Press Statement

Maastricht, The Netherlands
December 1, 2003

OSCE Today Launches First Governments' Manual on Combating Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons

Released by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Chairman-in-Office

MAASTRICHT, 1 December 2003 - Weapons of mass destruction are frequently in the news. The blunt reality, however, is that far more people are killed or maimed by small arms or light weapons that pack much less destructive power. Portable anti-tank and even anti-aircraft missiles are available on a well-organized black market, while trafficked small arms -- from revolvers to powerful assault rifles -- are used by irregular forces, sometimes child soldiers, to terrorise and slaughter non-combatants.

Why are all these weapons out there? Usually they have been transferred in earlier conflicts, diverted from the legal arms trade, or stolen from poorly-guarded storage sites -- relics of the Cold War. Regardless of source, they foster instability, hamper post-conflict reconciliation and block reconstruction in many parts of the OSCE region, as well as in areas further afield.

What can the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe do to help combat this threat and safeguard the lives of people in conflict areas? By agreeing, in December 2000, on the OSCE Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), the 55 participating States have already introduced the world's strictest standards and measures to restrain transfers, secure stockpiles and remove weapons from circulation. But implementing the SALW Document imposes a heavy burden, legally, financially and administratively, on some OSCE States.

With the backing of the Organization's Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC) and assistance from its Conflict Prevention Centre, a group of 12 OSCE participating States (Canada, Germany, Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States) has developed a Handbook of Best Practice Guides on SALW control issues. Eight practical guides aimed at governments, parliaments, non-governmental organizations and international organizations, will help in reviewing legislative proposals or formulating new programmes to reduce the availability of small arms.

This book, to be published and officially handed today by the current Chair of the FSC to the OSCE Chairmanship, is also being symbolically presented to the United Nations, in the presence of Ambassador Kuniko Inoguchi of Japan. Last July, Dr Inoguchi chaired the first UN Biennial Meeting on the implementation of the UN's own small arms Programme of Action.

The launch of the OSCE Handbook of Best Practice Guides on SALW will take place in the Euro Room, adjacent to the Media Centre of the 11th Ministerial Council, MECC, Maastricht, at 17:15 on Monday, 1 December. All media representatives and photographers are invited to attend. No pool pass will be needed for this event.

Richard Murphy, Spokesperson/Head of Press and Public Information, Press and Public Information Section, OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Kaerntner Ring 5-7 Vienna, 1010 Austria. Tel.: +43 1 514 36 180, +43 664 548 53 89 (mobile). Fax: +43 1 514 36 105. E-mail: [email protected]