June 4, 2001


Secretary of State Colin Powell

U. S. Department of State

2201 C St. NW

Washington, DC 20520


Dear Secretary Powell:


We are writing to urge you to attend the opening sessions of the United Nations global Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, which will take place in New York starting on July 9.  The UN Conference provides a crucial opportunity to address the urgent problem of the spread and abuse of small arms and light weapons, a class of weapons responsible for the majority of today's conflict casualties and an estimated 500,000 deaths a year. The spread and misuse of small arms cause, prolong, and exacerbate humanitarian crises around the world.


The United States has a strong interest in curtailing the illicit trade in these weapons, and your attendance at the opening would clearly indicate to other governments that the United States takes this issue seriously. Your presence would increase the level and quality of engagement by the U.S. delegation as well as by other states.


Although the Conference focuses on the illicit aspect of the small arms trade, we believe that to adequately tackle the impact of small arms, the legal trade must also be addressed. The link between illicit and legal trades is obvious, as most illegal weapons in circulation were at some point transferred by governments or with government approval.  Government authorized sales, in their own right, also warrant international attention as they may lead to human rights abuses or prolong conflicts. Moreover, governments have failed to rein in private arms traffickers, allowing many uncontrolled and irresponsible "legal" sales.


During preparatory meetings for the UN Conference, the U.S. delegation acted to discourage inclusion of a call for a legally binding international agreement to regulate arms brokering activities in the Conference Program of Action.  As you know, the U.S. already has domestic legislation that regulates brokering activities by Americans and others within its jurisdiction and has spoken in favor of legally binding international controls on brokering in other fora.  In a time when weapons flow freely, it is important for all states to ensure that their citizens do not engage in unregulated arms brokering or ship weapons in violation of arms embargoes mandated by the UN Security Council.  We encourage you to support the inclusion of a mandate for such a measure in the final Program of Action to be released in July.


As this conference proceeds, we urge you to ensure that the U.S. delegation plays a constructive role in helping curb the trade in illicit arms and in protecting people from harm due to these weapons.




Mike Amitay, Executive Director

Washington Kurdish Institute


Mubarak Awad

Chairman, Nonviolence International


Michael Beard

President, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence


Kurt Biddle

Washington Coordinator, Indonesia Human Rights Network


Loretta Bondi

Advocacy Director, The Fund for Peace


Peter Deccy

Director, Peace Action Education Fund


Marie Dennis

Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns


Natalie Goldring

Director, Security and Disarmament Program, National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives


William D. Hartung

Director, Arms Trade Resource Center, World Policy Institute at the New School


Tiffany L. Heath

Legislative Director, Church Women United


Joost R. Hiltermann,

Executive Director, Arms Division, Human Rights Watch


Donald S. Gann

Chairperson, American Friends Service Committee


Martha Honey

Director, Peace and Security Program, Institute for Policy Studies


John Isaacs

President, Council for a Livable World


Henry Kelly

President, Federation of American Scientists


Michael Klare

Co-Director, Project on Light Weapons, Committee on International Security Studies, American Academy of Arts & Sciences.


Chris Lindborg

Analyst, British American Security Information Council


Mary Ellen McNish,

General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee


Raymond C. Offenheiser

President, Oxfam America


Maurice Paprin

Chairman, Fund for New Priorities in America


Charlie Scheiner

National Coordinator, East Timor Action Network


Christian Stolz

Director, St. Louis Economic Conversion Project


Rachel Stohl

Senior Analyst, Center for Defense Information


Joe Volk

Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation