Seminar on Small Arms and Light Weapons

Vienna, 3-5 April 2000


Our three-day Seminar addressed a prominent issue of our times, the question of small arms and light weapons (SALW). There is a general understanding that this problem requires international and, where necessary, regional co-operation and assistance among States, organizations and other actors. In this spirit, the relevant international organizations and non-governmental organizations and the OSCEís Mediterranean and other Partners for Co-operation were invited to take part in this seminar, and they have made valuable contributions. During our deliberations, delegations agreed that the international community has to face the challenge of the world-wide proliferation of SALW and has to take the necessary measures to prevent the destabilizing accumulation of these weapons.

We have learned that a universal process has been launched and developed to answer this global problem. Several different kinds of events, seminars and workshops have already been held and several others will take place before the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects in June 2001. The Chair found that an encouraging message of this Seminar was that it would be timely and in fact necessary for the OSCE to make its own contribution to this process and find its place within the global division of tasks, in an international co-operation free of duplications and overlaps.

In the comprehensive security system, the problem of SALW is closely connected with the risks and challenges of the second millennium. Those risks and challenges have been discussed in different forums and enumerated, inter alia, in the Charter for European Security adopted at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul last November. Several delegations pointed out that tackling the problem posed by SALW is an integral part of the fight against terrorism. Responding to the challenge of organized crime, the United Nations is currently engaged in drafting a Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

A number of interventions identified the question of SALW as an important element in existing regional and local crisis situations within the OSCE area and beyond. South-eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Trans-Dniestria, as well as Afghanistan and Cambodia, were mentioned as concrete examples. Within the spectrum of conflict management, the problem of small arms and light weapons has a special importance in post-conflict stabilization. Its solution is a basic element in restoring law and order and ensuring the protection of civil society. Some delegations suggested that the OSCE missions could be tasked with playing a role in this field.

There is a general understanding that steps should be taken on the international level to ensure compliance with existing guidelines and principles as well as on a national and local level to ensure respect for national legislation, especially in the field of export control. Delegations urged increased co-operation among police, intelligence and customs and border control personnel to ensure the implementation of the relevant regulations.

Some interventions suggested concrete steps, such as agreeing to commonly used principles, norms and standards, which could possibly be taken up by the OSCE. The idea of creating a manual establishing guidelines on SALW as well as a register on SALW transfers was put forward, in order to provide greater transparency. However, the discussion showed that the development of these ideas required further negotiations.

At the same time, it is important to note that concrete projects have already been launched and several States and organizations have made significant contributions to these efforts. We have been informed of several unilateral, bilateral and regional initiatives, plans and ideas for concrete projects to tackle the various aspects of the problem of the spread of SALW. The European Union, for example, has a set of measures: a Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers, a Joint Action on SALW and a Programme for Preventing and Combating Illicit Trafficking in Conventional Arms. Another good example is the joint American-Norwegian project on stockpile management and destruction. Exchanges of information and experience and briefings on national practices are other forms of practical co-operation. Seminars on the different aspects of the SALW issue can also add their significant contribution to the process, and we were briefed on some recent workshops held under the auspices of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.

As you are aware from the reports of our rapporteurs, working sessions identified the various concrete tasks to be undertaken by the international community such as collection, control and destruction of weapons, combating illicit trafficking in all its aspects, with special attention to export control, and the fight against weapons smuggling, as well as marking, record-keeping and tracing.

Working session I emphasized that world-wide measures were needed to cope with the problem, but the regional approach could serve as a first step and a good example. The OSCE approach should be comprehensive; it can be built on the best practices of the participating States using the mechanism of an information exchange. OSCE documents such as the Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers are a good basis for developing measures concerning small arms and light weapons.

The second working session stressed the danger of a possible correlation between legal transfers and illicit trafficking. Strengthening control and increasing transparency can be the two main areas for an OSCE contribution in this regard. The first step in the direction of the harmonization of export controls can be the OSCE manual.

Working session III recognized that, in the field of reduction, other organizations were also very active and the OSCE should rather complement than duplicate their activity. The OSCE role can be significant in providing guidelines for stockpile management and destruction as well as financial and technical assistance.

Working session IV was devoted to post-conflict stabilization, which is a traditional field of OSCE activity. The management of the post-conflict security situation should be viewed from the perspective of small arms and light weapons as well. Although the role of the OSCE missions has not been precisely identified, they should be prepared to encounter the various aspects of the problem.

It can be concluded that the Seminar has been an important step forward in tackling the problem of SALW. Through a useful and lively discussion it has contributed to identifying the whole range of SALW issues and raised many ideas in a relatively early phase of the process. Participating States showed particular interest in the course of the Seminar, during the general and working sessions as well.

As a result, the SALW issue has been examined from a particular OSCE perspective, the areas for an eventual future OSCE contribution have been identified and guidance has been provided regarding possible solutions. On this basis, participating States may look forward to an exciting follow-up in the Forum for Security Co-operation. The intention is that the Chairperson of the FSC together with the FSC Troika and the Co-ordinator on SALW, should approach the discussions of the preparatory period, the three-day Seminar and the follow-up as an integrated process. I am convinced that as a result of that process the OSCE will be able to play a role in the field of SALW in line with its international significance and its traditional features.

At the end of the Seminar, the Chair would like to express his thanks to the moderators, rapporteurs and key-note speakers for the excellent job they have done, to SALW Co-ordinator Mr. Clive Wright and Working Group B of the FSC for the preparation of the Seminar, to the Conflict Prevention Centre and the Secretariat for the organization, to the interpreters for facilitating the exchange of views and, last but not least, to all participants for the substantive and useful discussions.