Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the UN Security Council Small Arms Ministerial
New York, New York, September 24, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
As Prepared for Delivery
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow Ministers,
colleagues, and guests -- I want to begin, as others have, by thanking Foreign Minister van
Aartsen and his government for taking this important initiative. The United States looks
forward to working with the Netherlands, and all those represented here today, to combat
the traffic in small arms.
Over the past year, I have raised these issues in meetings, speeches, and through a report
on the arms trade issued by the State Department this summer. I am optimistic that support
for strong action is growing worldwide. And I will carry that message with me from our
meeting today, beginning next month when I will be raising these issues as part of a trip to
Although prices are low, the social cost of arms sales is high. Countries that are among the
world's poorest spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying small arms and other weapons.
Funds are diverted, crops are mortgaged, and relief supplies are stolen to finance these
purchases. In each case, it is the people who are the losers.
The international community must develop an integrated, comprehensive response -- in
countries of origin and countries of conflict, among buyers, sellers and brokers, and with
governments as well as international and non-governmental organizations.
In today's Presidential Statement, we commit ourselves to strengthening our coordination,
promoting disarmament in peacekeeping operations, and improving the enforcement of small
The United States strongly supports these steps. Let me mention several other initiatives
that we are taking, or that we hope to undertake in concert with others.
The United States will refrain from selling arms to regions of conflict not already
covered by arms embargoes. We encourage other nations to establish and observe
We have passed laws making it illegal for traffickers subject to American law to
broker illicit deals anywhere. We ask others to crack down on brokering as well.
We are working with the European Union to develop principles of restraint and a joint
And we are supporting the efforts of the Kampala-based UN Institute for Crime
Prevention and the Organization of American States, and planning to assist the West
Africa Small Arms Moratorium.
We welcome the important precedent which the UN has set by undertaking the destruction
of more than eighteen thousand weapons, and millions of rounds of ammunition, left over
from the Liberian civil war. The United States is participating in this effort. And we are
committed to working toward destroying such stocks of weapons worldwide.
Finally, we should all commit to finishing negotiations on a firearms protocol to the UN
Transnational Organized Crime Convention by the end of 2000.
Let me also propose that it is time to attack the economy of war that supports illicit arms
flows. In many instances, these transactions are fuelled by sales of gemstones, precious
metals and narcotics. Too often, the profits fund violence and mayhem -- as in Sierra Leone,
where illicit diamond profits allowed the RUF to transform itself from a band of 400 to a
marauding army of thousands.
Ambassador Fowler, as the Chair of the Security Council's Sanctions Committee on Angola,
is working aggressively on the underground economy which fuels that country's civil war.
His efforts provide important lessons for other zones of conflict.
The United States accounts for 65 percent of the world's gemstone market, and we
recognize that we must do our par to end illicit transactions. We hope to work here at the
UN with other nations, and industry, to strengthen certification regimes worldwide. We
want particularly to work with the diamond-producing countries to make sure that their
interests in strong, stable markets are protected.
No solution to this problem -- or to the broad challenge posed by illicit arms sales worldwide
-- will be complete or materialize overnight. But governments have a responsibility to keep
arms transactions transparent and make those involved accountable. If we do, we can
tighten control of borders, make it harder to move arms around, and drive illegitimate
traffickers out of business.
FAS Home | ASMP Home | Search | About ASMP
Publications | Sales Data | Issues | Resources