Tuesday, 4 April 2000


Report of the Working Session

Rapporteur Agenda item 2: Combating Illicit Trafficking in All Its Aspects

The keynote speaker, Lt. Gen. Smirnov from the Russian Federation, raised four themes to which delegations returned throughout the course of the working session: the important role that the OSCE could and should play in combating illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons; specific measures taken by the Russian Federation in this regard; the need to strengthen controls and legislation at the national level; and the need for co-operation at the international level.

The leading role of the OSCE was stressed by many delegations, especially in assisting progress at the United Nations 2001 Conference. One delegation pointed to the strength of the OSCE as being its comprehensive approach to the issue. Another delegation presented a food-for-thought paper, also stressing the need for a comprehensive approach by the OSCE, encompassing practical measures as well as norm-setting. It noted the need for early warning of accumulations of small arms and light weapons, and the possible role of the OSCE Missions. Addressing the problem of possible duplication, two delegations pointed to the important role the OSCE could play in implementing agreements established in other forums, particularly the United Nations Firearms Protocol.

The Moderator raised the issue of the relationship between legal transfers and illicit trafficking. Several delegations stressed that illicit trafficking and legal transfers were two sides of the same coin, and that attempts to combat illicit trafficking needed to go hand in hand with strengthening of controls over legal transfers. One delegation noted that the difficulty of arriving at a definition highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach, covering both aspects.

Several delegations informed the Seminar about their national systems of export controls. Two delegations in particular shared information on recent confiscations and destruction of illicitly trafficked weapons.

Whilst all delegations agreed that national export controls needed to be clear and rigorously enforced, there was a difference in approach between those who wanted to strengthen existing mechanisms and encourage co-operation between States in their implementation, and those who wanted to go further to bring about greater transparency and establish agreed norms. A number of specific elements were outlined by several delegations relating to control over manufacturing and transfer procedures:

- State sanctioning of manufacture of small arms;

- Proper regulation and authorization of brokering activities;

- Legislation to impose penalties for the violation of United Nations or other embargoes;

- Legislation to establish illicit trafficking as a criminal offence under domestic law;

- No transfer of inadequately marked weapons;

- An effective system for licensing of import, export and transit of weapons;

- No transfer until the receiving State issues the corresponding authorization;

- No re-transfer without authorization from the original exporting State;

- An authenticated system of end-use and end-user certificates;

- Verification procedures for end-use certificates;

- Adequate record-keeping;

- Interagency co-operation at national level to co-ordinate policies.

A number of delegations saw a role for the OSCE in establishing best practice on export control procedures through the exchange of information on national practice. One delegation suggested the possibility of establishing an OSCE manual of best practice. Another delegation noted that information exchange on legislation was already taking place in at least one subregion, as were bilateral exchanges of technical information relating to export controls.

Delegations agreed on the importance of co-operation between States in export control practice and law enforcement. Suggested areas for co-operation included:

- Tracing;

- Identifying routes used in illicit trafficking;

- Providing mutual legal assistance;

- Close co-operation between law enforcement and customs officials and regional and subregional training programmes;

- Technical and financial assistance to improve enforcement agencies.

Delegations noted that regional and subregional co-operation was already under way in some cases. One delegation drew attention to the Sofia Declaration of 1999 as an example of a subregional effort to improve co-operation, particularly with regard to attempts to harmonize end-use documentation. Another delegation drew attention to the Warsaw Call for Action.

The final part of the working session related to confidence-building and transparency measures. A few delegations mentioned that information exchange should not be considered as an end in itself, but as a tool in combating illicit trafficking. Several delegations noted the value of exchanging information on:

- National practices and legislation;

- Confiscations and destruction of illicitly trafficked weapons;

- Official agents;

- Authorized brokers.

A few delegations also pointed to the value of information sharing relating to holdings, legal transfers and transfer denials of small arms and light weapons.