United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms
16 July 2001
8th Meeting (AM)
CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS HIGHLIGHT IMPACT OF FIREARMS INJURIES,
GUN OWNERSHIP RIGHTS IN SMALL ARMS CONFERENCE DEBATE
In a day set aside especially to hear the presentations of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other concerned civil society actors, The United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects was told that the number of lives saved was the best measure of success or failure of the international communitys efforts to combat this scourge.
The representatives of over 40 organizations addressed a variety of issues reflective of the myriad challenges posed by the proliferation of and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Medical doctors and community health officials addressed issues related to firearm injuries and the effects of trauma. Other speakers addressed the impact of the illicit trade in small arms on the development of communities. Several speakers also addressed the importance of domestic and international controls, as well as follow-up measures.
A representative of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) said now was the time to back words with commitments, and the commitments with action. The first urgent task was for States to put their own houses in order. Civil society was willing and ready to help carry out the arduous task of implementing a comprehensive programme of action as long as the measures envisioned would make a real difference for communities.
Several representatives spoke of the humanitarian impact of the illegal arms trade on the worlds most vulnerable populations, namely, disabled persons, women and children. A representative of the Christian Council of Sierra Leone stated that for decades the global community has been slowly and unconsciously creating a culture of violence in societies, which had adverse effects particularly on children, who viewed weapons as toys. Moreover, the film industry portrayed gun-toting actors as heroes. The consequences were immeasurable, leading to an increase sense of insecurity, fear and mistrust.
The Conference also heard from the representatives of 12 firearms community groups. While reiterating support for the Conference aims to address the illicit trade in small arms, a representative of the National Rifle Association of America expressed concerns that the legitimate domestic rights of United States citizens to own and use legal arms might be restricted by the outcome.
What the firearms community sought from the Conference, stated the representative of Sporting Clays of America, was a formal acknowledgment that sport or recreational shooting was not related to the issues under consideration. The United States, like other countries around the world, had a long tradition of sport shooting. That industry pumped some $30 billion through the United States economy - more than giant conglomerates Coke and Microsoft. Small arms should be defined as military weapons of war designed for full and automatic firing. That definition was consistent with the weapons that were truly causing the most harm. If such a definition was adopted, delegations would take a giant step towards international consensus.
A representative of South Africa Gun Owners' Association said that, while he would strongly support measures to reduce the negative effects of small arms, he was concerned about a lack of focus on the real issues. Of particular concern was the call to restrict possession of sporting arms, which would serve no purpose in reducing conflict and would detract from real issues, such as the transfer of military weapons. "Wars are not fought with sporting arms, but with military weapons", he emphasized.
Believing that the United States position expressed during the ministerial segment represented a minority view of a minority government, a representative of the Million Mom March said she sought to set the record straight. The majority of American citizens favoured better regulation of guns, including licensing of gun owners, registration of guns and closing the gun show loophole that allows criminals and minors to get weapons. The American public was learning that guns purchased in legal markets in their country could and did flow into the global illicit market for small arms.
The ultimate aim of the Conference, said the representative of Viva Rio, a Brazilian organization, must be a reduction in the number of human lives lost as a result of small arms proliferation. In that connection, he proposed, on behalf of the Latin American members of IANSA, to cut the number of fatal victims of small arms by at least 35 per cent by 2006. Considering estimates for the last decade, that would mean that about 1 million lives previously doomed to be killed by small arms would be saved.
Fundación GAMMA IDEAR (Colombia), Physicians for Global Survival (Canada), and Russian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Russian Federation) addressed issues of Gun injuries/trauma and health community perspective. Vulnerable sections of population: disabled persons, women, children were addressed by Leitana Nehan Womens Development Agency (Bougainville).
Representatives of South Asia Partnership International (Sri Lanka), InterBand (Japan), Franciscans International, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, and Pastoralist Peace and Development Initiative (Kenya) spoke under the heading Impacts on communities and development.
Humanitarian and human rights concerns were addressed by OxFam GB (United Kingdom) and Amnesty International (Sierra Leone) with Human Rights Watch.
Representatives of World Forum on the Future of Sports Shooting Activities (Italy), British Shooting Sports Council (United Kingdom), Canadian Institute for Legislative Action (Canada), Forum Waffenrecht (Germany), Single Action Shooting Society (United States), Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, Fair Trade Group (United States), Federation of European Societies of Arms Collectors (Netherlands), and Safari Club International (United States) spoke for the Firearms community groups.
Representatives of Unitarian Universalist Association (United States and Canada) and Gun Free South Africa spoke on Domestic controls of small arms and light weapons.
Issues of Controlling and reducing arms and the International Action Programme were addressed by representatives of Coalition Français (France), Federation of American Scientists (United States), GRIP (Belgium), National Centre for Economic and Security Alternatives (United States), Fundación espacios para el progreso social (Argentina), Christian Council of Churches (Mozambique), and the Fund for Peace (United States).
Representatives of Arias Foundation (Costa Rica), Biting the Bullet Project (United Kingdom), MALAO (Senegal, Eminent Persons Group, and the Institute for Security Studies (South Africa) spoke about Implementation and follow-up.
The United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects met this morning to hear the views of non-State actors. For background, see press release DC/2782 of 5 July.
AMPARO MANTILLA DE ARDILA, Fundación GAMMA IDEAR, Colombia: We must overlook the differences between the licit and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Weapons are almost always associated with injuries and death. Whoever possesses such arms not only uses them for self-defence, but also for assaults. In order to analyse the impact of firearms on developing countries and health, we must look at several factors. Most of these countries have poor economies, in which infrastructure for health is limited, with an insufficient number of hospitals, outdated equipment and limited capacities. For these countries, the number of injuries due to firearms is a true disaster.
Unfortunately, these are the same countries in which the number of injuries due to firearms is the highest. Also, firearms in the household are a latent threat for the inhabitants of the household, especially for women. They contribute to a sense of emotional insecurity. Statistics from Colombia, which are similar to those of other developing countries, show that men are the most affected segment of the population. The measures taken by the Conference with regard to small arms and light weapons will mean enormous economic savings for the health systems of developing countries, which can then devote these savings to treating other health problems.
NEIL ARYA, Physicians for Global Survival, Canada: For many reasons, this conference has not focused on the effects of small arms in developed nations that are not at war. The adverse health effects of small arms are well known to emergency room physicians, trauma surgeons, psychiatrists, paediatricians and family doctors. A physician is not concerned with whether the shooting was a suicide, accident or homicide, whether the perpetrator was a gang member, a soldier or a law-abiding gun owner. What matters to us is whether the patient will survive and if so, what his or her future health will be. Ultimately though, what matters to physicians is whether this ongoing tragedy can be prevented.
Every year since 1972, over 30,000 people have died from gunshot in the United States. Guns there are the leading cause of death in the 15-24 age category, and in Canada the third leading cause. The direct cost of deaths and injuries due to firearms in the United States has been calculated as being $14,000 and $38,000, respectively. The total cost of firearm-related problems has been estimated at $495 per person in the United States. These tolls - human and financial - are why major physicians organizations recognize gun injuries as a major public health problem. In the United States, all large and highly respected medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, have been strong advocates for stricter gun control. I urge you, both as a professional and as a private citizen, to do what you can to reduce the toll of the global epidemic of death and injury from small arms.
VYACHESLAV SHAROV, Russian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW-Russia): The capacity of small arms and light weapons to destabilize regions and threaten the fabric of societies is directly related to their power to intimidate, injure and kill. Violent injuries and premature deaths are undeniably health challenges to victims and their families, as well as a severe burden on health systems in developed and developing nations. Like other epidemics, small arms violence is not confined to national borders, especially when fuelled by illicit trafficking. Reducing injury and death unites us all. The number of lives saved is perhaps a better measure of our success or failure than the numbers of arms diverted, collected or destroyed, manufactured or imported. By joining in this common ground, we can refocus our efforts and move on to new ground together.
Medical and health communities offer to join with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in partnership to not only alleviate suffering and rehabilitate the victims of violence, but to actively participate in the international efforts to prevent injury and death. Public health approaches to prevent injury begin with an examination of environmental factors, the agents of violence, and, particularly, the human aspects of the problem. Health and public health systems can provide an early warning system by identifying the nature and scope of evolving emergency situations as well as the types of wounds cased by weapons and possible treatment for those injuries. A public heath approach requires a rigorous evaluation of the effect that implementation of relevant small arms policies and programmes has on the general health of communities.
HELEN HAKENA, Leitana Womens Development Agency, Bougainville: Many think of the island nations as unarmed and peaceful. Much has changed. In the past decade, 10,000 civilians have been killed with small arms in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, from arms obtained from illegal sources. Since the armed conflict started in 1988, women and children were victims from day one. Womens voices were suppressed, women were raped, tortured or forced to marry combatants. The presence of small arms was frightening. It created a lot of fear, and disturbed the peace and order of civil society.
Bougainvillean people are now deeply traumatized. Next to Bougainville are the Solomon Islands, which are facing the same problem. In Papua New Guinea, firearms take a continuing toll in tribal disputes. In Fiji most recently, a racially inspired coup was supported by illegally acquired government-owned assault rifles. Small arms in the Pacific are smuggled by sea, stolen from government armouries and, in some cases, are manufactured in crude form by local people. Police activities in other parts of the world can result in traffickers rerouting their activities through the South Pacific. As everywhere, effective regulation in one jurisdiction can be undermined by the slack laws of a neighbour.
FLORELLA HAZELEY, Christian Council of Sierra Leone: For the past three decades, the global community has been slowly and unconsciously creating a culture of violence in our societies, which has had adverse effects, particularly on children, in our States, institutions and homes. The introduction of sophisticated, computerized weapons has attracted children, who grow up with the desire to learn and imitate the use of these weapons. The introduction of war and cowboy films without the necessary restrictions for children have had a great effect on them, especially in Sierra Leone, which has gone through the most horrendous rebel war.
The result of this oversight has seen our children considering the use of weapons as toys. Some of these children no longer see weapons as dangerous devices. On the contrary, they admire people using them to kill one another. The drive to learn is so strong that they use local materials like wood to make weapons. Moreover, the film industry also portrays an impression that the gun-carrying actor is the brave, good man. The effects of weapons displayed in those films are reflected in the behaviour of our children today. The consequences are immeasurable and include violating the rights of the child through misuse and abuse, loss of family identity through disintegration of the family unit and an increase sense of insecurity, fear and mistrust.
RICHARD MUGISHA, People with Disabilities, Uganda: Today, not only an estimated 1,370 people are being killed by small arms and light weapons, but tens of thousands more are permanently disabled by them. Basic social services, including hospitals, are destroyed. Farming communities are so disorganized by small arms violence that there is a severe threat to food security in Africa. Persons with disabilities are the most exposed to the risk of small arms and light weapons violence situations, as they are defenceless. Their human rights are grossly violated.
Not only do governments as representatives of their citizens have a responsibility to keep weapons out of murderous hands, they also have a responsibility to provide assistance to the victims of small arms and light weapons violence and to reintegrate them into community life. We cannot accept the situation of an ever-increasing number of persons with disabilities and diminishing social services. We believe the Bamako Declaration represents the views of Africa and we expect delegated to respect it and include it in the final Programme of Action in its totality. We can no longer accept the trend of unregulated flow of illicit arms and light weapons into our communities.
W. JAMES ARPUTHARAJ, Executive Director, South Asia Partnership International, on behalf of South Asia Small Arms Network, Sri Lanka: The question that we ask you today is whether the programme of action will save lives around the world. Can this Conference ensure freedom from fear for the civilian population? Can governments have enough safeguards to protect their civilian population from violent armed conflicts and reduce human insecurity?
We appeal to you to approach the problem of small arms from a human security perspective, in which human development is assured for the civilian population. In South Asia, the proliferation of small arms was initially due to excessive availability and supply. Both governments and civil society need to engage in a dialogue to carry forward the recommendations of this Conference. We call on our governments, particularly those of South Asia, to reach firm agreement on a clear plan of action with a time frame to resolve conflicts in a spirit of dialogue.
KAE KATSURA, InterBand, Japan: InterBand has been tackling the issue of small arms and light weapons since we started the disarmament and demobilization project Guns to Plowshares in Mozambique in 1993. We represent our perspective based on experience from our current project in Cambodia. Demobilized soldiers in Cambodia are faced with landmines, lack of employment opportunities and serious after-effects from the war. In Cambodia, we focus particularly on those in serious living conditions because of mental and physical disabilities. Our aim is to create social safety nets with a holistic approach for demobilized soldiers and their families.
After joint community meetings, we start workshops with demobilized soldiers and their families to start small-scale businesses. Since the impacts of small arms reach not only individuals by the community as a whole, countermeasures have to reach both individuals and society. Therefore, it is essential that the process of creating an international protocol for controlling arms work together with the grass-roots programmes.
LAWRENCE CORREA, Franciscans International: As Franciscans concerned about the poor, care of creation and peacemaking, we want to create a culture of peace. The widespread availability of small arms and light weapons distorts the ethical standards of communities and disrupts the social fabric of society. It also changes the social order, undermines value systems and destroys the sense of family. The availability of these weapons is a catalyst for conflict and hinders the process of human development. Youth and children, whose efforts should be aimed at their own growth and development of their environments and futures, instead participate in illegal activities, conflicts and war.
Many poor people either see conflict as a way to survive or are just forced to fight. This further hinders development. Therefore, we urge the surrendering, seizing and destruction of illicit and excessive small arms and light weapons. In order to encourage people to opt out of a culture of violence, they need to be provided with alternatives. We believe that arms surrendering programmes must be linked to capacity building, education and job opportunities. We call on governments to exercise good governance and to generate the political will to implement and enforce the action plan envisioned by this Conference. We urge all NGOs to monitor this process and ensure governments of our collaboration in this regard.
SALPY ESKIDJIAN, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches: The final document of this Conference must acknowledge that unless the overwhelming insecurities of people are effectively addressed, the heavy demand for small arms and light weapons will continue to frustrate even the best of efforts to control them. The growing demand for weapons is especially strong in the world's many ongoing armed conflicts, but it is also disturbingly present in the urban communities of the global north, as well as south. The only means of reducing that demand is through social, political and economic change that creates other options and offers genuine protection to people. The pursuit of such change must engage a range of peace building, development, governance and social justice imperatives.
We also urge that the Programme of Action emerging from this Conference specifically acknowledge that demand reduction efforts require new and extensive infusion of resources. We urge that the commitment of States to render assistance (contained in section III, paragraph 3) be strengthened by including the appeal, "increased international support for programmes and initiatives that advance human security and promote conditions conducive to long-term peace, stability and development. Churches and other faith communities are especially aware that the extraordinary humanitarian problems posed by small arms and light weapons cannot be solved by States on their own.
RUKIA SUBOW, Pastoral Peace and Development Initiative, Kenya: In the Horn of Africa, small arms proliferation is contributing to violence and suffering among pastoralists and their neighbours. The increased availability of small arms in the northern part of Kenya changed the dynamics of clan conflicts. The use of rapid fire has meant that more people have been killed, which means that lasting enmities arise that are hard to overcome. Wide availability of small arms has also changed the nature of cattle rustling. In October 1998, over 180 people were killed and 17,000 livestock stolen by militias from neighbouring Ethiopia in one day.
The collapsed state of Somalia and widespread rebel movements in this region are the main source of these lethal weapons. The north-eastern province of Kenya cannot be effectively policed. It has no developed infrastructure such as roads. The rebel movements in Ethiopia, the Sudan and Uganda benefit from this. Another source of conflicts which stimulate arms flows stems from livestock keeping. By nature, livestock keeping tends to generate conflict over grazing land, access to water, and rustling. All of these increase demand for small arms. The Horn of Africa will continue to experience the problems of small arms proliferation and violence, unless the reasons why people demand arms are addressed alongside efforts to control arms flows.
EDMUND CAIRNS, OxFam International, also on behalf of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and Care International, United Kingdom: Humanitarian aid workers are often the world's witnesses to the human cost of the proliferation of small arms. But I don't want to talk about us. I want to tell you one story, of a man called Jale from a village called Paimol in northern Uganda. When I met him at the end of February, he showed me the burnt ruin of his hut, where his eight children and two wives had been killed. In the middle of the night, armed cattle raiders from the neighbouring region of Karamoja -- people who only had spears a generation ago, and now have automatic weapons -- had come and killed 58 of Paimol's villagers.
Will we be able to go back to Jale next week and tell him that he can sleep easier in his bed because of the action taken in this building this week? Will we even be able to tell him that the governments of the world have a plan, a timetable, to make life safer in a few years? In short, will governments this week fulfil their responsibility?
ISAAC LAPPIA, Amnesty International (Sierra Leone) with Human Rights Watch: Both amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented the tragedy of the illegal trade and unlawful use of small arms in Sierra Leone. The crisis of small arms violence facing Sierra Leone, as well as Liberia and Guinea, is, first and foremost, about the lack of control and monitoring of arms dealers by many governments. Our research shows that small arms and light weapons are now used by government and opposition armed forces in violent conflict to commit systematic gross human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. In addition, small arms are also used in many countries to facilitate serious crimes by law-enforcement personnel.
Given this reality, it is simply unacceptable that a programme of action does not yet include the specific international duty of Member States to prevent the transfer of arms where there is a strong likelihood that the arms will be used to commit heinous international crimes. Last week, Amnesty International provided the names of 100 countries where human rights abuses by government forces and political opponents using small arms have been documented in the last two years. People suffering all over the world just want governments to face up to their existing State responsibilities. We urge that you include in the text the following: No government should authorize any transfer of small arms or light weapons to a State or non-State actor as long as there is a clear risk that these arms will be used by the likely recipient to commit gross human rights abuses, war crimes or crimes against humanity.
CARLO PERONI of the World Forum on the Future of Sports Shooting Activities (WFSA) Italy: Our organization supports the efforts of the United Nations to stop illegal trade in small arms and light weapons, as well as the efforts of the wider international community to stop organized criminal activity. We seek not to oppose but to assist. Many of you are aware of the call for the creation of a system of firearms marking and tracing. That is our initiative. While I will leave it to other members of the firearms community to make more substantive statements, let me assure you that we will continue to work to see this Conference come to a successful conclusion.
PATRICK JOHNSON, of the British Shooting Sports Council: The legal firearms community supports the reduction of suffering caused by armed conflict. However, in pursuing that noble objective, those same people would not want you to unwittingly make legitimate hunters and sporting shooters victims of the process. They are not the problem, but could be part of the solution through their wealth of technical knowledge.
Like many of you, I am a parent and grandparent and do not wish to see my family or anyone else's suffer. At the same time, I wish my descendants will be able to peacefully enjoy their heritage and to participate in activities that have a long and honourable history. The preamble should acknowledge the legitimate use or possession of firearms by individuals for, among other things, hunting, sport shooting and collecting. You should ensure that nothing in the programme of action should diminish or affect such interests or rights.
TONY BERNARDO, Canadian Institute for Legislative Action, Canada: I live in a land which was founded with a rifle in one hand and a beaver pelt in another. It is a country "awash with small arms". Firearms are an integral part of our society. Canadian citizens own as many as 15 million firearms. That has taught us some important lessons. Does the ownership of firearms create violence? No, in fact, Canada enjoys one of the lowest murder and crime rates in the world. Does the possession of firearms create international conflicts? No, Canadians are fortunate to enjoy a long, undefended border with the United States. Does the presence of so many small arms create poverty? No, in fact, the United Nations has consistently rated Canada as one of the best countries in the world in which to live.
I am compelled to speak also on behalf of Canada's first nations. Some of our indigenous people, who live in the harsh regions of the country's north, depend on firearms for their protection. The mere presence of large numbers of small arms is not the root cause of conflict. Canadians are committed to resolving our conflict with words and not bullets. I implore you to concentrate on the illicit trade and not on firearms of our heritage.
JOACHIM STREITBERGER, of Forum Waffenrecht, Germany: The Forum Waffenrecht is working to prevent crime and the misuse of firearms by means of legislation in Germany, where many points of the proposed programme of action have been already implemented. For example, manufacturers and dealers are under State control; all firearms must be marked and all transactions recorded, with purchases requiring official permission. Fully automatic weapons are banned, and all firearms must be stored in specified gun safes.
Despite these laws, however, there are more than 20 million illegal firearms in Germany, including thousands of AK-47s. But even so, there is very little crime involving firearms. This shows that there is no relation between the number of firearms and the misuse of firearms, legal or illegal, and that to eradicate firearms from societies means to disarm law-abiding citizens and encourage criminals, who, by definition, do not respect laws. We fully, however, support marking and tracing to start combating the illegal flow of small arms, along with differentiated discussion among concerned citizens.
THOMAS MASON, National Rifle Association of America: I am here to speak to you on behalf of our over 4 and a half million members. I would like to reiterate our support for the Conference aims to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. At the same time, we have concerns about the possible effects of the outcome on the legitimate domestic rights of United States citizens to own and use legal arms. Indeed, we have received differing signals from a variety of delegations and representatives of governments as to the goals of the Conference to that end. We cannot ignore aspects of the draft plan that affect civilian ownership of small arms in the United States and worldwide. We would ask the Conference to acknowledge our concerns as legitimate.
GERALD BAKER, Single Action Shooting Society, United States: Ours is a shooting sport, that of cowboy action shooting, which imitates the Old West. We have 40,000 members and are one of the fastest growing sports shooting groups in the world. We are concerned about the issues of this Conference, especially that the Conference may not recognize the validity of shooting sports because they involve firearms. The origins of this sport do not diminish its validity. Cowboy action shooting is part of our country's culture. We ask that the Conference respect us as we are a part of the living history and wonderful heritage of our country. We are not part of the problem
RON ANGER, South Africa Gun Owners' Association, South Africa: Our continent has a sad history of turmoil and conflict. We would strongly support measures to reduce the negative effects of small arms. However, we are concerned about a lack of focus on the real issues. We are particularly concerned about the call to restrict possession of sporting arms, which would serve no purpose in reducing conflict and detract from real issues, such as the transfer of military weapons.
Wars are not fought with sporting arms, but with military weapons. The adoption of a proper definition of military small arms would strengthen agreement. In Africa, hunting plays an important role. We implore delegations to consider these concerns and return the focus to the real issue -- the illicit trade in military weapons.
WILLIAM HARSHA, Sporting Clays of America: As a judge in my community, I have first-hand knowledge of and personal experience with the pain widespread use and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons can cause. At the same time, as a sportsman, I can also speak about the use of small arms by sport shooters and hunters. What the firearms community seeks from this Conference is formal acknowledgment that sport or recreational shooting is not related to the issues under consideration by delegations gathered here. We urge you to adopt a definition of small arms to reflect the legitimacy of such use. Indeed, one need look no further than the Olympics to find an acknowledgment of the legitimate use of firearms for sport. Indeed, there will be no fewer than 17 shooting events in the coming Summer Games.
The United States, like other countries around the world, has a long tradition of sport shooting. The sport shooting industry pumps some $30 billion through our economy - more than giant conglomerates Coke and Microsoft. Some NGOs are using the Conference to promote banning citizens from using legal small arms for sport shooting. Small arms should be defined as military weapons of war designed for full and automatic firing. That definition is consistent with the weapons that are truly causing the most harm. If the Conference adopts such a definition, delegations will take a giant step towards international consensus.
KEITH TIDSWELL, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia: My organizations appeal to the Conference is that each government and law- enforcement agency should seek to form a partnership with hunters, collectors and sport shooters so that the world can be made a safer place for us all. It is unfortunate that some see this Conference as an us versus them situation. We are a legitimate community involved in training, education and community activities. We play a helpful role in helping law enforcement efforts at tracing and identifying various forms of illegal arms and munitions. We would like to see our pursuits protected and legitimized so that our heritage can be passed on to future generations. We are proud of our participation in this Conference and the broader work of the United Nations to stem the flow of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. We will continue to work with the Organization and the wider international community to make the world a safer place.
ROBERT TALLEY, Fair Trade Group, United States: I would like to clarify that we support efforts to stem the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. At the same time, we would also like to express our belief that the well-meaning aims of the Conference will have an unintentional effect on legitimate use and ownership of small arms. Without a reliable and clear definition of small arms, as well as illicit small arms and their trade and transfer, business transactions will certainly be affected. We recommend the establishment of a clear definition. That would be the key to a workable international system. Further, steps by the Conference to force regulations on surplus arms fail to identify and acknowledge the concerns of collectors and sporting enthusiasts. The Group urges the serious consideration of issues, as well as the inclusion of the views of those with the most experience in dealing with them.
JAS VAN DRIEL, Federation of Arms Collectors (FESAC): Weapons are an essential part of technical, historical and cultural heritage. If we do not conserve these artifacts, important information about our history and ourselves will be lost. Collectors do not appear in crime statistics, and their knowledge and expertise is invaluable. The FESAC asks that a clause be added to the draft programme of action safeguarding their position. For any collector, authenticity is essential. A deactivated weapon, therefore, loses most. if not all. of its collectors' value. Moreover, it makes it impossible to perform historical or technical research on those weapons or demonstrate them for educational purposes. Collectors, researchers and museum should be able to keep weapons in their original condition - it is the essence of collecting.
Also, a problem for collectors and those working with the programme of action is the lack of a proper definition for "small arms and light weapons". Its present unclear scope includes all types of weapons, including those used for hunting and sport, as well as antiques. Adding the vague term "produced to military specification" does not improve things. Flintlock muskets were also "produced to military specification". The definition should target the weapons that cause problems in conflict areas, like fully automatic assault rifles and machine guns. It is no use destroying collectors' weapons that are legally held in stable democracies, while leaving Kalishnikovs in place in war-ravaged lands.
RICHARD PARSONS, Safari Club International, United States: I have the honour to represent the 45,000 members of our organization. International sport hunting occurs in many countries, including the United States, Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Cameroon, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan and Argentina. In many of these countries, the finances resulting from sport hunting are directed towards impoverished rural communities. License and trophy fees fund government wildlife preservation programmes, a practice endorsed by the World Conservation Union.
MARY LEIGH BLEK, Million Mom March: The gun lobby has been talking for
40 minutes. During that time, 40 people have died from the use of small arms and light weapons in this country. That figure, not the statement of those representatives, is further proof that this country is at war. Indeed, my own
son was victim of the war raging within our own borders that takes the lives of 10 children and teens each day. There is no accountability and responsibility inherent in gun-ownership policies where we do not license our gun owners nor register guns. While the firearms industry has been making a profit, our children have been dying. The price we are paying is too high for the profits generated by an unregulated industry of death. The tragic firearm death rate for children in this country sparked the organization of the Million Mom March. On Mothers Day 2000, Americans stood up and cried Enough! when 750,000 moms and their families came together on the mall in Washington, D.C.
Why am I telling you this? Because the head of the United States delegation to this Conference does not represent the thinking of the American public. That delegate represents a minority view of a minority government. I believe that representative gave the erroneous impression that people in the United States believe that domestic gun laws do not have an impact on the illicit trafficking of guns and should, therefore, not be a concern for the international community. I am here to set the record straight. The majority of my fellow citizens favour better regulation of guns, including licensing of our gun owners, registration of guns and closing the gun show loophole that allows criminals and minors to get weapons. The American public is learning that guns purchased in legal markets here can and do flow into the illicit market in worldwide illicit trafficking in small arms. We know that guns do not respect borders. We know that the worlds children, as well as our own, are depending on our work at this Conference.
ANNA WARD, Unitarian Universalist Association, United States and Canada: I am a college student in Michigan and a student intern for the Firearms Injury Center. I speak as a young women of faith, recognizing that women and youth suffer most from the use of firearms. When small arms threaten a community, the freedom of citizens to education and free association, among other things, is diminished. They become victims of fear.
The responsibility of governments remains the same even though conditions vary from country to country. Although there is still a problem of firearms deaths in my country, it does not compare to the predicament of other countries. All nations here must remember that in protecting the interests of their citizens, they must cooperate fully with each other. We also urge cooperation with civil society, especially with faith communities, in addressing the underlying causes of violence. You must take concrete action at this Conference to save a new generation from the ravages of violence.
ADELE KIRSTEN, Director of Gun Free South Africa: The situation in South Africa shows that legal weapons all too often become illegal. In 1998 alone, 30,220 firearms were reported lost or stolen, in itself an underestimate of the real number. To rectify this situation, the Firearms Control Act was signed into law this year, restricting legal gun ownership and introducing a regular license renewal system. Effectively addressing the global scourge of small arms and light weapons will not be possible without looking at ways to control the manufacture, use, stockpile and transfer of legal weapons.
One of the reasons my Government could pass a progressive firearms law was because of civil society involvement in raising awareness of gun violence and also in putting forward and supporting programmes aimed at addressing the scourge of small arms. In the "Gun Free Zone" project, for example, community members declare a church, school or community centre free of guns and discuss the benefits of doing so. Globally, civil society must be recognized as a key actor in small arms control, as implementers of projects supported by governments.
BENOIT MURACCIOLE, Coalition Français France: For a week now, some governments have cited Article 51 of the Charter on the sovereign rights of States to self-defence as the definitive reason for not taking concrete steps aimed at controlling the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. But what will happen when there is no one left to defend and no State borders to protect because all our citizens have been killed by rapidly proliferating small arms? We should all remember that before Article 51, the Charter elaborates certain other important principles, namely, those that call for development and protection of human rights. Specifically, Article 26 calls for the establishment of an arms control regime. We urge the creation of a group of experts on marking, tracing and licensing with precise timeframes for action. We also urge the identification of a genuine mechanism that will ban the trade in arms with those that do not respect human rights.
TAMAR GABELNICK, Federation of American Scientists (also speaking on behalf of the United States Small Arms Working Group), United States: We stand firmly behind the idea that the programme of action should include a call for norms and standards on the export of small arms and light weapons, and we believe that such norms should be developed at the international level. The link between government-authorized sales and the illicit trade is often a short one. Breaking the legal to illicit link depends on prudent exporting decisions. Some government-authorized sales must be considered illicit in the first instance, for instance, when a State approves weapon transfers to a State or armed group in violation of a United Nations arms embargo or other international treaties.
There are also indirect limits on exports. According to the International Law Commissions draft articles on State responsibility, a State that aids another State to commit an international crime is internationally responsible for that action. This secondary responsibility prohibits States from authorizing arms exports when there is a clear risk that the weapons would be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law or to engage in acts of genocide. My recommendation to the delegates of this Conference is to include in the programme of action, in the section entitled "at the global level, a call to create common norms and standards for the export of small arms and light weapons based on international humanitarian and human rights law and respect for the United Nations Charter.
IRHAN BERKHOL, GRIP, Belgium: I would like to present certain practical aspects on the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons. In every case, an adequate legible marking, bearing the different parameters of the arm, should be applied by classic stamping. At the time of manufacture, a second and indelible marking should be done on an essential part difficult to access, and changing the marking on this would render the arm unusable. This marking, bearing the basic information, would permit, if necessary, the ability to find the arm in a register. Our recent contacts with the Belgian manufacturer FN and our research showed that the double marking would not cause any technical problem, and some manufacturers are already applying several markings on the arms.
Maximum information on arms transfers should be centralized in registers of each State in order to exchange information at the international level. In view of simplifying the work of administrators and technical organizations, which control arms exports, an international agency specializing on the follow-up and control of the manufacture and transfers should be established in each country under government control. Also, manufacturers, sellers and brokers should be registered, and shippers authorized for the arms trade.
NATALIE J. GOLDRING, National Centre for Economic and Security Alternatives, United States: At present, weapons traffickers operate freely around the globe, in part, because so little information is known about their activities and, in part, because governments have frequently been unwilling to act on information received. The more the global trade in small arms and light weapons can be brought out into the daylight, the less illicit trade is likely to result. Taken together, the measures in the draft programme of action represent the beginnings of a global transparency regime. It would increase public disclosure, bring increased attention to the international trade, and make it markedly more difficult for traffickers to operate with impunity.
Other steps are necessary, however, to increase the effectiveness of such transparency efforts. As much information as possible must be made publicly available. Regional small arms registers would decrease uncertainty within and between regions, while also providing a basis for further negotiations. As an interim step, the United Nations Register of Convention Arms should be expanded to include small arms and light weapons. The Secretary-General and the Department of Disarmament Affairs must have the economic and technical assistance needed to disseminate broadly the information that they gather. I urge you to adopt strong and extensive transparency measures, and not to be swayed by countries or organizations that seek to undermine our efforts.
MARTIN APPIOLAZA, Fundación espacios para el progreso social, Argentina: The arms merchants can argue about individual freedoms, but where I come from, firearms lead to violence and inequality. Over 20,000 people died last year from firearms. To change the situation, civil society and governments are promoting programmes to collect and destroy weapons. The success of these programmes is promoting the debate on the dangers of firearms possession, and the household possession of firearms is decreasing. Seventy-four per cent of people believe that possessing firearms does not lead to a greater sense of security. I ask you to take into account our experiences in putting an end to the silent genocide brought about with firearms. We need measures to control the civilian possession of firearms and the licit and illicit trade in small arms.
LUCAS AMOSSE, Christian Council of Churches, Mozambique: Mozambique is the first country in which civil society itself has controlled and destroyed weapons for peace-building and peacekeeping processes in the country. This practical exercise in taking responsibility for the maintenance of peace shows the importance of trust between civil actors and governments. Since 1995, working in 26 per cent of the country, we have collected 200,000 small arms. To initiate our collections project, we also put into place a strong civic education programme administered through churches, political parties members of the Government and NGOs.
The overall experience of this pilot project gave us the skills we needed to prepare and approve a three-year national strategic plan for weapons collection. For further civic education and public awareness-raising, the project supports the creation of artworks using fragments of weapons. Some of those creations can be viewed at the Conference. There are many other places in the world where this type of programme is needed, and this Conference should establish commitments to launch them. Governments have a responsibility to ensure collected weapons are stored securely and that stockpiled weapons are not lost or stolen.
LORETTA BONDI, Advocacy Director of the United States-based Fund for Peace: I call for a model convention on arms brokering. A convention would serve the interest of timely action and provide uniform standards applicable by all countries to bring arms traffickers, brokers and assorted peddlers into the fold of international law. The model convention my organization proposes include provisions for a registration and licensing scheme, incentives for compliance, criminal penalties for offenders, and mechanisms for improved international cooperation.
The model will also enlist the help of market forces, specifically the banking, insurance and manufacturing industries, into the fight against illicit trafficking in arms. The model convention is not intended to restrict legitimate transactions, but to curtail black market operation and, ultimately, to save innocent lives by preventing the escalation of lethal conflict.
To curtail the illicit trade in arms, all countries should either adopt appropriate laws or agree to an international treaty on brokering. The adoption of domestic and international measures would not be mutually exclusive.
LLARA BLANCO, Arias Foundation, Costa Rica: It is not only the people that bear arms that suffer from their use. It was not only a matter of free market or individual rights. The deliberations of the Conference should be guided by the right to life. What is clear is that arms are illegal when they are used to violate the basic principles of human rights. When it comes to arms trafficking, human rights principles get relegated to the background due to political interests. Those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law can be brought before international courts.
However, they would not have been able to commit their crimes without the ability to purchase the weapons in the first place. We must have binding instruments to curb the trafficking. You have the responsibility to stress the need for a binding instrument on export control criteria. Small arms kill. You can guarantee respect for human life and dignity.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, Biting the Bullet Project, United Kingdom: The Biting the Bullet Project is comprised of BASIC, International Alert, Saferworld and Bradford University. The programme of action of this Conference will not be sufficient to end the scourge of small arms, but it can become the springboard for effective coordinated international responses on this issue. To achieve this, the programme needs to include adequate follow-up mechanisms. Most important of all is the commitment to convene a follow-up conference in 2006. More frequent, biennial meetings are also needed to facilitate systematic exchanges of information and experience and to identify and promote best practices.
Each element of the programme will require a complex of national, regional and international follow-up processes, coordinated through a variety of different institutions and frameworks. In the areas of arms brokering and marking and tracing, concerted international talks need to be launched. Technical and financial assistance will be needed in many parts of the world for effective implementation. At present, too much donor activity remains fragmented, inappropriate or inadequate. The programme cannot be effective without the active involvement of all actors for progressive change and all sections of society. Civil society, including NGOs, has a crucial role to play.
CHRISTINA AGBOTHAM-JOHNSON, MALAO, Senegal, on behalf of French-speaking NGOs: At the national level, the programme of action has many local initiatives to be carried out by civil society, including education and awareness-raising. Civil society and NGOs must also act to bring the message to all the people involved, translate the decisions so that they are understandable to the local communities and adapt them to the local context. We must ensure that the work of the Conference continues in a proper manner. What is at stake at this Conference are the lives of millions of people. We must strengthen regional African initiatives with the help of civil society, including the West African Moratorium. We strongly support the establishment of follow-up machinery with a clear time frame. We urge the adoption of the proposed programme of action, implementation and follow-up machinery, the signing and ratification of the Vienna Protocol on Firearms, and effective support by the international community and United Nations agencies for civil society activities and programmes.
Count ALBRECHT MUTH, on behalf of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG): Marking and tracing schemes are highly recognized as the key to stemming the flow of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Marking and tracing mechanisms are also at the core of the Groups consultative document before the Conference. The Group has been hard at work building a coalition of civil society and other concerned actors, including industry, aimed at promoting the elaboration of concrete policies on marking and tracing. We also work to ensure that transfers do not violate existing norms. We hope that the programme of action will spark and complement the voluntary actions of governments on this issue. Consensus must not be compromised by proponents of inertia. The Conference should take into account that the majority of illegal weapons originate in licit trade.
VIRGINIA GAMBA, Director of the Arms Management Programme of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies: The Conference should produce a viable international road map for regional and national action and implementation plans. It must establish a real long-term consultative and cooperative progress to secure ownership of the road ahead by all parties to the Conference. I urge eradication of the problem of small arms and light weapons, and the reduction of their impact on people and nations.
Since there is a link between what is legal and might be illicit later, the only effective way to stop small arms proliferation is to promote responsible management of legal arms in private and State possession. There should be cooperation in the control and eradication of all illicit trafficking. If international action is not achieved, each community, nation and region will have to develop its own mechanisms for action.
I represent several organizations, including the Working Group for Weapons Reduction in Cambodia and the Kenya-based Security Research and Information Centre.
RUBEM CESAR FERNANDES, Viva Rio, Brazil: Brazil is not and has not been severely affected by war for over a century, and yet it suffers from a severe small arms problem. Nearly 300,000 Brazilians were killed by firearms in the last decade. The Brazilian case should serve to broaden the horizons of this Conference on the variety of problems raised by the spread of small arms and light weapons. Of the 100,000 small arms destroyed in Rio de Janeiro on 24 June, 73 per cent were produced in Brazil. Efficient domestic controls are crucial to curb the flux of arms from the legal to the illicit market.
The ultimate aim of this Conference must be a reduction in the number of human lives lost as a result of small arms proliferation. We should thus set up a goal to be achieved in due time. The Latin American members of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) have a proposal to make in this regard -- that by 2006, the world will have cut the number of fatal victims of small arms by at least 35 per cent. This would mean a reduction, in average, of 7 per cent less victims per year. Considering estimates for the last decade, this goal would imply that, five years from now, the world would have saved about 1 million lives previously doomed to be killed by small arms. We need a goal of this kind to be able to monitor and evaluate the impact of this Conference.
SALLY JOSS, International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA): The disarmament that has at times been hotly debated in these halls cannot be divorced from a human security perspective, from respect for human rights, and from the needs of development and the imperatives of humanitarian assistance. Above all, it cannot be removed from the actuality of lives affected or utterly lost at gunpoint. It is my profound hope and fervent wish that you will find not only the inspiration, but also the courage needed to walk through the door that this Conference has opened.
Now is the time to back words with commitments, and the commitments with action. Temporary fixes will not help address a problem the magnitude and the persistence of which is undisputed. The first urgent task is for States to put their own house in order and ensure that the weapons they trade are traded responsibly with full consideration given to international law and human rights standards. Civilian possession should be regulated and limited.
The ultimate responsibility for devising a programme and timetable that are both comprehensive and conducive to action rests with you and your governments. On our part, the part of civil society, we have spared no effort to help you achieve a successful and meaningful outcome for this Conference. We are willing and ready to help you carry out the arduous task of implementation as long as the measures envisioned will make a real difference for the communities we come from and the constituencies we serve. We are here in New York, coming from all corners of the world, from countries as big as the United States and States as small as Papua New Guinea, with a common message drawn from our shared experience: Save lives: Stop gun running.
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