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Press Release DC/2687
PREPARATORY COMMITTEE FOR 2001 SMALL ARMS CONFERENCE CONCLUDES FIRST SESSION, DEFERS DECISION ON DATE, VENUE
The Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects this evening, 3 March, decided to defer its decision on the dates and venue of the Conference until the 2000 session of the General Assembly, as the Committee concluded its first session.
It also decided to hold its next session from 8 to 19 January 2001 in New York at Headquarters, and the third from 19 to 30 March. Kenya had offered to host the latter, and the Committee decided that the Secretariat would convey the financial implications to the Kenyan delegation, so the General Assembly could take a decision at its next session.
The Committee also deferred its decision on the modalities of attendance by non-governmental organizations at its future sessions. It further decided to continue considering its recommendations to the Conference on all relevant matters, including the objective, a draft agenda, draft rules of procedure and draft final documents.
The Preparatory Committee decided to request its Chairman to conduct broad-based consultations in an open-ended, transparent and informal manner during the inter-sessional period. The Committee requested its Chairman to hold those consultations with representatives of States and intergovernmental organizations. During the period, the Chairman might also receive views from civil society. The Preparatory Committee also requested its Chairman to report on the outcome of his consultations at its second session.
In another decision, it requested the Secretariat to submit to its second session a draft agenda for the Conference, as well as draft rules of procedures. In addition, the Secretariat was to make a number of documents available, including those related to national, subregional, regional and other initiatives; and reports of the Secretary-General, including studies prepared by groups of experts.
The Committee, in particular, requested the study on "the feasibility of restricting the manufacture and trade of such weapons (small arms and light weapons) to the manufacturers and dealers authorized by States, which would cover the brokering activities, particularly illicit activities, related to small arms and light weapons, including transportation agents and financial transactions", as well as the views of Member States on the study.
Also this afternoon, the Preparatory Committee adopted the report of its first session, as orally amended, which began on Monday, 28 February. The report contains decisions of, and recommendations made by, the Committee during the session.
In other action, the Preparatory Committee expanded the composition of its Bureau by electing Carlos Sorreta (Philippines) as an additional Vice-Chairman. The Rapporteur, Mark Gaillard (Canada), formally resigned his position and the Committee then elected him as a Vice-Chairman. The Bureau should consist of a Chairman, 25 Vice-Chairmen and a Rapporteur. Each regional group is represented by five Vice-Chairmen, although the Group of African States has yet to nominate its fifth candidate.
Highlights of Session
Most of the work of the five-day session was devoted to an exchange of views on the dates and venue of the Conference, scheduled for 2001, the dates and venue of the Committee's subsequent sessions and the possible scope of the Conference.
During its general debate, a number of delegates pointed out that the 2001 Conference presented an opportunity to address the spread and abuse of small arms, which were the true weapons of mass destruction and a major source of international insecurity. The illicit trade in and proliferation of small arms were the primary causes of violence and conflict in many countries and had hindered many development efforts, by undermining investor interest and causing the flight of capital and human resources. The increase in drug trafficking was also linked to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
On the scope of the Conference, several delegates suggested adopting a comprehensive approach. They said its mandate should cover a wide range of issues, such as: proliferation of small arms and light weapons; legal trade in those weapons; increased transparency in arms transfers; and the interrelationship between illicit trafficking, smuggling and the legal trade in small arms. Some said the objective of the Conference should be to formulate the means to combat and eradicate the illicit arms trade. The most important area of focus could be on the black market trade in those weapons, they said.
Meanwhile, referring to the diversity of situations accompanying the proliferation of small arms, other delegates said such elements as economic and social development, human rights and standards of governments should not be discussed, as that could lead to an over-politicized debate. That could put at risk any success in combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, they said.
Several delegates said the Conference should take account of initiatives taken at regional, subregional and international levels to deal with the problems posed by illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. At the regional level, a number of organizations in the Americas, Europe, southern Africa and West Africa have adopted initiatives to encourage the marking of weapons, storage and their destruction. International initiatives include the sets of recommendations of the two United Nations panels of governmental experts on small arms. Delegates also referred to the negotiations currently under way in Vienna for a legally binding protocol on illicit firearms trafficking, supplementary to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
The Conference should also consider, during its deliberations, the principles of the United Nations Charter, particularly the right to State sovereignty and the right of a State to develop its own defence system for national security, some delegates said. Another noted that to include consideration of the legal arms trade would call that right into question. Efforts to curb the illicit trade should not affect the legitimate rights of countries to own and transfer small arms, as they represented an indispensable means to safeguard national security.
A large number of delegations stressed the need for a venue that would allow for the broadest participation, particularly by countries directly affected by small arms and those with limited representation. The offer of Switzerland to host the Conference was welcomed by some delegations. They also expressed the need for civil society to participate in the preparatory process and in the Conference, including non-governmental organizations, particularly those relevant to disarmament issues.
Legally binding rules governing the trade in small arms should be drawn up at the 2001 Conference, one delegate stated. The Conference should provide the opportunity to prevent the transfer of military technology, as well as military and security cooperation. Transferring military expertise should be prevented and arms surpluses confiscated and destroyed.
A successful outcome of the Conference would be acceptance of a plan of action with a time table for implementation, one delegate said. The plan could include elements that would focus on such areas as: supply and demand; State responsibility; and developing agreed norms for the security and safe management of arms stockpiles being held by State authorities or State authorized entities. Another delegate called for a ban on the sale of small arms and light weapons to countries sharing contiguous borders with areas of conflict.
Several delegates stated that the final document of the Conference should include a political declaration setting out a framework for future cooperation and action. It should identify elements that would encourage future cooperation and facilitate regional action, such as information exchange, strengthening national laws and regulations, management of stockpiles and improvement in the system of tracing illicit arms flows.
Background of Committee
The Preparatory Committee was established by General Assembly resolution 54/54 V (December 1999) to decide on the dates and venue of the 2001 Conference, as well as on the dates and venue of its subsequent sessions. The Committee was also requested to make recommendations to the Conference on all relevant matters, including the objective, a draft agenda, draft rules of procedure and draft final documents, which will include a programme of action, and to decide on background documents to be made available in advance of the Conference. It was also mandated to take a decision on the modalities of attendance by non- governmental organizations at its sessions.
The officers of the Preparatory Committee are:
Chairman: Carlos dos Santos (Mozambique); Vice-Chairmen: Shen Guofang (China); Makmur Widodo (Indonesia); Hamid Baeidi Nejad (Iran); Mitsuro Donowaki (Japan); Luiz Filipe de Mecedo Soares (Brazil); Juan Miguel Miranda (Peru); Richard Pierce (Jamaica); Nury Vargas (Costa Rica); Yahsar Aliyev (Azerbaijan); Alyaksandr Sychov (Belarus); Valeri Kuchynski (Ukraine); Przemyslaw Wyganowski (Poland); Dace Dobraja (Latvia); Samuel Insanally (Guyana); Denis Dangue Rewaka (Gabon); Alioune Diagne (Senegal); Ismail Khairat (Egypt); Fares Kunidwa (Kenya); Pierre Charasse (France); Mario Duarte (Portugal); Gunnar Lindemann (Norway); Przemyslaw Wyganowski (Poland); Carlos Sorreta (Philippines); and Mark Gaillard (Canada).
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