JUNE 14, 2010: Global Scourge from Illicit Trade in Small Arms Continues to ‘Wreak Havoc’, Says UN Disarmament Head, as Meeting on 2001 Action Programme Opens

Global Scourge from Illicit Trade in Small Arms Continues to ‘Wreak Havoc’,  Says UN Disarmament Head, as Meeting on 2001 Action Programme Opens
SOURCE: United Nations General Assembly; United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs

Fourth Biennial Meeting of States
on Illicit Trade in Small Arms
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Tells Delegates Serious Gaps Remain in Implementation at National Level; Improved Border Control among Issues to Be Discussed at Fourth Biennial Meeting

"The global scourge from the illicit trade in small arms and ammunition continues to wreak havoc" and was highly destabilizing, impacting upon security and development in literally all regions of the world, Sergio Duarte, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said today at the opening of the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States on combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

Since 2003, Member States have gathered to consider the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which was adopted in 2001. The Programme of Action contains a number of measures to control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, including legislation, destruction of confiscated weapons and strengthening the ability of States to identify and trace those weapons. The Fourth Meeting runs from 14 to 18 June. Earlier meetings were held in 2003, 2005, and 2008, with a Review Conference held in 2006.

While the illicit trade in small arms and ammunition manifested itself in different ways — youth gangs terrorizing a neighbourhood or pirates capturing a commercial vessel, for example — Mr. Duarte added that a common characteristic was the ability to massively multiply force through the use of illicitly acquired fire power. In the face of that, over the past decade the Programme of Action had assumed a central role in the international response. However, serious gaps remained regarding its implementation at the national level. The meeting this week could serve to further discuss the improvements required, including enhancing measurability, acknowledging the value of web-based information platforms, and matching assistance needs with available resources, he said.

Pablo Macedo (Mexico), who was elected Chairperson of the Meeting of States, noted that perhaps the highest cost was the thousands of lives lost daily through the firing of illicit firearms. Stressing that Members States had the opportunity to tackle that threat during the current meeting, he said that a clear message must be sent to arms traffickers and concrete measures that supplemented national, regional or global measures must be produced.

During the ensuing debate, several representatives expressed disappointment that the 2006 review conference on progress made in implementing the Programme of Action had not agreed on a final document. Indonesia's representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was "high time" for all Member States — especially major arms producers — to gather their political will for collective success at the meeting.

Agreeing, Pakistan's representative said the meeting should concentrate on "doables" and avoid statements of a very general nature. The focus should be on things that could be done or which were being done, as there was very little time at the disposal of Member States.

For his part, Uruguay's representative cited a discussion paper he had drafted, with a view to arriving at concrete results. The paper addressed problems related to the lack of effectiveness in the prevention and combating of the illicit small arms trade across borders.

Several delegates also called for a strengthening of legislative regimes and border control mechanisms by, among other things, improving training programmes and updating equipment. Pointing to the special challenges presented by extensive and isolated borders, Colombia's representative called for bolstering coordination and cooperation within and between States, and at regional and subregional levels. Cooperation was a necessary tool to exchange timely and reliable information, he stressed.

France's delegate highlighted the question of controlling arms flows, noting that air transport, in particular, was quicker and more discreet than sea and land. The dearth of information sharing was one of the loopholes exploited by illegal air transporters, which also necessitated cooperation at regional and subregional levels.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Panama (on behalf of the Central American Integration System (SICA) Member States), Egypt, Lithuania, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Nigeria (in a national capacity and on behalf of the African Group), India, Japan, United States, Australia, Philippines, Mexico, Switzerland, Algeria, Israel, Argentina (on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)), Kenya, Sierra Leone, Cuba, Morocco, Peru, Canada, Ecuador, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Thailand, Iran, Senegal, Libya, Bolivia, Uganda, China, and Jamaica.

At the outset, delegates elected, by acclamation, the representatives of Algeria, Australia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Finland, Guatemala, Japan, Mali, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Sudan, and Switzerland as Vice-Chairpersons of the Meeting.

Sarah Parker of the Small Arms Survey presented an analysis of national reports.

In addition, the Chairperson announced that the following representatives had agreed to act as "Friends of the Chair", or facilitators: Federico Perazza of Uruguay, on prevention and combating of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons across borders; Sarah de Zoeten of Australia, on international cooperation and assistance; Lawrence Obisakin of Nigeria, on other issues; and William Kullman, on the international tracing instrument.

The meeting of will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 15 June, to consider international cooperation and assistance.