Ambassador James B. Cunningham
Acting United States Representative to the United Nations
Statement in the Security Council on Small Arms/Light Weapons
August 2, 2001

August 2, 2001

Statement by Ambassador James B. Cunningham, United States Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on Small Arms/Light Weapons, in the Security Council, August 2, 2001

Thank you, Mr. President.

I want to thank the Distinguished Foreign Minister of Colombia for coming to New York to preside over this Open Meeting of the Security Council and to congratulate you and your colleagues on the Presidency. I also want to acknowledge the presence of the Secretary-General; his attendance and comments today reinforce the importance of this issue for all of us.

All of us in this room today are all well aware of the agonizing impact of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, especially in areas of conflict, where the problem is most acute. We commend Colombia's initiative to convene this meeting, which continues the momentum of the successful Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. I want to join the Secretary-General in commending Ambassador Reys chairmanship of the Conference. The Conference reached consensus on a comprehensive Program of Action -- a solid foundation for dealing with this issue. This program, if diligently carried out by the member states, will make significant progress toward curbing this illegal and deadly trade.

The United States believes that steps to tackle the problem of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons must be practical and effective. And the most effective way to prevent small arms and light weapons from getting into the hands of those who will misuse them is through strict export and import controls, strong brokering laws, and insuring the security of small arms and light weapons stockpiles.

The United States has one of the strongest systems in the world for regulating the export of arms. Small arms and light weapons made in the United States cannot be exported without the approval of the Department of State. Nor can arms of US origin be re-transferred without approval of the United States. We rigorously monitor arms transfers and routinely investigate suspicious activities. In the past five years, we have interdicted thousands of illicit arms and cut-off exports to five countries that failed to comply with U.S. law. Moreover, all commercial exporters of arms in the United States must be registered as brokers and submit each transaction for government licensing approval.

The United States has also been active internationally in stemming the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. We offer bilateral financial and technical assistance to help countries develop national export and import controls, improve border security against arms smugglers, and to secure and destroy illicit stocks of small arms and light weapons in conflict-prone regions. We remain ready to continue this support.

My Government believes that the focus of the Conference, as reflected in the Program of Action, was properly on the member states and their obligations and efforts to eliminate the illicit small arms trade. Thus, the Security Council's role is circumscribed. We do not believe that the Security Council should seek a more elaborate role, beyond its competence. But it does have an important role to play.

The paper submitted by the Government of Colombia in advance of this session very thoughtfully focused on a number of important issues. The issue of information flow to the Security Council is a key theme. Information on the role of small arms and light weapons can be of great value in helping the us evaluate specific areas of conflict, including decisions to establish or enforce Security Council arms embargoes.

Also, as called for in the Program of Action, the US urges member states to take all appropriate legal and administrative means against violators of Security Council arms embargoes.

Thus, while the function of the Security Council in accomplishing the Program of Action is limited, we have the opportunity, through the leadership of Colombia, to thoughtfully define our role.

The Program of Action of the first UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects is just over one week old. It's success should be a priority, and that success depends on the will and effort of member states. The United States has a history of demonstrated commitment to finding practical and effective ways of curbing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. We look forward to working with the other member states to fulfill the Program of Action.

Thank you.