibia. It had reaffirmed the landmark 2000 Bamako Declaration on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons and reiterated that both that Declaration and the Programme of Action were key to efforts to support conflict prevention and resolution, as well as sustainable post-conflict reconstruction and long-term peace and security.
He said the Conference had also requested that multilateral and regional institutions include provisions for small arms and light weapons programmes in post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction initiatives, in order to strengthen legislation and enhance the capacity of law enforcement agencies, among other things. Finally, while reaffirming the relevance of the Programme of Action, the Windhoek Conference had also requested that its integrity be maintained and that it should not be open to negotiation. It recommended that the Review Conference produce a report and set a date for a follow-up review no later than 2012, along with biennial meetings of States in 2008 and 2010.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Andorra also made a statement, as did the Deputy Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, Zambia and the Republic of Korea.
The Joint Secretary of Disarmament and International Security Affairs of the Ministry of External Affairs of India and the Deputy Inspector General for the Namibian Police of Namibia also made statements.
The Minister of the Interior of Mozambique, the Under-Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs of the United States, the Deputy Minister for the Interior of Ghana, the Deputy Director of the Department of Security and Disarmament of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the National Coordinator a.i. of the PFN/Democratic Republic of the Congo and Embassy First Counsellor in charge of the Political Division of Management of International Organizations of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Deputy Director for Multilateral Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs of South Africa also made statements.
Also speaking were the representatives of Algeria (on behalf of the Arab Group), Belarus (on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization), Lebanon, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Kyrgyzstan, Bolivia, Syria, Peru, Uruguay, Turkey, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen, Israel, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
The Review Conference will reconvene Wednesday, 28 June, at 11 a.m. to continue its high-level segment.
The General Assembly met this morning to continue the high-level segment of its Conference to review progress made in the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. For further background, please see Press Release DC/3027 issued 20 June.
JAVIER WILLIAMS SLATE, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, said that, with illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons still affecting nearly every country on the planet, and with transnational organized crime on the rise, the international community should ask: “What have we done to live up to the commitments we made five years ago?” For its part, Nicaragua had actively tackled the illicit small arms scourge at the national level in the wake of the Assembly’s adoption of the 2001 Programme of Action. The country’s initiatives spanned the gamut of small arms control schemes outlined in the Programme, including efforts to ensure cooperation among State entities to combat and regulate the illicit trade.
But the Government was aware that its effort was not enough and was taking steps to curb the flow of illicit weapons in conjunction with an initiative to actively deal with drug traffickers, at both national and regional levels. There was also a move to monitor stockpiles and the flow of munitions, and efforts to promote joint measures among all Central American States, which aimed to enhance preventive measurers to strengthen security and promote peace in that region.
He asked the Conference President to include examples of Nicaragua’s national and regional initiatives, which had become best practice models in the field, in the meeting’s documents, and urged other States to adopt similar policies. He said that Nicaragua was also working with other members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to assist the region’s most affected countries to boost their capacities to deal with the proliferation of small arms in their territories. He urged those States to take advantage of the technical assistance that the OAS could offer.
He added that Nicaragua was also actively destroying weapons and artillery, including anti-aircraft ammunitions and mines, as well as hand grenades, grenade launchers and detonating capsules. Finally, he urged the Conference participants to work together to come up with a concrete and forward-looking outcome, so that it would not be seen as “just another decision”.
YOUCEF YOUSFI (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Review Conference aimed to take stock of progress since the 2001 Programme of Action. While welcoming advances in combating the trade of small arms and light weapons, he said more international cooperation and assistance to developing countries was needed. Arab countries had seriously contributed to the consensus reached in the Programme of Action and supported a multilateral approach to ending the illicit trade. In the past few years, Arab countries had adopted a legal framework, established a focal point, and held several meetings and regional conferences to address the issue. The Review Conference gave Member States an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of the Programme of Action as a basic framework for eradicating the illicit trade.
Arab countries had also called for honouring resolution 59/86 of 3 December 2004, which addressed progress made in implementing the Programme of Action at the national, regional and international levels. Arab countries supported the principles set forth in the Programme of Action in paragraphs 8,9,10, 11, 13 and 17, in which the international community reaffirmed the importance of the observance of international law, including States’ rights to sovereignty over their territory, non-interference in internal affairs and the right to maintain small arms and light weapons. He also reaffirmed the right of all people to self-determination, particularly people under foreign occupation. He stressed the importance of allowing the Governmental Panel established under the General Assembly resolution the opportunity to reach positive results in terms of addressing the illegal brokerage of small arms. He stressed the destructive nature of the use of arms and weapons of mass destruction, noting at the same time that armed conflict was caused by socio-economic and other factors.
HAMID ALI ROA, Joint Secretary for Disarmament and International Security Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs of India, said that India would have preferred a legally binding instrument to mark and trace small arms and light weapons, covering within its scope ammunitions. Nevertheless, the instrument in its current state was a good start, and fellow States were encouraged to do their utmost, despite reservations, to implement it. Also, illicit brokers, who subverted the export control mechanisms established by States and who used fraudulent documents for diverting licit consignments to illicit channels, must be prosecuted and punished. To that end, India looked forward to participating in the work of the Group of Governmental Experts on creating a set of recommendations for dealing with those parties.
He said international cooperation was required to carry out the Programme of Action, and that it should be seen as part of international efforts to combat terrorism, especially considering that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was closely linked to drug trafficking, money-laundering and other transnational organized crime. For its part, India had undertaken bilateral and regional initiatives to enhance cooperation in fighting terrorism and organized crime as a corollary to carrying out the Programme of Action. Finally, Member States should focus on the root of the problem and desist from expanding the Programme of Action to include dealing with wider issues of armed violence, internal conflicts, underdevelopment and so on, since there are other mechanisms to deal with such issues. Efforts to augment existing obligations under the Programme may erode consensus and disturb the “delicate balance” reached so far.
BONIFACE G. CHIDYAUSIKU (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of the African Group, presented his delegation’s position on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, which had been adopted by the 2005 Second Continental Conference of African Governmental Experts on the trade in Windhoek, Namibia. It had reaffirmed, among other things, the landmark 2000 Bamako Declaration on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons and reiterated that both that Declaration and the United Nations Programme of Action were key to efforts to support conflict prevention and resolution, as well as sustainable post-conflict reconstruction and long-term peace and security. The Conference also noted that those action plans did not cover the myriad issues and concerns regarding the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
The Conference had also expressed Africa’s belief that tackling the illicit flow of small arms required a comprehensive and multifaceted approach, and should take into account a number of measures that had been undertaken since 2001, including those related to the civilian possession of military-style small arms, the transfer of such weapons to non-State actors, and the Transfer Control Initiative and the Arms Trade Treaty. The Conference also recognized that some of those discussions were taking place at their own pace outside the United Nations framework.
He said the Conference had also requested that multilateral and regional institutions include provisions for small arms and light weapons programmes in post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction initiatives towards the consolidation of good governance, strengthening legislation and enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies, and in promoting development agendas that included relevant awareness-raising campaigns. Finally, while reaffirming the relevance of the Programme of Action, the Windhoek Conference had also requested that its integrity be maintained and that it should not be open to negotiation. It recommended that the Review Conference produce a report and set a date for a follow-up review no later than 2012, along with biennial meetings of States in 2008 and 2010.
ANDREI DAPKIUNAS (Belarus), speaking on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), said that, during their 23 June meeting in Minsk, the six members of the CSTO -- Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation and Tajikistan -- had taken stock of progress achieved in implementing the Programme of Action. The CSTO adopted a text in which the members emphasized the importance of prompt and full implementation of the Programme of Action and noted that regional and subregional efforts had resulted in progress achieved in the last five years. The CSTO members had committed to: improving national legislation in export control and promoting implementation of regional measures, creating projects to eradicate excess weapons; and developing measures to eliminate excess missiles. He expressed hope that there would be greater cooperation among all countries and regional organizations to eliminate the illicit trade. He supported efforts of all Member States and civil society to fully implement the Programme of Action at the global, regional and national levels.
The main purpose of the Review Conference was to agree on practical measures to implement the Programme of Action, he continued. The CSTO believed that more measures could be developed without making changes to the Programme of Action itself. He called for increasing control of illicit weapons brokerage and for the work of the government experts to begin as soon as possible after the Review Conference was over. He supported a point-by-point discussion within the framework of the Programme of Action concerning transferring control of small arms to non-governmental organizations. He called for developing and adopting under the auspices of the Programme of Action several measures to control missile defence and the illegal manufacture of weapons without permission of one’s Government. He supported blocking the illegal trade of small arms and light weapons.
CONMAY WESSEH, Deputy Minister for International Cooperation and Economic Integration in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, said his delegation would reaffirm to the world that Liberia was a nation at peace, having come to the end of a 14-year war that had been fuelled by the use of small arms and light weapons. Many would agree that Liberia was one of the countries best placed to testify to the devastating breadth of the scourge, which had left the country to deal with unprecedented impediments, ranging from crumbling infrastructure, poor access to already dilapidated public services, war-weary women and youth, and a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
Throughout the conflict, the entire Liberian State had experienced sporadic collapse while competing warlords had conducted running gun battles through the streets of the capital. Moreover, the bloody armed violence had begun to spread to -- and destabilize -- neighbouring countries. One of the more tragic consequences of the conflict had been that youth had borne the brunt of the armed violence, and they were still suffering -- struggling to cope with high HIV/AIDS rates, low levels of education and poor employment.
Despite the grisly picture he had painted, he stressed that Liberia had nevertheless committed itself to tackling the proliferation of, and traffic in, small arms. The new Government, the first on the African continent to be headed by a woman, was actively erecting barriers to stem the flow of small arms and promote the aims of the United Nations Programme of Action. Liberia was also combating one of the major fallouts from the illicit flow of small arms by trying to create jobs in order to keep its children and youth from falling prey to charlatans and demigods that were still looking for ways to drag the country back into war.
Liberia’s Government was also rehabilitating the country’s infrastructure and promoting growth in the agriculture sector. The country still needed help, he said, calling for the cancellation of Liberia’s huge external debt. He ended with a word of thanks for those that had stood by the country for so many years, and he saluted the women of Africa and the world, who were leading the global effort to eradicate armed violence.
FRANÇOIS OUBIDA ( Burkina Faso) said success in implementing the Programme of Action would depend on international cooperation. African countries had, within their limits, done everything possible to eradicate the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. However, their limited resources made it difficult to accomplish that task. Burkina Faso had set up a commission to regularly follow up that progress and had established an annual budget to operate it. However, such funding was insufficient and a serious handicap for the commission, given the subregion’s many needs.
International partners must lend a hand, he said. The Programme of Action recognized that international cooperation and assistance by all stakeholders was a necessity. However, many international partners had not been very visible and had exhibited themselves very selectively. Although the road ahead would be long and the impediments many and sundry, Burkina Faso remained optimistic about making progress in the fight against illicit small arms and light weapons.
CAROLINE ZIADE ( Lebanon) said the 2001 Conference had reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to combat the scourge of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The Review Conference aimed to ensure that the five-year-old action plan was now being fully implemented. She stressed that the Assembly’s recently approved instrument on tracing was a starting point for all future efforts. For its part, Lebanon had strengthened its border control schemes, had stepped up efforts to combat transnational organized crime and had appointed a national officer to coordinate with other Arab countries to combat the scourge.
She said that international efforts to combat the small arms trade should take into account the right to self-defence, the right to self-determination and the right to protect people from foreign occupation. Any decisions taken should be transparent and fair. The Conference should establish a dialogue for human justice and be a forum of good faith in order to strengthen a future that was prosperous and stable, particularly in the Middle East, which had suffered so long from Israeli occupation and domination.
JULI MINOVES-TRIQUELL, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Culture and Cooperation of Andorra, said his country had acquired disarmament expertise after it financed a United Nations project on the destruction of weapons in Albania in 2001. Andorra had also contributed to the elimination of toxic residues from conventional arms that had been used and abandoned in Ukrainian territory, in collaboration with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In a joint project with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) National Committee of Andorra, the country had financed education programmes for children in post-conflict areas, namely Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He said Andorra had agreed to participate in a technical assistance programme for the monitoring of disarmament in sub-Saharan Africa, with a contribution of $50,000 annually between 2007 and 2008. The illicit trade in weapons was a factor that aggravated the figures relating to the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, as shown by the Small Arms Survey report of 2005, which indicated that between 60 to 90 per cent of deaths in violent conflicts were caused by small arms. While the Programme of Action had enabled Member States to set the groundwork to regulate such serious issues, instruments such as the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, and others, were just as crucial.
NIK KIDDLE ( New Zealand) said the illicit use and misuse of small arms and light weapons exacerbated human suffering and exacted a very high price on economic and social development. Weapons continued to fuel conflicts and support criminal activities. The uncontrolled availability of weapons could lead to a complete breakdown of law and order and unravel decades of development progress. The importance of regional cooperation in implementing the Programme of Action reflected the reality of the Pacific region in which New Zealand was situated.
New Zealand, with 19 defence and civilian missions operating in 14 countries, had been deeply engaged in demobilizing, disarming and reintegrating ex-combatants into civil society and could attest to its importance in achieving stability and growth. Further, while it fully recognized that the Programme of Action was about prevention and eradication of illegal transfers, New Zealand was convinced that a wider recognition and better use could be made of existing humanitarian laws and norms to help guide States in their determination of what constituted illegal transfers. The Conference should support a broad approach to eradicating transfers of the full range of small arms and light weapons to the wrong hands. Also, he said there was a growing interest in New Zealand in seeing the United Nations turn its attention to the possibility of negotiating an arms trade treaty. The Conference had a part to play in advancing that concept.
MD. ZULIFIQUR RAHMAN ( Bangladesh) said that, while the unanimous adoption of the Programme of Action in 2001 was a watershed moment in the history of disarmament and non-proliferation, progress in its implementation had been uneven. There was no room for complacency, he said, noting that small arms and light weapons -- “the real weapons of mass destruction in use on a daily basis” -- had been both the source and exacerbating factor of armed conflict.
The deterioration of law and order caused by the unbridled flow of small arms and light weapons across Bangladesh’s borders continued to be a cause for concern for his Government. It had been slowing down development efforts, and the availability of smuggled weapons at a relatively low price had led to their falling into the hands of extremist elements. Bangladesh, a country with an impeccable disarmament and non-proliferation record, remained committed to the full implementation of the Programme of Action. It had put in place legislative norms and administrative procedures for regulating lawful possession, manufacture, conversion, transfer and transport of small arms and light weapons. Strict procedures were followed in the management of stockpiles, and confiscated illegal weapons were routinely and publicly destroyed.
Bangladesh, he continued, manufactured and imported, from legitimate sources, a small amount of small arms and light weapons for national defence and security purposes, as well as for United Nations peacekeeping operations. His Government believed that trade in arms should be brought under an agreed international regulatory framework, and would support the conclusion of a conventional arms trade treaty under United Nations auspices. In light of the direct relationship between disarmament and development, he added, it could be useful to assess the human, social and economic costs of armed violence caused by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
CYRUS T. GITUAI, Permanent Secretary, Provincial Administration/Internal Security, Office of the President of Kenya, said that, in acknowledging that no single State could individually address the problem of small arms and light weapons, the States parties to the Nairobi Protocol had continued to collectively work under the guidance of the Regional Centre on Small Arms. He was convinced that the Regional Centre model provided a useful framework that could be replicated by other States for the coordination and implementation of the Programme of Action. Despite global concern over armed violence, precipitated by illicit arms movement and use, there were still visible covert arms transfers to non-State actors in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. Those transfers fanned violence, eroded human development and seriously undermined peace efforts that the region had heavily invested in.
The situation in Somalia was an example of how material and financial support to non-State actors undermined the consolidation of peace and security by the Transitional Federal Government. He appealed to the Conference to take note of the consequences of such activities and their impact on regional security and stability, especially in the context of transfer controls and support to non-State actors. As the current chair of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), Kenya recognized the need to assist Somalia in reconstructing its security and governance structures, if the Transitional Federal Government was to be a peace partner to the rest of the States in the region and beyond. He urged States to support the Somali people. In the absence of institutions of governance in Somalia, security in that country remained a “pipe dream”. Technical and financial assistance should be channelled through the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.
T.J. M’LUKENI (Namibia) said the Namibia National Action Plan on Small Arms and Light Weapons was one of the country’s many practical commitments to honour the Programme of Action, the Bamako Declaration on an African Common Position on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on the Control of Firearms, Ammunition and Other Related Materials. Namibia was also party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Southern African Regional Police Chief Council Organisation (SARPCCO) Agreement in respect of Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in the Field of Crime Combating.
Economic development and eradicating the illicit trade were inseparable issues. For that reason, Namibia’s National Action Plan was developed to ensure proper implementation of those international instruments by enhancing capacity for law enforcement in accordance with global norms. Namibia’s institutional framework for implementing the Plan comprised a National Management Committee and National Focal Points from the offices of the president and various ministries and non-governmental organizations. The National Contact Person was the Inspector General of Namibia’s police. In April 1998, the 1996 Arms and Ammunition Act came into force, laying out the rules for licensing firearms to individuals, dealers, importers, exporter and manufacturers. It also made provisions for ammunition and the destruction of firearms; limits on their number; their marking; and declaration of persons deemed unfit to possess them. However, challenges remained for Namibia in implementing its National Action Plan. Namibia still needed technical and financial resources, training and capacity-building for law enforcement officials, laws to ensure commonality, and better border control and technical equipment.
LUIS ALBERTO CORDERO, Ambassador in Special Mission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, said the first step for the Review Conference must be a greater incorporation of respect for human rights in the core language of the Programme of Action. Also, the Conference must call on States to establish and reinforce regulations on the transfer of small arms and light weapons. “We cannot be critical of the illegal trade of weapons but unconcerned with the legal trade that contributes to it.” He urged Member States to agree on strong global principles for arms transfer controls in the Conference’s outcome document. He also called for a legally binding conventional arms trade treaty and emphasized the importance of continuing those negotiations in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).
There was also a need to strengthen regulations on civilian acquisition and possession of small arms and light weapons. Measures could include limits on the types and numbers of arms that civilians were allowed to acquire and possess, as well as strict requirements for licensing, authorization and registration. It was important to include ammunitions, which fuelled small arms and light weapons, on the Conference’s agenda. Marking and tracing controls needed to be reinforced and strengthened, and he believed a legally binding instrument in that regard was the best way to proceed. Costa Rica supported the establishment of a permanent fund, under United Nations auspices and made up of voluntary contributions, to facilitate the complete implementation of the Programme.
He announced that his country would convene, within a year, a high-level international summit on the “Consensus of Costa Rica” -- bold incentive for peace that would go hand in hand with the Programme of Action. “The consensus we hope to achieve will urge developed nations and international organizations to forgive a nation’s debt not only because of the economic situation of the country, but also because that country had chosen to shift resources from weapons and troops to education and health care.”
FRANCISCO JAVIER ARIAS CARDENAS (Venezuela) said in April Venezuela had presented its most recent report on progress in implementing the Programme of Action, particularly concerning marking, registry and control of small arms and light weapons. Venezuela had several laws on the books to control the illicit trade, including the Law on Arms, Explosives and their Regulation, the 2002 Disarmament Law and legislation to protect and control arsenals, arms depositories and munitions. All confiscated small arms and light weapons that were unmarked or improperly marked were publicly destroyed. The manufacture, trade and illegal possession of small arms and light weapons was a crime and violators could be imprisoned from five to eight years under the Penal Code and the Partial Reform Law. Since the Disarmament Law came into force, six processes had been conducted to publicly destroy a total of 66,529 illegal weapons, weighing 50 tons. The money saved from this act had been dedicated to a foundation to help victims wounded by firearms. Further, it had set up an Automatic National Registry System for Firearms.
In 2005, the Venezuelan Government launched public awareness campaigns for preventing, combating and eliminating the illicit traffic of small arms, he continued. In June, together with non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, the Venezuelan Government carried out in Caracas an expert seminar on arms control for professionals from Argentina, Brazil, Spain and Sweden to discuss disarmament success stories. Venezuela was also complying with the principles set forth in the Inter-American Convention against the Manufacture and Illicit Trafficking in Firearms, Munitions, Explosive and Other Related Materials and actively participated in the Working Group on Firearms and Munitions of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States.
LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said that all were convinced that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons posed a serious threat to peace and security, since it could strain relations between nations, fuel disturbances and ratchet up levels of violence, especially in civil wars and transnational criminal activity. Viet Nam was also convinced that the scourge undermined opportunities to secure sustainable development. The 2001 action plan had laid out numerous national, regional and global measures to address the problem and had even led to some progress in specific areas, including the creation last year of the international instrument on tracing, and a host of relevant regional arrangements.
Nevertheless, much more needed to be done, especially with conflicts continuing in various parts of the world, and the growing threats posed by terrorism and transnational crime. He pointed out that the international community’s stalled efforts to come up with a comprehensive, consensus nuclear disarmament framework or guidelines on the use or threat of use of force, was troubling and perhaps would even hamper global cooperation in the area of small arms. The Programme of Action called for all States to work towards the creation of an enabling environment in that regard, while respecting the sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States and the rights to collective self-defence. With that in mind, he said that all activities implemented under the Programme must reflect the particular circumstances of countries and regions.
Turning to Viet Nam’s efforts to deal with the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons over the past five years, he noted that the country’s reforms in that area had actually begun during the 1980s. Viet Nam’s relevant action had centred on its wish to “be a friend, and a reliable partner” with all countries and to participate in the process of regional and global integration. The Government fully managed the manufacture, repair and transportation of weapons. It had also created legislation stipulating that small arms and light weapons and their munitions were only for the purpose of national defence and security, and that the importation of weapons, except in cases permitted by the State, was prohibited. Moreover, illegal transportation, use, trade in or acquisition of weapons and explosives were considered criminal offences. He stressed that Viet Nam would continue to take measures aimed at effective implementation of the 2001 action plan as new circumstances arose.
NURBEK JEENBAEV ( Kyrgyzstan) said the United Nations had achieved some success in combating the threat of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Coordinated multilateral efforts were needed. Individual countries could not go it alone. The illicit trade and spread of small arms and light weapons were a serious threat to international peace and security, because it fuelled conflicts and claimed thousands of lives. Kyrgyzstan was fully committed to implementing the Programme of Action and to strengthening and more effectively using national resources to control weapons flows across its border, improve customs and prevent the import/export and re-import of such weapons. That involved direct interaction of law enforcement and border agencies of interested States. Kyrgyzstan’s defence industry was not producing weapons. The country’s relevant agencies were working together to regulate the storage of weapons and prevent their illicit use in the future.
A few days ago, Kyrgyzstan presented its first national report on progress made in implementing the Programme of Action, he continued. The country had mandated compulsory licensing for manufacturing and trading munitions. With civil society, it was conducting programmes on the voluntary surrender of weapons by the civilian population. By way of a presidential decree, officials had set up a commission on military and technical cooperation and export control, which was headed by the Prime Minister. Efforts were being made to further improve ways to eliminate the transport and trade of illicit weapons. However, more technical assistance was needed, particularly for developing countries in Central Asia. The Review Conference provided a good opportunity to envisage further steps to stem the trade, he said, calling on all Member States to work towards a positive outcome.
JOHANNES LANDMAN ( Netherlands) highlighted particular issues of importance to his delegation and said that there had been some progress at national and regional levels in the adoption of laws and arrangements on arms transfers. But too many grey areas remained and global measures aimed at controlling small arms transfers were badly needed. The review Conference’s outcome needed to speak clearly on that matter, reflecting the Assembly’s support for such global guidelines he said, adding that, more broadly, there was a need to develop an international arms trade treaty on all conventional weapons, beyond the 2001 Programme of Action.
He went on to say that there was a vital need for the international community to come to grips with arms brokering. Arms brokers differed from arms traders in the sense that brokers might never own weapons or shipments, and might never even come near them. In fact, in a globalized world, an arms broker needed only to have a mobile phone to work from any remote place, bringing interested parties anywhere in the world together. That was why sound regulation on arms brokering was vital for every country -- even States where arms trade was a State monopoly, where they might not be a problem, or for States with secure borders. He added that Norway, together with the Netherlands, had been actively involved in promoting efforts to ensure effective regulation on arms brokering.
On implementation and follow-up to the 2001 Conference, he called for a more effective means of measuring accomplishments and identifying needs. There should also be a stronger commitment of resources and a much bigger push for joint capacity-building. That was what some 42 States, including the Netherlands, had done last month at a ministerial conference in Geneva on armed violence and development. Finally, he stressed that the United Nations perhaps did not need more meetings on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, “just better ones”, so the Programme of Action could be turned into a “true action programme”.
JACQUES YVON NDOLOU ( Congo) said the Review Conference was an appropriate venue for giving new impetus for the 2001 Programme of Action. The African continent was aware that it must face the scourge of illicit small arms and light weapons on a collective basis, as evidenced by the December 2000 signing of the Bamako Declaration. He stressed the importance of the Nairobi Protocol on Firearms in the East and Great Lakes Regions of Africa, as well as the national programmes for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration set by Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Congo. The proliferation of firearms was contagious and was a major cause of insecurity in Central Africa.
During the 1993-1999 period of civil war and conflict in the Congo, approximately 74,000 weapons were acquired by the militia. The country was doing its utmost to end the illicit circulation of firearms and implement the Programme of Action. Considerable progress had been made to protect and maintain national security. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration were an integral part of strengthening peace, political stability, security, national reconciliation and socio-economic reconstruction. During the 2003-2005 period, a total of 17,371 weapons were collected. A comprehensive demobilization and reintegration programme adopted on 14 February 2006 aimed to reintegrate 19,000 ex-combatants, and collect the equivalent of 10,000 weapons and munitions. In January 2006, the Congo and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) signed a $17 million agreement to support demobilization and reintegration programmes.
JOSE PACHECO, Minister of the Interior for Mozambique, said the key challenge for the international community was to find concrete and creative ways to curb the spread of weapons through the illicit arms trade, which was destabilizing countries in many regions, particularly in Africa. The United Nations Programme of Action and its obligations remained the touchstone for global action. It was, therefore, up to the international community to cooperate on the provision of the financial, technical and human resources needed to enhance its implementation.
In his country, the root causes of the illicit trade were directly linked to the legacy of violent conflict that had affected his region. Mozambique was committed to implementing the Programme of Action as part of its national and regional strategy to promote peace and stability. The Government had launched a broad programme of weapons collection and destruction in 1992. In 1995, a structured special operation aimed at identifying, recovering and destroying hidden caches of firearms had been launched. That operation, codenamed “Rachel”, and other similar projects had been successful in destroying about 30, 000 different types of firearms. He added that Mozambique had also actively encouraged the participation and cooperation of civil society groups and neighbouring countries.
He said that Mozambique was also on the verge of launching a national small arms survey that would set the stage for a national small arms strategy. The country was also committed to seeking progress at the regional level and supported the SADC regional strategy dealing with small arms and firearms awareness among the civilian population. He hoped that the Conference would come up with a strategy to promote the full implementation of the Programme of Action while mitigating the negative effects of small arms trade, such as compensation to victims and the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on the transfer of small arms.
ROBERT JOSEPH, Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security of the United States, said his Government strongly supported the Programme of Action and was committed to its implementation. The Review Conference should adopt detailed plans addressing the effectiveness of export controls, the destruction of excess, loosely secured or otherwise at-risk stockpiles of small arms and light weapons, and implementing the marking and tracing instruments. The United States would not agree to any provisions restricting civilian possession, use or legal trade of firearms inconsistent with United States laws and practices. Many millions of American citizens enjoyed hunting and the full range of firearms sports, and the Review Conference’s work would not affect those rights and opportunities. Regulating ammunition was beyond the mandate of the Review Conference and would be ineffective and prohibitively costly. While opposing acquisition of arms by terrorist groups, he recognized the right of oppressed peoples to defend themselves and, therefore, opposed a blanket ban on non-State actors. The United States would not agree to a document that obfuscated the main problem of the illicit trade, or which sought to substitute an expansive, unworkable set of international regulations for specific, targeted action of proven worth.
He supported aggressive steps to implement the recently concluded agreement on marking and tracing weapons, effective controls on weapons transfer, robust end-user certification, stronger controls over international brokers, effective stockpile management of weapons under State control, and the destruction of Government-declared surplus and illicit weapons. The United States would not accept a formal agreement on transfer controls, but would consider a text that encouraged adoption of a set of principles on arms transfer. The United States commitment to implementing the Programme of Action was evident in its arms export control structure, law enforcement efforts, and cooperation and assistance programmes.
DAVISON MULELA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Zambia, said his country aligned itself with the statement made by the African Union. Zambia had a problem with the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons for a number of reasons. First, the geographical situation. Combatants from neighbouring countries came to Zambia and left weapons that were being trafficked by former belligerents. That had a very negative impact on the socio-economic activities of the Zambian people. Most of the arms had been used to perpetrate crimes. The Zambian Government had taken action and had devised laws to deal with the issue. The Government had also even braced international efforts and cooperation in dealing with the problem of small arms and light weapons.
There had been difficulties, however, in implementing some of the resolutions made due to inadequate financial and technical capacity. The problem had also been compounded by the fact that there had been no effective mechanism in place to facilitate the execution of some of the laid-down requirements. Zambia appealed to cooperating partners to come to its aid. The issue of victim support was another area where more needed to be done. Zambia called on the international community to increase funding in that area. Zambia joined other delegations calling for the Secretary-General to constitute an intergovernmental group to look into the implementation of various resolutions. Hopefully, then, significant results would be achieved.
PARK IN-KOOK, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Organizations of the Republic of Korea, noted that, while the achievements over the past five years had been considerable, the international community could not afford to rest on its laurels. Despite progress, much remained to be done in dealing with the small arms problem and continued efforts were needed to strengthen the implementation of the Programme of Action. The first Review Conference provided an important milestone for renewed commitment and an opportunity to take a careful look at what had been achieved and what further actions were needed.
He said his delegation was pleased by the increasing number of Member States that had voluntarily submitted national reports on their implementation of the Programme of Action. As some 50 States had not yet submitted reports, the Secretariat’s assistance would be crucial for those States that lacked the capacity to produce a national report. Many States needed assistance in establishing legislative structures and systems for marking, tracing and stockpiling management. A priority area should be the illicit brokering of small arms and light weapons. Such brokering continued to be a hotbed of uncontrolled proliferation. His delegation expected that the Group of Governmental Experts on illicit brokering to be established after the Review Conference would make constructive suggestions on how to best address the issue.
Another important issue was transfer controls, he said. As most illicitly circulated small arms and light weapons were diverted from legitimate trade, the development of common international standards or guidelines on the controls governing transfers of small arms and light weapons was the cornerstone of the international community’s attempt to eliminate grey markets and prevent their illicit trafficking. Combating the illicit trade required the collective will not only of States, but also of civil society. Enhanced public awareness of the Programme of Action was indispensable to its success. The follow-up mechanism for the Programme’s implementation should also be strengthened. In that regard, he supported the continued process of convening a biennial meeting of States, as well as a second Review Conference no later than 2012.
KWAKU AGYEMAN-MANU (Ghana) said that the problem of small arms were generally viewed as an issue of security, human rights and, most recently, as the weapons of choice for terrorists and transnational criminal networks. Still, five years on, the daunting number of small arms and light weapons in circulation and the devastation they caused bore witness to the fact that not much had been done to contain the scourge. Indeed, Ghana believed that small arms, despite their designation, were real weapons of mass destruction. Ghana was committed to the United Nations Programme of Action and supported the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) moratorium, which had recently been transformed into an internationally binding instrument.
Ghana had felt the negative impact of the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons on the rule of law, political stability, and broader development. Consequently, a national baseline survey commissioned by the Government had become the background document for a National Strategic Conference on Small Arms in Accra this past March. That Conference had brought together donors, security professionals, civic actors and local crafts persons for a dialogue towards the elaboration of a national plan of action.
He went on to say that Ghana’s National Commission had also embarked on a number of other activities, including crisis prevention and assembling more reliable data on firearms. The Commission also targeted conflict-prone areas to raise awareness about the impact of small arms and what was going on at national and regional levels. He said that, although Ghana had never experienced any large-scale armed conflict, there were pockets of low-intensity communal conflicts. On the other hand, Ghana did have a gun production culture, which had been initially tailored to the country’s cultural demands. Despite the gun production culture, the activity was legally banned.
But irrespective of that ban, the culture had grown to meet the demands fuelled by general insecurity, as criminals took advantage to cause mayhem. He added that the quest for effective transfer controls would not be complete unless the issue of brokering was addressed. Indeed, the activities of brokers, especially illegal ones, were centred on the illicit trade in small arms.
JAVIER LOAYZA BAREA ( Bolivia) said small arms and light weapons had become the main instruments of violence and death in most international conflicts in various parts of the world. They had become a serious problem to peace and security. The Review Conference should take a more integrated approach to the problem in line with today’s realities. Although small arms and light weapons had legitimate uses, States were obligated to protect human rights and respect humanitarian law and protect civilian populations. People worldwide were suffering from occasional violence caused by such weapons.
Bolivia was convinced that the problem was complex and required international agreements and norms to address the illicit use of small arms and light weapons. Bolivia had adopted the draft of a law concerning ammunition and explosives, and the principles of that law were now part of State policy. That law would significantly improve State control over operating, acquiring, possessing and bearing weapons by civilians. Bolivia was party to the convention on prohibiting and restricting the use of certain weapons. It had plans to ratify the protocol on international firearms and ammunition, which complemented the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
PETR G. LITAVRIN ( Russian Federation) said his country had first-hand experience dealing with the problems caused by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Since the mid-1990s, it had been relentlessly combating the trade, including under the circumstances of post-crisis management. He went on to say that the Russian Federation was seriously concerned by the humanitarian aspects of the trade, and the tragedy of many current crises had been deepened because the weapons had been used by illegal armed groups, had been forced into the hands of child soldiers or had fuelled massive human rights violations. His delegation believed that the Programme of Action, which was far from being universally implemented, still had potential.
To that end, he said that all States should focus on implementing those provisions of the Programme, which dealt with improving the efficiency of national legislation and strengthening regional cooperation. At the same time, the Russian Federation saw the Programme as an evolving document that could be “improved” -- with caution -- to enhance the practicability of its application and implementation. Indeed, any changes to the Programme should not be introduced or integrated into the 2001 text, but should be approved in the form of corresponding protocols or annexes. His delegation did not support any “radical” ideas and suggestions aimed at strengthening the fight against the illicit trade that went beyond the United Nations framework.
Indeed, the Russian Federation supported, among others, proposals to identify best practices aimed at implementing the Programme in legislative and law enforcement fields. It also advocated the exchange of experience in the elaboration and application of legal norms, which prevented the diversion of weapons from legal to illegal trade. He added that discussions on the issue of control over legal transfers -- “a controversial matter” -- went beyond the Programme. On ways to keep weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists, he called for strengthening control over their re-export, introducing the practice of random inspections carried out by exporters, and, among others, strict State regulation of arms brokering activities, including reducing the number of brokers.
ALBERT MEMY SIMABATU ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) said violent actions that ran counter to fundamental principle of human rights were perpetrated by the use of small arms and light weapons. The disruption of peace and security by the illegal trade of weapons in the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrated the importance of agreements to end the trade. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had subscribed to the Bamako Declaration, the Nairobi Declaration on the problem of proliferation, circulation and illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons in the Great Lakes Region and SADC protocol on the control of firearms and related materials.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was part of a subregion where tragedy, crisis, repeated armed conflict and displaced civilian populations were commonplace. The Democratic Republic of the Congo Government had set up National Focal Points in 2003. They worked together with Parliament to: revise legislation on existing texts according to requirements of the Programme of Action; create public awareness education campaigns on the dangers of small arms and light weapons; and promote peace and weapons collection. He stressed the importance of the weapons collection, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process organized by the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and other partners. National Focal Points were highly active in regional efforts, preparing guides on best practices, the principles of the Nairobi Protocol and the agreement with 12 other countries in the region to create a regional centre to combat small arms. Despite such efforts, weapons were still in circulation in areas of former armed conflict. He called on the international community to continue to support the Democratic Republic of the Congo in its disarmament efforts.
MILAD ATIEH ( Syria) said that the combat against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons should not have any impact on people’s just struggle to maintain control of their own lands or to end foreign occupation. He went on to highlight Syria’s support for the 2001 Programme of Action and warned against moving the process outside the United Nations framework and taking actions that contravened relevant General Assembly resolutions. He also said that the combat against the scourge should not create burdens for developing countries and should take into account regional specificities. That was particularly true of any initiatives undertaken to deal with the scourge in the Middle East, which had for years been struggling against foreign occupation and domination.
RICARDO MOROTE ( Peru) said Peru would work actively to ensure success of the Review Conference. Peru was party to international instruments on disarmament and had incorporated into domestic legislation the conceptual aspects of the Inter-American Convention against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials, as well as of the United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition. Peru had intensified contacts with the Andean Community to implement Decision 552, the Andean Plan for the Prevention, Fight and Eradication of Illicit Trafficking of Light and Small Weapons in All Its Aspects. Peru was also participating in the Working Group on Firearms and Ammunition of MERCOSUR and Associated States.
Peru’s Law of Amnesty and Regularization, which came into force in August, encouraged the population to deliver illegal weapons to the control organ and judicial, military and police authorities. The Challenge of Lima 2006 project involved destruction of collected or confiscated firearms, seminars and diffusion campaigns for political, judicial and administrative authorities and programmes to improve warehouse management. Peru was planning to set up a national commission to implement instruments governing small arms and light weapons. Much work remained to implement the Programme of Action. He supported creation of a fiduciary fund that, under United Nations sponsorship, would provide cooperation, as well as technical and financial assistance to implement the Programme of Action.
SUSANA RIVERO ( Uruguay) said the Review Conference provided a forum for, among other things, exploring new ways of controlling weapons transfers, strengthening measures for marking and tracing weapons and ammunition, facilitating international cooperation, and boosting measures aimed at arms registration and control. She said that, while her country had not detected the existence of any illicit arms traffic, the Government had nevertheless launched a campaign to destroy small arms that were not duly registered or which had been used in illegal activities. Over the past eight years, the Government had launched campaigns to promote its initiative against light weapons and thus far, some 20,000 weapons had been destroyed.
She went on to say that Uruguay had also ratified the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, among other regional instruments. At the subregional level, it had participated in the MERCOSUR working group on firearms, which had led to the approval of a regional Memorandum of Understanding for information exchange on illicit trafficking in firearms, munitions, explosives and other related materials.
BAKI Ã"LKIN ( Turkey) said the Conference, while focusing on implementation, could also identify new measures that could complement or enhance the Programme of Action. Improved controls over the transfer of small arms and light weapons, without prejudicing the legal transactions between States, was among the areas where further substantive work was required. The experience of many regional organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), could be instrumental in drawing up common standards. Transparency could also contribute to efforts for more effective international control. In that regard, the transfer of small arms and light weapons could be considered as one of the reporting categories of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. He also supported, in principle, initiatives aimed at concluding an arms trade treaty.
Also meriting attention were end-use certificates, the close link between illicit arms and their ammunition, and the transfer of arms to non-State actors. He also supported the establishment of a Group of Governmental Exports to study global regulations on brokering. In addition, he continued to believe that the international instrument adopted last year on marking and tracing, despite its shortcomings, laid the foundation for furthering international cooperation and helped the implementation of the Programme of Action. Also, the international community should act decisively to improve stockpile security and strengthen export controls in countries that imported and manufactured man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS). He also highlighted the need for effective management and physical security of small arms and light weapons stockpiles, and urged States to consider innovative strategies to address the close interrelationship between the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and terrorism.
GRACE MUJUMA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that, following the adoption of the 2001 Programme of Action, her country had formed its own national strategy and joined other regional initiatives including the SADC Firearms protocol. In 2003, the Government reviewed its national firearms legislation to ensure that it was in line with the Programme and the SADC initiative. It had also committed resources to addressing the development-related aspects of the illegal small arms trade, which fuelled conflict and hindered socio-economic development and, in war-torn areas, hindered humanitarian access.
She also highlighted the links between the illegal arms trade and the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and the illegal trade in such resources. She said that, despite her country’s and the wider international community’s successes in combating the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons, there was still much to do. The United Republic of Tanzania believed that efforts to track the spread of the weapons would be greatly improved, with the adoption of an internationally binding agreement. And, while loose instruments of a political nature and character had been somewhat helpful, it was clear that more needed to be done.
MOHAMMED Al-OTMI ( Yemen) said there could be no development without security and stability. Yemen was determined to respect all relevant international conventions governing small arms and light weapons, particularly the 2001 Programme of Action. The proliferation of such weapons was complex in Yemen due to various historical factors, particularly foreign interference in Yemen’s affairs. The Yemeni Government had adopted national measures to end the trade, including laws governing the unlawful bearing of weapons and trafficking in small arms. Law 40 of 1992 was enacted and was Yemen’s fundamental framework to solve the weapons problem. A bill before Parliament, which would likely be approved, would control the bearing of weapons. Another law mandated that only States could officially import weapons, required manufacturers to have licenses and banned illegal brokering. Yemeni officials had also taken steps to try to reduce contraband in weapons and organized crime. A climate of confidence and trust among all parties based on mutual respect and non-interference in others’ internal affairs was needed for full international cooperation.
Yemen had eliminated the sources that provided fertile ground for tensions over weapons in the past, he continued. Officials had set up better border controls, adding guards and security services to patrol such areas. Those efforts reduced piracy and thwarted contraband activities in border areas and in the country’s interior. However, such border controls required tremendous financial resources, well beyond the Yemeni Government’s means. He called on all donors to increase funding to Yemen. Further, Yemen had set up security services along the coast and had strengthened such services in the armed forces. Regional cooperation with neighbouring countries aimed to thwart the weapons trade and money-laundering, as did a 2003 regional conference on the subject. Yemen had begun a programme to directly purchase weapons from citizens.
GEORGE NENE, Deputy Director-General for Multilateral Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, recalled that, in August 1994, the South African Cabinet had taken a decision to ensure that the country would establish itself as a responsible manufacturer, possessor and trader of conventional arms. That decision, among others, sought to avoid a repeat of the painful past the South Africans had commemorated earlier this month, the thirtieth anniversary of the Soweto uprising, an historic milestone in the country’s journey to democracy. In order to ensure that the excessive use of force by Government forces -- which had turned a peaceful student protest in 1976 into a bloody tragedy -- would never be repeated, the post-apartheid Government had also made the protection of its people a top priority. In that context, South Africa views the Programme of Action as a sound and practical framework for national, regional and international action against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
Turning to the work of the Review Conference, he said that South Africa believed in effective national legislation on civilian ownership and that civilians should not be able to possess those weapons that were designed for military purposes. He also said that ammunition had not been addressed in the 2001 Programme of Action, even though it was integral to the illicit small arms trade. Indeed, the unchecked availability of ammunition had the potential to fuel crime and conflict. South Africa would, therefore, actively support any processes, within the United Nations framework, that sought to address that issue in a comprehensive manner. He also called for further action on an international instrument to trace illicit arms, and further exploration on illicit brokering.
MIRIAM ZIV ( Israel) said that, while various regions had consolidated efforts to implement the Programme of Action and combat the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, such achievements had not yet materialized in the Middle East nor had illicit transfers of such weapons been reduced in the region. Israel, which continued to suffer from terrorism, was profoundly concerned that such weapons were still available to terrorist groups in the region. Political will remained the main challenge to implementing the Programme of Action in the Middle East. Blocking the illicit transfer of such weapons to terrorist groups must be a priority of the international community. Israel was ready to work with other Member States to identify standards for transfer control that would effectively reduce the illicit trade. Such standards could include implementation of the marking and tracing instruments, full compliance with United Nations Security Council arms embargos, assessment of the risk of diversion to illicit end-users, a ban on the transfer of MANPADS to non-State actors, and satisfactory management and control of stockpiles, among others.
Israel had incorporated the Wassenaar guidelines on the transfer of MANPADS into its export control regulations, she continued. Further, Israel had hosted a meeting on the subject in Jerusalem last April with more than 30 experts from different regions, and intended to continue to work together with other interested States to seek ways to enhance implementation of existing international instruments and standards relating to MANPADS. The Government of Israel was determined to reduce the number of handguns in private ownership and had enacted more strenuous licensing criteria for civilian possession of handguns and their ammunition. Thanks to those efforts, the number of civilian-owned handguns had dropped by one third and would likely continue to drop.