Evolution of U.S. Policy on Small Arms



The following is a compilation of speeches, official documents, and policy notes by U.S. government officials on small arms from 1995-2001.  This summary is intended to be a survey of the evolution of U.S. governmental policy, in order to give a broad history, as well as insight, into the U.S. position on the small arms issue in future international fora.




Oct. 22, 1995:  In a speech at the 50th UN General Assembly, President William J. Clinton focused on the global humanitarian and security threats posed by terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking.  President Clinton stated that nations, working together under UN auspices, should create a counter-terrorism pact, that would work to “…urge more states to ratify existing antiterrorism treaties, and work with us [the United States] to shut down the gray markets that outfit terrorists and criminals with firearms and false documents.”






Aug. 7, 1997:  Pursuant to paragraph 1 of General Assembly resolution 50/70 B of Dec. 12, 1995, the Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms was appointed to submit their report on small arms.  The U.S. representative on the panel was Dr. Herbert Lee Calhoun, senior foreign affairs specialist from the Bureau of Multilateral Affairs of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.  The United States strongly supported the recommendations of the panel released on Aug. 7, 1997, which included a seven-point plan of reduction measures: 

1.  “[The] United Nations should adopt a proportional and integrated approach to security and development, including the identification of appropriate assistance for the internal security forces”;

2.  “[The] United Nations should support… post-conflict initiatives related to disarmament and demobilization”;

3.  “…[G]uidelines should be developed in order to… [a]ssist negotiators of peace settlements in developing plans to disarm combatants, particularly as concerns light weapons, small arms and munitions, and to include therein plans for the collection of weapons and their disposal, preferably by destruction”;

4.  “…[C]onsideration should be given to the establishment of a disarmament component in peacekeeping operations undertaken by the United Nations.”;

5.  “States and regional organizations…should strengthen international and regional cooperation among police, intelligence, customs, and border control officials in combating the illicit circulation of and trafficking in small arms and light weapons and in suppressing criminal activities related to the use of these weapons”; 

6.  “The establishment of mechanisms and regional networks for information sharing… should be encouraged”; and

7.  “All such weapons which are not under legal civilian possession, and which are not required for the purposes of national defense and internal security, should be collected and destroyed by States as expeditiously as possible.”


The panel’s recommendations also included a 13-point plan of prevention measures:

1.  States should determine in their national laws and regulations which arms are permitted for civilian possession and the conditions under which they can be used”;

2.  All States should ensure that they have in place adequate laws, regulations and administrative procedures to exercise effective control over the legal possession of small arms…and over their transfer in order…to prevent illicit trafficking”;

3.  States should exercise restraint with respect to the transfer of the surplus of small arms…[and] [s]tates should also consider the possibility of destroying all such surplus weapons…States should ensure the safeguarding of such weapons against loss through theft or corruption”;

4.  “United Nations should urge relevant organizations…to closely cooperate in the identification of the groups and individuals engaged in illicit trafficking activities, and the modes of transfer used by them”;

6.  States…should intensify their cooperative efforts against all aspects of illicit trafficking…that are related to the proliferation and accumulation of small arms and light weapons”;

7.  “[The] United Nations should encourage the adoption and implementation of…moratoriums…on the transfer and manufacture of small arms and light weapons”; and

8.  “[The] United Nations should initiate studies on…the feasibility of establishing a reliable system for marking…weapons from the time of their manufacture,…[t]he feasibility of restricting the manufacture and trade of such weapons to the manufacturers and dealers authorized by States, and of establishing a database of such authorized manufacturers and dealers…[The] United Nations should [also] initiate a study on all aspects of the problem of ammunition and explosives.”




Nov. 15, 1997:  The Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, and Other Related Materials (The Organization of American States [OAS] Convention), was signed in Washington.  The United States was an active participant in the convention negotiations. The convention is a legally binding, multilateral instrument to address the problem of illicit firearms trafficking.  Provisions include:

1.  Establishment of a system to license and track firearms sales;

2.  Marking of firearms in order to facilitate the global tracing of arms;

3.  Enhancement of information exchanges; and

4.  Creation of provisions for training and technical assistance.


All 35 OAS member countries except Cuba and Dominica have signed the convention, but only 12 have ratified.  The convention was signed by the United States, and sent to the Senate for ratification in 1998, but has not yet been ratified.  The convention entered into force on July 1, 1998, after the ratification of two OAS member states. 






Aug. 11, 1998:  The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, in a report on U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, stated that:

1.  There is a significant change in U.S. legislation regarding regulating arms exports, in relation to registration with the U.S. State Department for those engaged in manufacture, export, import or transfer of any defense related item subject to U.S. regulation;

2.  The Departments of State, Commerce, and Treasury will be changing their respective regulations to incorporate the Summit of the Americas agreement from April 18, 1998:   

“In an effort to strengthen common hemispheric security and strengthen protections against new transnational threats facing the region, including the production, distribution, and abuse of narcotics, illegal arms trafficking and terrorism, the President and other hemispheric partners agreed to implement model regulations on commercial arms transfers;” and

3.  In regards to other multilateral and international efforts to promote transparency in the arms trade, the United States sponsored the UN resolution that created the UN Register of Conventional Arms, and encourages inclusion of military holdings and procurement via national production in the register, and supports sending representatives to the UN Experts Panels.




Sept. 24, 1998:  In a statement to the UN Security Council Ministerial on Africa, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced the following proposals:

1.  All nations that export arms to Africa should disclose those transfers, and should also build international support for a voluntary moratorium on arms sales that could fuel conflicts in Africa;

2.  UN member states should prepare programs “…strengthening the capacity of African governments to monitor and interdict weapons flows,” especially in the enforcement of arms embargoes; and

3.  Two urgent steps for global action:  First, the international community should put in place responsible arms transfer practices that are effective worldwide.  Second, the international community should “…establish an international center to collect and share information on arms transfers.”




Oct.  14, 1998:  At the 5th Meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, 53rd Session, John D. Holum, senior advisor to the secretary of state for arms control and international security, recalled in a statement that:

1.  U.S. Secretary of State Albright stressed the importance of responsible arms transfer practices that should be effective worldwide, which should be negotiated under UN auspices, and based upon the model of the OAS Inter-American Convention; and

2.  The United States has set 2000 as the date to conclude such talks, and has called for an international center to collect and share information on arms transfers. 




Nov. 10, 1998:  In a speech to the International Rescue Committee, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presented specific steps the United States is taking in effort to address the small arms issue.  Albright emphasized that the United States has undertaken domestic measures focusing on the export and re-export of small arms to address the unregulated and illegitimate sale of small arms, including:

1.  The U.S. Department of State was directed to increase scrutiny of export licenses in order to facilitate effective end-use monitoring;

2.  The United States tightened laws to prevent its citizens from engaging in arms deals abroad that would be illegal domestically;

3.  The U.S. Customs Service increased efforts to find and seize unlawful arms shipments; and

4.  The Justice Department stepped up prosecutions of traffickers caught smuggling arms into Mexico.


Albright also highlighted then-existing efforts to strengthen international rules on small arms including:

1.  U.S. work with other countries to establish a set of “best practices” to regulate global arms transfers, including re-exportation of arms, lack of end-use monitoring, and the practice of arms brokers transferring weapons through third-country deals;

2.  U.S. negotiation of the OAS Convention (1997) to deal with issues regarding illicit transfers and use;

3.  Work to make OAS Convention-like safeguards global by negotiating a similar agreement at the UN Crime Commission;

4.  U.S. efforts to conclude an agreement on the export control of shoulder-fired missiles;

5.  U.S. calls for nations to share information on arms shipments; and

6.  A U.S. proposal for working with others to create an African center for technical assistance and training in an effort to build stronger law enforcement networks to fight the uncontrolled trafficking of small arms.






January 1999:  Negotiations begin on the Protocol to Combat Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition (a.k.a., the “Firearms Protocol”) of the UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention. The U.S. delegation criticized the Canadian draft firearms protocol because it did not criminalize the failure to mark firearms at the time of manufacture.  The delegation stated that “…by not including in the definition either the failure to mark imported firearms or the obliteration of serial numbers, the draft fails to criminalize these offences.  We recommend that importing firearms without providing the appropriate markings and obliterating serial numbers be added to the definition of illicit ‘trafficking’.”




Sept. 24, 1999:  At the UN Security Council Small Arms Ministerial in New York, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright highlighted U.S. initiatives on small arms including:

1.  The United States will refrain from selling arms to regions of conflict not already covered by arms embargoes.  The United States also encourages other nations to establish and observe such moratoria;”  

2.  The United States has “…passed laws making it illegal for traffickers subject to American law to broker illicit deals anywhere.”  The United States also asks others to crack down on similar illegal brokering activities;

3.  The United States is working with the European Union (EU) “…to develop principles of restraint and a joint action plan;”

4.  The United States is “…committed to working toward destroying…stocks of weapons worldwide;” and

5.  The United States supports work towards finishing negotiations on the Firearms Protocol by the end of 2000.




Oct. 15, 1999:  In a statement released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary, the United States announced a joint U.S. - Norway working group to support nations that agree to destroy surplus small arms. http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/bureau_pm/smallarms/st_991015_us_norway.html



Dec. 17, 1999:  The United States and European Union signed a joint Statement of Common Principles on Small Arms and Light Weapons, a 10-point Plan of Action that includes U.S. support for the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports and the principles contained in its criteria.  The joint statement affirmed U.S. and EU commitment to “…observe the highest standards of restraint…”, as well as a commitment to “…explore appropriate and effective measures of transparency in the transfers of small arms and light weapons.”   The United States and European Union also agreed that the UN 2001 Conference should undertake “…concrete and tangible steps to combat the destabilizing accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons.”  The United States also pledged support for those objectives and principles of the EU Joint Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (adopted December 1998), which are consistent with U.S. policy and domestic legislation.  The 10 action items agreed upon in the joint statement were:

1.  Establish a working group to promote increased cooperation and information sharing (transparency), and to evaluate the progress made by the United States and European Union on the issue;

2.  Cooperate in addressing the problems relating to the small arms issue, including working to complete the Firearms Protocol by 2000.  This protocol is being negotiated in Vienna as part of the UN International Transnational Organized Crime Convention (TOC);

3.  Coordinate efforts to provide assistance where the accumulation and spread of small arms is most severe;

4.  Promote support for the observance and enforcement of the 1998 moratorium signed by all members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and targets the importation, exportation, and manufacture of light weapons;

5.  Promote the observance of UN sanctions governing arms transfers to regions of conflict;

6.  Cooperate in considering measures to combat illicit arms brokering and measures to prevent unauthorized retransfers;

7.  Promote the inclusion of weapons collection and destruction measures in UN Peacekeeping mandates;

8.  Cooperate for more effective coordination of assistance in regions severely affected by small arms;

9.  Work together in regional fora on the issue; and

10.  Coordinate U.S.-EU planning for a successful outcome to the 2001 UN Conference.






Feb. 4, 2000:  At a meeting of the Small Arms Working Group (SAWG) at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies John Holum, senior advisor to the secretary of state for arms control and international security, cited the following priorities for the United States on small arms and light weapons:  

1.  Expand U.S. “best practices”, such as adopting model regulations on the legal trade proposed by the OAS;

2.  Encourage stronger steps, such as steps to criminalize UN embargo violations, institute strict end-use and arms brokering controls, and curb weapons retransfers;

3.  Complete by the end of 2000 the negotiation of the Firearms Protocol; (however, he noted that efforts were required to exclude “extraneous issues” from the protocol);

4.  Support an agreement on guidelines to restrict transfers of Man-Portable Defense Systems (MANPADS) in the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export control regime in which the United Sates participates that deals with conventional arms and related dual-use items;

5.  Increase transparency for small arms and light weapons transfers by sharing information on transfers and violations.  In an effort to take the initiative on transparency, the United States created a global standard through its Section 655 reporting requirements (stipulated under the Arms Export Control Act), and has made various proposals in regards to the Wassenaar Arrangement.  Some of these proposals include expanding the current seven reporting categories to seventeen, encouraging members to both report separately on arms sold to non-Wassenaar countries, and to report on arms transfers to regions of conflict;

6.  Coordinate and assist efforts, such as U.S. efforts in Liberia, Albania, Kuwait, Haiti, and Panama, to secure military stockpiles against loss and theft, and to destroy surplus stocks, particularly in regions of conflict and post-conflict; and

7.  Continue activity on the small arms issue through the G-8, Wassenaar Arrangement, NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and Partnership for Peace (PfP) (working on programs to improve security of weapons stockpiles), Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).


Holum also reiterated U.S. efforts to establish a UN Institute for Crime Prevention in Kampala, Uganda, which would serve to compliment both the headquarters of the ECOWAS Moratorium, and the small arms activities of the UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Lome, Togo.  Holum stated that the international response to the small arms issue must be multidimensional, and must be balanced between demand and supply-side approaches:  The United States “…will continue to oppose efforts that attempt to impose a single, sweeping, top-down solution.”




Feb. 23, 2000:  A Fact Sheet released by the State Department on the U.S. Comprehensive Initiative on Small Arms outlined steps to address the “…growing international concern about [the] trafficking in small arms and light weapons” including:

1.  Incorporating language on brokering in the Firearms Protocol;

2.  Providing support to the UN African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI) to survey small arms legislation, regulations, and law enforcement capacities of African countries to provide a benchmark for future work;

3.  Providing technical assistance for the 1998 ECOWAS moratorium;

4.  Seeking congressional approval to release modest funding for the ECOWAS moratorium, which was included in the FY 1999 Foreign Authorizations Act;

5.  Encouraging all governments to announce and observe voluntary moratoria: “…[T]he United States does not authorize commercial or government-to-government weapons transfers to conflict areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Angola, whose governments are not subject to UN embargoes”;

6.  Maintaining that “[i]f arms license applications exceed the normal, reasonable domestic needs of a given importing country or show other abnormalities, the United States will audit and, if necessary, cut off exports to that country”;

7.  Supporting the recommendations of the 1997 Report of the Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms; and

8.  Implementing OAS model regulations.




Feb. 29, 2000:  At the First Preparatory Committee Meeting for the UN 2001 Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, Lee Feinstein, State Department deputy director of policy planning and U.S. delegation head, said that the United States believes the international community should pursue an integrated, comprehensive approach to the small arms issue.  He also stated that the U.S. position was that the conference was complementary to, and not a duplication of the UN Firearms Protocol being negotiated in Vienna.  Feinstein further declared that the United States seeks a conference that has a “…widely supported outcome that will produce concrete and pragmatic results.”  He said some measures the conference should include are:

1.  “Further coordination and promotion of efforts to support the destruction of excess weapons and adequate stockpile security”;

2.  “Greater transparency”;

3.  “Strengthening observance of embargoes established by the United Nations including through the adoption of appropriate national legislation”;

4.  “Enhanced retransfer controls and end-user verification”;

5.  “Adequate monitoring and regulation of arms brokering activities”;

6.  “Development of model regulations, or standards, on the adequacy of firearms marking techniques and procedures working in partnership with the firearms manufacturing community”;

7.  “Strengthening international cooperation in law enforcement, customs and border control, including measures to make assistance available to prevent illicit trafficking when and where it is most needed”; and

8.  “Attacking the economy of war that supports arms trafficking, including by identifying ways to track and intercept trafficking in precious gemstones used in financing conflict.”




Nov. 24, 2000:  The OSCE released its Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons, adopted at the 308th Plenary Meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation.  The document is strongly supported by the United States, a participating OSCE country.  The document states that “…[small arms] are of concern to the international community because they pose a threat and a challenge to peace, and undermine efforts to ensure an indivisible and comprehensive security.”  Participating states agreed that the problems surrounding the proliferation of small arms needed to be addressed in a comprehensive way and committed to: 

1.  “Combat illicit trafficking in all its aspects through the adoption and implementation of national controls on small arms, including manufacture, proper marking and accurate sustained record keeping (both of which contribute to improving the traceability of small arms), effective export control, border and customs mechanisms, and through enhanced co-operation and information exchange among law enforcement and customs agencies at international, regional and national levels”;

2.  “Contribute to the reduction, and prevention of, the excessive and destabilizing accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms, taking into account legitimate requirements for national and collective defense, internal security and participation in peacekeeping operations under the Charter of the United Nations or in the framework of the OSCE”;

3.  “Exercise due restraint to ensure that small arms are produced, transferred and held only in accordance with legitimate defense and security needs as [previously] outlined…and in accordance with appropriate international and regional export criteria, in particular as provided for in the OSCE document on Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers adopted by the Forum for Security Co-operation on 25 November 1993”;

4.  “Build confidence, security and transparency through appropriate measures on small arms”;

5.  “Ensure that, in line with its comprehensive concept of security, the OSCE addresses, in its appropriate fora, concerns related to the issue of small arms as part of an overall assessment of the security situation of a particular country, and takes practical measures which will assist in this respect”; and

6.  “Develop appropriate measures on small arms at the end of armed conflicts including their collection, safe storage and destruction linked to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DD and R) of combatants”.


Final provisions of the document include:

1.  “[P]articipating [s]tates agree to the establishment of a list of small arms contact points in delegations to the OSCE and in capitals, to be held and maintained by the CPC [Conflict Prevention Center].  The CPC will be the main point of contact on small arms issues between the OSCE and other international organizations and institutions”;

2.  “[P]articipating [s]tates agree that the Forum for Security Co-operation will review regularly including, as appropriate, through annual review meetings, the implementation of the norms, principles and measures in this document and will consider specific small arms issues raised by participating States.  In addition, and as necessary, they may convene meetings of national experts on small arms”; and

3.  “[P]articipating [s]tates also agree to keep the scope and content of this document under regular review.  In particular they agree to work on the further development of the document in the light of its implementation and of the work of the United Nations and of other international organizations and institutions.”




December 2000:  In Palermo, Italy in December 2000, negotiations on the Firearms Protocol were brought to a close with the signing of the convention.  Official comments made by the U.S. delegation during the course of negotiations (January 1999 – December 2000) included:

1.  “The convention should fulfill the mandate of facilitating the prevention, prosecution and investigation of transnational organized crime.  The achievement of this objective requires some tools to be applied to a broader class of conduct, however, because of the difficulty for practitioners, during the early stages of an investigation, of demonstrating the involvement of transnational organized crime.”


2.  The draft term “commercially traded” firearms was “unnecessarily ambiguous”.  Instead, “…the protocol should apply to all firearms transactions except for certain enumerated exceptions, such as state-to-state transactions.” 


3.  “ …[The Firearms] Protocol represents an opportunity to go beyond OAS in this area [general requirements for export, import and transit license or authorization systems] in two important respects.  Firstly, it provides the opportunity to institute a system in which the export, import and in-transit licenses or authorizations are consistent, contain parallel information and are issued in the proper order, that is, import then in-transit (where relevant) then export.  Secondly, this protocol provides the opportunity to require written approval from the exporting country prior to re-export by the importing country.”  The delegation provided a draft proposal, an alternative Article XI, which consisted of multiple points that would provide for instituting the system described, as well as inclusion of written requirements for re-exports. 


4.  The draft text regarding the illicit obliterating, removing or altering of serial numbers on all firearms carry with it the offense of brokering without a license or registration.


5.  Registration and licensing of arms brokers “…would require a separate license for each transaction and would require licensing by several jurisdictions: the broker’s residence, the country of nationality and the country where the transaction took place.” 




Dec. 18, 2000:  During the U.S.-EU Summit, the United States and the European Union released a declaration on “The Responsibilities of States and on Transparency Regarding Arms Exports”.  In this declaration it was stressed that “…arms transfers should not contribute to or result in excessive or destabilizing arms accumulations, regional instability, armed aggression, the precipitation, escalation or aggravation of internal or interstate conflicts, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles capable of delivering them, international terrorism, or in arms diversion.”  The declaration also stated “…the United States and the European Union have decided to act jointly to encourage all arms exporting countries to submit their export decisions to rigorous criteria and to greater transparency. In particular, we commit ourselves to promoting the highest possible standards of conduct and enhanced export control practices based on our shared principles of responsibility, transparency and restraint.”  Some of these practices and principles include:

1.  “[I]mplementation of stringent national controls over exports of arms and military equipment, and of related technologies”;

2.  “[A]uthorization of exports of arms and military equipment, and of related technologies only after an in-depth review of the internal situation of the buyer country and of the regional context in order to assure that such exports are not likely to create or heighten internal tensions or conflicts, to be used for the violation of human rights, to threaten peace and regional stability, or be diverted or re-exported in undesirable conditions”; and

3.  “[P]romotion of transparency by regularly circulating public information at the national level on authorized arms transfers and supporting expanded transparency regarding arms exports in the competent international fora, including the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, the OSCE and the Wassenaar Arrangement.”






Jan. 9, 2001:  At the Second Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, Elizabeth Verville, head of the U.S. delegation, said that:

1.  The United States is committed to concluding a binding Firearms Protocol in Vienna;

2.  The objective for the 2001 UN Conference is to produce a political document, not a treaty, and that the conference should support the Firearms Protocol, and not attempt to duplicate its efforts; and

3.  Consensus documents, such as the OSCE framework document on small arms and light weapons that committed members to serious export controls, may “…be the best guide to the realistic prospects for a conference consensus.”


Verville elaborated on this last point by stating that the consensus documents represented a source of broad international consensus, which seemed to focus on common points, all of which are supported by the United States.  These “broadly accepted principles”, some of which are listed below, could have a “meaningful impact” on illicit trafficking:

1.  Greater information sharing;

2.  Improved customs services and border controls;

3.  Secured weapons stockpiles;

4.  Assured destruction of excess weapons stocks, particularly those collected in the aftermath of conflict;

5.  Improved and increased assistance to countries in need;

6.  Establishment by all countries of an effective export control and licensing system;

7.  Careful review of all license applications;

8.  Implementation of domestic legislation to supervise brokering activities; and

9.  Domestic legislation to sanction violations of Security Council-mandated embargoes. 




Jan. 10, 2001:  At the Second Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, Elizabeth Verville, head of the U.S. delegation, said that:

1.  The United States is pleased at the importance given the participation of civil society, but mindful that the primary responsibility lies with governments;

2.  Transparency is important, but should not extend to national holdings;

3.  Expanding issues outside of the General Assembly’s mandate (such as child soldiers) endangered the success of the conference; and

4.  The United States hopes to see a strong global standard on the practice of the marking of weapons, as is done in the United States, “…accompanied by a binding legal instrument”.


Verville acknowledged that the U.S. delegation was concerned that:

1.  The draft language implied legal obligation, while the conference objectives were solely intended to produce political commitments; and

2.  The draft text gave primacy to global and UN measures, while most strides have been at the national and local levels.




Jan. 11, 2001:  At the Second Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, Elizabeth Verville, U.S. head of delegation, said that: 

1.  The United States agrees that the establishment of an international follow-up mechanism is important, but that the best way to achieve the goals of a comprehensive follow-up mechanism would be to convene a review conference in a “conventional way”, perhaps in five years;

2.  Language in section IV (Follow-up and Implementation) appears burdensome, rather than facilitative – there is concern for duplication of efforts and that the language contained may be seen as “too much, too soon”.  Rather, the action should be allowed to “…naturally progress…a review conference…perhaps in five years…would be the best way to achieve the goals of a comprehensive follow-up mechanism”;

3.  The main focus should be on regional and national levels, and that “…global initiatives should be of a complimentary nature”;

4.  There is concern that section III (Consideration of International Cooperation and Assistance) appears to be missing a reference to the private sector, namely to weapons manufacturers which have an important contribution to make, particularly in the areas of marking and record keeping; and

5.  There is concern over the confusing references to “global norms and principles”.


also see http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2001/dc2741.doc.htm



Jan. 17, 2001:  At the Second Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, Elizabeth Verville, U.S. head of delegation, said that:

1.  There is broad support among states that the ultimate objective should be to produce a political document, representing political commitment on the issue, and that legally binding terminology should be avoided.  The United States seeks a consensus document that produces a strong global political commitment.  Verville stated that she was not advocating a “…lowest common denominator document”;

2.  Efforts should support, and not interfere with, a legally binding protocol, as is being negotiated in Vienna;

3.  There should be appropriate follow-up that avoids unnecessary or costly new and expanded mechanisms;

4.  The United States seeks the enhanced enforcement of UN embargoes and augmented assistance in technical cooperation;

5.  Each country needs to establish export controls, improve customs services and border controls, secure weapons stockpiles, and assure the destruction of weapons; and

6.  The United States delegation is adamant that the document “…avoid[s] [inclusion of] legal domestic production, possession, use and trade as well as restrictions concerning non-state actors and disclosure of holdings.”




March 20, 2001:  At the Third Preparatory Committee for the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, Amb. Donald J. McConnell, head of U.S. delegation, said that the United States:

1.  Found the most recent draft to be focused and concise, and attempted to represent the core ideas put before this conference.  The United States believes that the most practical and effective program of action, which successfully embodies a broadly acceptable approach and which garners consensus support, is the best possible outcome to the conference;

2.  Supported the inclusion of aggressive follow-up measures addressing the regulation of international brokers in the Program of Action.  This issue may also take the form of revisiting the U.S. proposal in December 2000 in Oslo for Model Brokering Regulations.  These regulations can serve as either a model for countries wishing to develop their own brokering legislation, or as a basis for harmonizing the laws of countries that currently have brokering laws;

3.  Suggested that an appropriate venue be agreed upon in order to begin the actual development of Model Brokering Regulations.  A suggestion to resolve this issue, is that this can take place in the context of States Parties to the Firearms Protocol or as a follow-up to Oslo II; and

4.  Reiterated that the UN 2001 Conference should not duplicate the Firearms Protocol Agreement recently reached in Vienna.


McConnell also indicated that “…[e]ffective export controls are the keystone of any successful effort to mitigate the problems of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons - as well as to better control legal transfers.”  The United States encourages amplification of the following themes:

1.  In section II (on preventing, controlling, and curbing the illicit small arms trade), Paragraph II should be changed to call for adequate retransfer authority and  “…[I]mporting countries must assure proper end-use of arms they import…[and] exporting countries must provide oversight through end-use checks and demanding authority to approve any retransfers.”; and

2.  Embargo enforcement is essential. UN Security Council (UNSC) decisions are legally binding and all member states should respect them fully.  The United States believes that there are additional steps national governments can take with regard to arms embargoes.  The United States “…will therefore be suggesting language in the draft that encourages states to implement national measures to impose criminal sanctions on violators of UNSC embargoes.”




May 31, 2001:  At the 55th General Assembly Plenary 101st Meeting, the U.S.

representative said that:

1.  The U.S. delegation was “…pleased to join consensus in the adoption of the [Firearms] Protocol”; and

2.  “The United States welcomed the technical correction to article 8, paragraph 1, of the draft protocol.  The corrected text better reflected the intentions of the delegations in Vienna.  The United States had objected in Vienna to the inclusion in the resolution of the preambular paragraph, which reaffirmed among other things the right to self-determination of peoples, in particular, peoples under colonial or other forms of alien domination or foreign occupation.  The preambular paragraph said that Article 51 of the United Nations Charter implied that states had the right to acquire arms to defend themselves, as well as the right to self-determination of all peoples.  The reference to the right to self-determination did not imply the right to acquire arms to pursue that objective.”



Assembled by Fleur Burke, Herbert Scoville Peace Fellow, Center for Defense Information, June 27, 2001.  Edited by Jillian Hayes, Theresa Hitchens, Matthew Lewis, and Rachel Stohl, Center for Defense Information.