July 4th, 2006 04:23 EST
Legally-binding accord on arms brokering, common standard for end-user certification
As the United Nations small arms Review Conference prepared to hammer out a final political declaration on curbing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, delegates made appeals this morning for the text to address specific concerns.
For example, the representative of Nigeria said the Review Conference should make far-reaching recommendations to end the illicit exploitation of diamonds, timber, crude oil and other natural resources -- a practice that had fuelled weapons proliferation, insecurity and instability in his and other African nations, while robbing them of resources essential for development. The issue warranted attention, particularly since relevant United Nations organs had yet to act on the findings and recommendations of various expert panels and bodies on the subject. The meeting should also recommend a common standard for end-user certification, stockpile management and security of illegal small arms and light weapons.
The representative of the Republic of Moldova said that, while the run-up to the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in Implementing the 2001 Programme of Action had produced mixed results, the international community was expecting an outcome that would ensure implementation. Member States should agree to make legally binding the provisions of the recently adopted international instrument on weapons tracing, which should also cover peacekeeping operations and ammunition. They should also negotiate a legally-binding accord on arms brokering. He suggested that the guidelines developed at the mid-April Nairobi meeting within the Transfer Controls Initiative could serve as a blueprint for global guidelines that reflected States’ existing responsibilities under international law.
Armenia’s representative said the 2001 Programme of Action was the starting point of a long, proactive process to address the illicit small arms trade that would require cooperation among all States. The key now was for officials to close all national and international legal loopholes, as well as to establish full-scale cross-border and regional initiatives, including information exchange on registered brokers and harmonization of national export control regulations.
Statements were also made by: the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba; the Director of the Bureau of Foreign Affairs and Transnational Crime of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand; the Director of the International Organizations Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Sudan; the Adviser to the President on Global Defence and Coordinator of the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation of Ex-Fighters of the Central African Republic; the Deputy Commissioner of Police of Botswana; the Counsellor to the Minister of the Interior and Public Security of Burundi; and the President of the National Commission on Disarmament of Haiti.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Guatemala, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Sierra Leone, Iceland, Nepal, Niger (on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Group in New York), Rwanda, Ecuador and the Russian Federation.
The observer for Palestine also spoke.
The representative of Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Review Conference will meet again at a time and date to be announced.
The United Nations Conference reviewing worldwide efforts to implement the Programme of Action of its 2001 special session on combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons continued its two-week session this morning.
MANUEL AGUILERA DE LA PAZ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said that the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons caused severe social, humanitarian and economic consequences to numerous peoples in the world. As a result, those peoples’ right to life, peace and sustainable development were all severely compromised. Cuba had taken prior steps to deal will the illegal small arms trade, and following the Assembly’s adoption of the 2001 Programme of Action. The country’s Penal Code, as well as other laws, regulations and procedures, had elements that ensured suitable means of addressing that scourge, criminalizing the manufacturing, possession, stockpiling and illicit trading of small arms. The Penal Code also imposed severe sanctions on those who committed those crimes. He stressed that there were no intermediaries in the arms trade in Cuba and all relevant activities were controlled by the State.
There were no surplus arms in Cuba, so the country did not have an active destruction programme. The only weapons that were destroyed were those light arms that were in poor condition, he added. On the international front, he said that Cuba was a full member country of Interpol, and had, among other things, hosted joint regional meetings with that global organization. Cuba had also taken part in events sponsored by the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Overall, Cuba steadfastly believed that, while small arms were a means of defence for most countries, for a few others they represented just another arms category within vast military arsenals, which also included weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, the Review Conference’s decisions must be based on the principles of the Charter, especially those regarding respect for sovereignty, non-intervention and self-determination of peoples.
He went on to say that progress had been achieved in the five years since the adoption of the Programme of Action, but much remained to be done, particularly in generating adequate international cooperation and assistance for developing countries to implement the objectives of the framework. There was also a need to address the root causes of the illegal small arms trade, such as deepening poverty and underdevelopment, and especially the lack of equal opportunities for all in the current international order.
He said that, for the past half century, the Cuban people had been made aware of the devastating impact of the scourge, as it had struggled to address the use of illicit small arms and light weapons in the hands of terrorist individuals and groups in the United States. Despite Cuba’s repeated denunciations, such groups continued to operate within the United States and carry out attacks against Cuba with full impunity. But, he stressed that just as Cuba would continue to defend itself against unilateralism, pre-emptive war and aggression, it would also defend the legitimate right or each State to manufacture, import and retain small arms for legitimate self-defence and security needs.
NARAS SAVESTANAN, Director of the Bureau of Foreign Affairs and Transnational Crime, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, said Thailand had taken several steps to implement the Programme of Action. In accordance with Section II, paragraph 5 of the document, Thailand designated the National Security Council under the Office of the Prime Minister as a National Point of Contact to act as coordinator on small arms and light weapons matters. The National Security Council had developed a border strategy to address small arms and light weapons smuggling. Thailand had also submitted its national report on implementation of the Programme of Action in 2005 and would submit an updated version later this year. Thailand had enacted adequate national laws, regulations and administrative procedures to exercise effective control over the illicit small arms trade. That legal framework ensured that violators could be prosecuted under relevant national penal codes.
Thailand was also cooperating with neighbouring countries within the bilateral and Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) framework and continued to fully support international efforts to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade. Despite its limited resources, the Thai Government had made progress in implementing the Programme of Action, he said. However, many States needed technical and financial support to follow suit. In that regard, he noted the important role of United Nations agencies, international organizations and civil society to support capacity-building in countries facing difficulties in implementation.
JOSE ALBERTO BRIZ ( Guatemala) said that commitments adopted in 2001 had led to the adoption of relevant policies in his own country. It had also sparked Government action and had led to several initiatives being undertaken with civil society organizations. Guatemala’s National Commission was working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and others to reduce all forms of armed violence. The country’s legislative branch was actively laying the groundwork for an overall national plan of action to combat the illicit arms trade. The Government had been active in various regional meetings and conferences, the most recent of which had led to a decision, the Antigua Declaration, which sought to address local and regional priorities that had not been included or addressed effectively in the United Nations framework.
Looking ahead, he said that his country’s concern and its future planned actions were not driven by conflict, but by the social implications of the illicit trade in arms, which included transnational criminal activity, stalled development and violations of human rights. Finally, he said that he hoped that the negotiations on the Conference outcome document would conclude successfully, because the scourge knew no regional, social or cultural boundaries and must be tackled by all States and intergovernmental organizations working together.
FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED ( Saudi Arabia) said Saudi Arabia was taking all possible steps to eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. In that regard, it had set up institutions and enacted several laws, including Royal Decree Number 45 of 2005 governing weapons and ammunition control, as well as strict security controls over production, modification, import, export, transit, marking and stockpiling of weapons. Warehouses had been set up to store such weapons, as had high-tech registry and inventory systems. Further, Saudi Arabia had fully modernized systems to uncover weapons and ammunition in airports. It was using the latest technology to patrol the country’s long borders to prevent smuggling of weapons and had made use of the expertise of developed countries to do so. It had run public awareness campaigns of the dangers of such weapons and was planning new information campaigns to strengthen the principles of safety and security.
Saudi Arabia had also formed bilateral security agreements with neighbouring countries to stem the illicit trade, he said. During a May 2006 meeting in Kuwait, of the Gulf Cooperation Council took steps to harmonize measures to prevent the illicit trade in the Arab region. The League of Arab States had also made tangible improvements by setting up National Focal Points to take stock of all measures to implement the Programme of Action in their countries. The League of Arab States, in partnership with the United Nations, had held workshops and seminars on ways to combat the illicit trade. In February 2005, Saudi Arabia hosted an international conference in Riyad to combat terrorism and was making great efforts to minimize the threat and danger of terrorism on all levels. For example, it had seized a large quantity of weapons of unknown origin that would have led to a serious terrorist act. He supported information exchange between States to enable all nations to improve ways of combating the illicit trade.
ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI ( United Arab Emirates) said that the tragic conflicts that had taken place over the past few decades had been a sad testament to the troubling and destabilizing impact of the illegal small arms trade, particularly in areas of prolonged conflict -- especially ethnic conflict -- or heightened regional tension. Such arms had also prolonged poverty, undermined law enforcement activities and had disrupted the socio-economic development of many countries. For its part, the United Arab Emirates had worked tirelessly with neighbouring countries and international organizations, such as Interpol, to help reinforce national, regional and global control over the illicit small arms trade.
At the same time, the United Arab Emirates would stress the need to control and pursue manufacturers and brokers involved in the illicit trade and, to that end, he called for comprehensive and coordinated regional and international strategies to reinforce such regulations, including their export, import, marking, stockpiling and surplus. He also said that States must consider the difference between legal and illegal trade in the weapons and closely adhere to the Charter-based principles of respect for sovereignty and non-interference when implementing relevant strategies. He stressed that the illicit trade in small arms was not the main reason behind the outbreak of conflicts around the world, but the easy availability of those weapons contributed to the fuelling and prolonging of those conflicts, which mostly resulted from cases of continued foreign occupation. He called on the international community to demonstrate serious political will to address the real reasons behind existing conflicts.
SYLVESTER E. ROWE ( Sierra Leone) said Sierra Leone was working to implement the Programme of Action. With the assistance of bilateral and multilateral partners, it set up in 2005 the National Focal Committee and had adopted several measures to complement its post-disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. He recognized the link between the excessive accumulation and misuse of arms, particularly illicit arms, and human security, as well as the link between the Programme of Action and efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The Community Arms Collection and Destruction initiative conducted under the auspices of the Sierra Leone Police Force had been successful. The Government’s ongoing Arms for Development Programme, sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had completely disarmed 40 of the country’s 149 Chiefdoms through voluntary weapons exchange for community development projects.
The National Focal Committee, thanks to UNDP funding, now had a refurbished, well-equipped and fully functional secretariat, he said. Progress had also been made in strengthening national arms legislation. The Arms, Ammunition and Explosives Ordinance Number 14 of 1955 was being revised and updated. It was now being considered by Sierra Leone’s Cabinet and would soon be promulgated into an act of Parliament. A total ban on civilian possession of all forms of firearms existed. The UNDP was helping the Sierra Leone Police Force build capacity to collect, process, analyse and manage a weapons database by providing relevant software and hardware components and appropriate training for personnel. In compliance with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) moratorium, Sierra Leone recently held a National Consultative Conference during which delegates from civil society and other stakeholders nationwide drew up a National Action Plan for controlling the proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons.
AWAD M. HASSAN, Director, International Organizations Department, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Sudan, said his delegation was mindful of the fact that the combat against the illicit small arms trade had made the search for international peace and security more difficult than ever. And since the illicit trade had driven poverty, hunger and desperation in many countries, the Sudan believed that programmes aimed at eradicating the illegal small arms trade and proliferation must be included in overall sustainable development initiatives. He added that producing countries must place restrictions on the exporting of weapons, so that they would not find their way into the hands of outlaws. The international community must also punish the criminal perpetrators and illicit brokers, as well as address stockpiling questions.
For its part, the Sudan had a national focal point that worked with regional and international agency representatives on matters related to the illicit small arms trade. It was also working with neighbouring countries to boost its check point and border control strategies. It had also undertaken an active disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. Nevertheless, the international community was aware that all the Sudan’s efforts were being undertaken in an atmosphere of tension and ongoing violence. Those situations were being made more complicated and deleterious, particularly for women and children in the country, because of the continued circulation of illegal light weapons. He called for more international understanding, as the Sudan sought to facilitate reconciliation between tribal groups and other factions, with the hope that, one day, the country would finally see sustainable peace and development for its entire people.
SIMEON ADEKANYE ( Nigeria) said the experience in West Africa and other parts of the African continent had shown that illicit exploitation of natural resources -- such as diamonds, timber and crude oil -- had helped fuel illicit proliferation of dangerous weapons, insecurity and instability, while denying Nigeria and other States substantial resources needed for development. The Review Conference must make far-reaching recommendations on this problem, particularly since no effective action had been taken by the appropriate United Nations organs to act on the findings and recommendations of various experts and bodies set up to investigate the role of such activities in the illicit arms trade. The Review Conference should also ensure that Member States no longer ignored the arms embargoes imposed by the Security Council. An effective monitoring mechanism to prevent the cross-border movement of arms, combatants and mercenaries would be invaluable.
The Conference must hold manufacturers, suppliers and States to account, as well as impose appropriate sanctions whenever their arms exports were found to be diverted into illicit networks, he continued. Efforts in that regard should be strengthened by creating a common international standard that strictly regulated the activities of arms brokers. Measures to eliminate small arms and light weapons must be reflected in national plans on security, development, poverty reduction, crime prevention and post-conflict peace-building. Progress was also needed on the special needs of women and children affected by armed conflict and child solders. He called for a common standard for end-user certification, stockpile management and security, stronger national legislation, as well as enhanced operational capacity of law enforcement agencies. The 2 July 2005 entry into force of the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition was noteworthy. Nigeria had ratified the Protocol on 3 March 2006 and urged non-signatory States to also accede to and ratify the instrument. He welcomed the 2005 adoption of the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trade Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons, but only as a stop-gap measure. The illegal trade could only be controlled through a legally binding instrument. The Review Conference should recommend the conversion of that political document into a legally-binding instrument at its next biennial review meeting.
DZIUNIK AGHAJANIAN ( Armenia) said her country viewed the Programme of Action as the starting point in a long, proactive process to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, which included implementation, review, updating and follow-up. Closing all the legal loopholes at the national and international level that allowed unimpeded illegal small arms proliferation was also a priority, she added, saying that her Government had actively moved to stem the scourge immediately following the country’s independence. Effective disarmament carried out at that time, as well as reintegration programmes targeting ex-combatants that followed, attested to Armenia’s success in establishing stringent controls over the possession and manufacturing of small arms and light weapons in its territory.
The circulation of unmarked light weapons was strictly forbidden, she said, adding that new laws and changes in the Criminal Code now criminalized the illegal manufacture, possession, stockpiling acquisition, sales and transportation of such weapons. She went on to say that cooperation was critical to all effort to implement any commitments that had been generated by the 2001 Programme of Action, and Armenia was tackling illicit small arms traffic with the help of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Armenia was also boosting its relevant public education and awareness-raising capacities, because it believed that such activities were effective tools in combating the scourge, particularly in post-conflict societies. Information-sharing was equally critical, she said, calling for international cooperation, among other areas, to establish full-scale cross-border and regional initiatives to address the illicit trade, to exchange national lists of registered brokers, and to harmonize national export control laws and regulations.
HARALD ASPELUND ( Iceland) said Iceland did not manufacture or trade small arms and light weapons. He fully supported the 2001 Programme of Action, although much remained to be done to implement it. The Review Conference must complement, elaborate or enhance the Programme of Action and its implementation through comprehensive efforts to tackle marking, tracking, brokering regulations and transfer controls. The fight against small arms and light weapons must be expanded to include ammunition. A gender dimension must be taken into account, since the suffering of women from the availability and use of guns was disproportionate to their role as weapons owners and users. He expressed concern over the impact of armed conflict on children, resulting from children’s direct involvement in hostilities or from the widespread repercussions of armed conflict on their societies in general. He supported proposals to establish a common international agreement for conventional weapons trade and a legally-binding arms trade treaty to be negotiated within the United Nations.
VICTOR MORARU ( Republic of Moldova) said that, while the run-up to the Review Conference had produced mixed results, delegations should not forget that the international community expected the meeting to adopt a comprehensive outcome that ensured concrete implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action. Member States should, therefore, agree to make legally-binding the provisions of the recently adopted international instrument on weapons tracing, which should also encompass issues such as peacekeeping operations and ammunition, negotiate a legally-binding instrument on arms brokering, and use minimum common standards to determine whether a proposed small arms transfer would aggravate conflict, repress human rights or undermine development.
He said that the guidelines developed at the mid-April Nairobi meeting within the Transfer Controls Initiative offered a valuable basis for elaborating global guidelines that would reflect the existing responsibilities of States under international law. He added that Moldova also supported the development of a legally-binding arms trade treaty covering all conventional arms, which would prevent the illegal flow of small arms into conflict areas. The Review Conference should also consider boosting United Nations action to prohibit the transfer of arms to non-State actors, a phenomenon which had taken place in his country during the military conflict in the early 1990s, which had led to the excessive accumulation of light weapons in the east, with negative implications for its territorial integrity, security and stability.
COME ZOUMARA, Adviser to the President on Global Defence and Coordinator of the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Rehabilitation of Ex-Fighters of the Central African Republic, said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons had devastated the Central African Republic’s society, economy and culture. Efforts were needed to eradicate it in a sustainable fashion through subregional and regional cooperation. The Central African Republic had participated in the signing of the Bamako Declaration in Mali and was an Observer of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). It had participated in the meeting of Government experts of the ECOWAS draft convention on small arms and light weapons, as well as the meetings of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on questions of security in Central Africa. He stressed the need for partnerships to curb cross-border movements of illicit arms.
The Bamako Declaration and the United Nations Programme of Action were key elements to eradicating the illicit trade, he continued. He also fully supported initiatives of the African Union. In September 2004, a National Commission was set up and was working closely with the UNDP to implement reintegration projects for ex-combatants. The National Commission had made significant progress. Of a total of 7,565 ex-combatants, 6,020 had been totally disarmed and demobilized and 1,500 had been reintegrated into civilian life. Since 2001, more than 5,447 arms of all calibres had been collected and 18,750 munitions had been destroyed under the auspices of the United Nations office in Central Africa. The Central African Republic’s Government had developed a new strategic document to combat light weapons and was in the process of harmonizing legislation on the small arms trade. Security forces had been deployed throughout the country. Since March 2003, it had been taking action concerning stockpiling, marking and tracing of small arms.
He called on multilateral partners to do more to stem the trade so that successive crises did not push people into even more poverty and lead to the systematic unravelling of the country at all levels. His country had fully endorsed peacebuilding and national reconciliation as important components of human security. Small arms and light weapons were to national security what AIDS was to public health.
ARUN PRASAD DHITAL ( Nepal) said that sincere implementation of the Programme of Action could substantially reduce the illegal trade and proliferation of small arms. To that end, he called on Member States to enhance and extend the cooperation and assistance provided to the least developed countries to strengthen their capacities to undertake more effective efforts to implement the Programme. Turning to the situation in his own country, which had been affected by a decade-long conflict, he said the Government had taken various measures to implement the Programme, including the establishment of a working group comprised of representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs, home affairs, defence, law, justice and parliamentary affairs to assist in that regard.
Very stringent domestic laws and regulations were in place regarding the purchase and possession of firearms, and ordinances dating back as far as 1962 contained provisions to regulate the manufacturing, possession, supply and purchase, as well as import and export of small arms and light weapons. Nepal was encouraged to now be heading towards peace and stability. With the historic steps taken by the peaceful people’s movement, as well as on the part of the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists), prospects for durable peace were on the horizon.
KENNY KAPINGA, Deputy Commissioner of Police of Botswana, said Botswana had signed and ratified the United Nations Programme of Action, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on the Control of Illicit Firearms, Ammunition and Related Materials, and the Bamako Declaration, as well as the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against the Illicit Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition and Related Components. Botswana was a country that had long chosen a path of strict control over firearms in order to build a society free from guns and gun-related crimes. Botswana’s amended gun control laws, in effect since the 1980s, imposed strict punishment of a minimum of five years in prison for anyone convicted of possessing a military-type weapon considered an “arm of war”. Botswana’s National Focal Point was designated in 2002. It had trained and installed 15 district task forces. Botswana had also held a National Conference on Small Arms, produced a National Action Plan on Small Arms and a Draft National Policy on Small Arms.
Botswana had a weapons destruction policy in place since 2001, he continued. It had already destroyed 4,773 firearms and was poised to destroy another 2,000 in a public event. The Arms Quota Board established a maximum of 200 shotguns and 200 hunting rifles to enter the market annually. That meant that Botswana had been destroying more firearms than it had licensed to people in the last five years. Safer Africa had provided Botswana with generous funding and technical advice throughout that process. A computerized Central Arms Registry was being built. Despite such good efforts, the use of firearms was still prevalent in armed robberies in the southern African region. Most of those firearms were brought by foreign nationals and had their serial numbers erased. The Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCCO) had contributed to the small arms and light arms initiatives. Southern Africa lacked adequate donor funding for small arms initiatives. As a result, it lagged behind other subregions in implementing the Programme of Action. He expressed hope that, after the Review Conference, the SARPCCO would actively seek offers of regional assistance so the subregion could make headway in implementing the Programme of Action.
ABOUBACAR IBRAHIM ABANI (Niger), speaking on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said that the conflicts and tensions that had menaced his region had led the Governments there, as long ago as 1975, to come up with a framework to address and promote efforts to promote economic and social development in an atmosphere of peace and security. He went on to highlight the various plans and programmes that aimed to curb easy access to small arms and light weapons used for organized crime and to fuel civil conflict.
Those efforts, largely unsuccessful in stopping the illicit flows of weapons into the region, had led in 1998 to the elaboration of the ECOWAS Moratorium on the production, procurement, and sale of small arms and light weapons in the subregion was adopted, which was a non-legally-binding agreement that prevented weapons imports, unless all ECOWAS member States agreed to make an exception.
Following that, the countries of the region had been able to build on past efforts, the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action and the Moratorium to adopt a legally-binding regional convention in mid-June, which, among other things, included the establishment of a regional arms register; regulations to control the manufacture and individual ownership of such arms; and the establishment of a group of independent experts to assist ECOWAS to monitor implementation. He hoped that event would lead to even further initiatives for the West African region. He also hoped that the current Conference would lead to more international initiatives to confront the scourge, particularly since none of the objectives of the 2005 World Summit Outcome or the Millennium Development Goals could be met without ensuring peace and stability.
SYLVESTRE KIBECERI, Counsellor to the Minister of the Interior and Public Security of Burundi, said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons had undermined the country’s economy and society. Burundi supported the Bamako Declaration and the United Nations Programme of Action. It was active in the Nairobi process that led to the 2004 signing of the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa. In March 2006, Burundi ratified the Protocol, giving it one of the 12 signatures needed for entry into force. Burundi officials had shown their determination to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade by launching in April 2006 a broad disarmament campaign. They also created a technical commission to combat small arms production and disarm the civilian population as part of strategies to complement the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme already in effect.
Thanks to outside assistance, Burundi now had data on the scope of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he continued, noting that a Small Arms Survey revealed that there were more than 100,000 firearms in circulation. Burundi officials intended to draft a national plan to control the small arms trade and disarm the civilian population. A national strategy document was being finalized that would address collection and monitoring of small arms and light weapons. Guidelines were being drawn up for future action according to good governance and broad public involvement. Burundi’s 2005-2010 national security needs were outlines in Government policy documents. He called on the international community for continued support to Burundi in its efforts to disarm civilians and eradicate the small arms and light weapons trade.
ALIX RICHARD, President of the National Commission on Disarmament for Haiti, said the illegal small arms trade had dealt a devastating blow to his country, not only in the loss of lives, but in stalled development and lost opportunities for foreign investment. For more than two years the international community had given considerable assistance to the country to help ensure its stability and security. But, at the same time, everyone needed to recognize that those efforts were being undermined by armed groups who were trafficking in both weapons and drugs.
With that in mind, he stressed that United Nations and other international plans and programmes –- especially disarmament, demobilization and reintegration -- must be targeted to the countries in which they are implemented. That was particularly true in Haiti’s case, were repeated international interventions had fallen short of expectations, he said, calling for Member States to keep that in mind when it soon considered the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
He went on to say that much of Haiti’s own infrastructure to combat armed violence was hopelessly obsolete. The country desperately needed help at all levels, particularly to deal with the socio-economic fallout from the illicit small arms trade. International partners should help the Government build the capacity to deal with the scourge, particularly in creating programmes that targeted children and youth so that they would not fall prey to armed gangs. He also reminded the Conference that one of the key aims of the 2001 Programme of Action had been to generate international cooperation and assistance towards its implementation. With that in mind, he called for help in generating investor interest in Haiti.
NICHOLAS SHALITA ( Rwanda) said Rwanda had been a prime victim of illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons, particularly during the 1994 genocide and its aftermath. Such weapons caused as many as 300,000 deaths each year and were in fact real weapons of mass destruction. Since 2001, Rwanda had taken significant steps to combat the illicit trade. It ratified the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and Horn of Africa and was party to several international, regional and local initiatives. The National Focal Point conducted public awareness programmes and worked with Government departments and civil society to create a Programme of Action to address the trade. Rwandan officials were in the process of revising and harmonizing arms legislation with neighbouring countries aimed at imposing stricter import and ownership control measures. Rwanda was also harmonizing its legislation with the United Nations Programme of Action. Cross-border proliferation of such arms through non-State actors and other illegal networks was a considerable challenge in the subregion. The solution lay in harmonizing national legislation and systematically plugging gaps and loopholes.
Despite such efforts, the Ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda continued to roam free in neighbouring countries armed with large quantities of weapons, he said. They continued to perpetrate massive crimes against humanity. Peace, security and development would not occur in the subregion until those forces were neutralized. He renewed his appeal for priority attention to this issue. In accordance with the Programme of Action, Rwanda destroyed 6,000 firearms in 2005 and another 150 last week, many of which had been used during the 1994 genocide. Others had been trafficked in from neighbouring countries. Those firearms were recovered thanks to community policing.
DIEGO CORDOVEZ ( Ecuador) said, since the adoption of the Programme of Action, his country had adopted national mechanisms to address the illicit small arms trade, and had also joined several regional instruments on the scourge, particularly those controlling the diversion of light weapons and explosives into the hands of criminal gangs. Ecuador had also updated its Criminal Code and had tightened the punishments meted out to those who broke the laws regarding small arms regulations. The country had also initiated public education campaigns and had launched a successful weapons destruction campaign.
In spite of all its efforts, Ecuador nevertheless believed it was “walking slowly”, just a few steps ahead of the rapidly expanding transnational criminal networks and armed gangs that were employing the small arms and light weapons that were having negative impacts on development. Among the efforts the Government had undertaken to combat the scourge, he noted an innovative plan that had seen legislation passed that would take all toy guns off the shelves of the country’s stores, so that young children would, hopefully, never get to know what it was like to hold a gun in their hands. He also emphasized that the international community had the obligation to help all countries implement the Programme of Action.
YUSSEF KANAAN, of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, said the Review Conference should not reopen negotiation on the Programme of Action. He stressed the importance of the right to self-determination of people living under occupation and the right to self-defence. It was clear that socio-economically underdeveloped areas were fertile ground for the trade in small arms in various parts of the world. The success of the Programme of Action and other international efforts depended on legal instruments, including international humanitarian law. The occupying forces in the Palestinian territories were violating the Fourth Geneva Convention, were not respecting their commitments under international law and were using disproportionate and arbitrary force on civilians.
The Programme of Action committed Member States to respect international humanitarian law and not engage in any actions that would negatively impact the rights of people to self-defence and self-determination, he said. However, Israel was indifferent to the appeals of Palestine and the international community to stop targeting civilians and using excessive force against them. Israel’s action made arms collection impossible. Israel continued its targeted killings of Palestinians according to lists distributed by its military. It was trying to assassinate members of the Hamas leadership. All of that made weapons control of land and sea borders impossible. Just a few days ago, Israeli aircraft had bombed the Ministry of the Interior in western Gaza and the Headquarters of the Council of Ministers of Palestine. Such attacks prevented Palestinians from carrying out their responsibilities in small arms control. Israel continued to be the major source of small arms and lights weapons in the Palestinian territories either through the complicity of Israeli security forces or control by illegal group. Thus, the occupying forces remained responsible for controlling the cross-border movement of weapons. Palestinian authorities would no doubt comply with all rules, if allowed to do so.
Right of Reply
In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said his delegation had arrived last week with a view to engage constructively in the international process to enhance the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action. But after the statement of the Palestinian Observer earlier in the meeting, the Israeli delegation felt the need to take the Conference’s precious time to clarify a few points. The Conference was taking place against the backdrop of continuing Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel, launched after weeks of Israeli restraint.
Indeed, almost daily armed Qassam rockets continued to be fired from Gaza into southern Israel, killing and traumatizing innocent Israeli civilians. In that light, it had been shocking and most troubling to hear the Palestinian Observer call for enhanced international efforts to eradicate the illicit spread of small and light weapons. In fact nothing would please the Israeli Government more than to see the Palestinian Authority implement the same stringent international guidelines its representative had called for.
Instead of speaking truthfully about the realities on the ground, that representative had thrown smoke into the eyes of the international community and had instead chosen to hide the killing and terrorizing of innocent Israeli citizens under the pretext of the right to self-determination. Israel would remain committed to implementing the 2001 Programme, as part of its overall efforts to end terrorism.
Mr. ANTONOV ( Russian Federation) informed the Conference that Moscow had received a statement from Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, saying he had been following closely the negotiations in New York on following up the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action. He said that Mr. Kalashnikov was concerned about the illegal spread of, and traffic in, small arms and light weapons. He wanted to remind the United Nations that of the 100 million or so units of the gun that had been produced over the past 60 years, only 10 per cent had been produced legally. That meant that 90 per cent were counterfeit, having been reproduced illegally.
With that in mind, he said, Mr. Kalashnikov called for tougher regulations, including careful national marking of each and every unit, as well as mechanisms put in place to monitor weapons transfers. He also stressed the importance of having end-user certificates in place, which would make it easier to keep the weapons out of the hands of armed groups and non-State actors. He hoped that concrete results could be achieved at the Conference, added Russia’s representative, who said Mr. Kalashnikov’s statement would be circulated, and the Russian Federation would like that statement to be considered as an official document of the Conference.