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The argument for a universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory small arms control regime






H.E. Mr. Alpha Oumar Konare, President of the Republic of Mali and H.E. Mr. Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister of France, co-chairs


Executive Summary
I. Introduction: EPG within the global small arms campaign
II. Small Arms Violence: the humanitarian challenge
III. Small Arms Proliferation: the arms control challenge
IV. An international transparency regime
V. National Export Controls
VI. An international code of conduct

Executive Summary

The excessive and destabilizing accumulation and transfer of small arms outside of formal regulatory controls and the resulting toll inflicted on civilian populations in countries around the world poses one of the great humanitarian challenges of our time. Small arms proliferation also constitutes a serious threat to global peace and prosperity. Although the availability of such arms in large numbers and outside formal security structures may not in and of itself generate conflicts, it can dramatically increase their likelihood, duration and lethality. Yet, to date the international trade in small arms remains largely unregulated.

The humanitarian and arms control challenges posed by small arms proliferation require most urgent attention and should be faced in conjunction with other arms control measures to reduce the threat of and eventually eliminate weapons of mass destruction. While the majority of weapons originate in the industrialized North, the majority of victims of these weapons are scattered throughout all parts of the developing South. Given its role in creating the problem, basic morality suggests that it is time for the North to join with the South in confronting the humanitarian challenge of small arms violence.

As a sub-campaign and integral to the larger small arms campaign, the Eminent Persons Group's (EPG) overall objective is to curtail the proliferation of small arms. The need for a proportional and integrated approach to curbing small arms proliferation notwithstanding, the group undertakes to confront the supply side of the illicit trade by making cross-border arms sales subject to arms control, export and transparency regimes as a means to promoting regional stability, peaceful resolution of conflict, arms control, human rights, democratization, and economic development.

Such a goal will require both politically and legally binding instruments, involving operative and normative measures pertaining to the licit as well as the illicit trade. In an effort to help in formulating an action agenda for the 2001 UN conference on small arms trafficking in all its aspects, the group aims to promote a small arms control regime (SACR), broad in scope and global in reach and to consist of, on the preventive side, (1) an international transparency regime, (2) strengthened national export controls, and (3) an international code of conduct. On the reduction side, to consist of weapons collection programs as integral to peace agreements, demobilization programs, and post-conflict reconstruction.

In submitting this white paper, the EPG pursues the following objectives:

· to broaden understanding of the scope and magnitude of small arms proliferation as a humanitarian challenge, not purely as a regional, but as a global phenomenon and to mobilize public opinion against it;

· to broaden understanding of the scope and magnitude of small arms proliferation as an arms control challenge, not purely as a regional, but as a global phenomenon and to mobilize governmental opinion against it;

· to define and delimit the role of the UN in dealing with the problem imposed by the illicit trade in small arms;

· to galvanize and channel international governmental and non-governmental support towards the realization of some realistic and attainable goals, such as enhanced transparency, national export controls and an international code of conduct;

· to facilitate a broad dialogue among UN member States, the Secretariat, interested NGOs and EPG on a cooperative regulatory approach to small arms proliferation; and

· to retain the lead taken by EPG on curbing small arms proliferation by focusing its deliberations to the supply side of illicit small arms.

I. Introduction: EPG within the global small arms campaign

The humanitarian, political-economic and security dimensions of excessive and destabilizing accumulations of small arms confront civil and political society with the need for immediate action. With political awareness aroused by the human toll of illicit small arms in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Western Hemisphere, denoting the issue's global dimension, the UN is embarking on the important task to convene, by 2001, an international conference on the illicit trade in small arms in all its aspects.

A nascent global campaign is to be commended for successfully pushing small arms onto the agenda of multilateral arms control. Unlike the international campaign to ban landmines, however, the emerging "movement" is lacking in focus and direction. A plethora of initiatives notwithstanding, concerns persist that economic and political interests of the few may hinder tangible humanitarian results for the many.

The potential for diversion is immense as even basic agreement on how to define the issue remains wanting. Is it, for example, an arms control, disarmament or crime prevention issue; is one to address oneself on the supply or the demand side, the precipitating versus root causes of small arms violence? Too overwhelming, then, the dualism which connects illicit arms to the licit trade, where a majority of them originate, too daunting the interaction between the licit and illicit trade, too challenging the interconnectedness between the root and precipitating causes of civil conflict and small arms violence.

Small arms violence poses as much an arms control challenge as a humanitarian challenge. It can also be said, since a majority of weapons producers are located in the developed world and a majority of weapons recipients in the developing world, the small arms issue is, at its core, a North-South issue. In the North, the global campaign on small arms must be put in the framework of development, demilitarization and peace building. In the South, such a campaign must be put in the context of a broader justice-oriented community and human rights.

Reducing the number of small arms requires a multisectoral and comprehensive approach, encompassing a whole range of measures, both operative and normative, which must be dealt with both within the context of conflict prevention and conflict resolution. Small arms action must address both security, humanitarian and developmental concerns.

Economic development is dependent on a secure and stable political environment. Some refer to this as the "Security First" approach. But the opposite is also true: without economic development, many of the root causes of grievance cannot be properly addressed and there will be no political stability. A more appropriate-nonetheless more daunting- approach instead of "Security First" is "a proportional and integrated approach to security and development." In areas of conflict, both security and development aspects must be integrated into national programs as well as into international cooperation efforts.

Whereas, however, taking a narrow approach "Security First" advances security at the expense of development, the proportional-integrated approach takes too broad a venue with respect both, to the supply of and demand for small arms, existent and future stockpiles and inherent linkages between security and development. It would appear that it strives to achieve too much in too short a period of time.

Recognizing security and development as corollaries in reducing supply the EPG compromise cooperative regulatory approach advances a constructive parallelism between both input functions without establishing ipso facto linkages which, from a bargaining point of view, should lend itself to tangible results within a reasonable time frame. The compromise approach built around a universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory Small Arms Control Regime which centers on transparency and accountability should not be seen as an alternative, but as a minimalist position concomitant to the integrated-proportional approach.

An independent international commission the Eminent Persons Group strives to make a specific contribution to the emerging global small arms effort. While fully acknowledging the need for a broad approach, EPG pursues a cooperative regulatory approach to the international trade in small arms. As a sub-campaign and integral to the larger small arms campaign being led by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), EPG undertakes to confront the supply side of the illicit trade by making cross-border arms sales subject to arms control, export and transparency regimes. Moreover, governments will be encouraged to limit the number of small arms approved for export, to combat illicit transfers of weapons and to assist in extracting surplus weapons which are circulating the global market. In this complex situation, a sincere abhorrence of covert wars and civilian destruction would prove conducive to putting in place the norms that would regulate state behavior.

The attainment of the goal requires an integrated proportional approach between governments and civil society to advance elements of a realistic plan of action for the 2001 UN conference on small arms trafficking in all its aspects. Within the preparatory process for the conference, this approach consists of two tracks: first, the involvement of EPG on the inter-governmental level and secondly, the participation of EPG within the NGO community. For the two levels of action, the governmental and non-governmental, are co-dependent and mutually enhancing in building momentum for regulatory controls and micro-disarmament.

EPG's ability to remain highly visible at both, the non-governmental and inter-governmental levels of small arms action, defines the Commission's juxtaposition within the global small arms effort. The Commission's uniqueness lies in the special blending of incumbent and former officials at the highest levels of government from around the world. Members of the Commission represent both, weapons-exporting and weapons-importing countries. This active involvement of decision-makers in the early stages of and throughout the preparatory process is essential to political advances towards curtailing small arms proliferation. It is the high caliber of members of the commission, which provides for the level of credibility and political prestige to assure serious deliberations.

With respect to the governmental level, EPG is in exploratory talks with UN member States, within the Group of Interested States (GIS), to provide for a consultative framework, affiliated with but independent of the eminent persons group. GIS is comprised of foreign ministers of those UN member States which are taking the lead on the small arms issue and which find themselves in conceptual agreement on the cooperative regulatory approach inherent in SACR. Without prejudice to national bargaining positions, GIS facilitates consultations on a multilateral approach to small arms proliferation both, throughout the preparatory process and at the conference itself. With respect to the non-governmental level EPG is actively cooperating with and working through IANSA. At the same time, as part of its commitment to help raise the profile of small arms proliferation globally, EPG is pursuing a vigorous public diplomacy schedule.

In close consultation with UN member States, the UN Secretariat and other NGOs the group will, within the preparatory committee, advance elements of an action agenda aimed at curtailing illicit small arms by confronting the illicit trade. To be successful such an action agenda must center on increased transparency and raised common standards and provide concrete and practical measures on the global and regional level. The group will submit to the UN conference a report on the scope and magnitude of the illicit arms trade, ways to curb it and the United Nations role in collecting and disseminating information in this area, prevention and enforcement.

II. SMALL ARMS VIOLENCE: the humanitarian challenge

The destabilizing accumulation of small arms outside of formal regulatory controls and the resulting toll inflicted on civilian populations in countries around the world poses one of the great humanitarian challenges of our time.

Small arms violence undermines good governance and, in so doing, jeopardizes fundamental human rights, economic development, political stability, social justice and peace. The overabundance of small arms has come to affect nearly all parts of the UN system. In exacerbating armed conflict, violence, crime, social disruption, displacement of peoples and human suffering, and threatening UN peace and relief missions, curtailing the proliferation of small arms will be "one of the key challenges in preventing conflict in the next century."

The qualitative and quantitative nature of post-modern warfare has changed and greatly increased its impact on civilians. There has been a complete elimination of the well-recognized distinction between combatants on the one hand and the civilian population on the other. In many wars, the primary strategy seems to effect maximum civilian casualties by either maiming or outright killing. Indeed, decimation of the opponent's civilian population has become an essential part of the strategy of modern warfare.

Small arms are the weapon of choice in most conflicts and responsible for 90% of casualties; they are the weapons that kill most people in most wars. A majority of the 200,000 deaths annually are civilian, most notably children, with only a minimal decline of casualties (less than 30%) in the post-conflict phase. For these weapons are inexpensive, readily available and easy to operate. In Uganda, for example, an AK-47 automatic rifle, of which there are around 55 million in circulation, and which can be easily carried, maintained and assembled by a ten year old child, can be bought for the price of a chicken and in Northern Kenya for the price of a goat.

In many conflicts, children are forced to engage in open hostilities. UNICEF estimates that a quarter million have ended up as "child combatants" in some 30 recent conflicts. A whole generation of children the world over is being inducted into a culture of violence marked by violent death and injury, with dire psychological consequences. This mental militarization, de-humanisation and transformation of societal values, which lead to the quest of some to solve social problems in a violent manner will, over time, tear apart the last remnants of civil society.

In developing countries around the world, ever-expanding small arms and light weapons expenditures aggravate deteriorating domestic conditions. Civil wars disrupt trade, tourism and investment. With more and more resources diverted to maintaining internal order, human rights abuses increase, basic human needs are neglected and democracy and development are put at risk.

The growing control of crime over civil society poses additional dangers to political and economic reform by threatening democratic structures. In many countries, precious natural resources, rather than being means for economic and political empowerment for the many, end up fueling the engines of war and annihilation to enrich the few. The trade in diamonds, oil and precious metals increasingly provides funds for illicit arms purchases and has led to the creation of a dangerous strategic triad of political, criminal and commercial interests.

A 1996 World Bank report explains the connection between war and poverty. During the past decade, fifteen of the twenty poorest countries in the world have experienced major conflict. Virtually every low-income country in the world has either undergone major conflict, or borders on one or more countries in conflict. The inability of increasing numbers of governments to redress social iniquities worsens the conditions of the disenfranchised and greatly contributes to frustration and sudden explosions of violence.

The world has seen more conflict in the last twenty years than at any time that century. As a result, about 35 million people are currently displaced, either outside or within their country. While the mere presence of small arms in large numbers and outside formal security structures may not in and of itself generate conflict, it nonetheless increases the likelihood of violent eruptions and increases their scale and lethality. At the same time, their continued presence or improper management during a peace process may prolong conflict. Moreover, increasingly, these weapons are being turned against relief workers, who provide desperately needed social services throughout the world.

Beyond threatening intra-state political and economic stability, the ready supply of inexpensive small arms through the illicit arms trade proves conducive to heightening inter-state conflict. Weapons routes crisscross the entire continent and it is no longer necessary to be a neighbor to a conflict area to feel its ill effects. Weapons from Afghanistan, for example, travel eastward to reach China's coastal cities and southwards to feed conflict in Sri Lanka.

With cross-border guerilla groups proliferating and dividing into warring factions capable of outgunning government forces, internal instabilities increasingly tend to evolve into larger regional wars, putting the nation-state system itself in jeopardy. The conflict in Congo-Kinshasa involves the armed forces of eight countries and several militia groups. As a result, of the 22 million refugees globally, 8.1 million are in Africa.

Around the globe, there are at least 20 locations where an armed conflict could occur or recur due largely to an incomplete process of disarmament either of former combatants or civilians, particularly among societies with fragile or fledgling state structures.

III. SMALL ARMS PROLIFERATION: the arms control challenge

Over the course of the past decade small arms have become the primary choice of weapons for political and criminal groups in fueling armed conflicts, wars, massacres, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations. That, in no small measure is due to the fact that small arms are too readily available and too inexpensive, while at the same time requiring only minimal training, logistics and support to maintain and operate.

300 manufacturers in 74 countries produce small arms, of which well over 500,000,000 are believed to be in circulation, inside or outside of state regulatory controls. Between 1985 and 1995, there has been a twenty-five per cent increase in the number of producers. Moreover, low-end sell-offs or give-aways of "surplus" small arms increase supply as well. As a result, there is an overabundance of inexpensive small arms glutting the world market.Yet, to date the international trade in small arms remains largely unregulated.

Principal sources of small arms include: small arms acquired for legal purposes and misused (e.g. human rights violations and external aggression), small arms acquired for legal purposes and sold/stolen; small arms for crime and unintentional injuries (gray market), and illegally manufactured or trafficked small arms (black market). Whatever the perspective, i.e. peace-building versus crime prevention or arms control, draining these supply sources is imperative.

Measures must be devised to limit the access to small arms (licensing, storage, embargoes), to reduce the supply of small arms (control of manufacture, identification, tracing etc.) and to reduce the demand for small arms (amnesties, buy-backs). The weapons of violence must be brought back into the control of the state, with the state itself being made accountable for its deeds. This essentially means empowering the state at one level, and using all tools available to induce more responsible behavior on its part, at another. The two approaches must be mutually compatible.

The permanent members of the UN Security Council alone are responsible for 85% of the global arms trade. 40% of the worldwide flow of small arms is attributed to illicit trafficking and the majority of illicit weapons are proven to originate in the licit trade. Getting these governments to tighten national controls and to accept strengthened international standards for legal arms transfers should lend itself to reducing supply, significantly.

Small arms transfer policies should be designed to support transfers that do not destabilize or threaten regional peace and security. With production monitored and limited and exports restricted and tighter controlled a reduced supply should restrict access and decrease overall circulation.

Given that small arms are produced, acquired and exported for legitimate purposes it is not, as opposed to the global campaign to ban landmines, appropriate to seek a ban. Rather, EPG's overall objective is to assist in efforts to curtail the supply of illicit small arms. Such an objective will require a constructive parallelism among a range of politically and legally binding instruments, involving operative and normative measures which pertain both to the licit as well as the illicit trade, and which address both conflict prevention and conflict resolution.

As one building block toward this overall objective, the group's goal is to promote a cooperative regulatory approach built around a small arms control regime (SACR), broad in scope and global in reach and to consist of, on the preventive side, (1) a Small Arms Register, (2) strengthened national export controls, and (3) an international code of conduct. On the reduction side, to consist of weapons collection programs as integral to peace agreements and post-conflict demobilization and reconstruction programs as well as to conflict prevention strategies.

Universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory SACR would integrate current efforts based on a variety of approaches: crime prevention, arms control, firearms regulation, human rights, development, gun safety etc. It should, therefore, not be viewed as detracting from or interfering with ongoing, local, national or regional efforts. Rather, SACR can be said to provide a set of common standards around which these efforts can be harnessed.

Cooperative arms regulation and disarmament must address security and developmental concerns as functional corollaries and must be integrated into national programs as well as into international cooperation efforts. While the task is a daunting one, many international development agencies have already taken steps to incorporate security sector reform and other conflict prevention strategies into their assistance programs.

Integral to cooperative disarmament, preventive measures must pursue two objectives: first, to limit and control availability and access to small arms (supply side) and secondly, to reduce the demand for such weapons (demand side). On the supply side such an approach necessitates measures aimed at effectively regulating legal transfers between states based on a principle of responsible restraint, controlling the availability, use and storage of small arms within states, preventing and combating illicit transfers, collecting and removing surplus arms from both civil society and regions of conflict, increasing transparency and accountability, support for research and information sharing.

Correspondingly, on the demand side, the international community must commit to helping reverse cultures of violence through support for the reform of the security sector (both police and military) in affected states as fundamental to good governance, through the promotion of norms of civilian non-possession and of government restraint, by enhancing demobilization and reintegration programs for ex-combatants, by halting the abhorrent use of child fighters and by effectively combating the culture of impunity that fuels the illicit arms trade.

Also, reduction measures must be devised to secure, destroy or otherwise responsibly dispose of small arms that are already in circulation, inside or outside of legal possession. The international donor community should establish collection and buy-back programs as well as other mechanisms to identify and promote best practices and to ensure adequate financial support. This is of particular importance with respect to "surplus" military weapons during a peace process. Integral to peace accords, combatants must be demobilized, disarmed and weapons surrendered safely destroyed. There are important lessons to be learned from small arms collection and destruction (Mozambique, Mali, Liberia) reintegration of ex-combatants into productive civilian life (Cambodia, Philippines), post-conflict reconstruction (Cambodia, Bougainville) and the reform of police, judicial and penal systems (Cambodia, Papua New Guinea). Law enforcement efforts in States where the illicit use of small arms is particularly severe should be supported as well.

The international donor community should cooperate with affected states in the establishment of incentive-based weapons collection programs as well as other mechanisms to identify and promote best practices and to ensure adequate financial support. The UN can develop centers for excellence pertaining to certain aspects of the problem area, such as arms collection programs, security sector reform and security arrangements for post-conflict development. Technical and financial resources are needed and the UN can play a role in mobilizing these resources.

IV. An international transparency regime

A UN Register on Small Arms could help in addressing the destabilizing consequences of large-scale legal transfers by virtue of improved management and control. Given the overall import of small arms as a destabilizing factor, such an approach would appear preferable in order to address the small arms issue as an arms control issue in its own right, independent of larger conventional weapons. The monitoring of small arms flows as conducive to determining destabilizing accumulations could, in fostering transparency, enhance trust, confidence, security and, by extension, durable peace.

The Register would have to be universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory. Under the Register, governments would be required to submit generalized reports, declaring production, stockpiling and transfer of small arms, to mark small arms and commit themselves not to import nor export unmarked small arms. Such a measure would hold governments to a higher standard of accountability. Within this context, the contentious issue of covert arms shipments could be addressed as well. Special oversight mechanisms could be set-up to protect parochial national security interests.

A UN Register could also furnish details of illicit arms seized, illicit arms destroyed and a list of third party arms brokering agents convicted of illegal brokering activities. A proposed UN yearbook, available to the general public, with the aim of collecting and analyzing data on small arms production and transfers might further advance the objective. There should be generalized reports to the Register as well as to the Yearbook.

Verification and transparency are mutually enhancing. Thus, information gathering and sharing, integral to an intrusive verification process and critical to prevention and enforcement, is both a precondition for and function of transparency. Consequently, cooperation, coordination, training and information sharing among police, intelligence and customs within and between countries must be enhanced.

Moreover, UN early warning systems should be set up in order to enhance early detection of proliferation. Points of transfer, such as harbors and supply roads, especially in regions of conflict, must be controlled for. Such could be done by encouraging a "monitoring culture" within which, in countries concerned, UN, embassy personnel, or NGO-fieldworkers, for example, sound alarm the moment they witness small arms accumulations or illicit transfers. Regional organizations, such as the OAU, OAS, and OSCE, for example, will be pivotal to supporting the monitoring capacity in low-income countries.

Also, small arms tracking by improved, simple and cost-effective arms marking techniques, together with the exchange of information on small arms production, stocks, and transfers, should further enhance transparency, be it global or regional in scope. All weapons should be marked (showing for example the year and place of manufacture, as well as current ownership) so that records can be maintained and each movement of each weapons traced. Arms tracking by means of marking holds markets and governments to higher standards of accountability.

V. National export controls

National legislation on the manufacture, possession, use, trade, transport and circulation of small arms must be revised and reinforced. Export control norms must be set and concrete and practical measures supporting their implementation developed.

Export permits of limited duration should be granted on a case-by-case basis and, consistent with international agreements, arms control initiatives and possibly existent UN embargoes, should be guided by weighing the risk of adverse economic, political, or social impact within the recipient nation, as well as the human rights, terrorism, and proliferation records of the country in question. Governments should be encouraged to exercise unilateral restraint where such action is effective and not impeded by overriding national interests. Restraint must apply to the transfer of "surplus" weapons as well.

A new emphasis must be placed on enforcement at both, the national and regional level, especially in order to confront the globalization of the black market in small arms and new operational linkages between political and criminal groups. Practical control measures must be enhanced at national and international levels, such as police and customs cooperation must be strengthened and border patrols improved. Model regulations on small arms transfers should be developed to confront new transnational threats, including the production, distribution, and abuse of narcotics, illegal arms trafficking and terrorism. Internationally operating criminals, the "merchants of death," must be identified, apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

States must be supported in their serious efforts to restrict the flows of small arms into their countries and sub-regions. Partnerships could be developed to improve the capacity of law enforcement, customs and border patrol to monitor and control arms flows and accumulations. International assistance to help develop national and community capacity to combat illicit trafficking in arms is essential.

Authorizing systems must be established for small arms manufacturers, dealers and, in particular, brokers. Increasingly, as controls on arms brokering are weak in many countries, brokering agents are found responsible for a majority of "illicit" arms shipments into regions of conflict. Too often efforts to control arms brokering are undermined by brokering agents moving offshore, where controls are less stringent or even absent. An international response to the brokering of small arms is necessary.

A comprehensive control regime should be put in place to regulate the activities of national and international agents who engage in the business of brokering with respect to the manufacture, export, import or transfer of small arms. There should be government licensing requirements for corporate and individual arms brokering activities. In order to reinforce and strengthen national laws, corporations and individuals should be subject to national jurisdiction for their worldwide arms brokering activities. Such an approach would also help States avoid becoming unwitting parties to illegal arms trafficking; aid in verifying the accuracy of arms export applications both before and after export authorizations, prevent misuse and diversion, help identify and apprehend international criminals and ensure their prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

VI. An international code of conduct

Governments have foremost responsibility for controlling arms manufacture and transfers. Existing laws and regulations have failed in halting the illicit manufacture and trafficking in small arms. Since small arms tend to flow from unregulated to regulated areas, a purely national response would be of little consequence. Rather, multilateral cooperation is called for on international standards for domestic controls as well as international standards for tracking the flow of weapons. A concrete possibility could be to revise the "Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers" to include amendments that specifically address the proliferation of small arms.

A more comprehensive approach is, however, in conformity with Art. 26 of the UN Charter, to reach agreement on an effective export control regime based on universal principles for the regulation of small arms transfers. Integral to responsible national export policies, an international code must promote national and multilateral responsibility, restraint, control and transparency.

An international code of conduct must control the legal manufacture, transit and transfer of small arms, including subcomponents, munitions, delivery systems, military and security training, and sensitive military and dual-use-technology, in order to confront illicit diversions from the licit trade. With theft, corruption or neglect contributing significantly to the availability of small arms to the illicit trade, States should be required to undertake greater efforts in ensuring adequate safeguards. In this regard, the UN could provide a focus for sharing vital information on stockpile management and safe management of small arms. At the same time, the illicit manufacture must be addressed.

The International Code should set clear standards for arms transfer eligibility. Governments should be held to free and fair elections, human rights and civil liberties protection and respect for international law. Those governments that have not already done so should be required to integrate respect for humanitarian law and human rights into relevant national systems and international agreements relating to development and arms transfers and their implementation. Moreover, civilian control over the military and transparency in military spending should be assured. At the same time, a government could not be engaged in a civil war, international conflict, or sponsoring international terrorism. Arms transfers must take into account an analysis of their impact on regional and national security. In addition, all nations would be required to participate in the UN Small Arms Register, to respect international arms embargoes and military sanctions. Small arms transfers to States not party to the Code are prohibited. Overall, government to government transfers should be restricted.

In order to enhance export and import licensing standards, the Code should require requests for authorization to contain an authorization manifesto which includes, inter alia, a number which is unique to the country of issuance, the name of the issuing country, date of issuance, identification of authorizing party, identification of importer, quantity, value, type, manufacturer, model and country of manufacture and expiration date. To prevent misuse, unauthorized re-exportation and post-export diversion, increased efforts must be placed on verifying the accuracy of small arms export applications both before and after export authorization. In particular, arms exports should be subject to the provision of a valid end-user certificate.

Should an export license have been rejected by one State party to the international code, then another State issuing the same license should be required to inform on its reasoning in so doing.

Moreover, the Code should strengthen licensed arms production standards. Under an approved arms production license, an arms company in one country permits a company in another country to produce weapons on its territory. Unfortunately, as export controls in the second country may prove to be of a lower standard, many weapons designed and initially produced in restrictive countries tend to flow to sensitive destinations from less restrictive countries. Therefore, the same checks that are being applied to direct arms exports must be applied to licensed arms production, as well.

At the same time, obligatory third party liability insurance should be required for every small arm produced or traded. Original owners must be held liable for the damages incurred by their small arms during the illicit phase of their life cycle. It should be irrelevant that the damaging act itself is, by whatever reason, perpetrated by a third person. Such liability insurance would protect victims of gun violence. It would force small arms producers and dealers to act more responsibly and would protect the taxpayer from being shouldered with the bill.

Third party liability should be coupled with clear norms of civilian non-possession. Fully automatic assault rifles, for example, should be barred from civilian use. There must be clear distinction between the kinds of weapons that are legitimately available to military and law enforcement officers and those available to civilians. Advertising for small arms should be restricted. These measures are not aimed at banning appropriate possession and use for sporting or self-defense purposes.

An important element of the Code must be stringent measures to curtail the black market. A lucrative black market, encompassing "non-sanctioned" activities of non-state actors, such as brokers, transportation agents and the like, operating outside the reach of state authority and accepted standards of humanitarian law and often in contravention of existing embargoes, has sprung up to meet an ever growing demand. The black market in small arms cannot be seen in isolation but, if alone from a law enforcement perspective, must be viewed within the context of other illicit markets in commodities, such as drugs and precious stones.

A good approach to curtailing the black market is to increase the cost of trafficking. Towards that end, profits derived from trafficking must be reduced and stiffer penalties imposed. First, there is too much money to be had in small arms trafficking, especially in relation to punishment. Increasing the cost of small arms should have the dual effect of reducing profit margins for traffickers and of making it harder for groups to accumulate them in large quantities. Secondly, illicit small arms trafficking must be punishable, even if it occurs abroad. Nationals of any country even when operating abroad must be subject to national jurisdiction. The principle of extra-territoriality, which is already enforceable for the trade in human beings, should be extended to the illicit arms trade. It is inadmissible that crossing the borders makes one immune from prosecution. Moreover, illegal trafficking in small arms should be penalized as a treaty crime before the International Criminal Court.

As a significant element of the black market owes its existence to surrogate services, which they extend to governments in covert operations, governments commit themselves to restrict covert arms shipments and to report them to a confidential supervisory panel of the UN Register on Small Arms. For too long, connections between intelligence, law enforcement communities and traffickers have permitted this part of the black market to operate with near impunity.

Finally, the international community should adopt a more systematic approach towards imposing and enforcing arms embargoes or import-export moratoria in regions of violent conflicts, rising tensions or continuing blatant human right violations. Where such embargoes exist, measures have to be taken to ensure their strict implementation. Within this context, the Security Council should give a broader mandate to implement relevant SC resolutions.


In 2001, under the courageous leadership of secretary-general Kofi Annan the United Nations will convene an international conference on illicit small arms trafficking. Within the ongoing preparatory process, in the interest of saving lives, an action-oriented agenda for the conference should be agreed upon forthwith, spelling out objectives, goals and means. Precious time should not be wasted on modalities and procedures.

The will is undoubtedly there in many affected countries to redress the myriad problems associated with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The moratorium of Western African States not to import nor export small arms for a renewable period of three years is an important test case to demonstrate the efficacy of self-restraint. What is urgently needed is sustained support in these efforts from the international community. Galvanizing international action to this end is the first goal of the Eminent Persons Group in the months, ahead.


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