Summary: March 19, 2001: Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. Statement by Ambassador Sune Danielsson Representative of Sweden on behalf of the European Union (New York)
I have the honour to take the floor on behalf of the fifteen Member States of the European Union. The Central and Eastern European countries associated with the European Union, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the associated countries of Cyprus and Malta, and the EFTA countries of Iceland and Norway, align themselves with this statement.
First, I should like to express the satisfaction of the European Union at seeing you once again presiding over the deliberations of the Preparatory Committee. The European Union appreciates your constructive contributions to advance the work of the Committee, in particular your timely presentation of a Revised Programme of Action. The European Union pledges its full support to you in your efforts to complete successfully the preparations for the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade on Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects during this last session of the Committee. We know that we have a lot of work before us but we are confident that we shall be able to meet this challenge and complete our task under your wise leadership.
Before turning to the task that we have before us, there is one aspect that I should like to raise. In our discussions we have often referred to the ECOWAS Moratorium. This Moratorium, adopted in October 1998, is a voluntary commitment on the part of ECOWAS Member States to stop the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms, for three years. It expires on 31 October 2001. However, the geo-political situation in West Africa is getting worse, despite the recent gains in some countries. The proliferation of small arms is obviously a destabilising factor in the region, which has seen the tragedy of children being used in combat operations.
The European Union would like to reiterate its strong support for the renewal of the ECOWAS Moratorium as a way of consolidating the demilitarisation process in West Africa. We would also like to emphasise that ownership and political commitment on the part of the ECOWAS Member States in the implementation of the Moratorium is essential.
Having said this, Mr. Chairman, the European Union is fully aware of the situation in other regions affected by violent conflict, e.g. in parts of Latin America, where crime and drug trafficking combined with the proliferation of small arms have caused great suffering to large parts of the civilian population, including children.
These concrete examples serve as a reminder of the importance of the work of the PrepCom and the Conference.
I should now like to turn to the task that we have before us. The European Union welcomes the revised draft Programme of Action (document L.4 rev. 1), and we are very grateful to you, Mr. Chairman, for this timely contribution to the work of the Preparatory Committee. The European Union supports the general thrust of the document, which will serve as a good basis for our work at this session.
The European Union has already expressed its general comments on the document in writing, and these comments are before the Committee in document A/CONF.192/PC/82. This document reflects our general approach as we are now focusing on translating political principles into an operative Programme of Action to deal with the problems raised by small arms and light weapons specifically designed, manufactured or modified for military use. Let me in this context reiterate that the EU is looking for one document, in which the political commitments are outlined in a preamble.
The EU is of the opinion that the Preparatory Committee at its third session should consider the revised Programme of Action paragraph by paragraph, and in so doing, develop the specifics in the document. As we do so, the EU intends to put forward detailed proposals to further elaborate on some parts of the document.
The EU has listened with great interest to the views and suggestions from relevant UN organs and the Bretton Woods institutions, which should be taken into account as the Programme of Action is elaborated further. By the same token, regional actions and initiatives should be factored into the document, taking into account the suggestions by regional organisations that we have heard/will hear today.
Before making some comments on the substance, let me take up two outstanding procedural issues.
It is high time to conclude the consideration of NGO participation in the Preparatory Committee and the Conference itself. We have been in touch with other delegations in the period leading up to this meeting and we believe that the Committee should now take a decision, which allows for the widest possible participation of NGOs in the Conference and its preparation.
The question of the Chairmanship of the Conference is still undecided. The European Union stands firm in its support for the nomination by the United Kingdom of Sir Michael Weston as Chairman of the Conference. The European Union will be looking to you, Mr. Chairman, in our search for a solution. We are looking forward to a settlement of this question as soon as possible and, hopefully, before the end of this session so as to lay a good basis for the start of Conference in July.
The European Union is of the opinion that the Programme of Action must go beyond a simple enumeration of the problems associated with the destabilising accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons. We feel strongly that when we formulate the Programme of Action, we should aim at agreeing on concrete solutions, on political commitments and standards and, thus, setting guidelines for our future work. In our written comments we have made some preliminary remarks on how we believe we can make the commitments contained in the Programme of Action more concrete. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I should like to summarise our general suggestions for the benefit of other delegations.
The Programme of Action would benefit from emphasising in the preamble the importance of efforts to combat the illicit trade in small arms in all its aspects, as a contribution to the prevention of conflicts.
It is also important to highlight the concerns for the negative impact of small arms proliferation on development, particularly in undermining national and international efforts to pursue and support sustainable development programmes.
Strict export controls are of utmost importance in the efforts to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. For this reason, the commitments, in particular section II para 8-11 should be developed further and include export criteria. We propose that we seek inspiration from the language agreed in the OSCE.
In the context of co-operation on law enforcement (e.g. section II para 27) it is essential also to draw attention to the problems posed by diversion of small arms.
Section II para 12 should reflect a political commitment to elaborate a legally binding instrument on arms brokering, as envisaged in section IV para 5.
It would be useful to include commitments to consider how to deal with financing and transportation, in the context of the illegal trade in small arms. On financing, in particular the links between the illegal arms trade and other kinds of illicit trade should be covered.
We support the proposal to elaborate a legally binding instrument on tracability/marking (section II para 35).
As regards management of stockpiles, reduction of surpluses, and destruction, we propose to add indicators of surplus in the Programme of Action, as expressed in the OSCE Document.
Information exchange and transparency on legal flows of arms will be of great help to uncover and combat illicit flows of arms. States should therefore be encouraged to make information available on exports and imports not only in a regional context, as indicated in section II para 30, but also at the global level.
We strongly support the proposals regarding assistance to the implementation of the Programme of Action, and propose that the contributions that could be made by relevant parts of the UN Secretariat (DDA, DPKO, OCHA), and by UN organisations (UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR) and the World Bank, be signalled. In this context, we should like to point out that there is already valuable experience to draw from in the operative parts of the UN.
The Programme of Action would benefit from emphasising the connection between the illicit trade in small arms, and economic and social development. Actions dealing with the problems of small arms should include national and regional capacity-building and good governance measures, and should draw on the experience of NGOs and civil society.
In section II para 34 relating to DD&R we propose to add that these questions should be included in mandates of peacekeeping operations. Furthermore, control and reduction measures need to be integral parts of future development programmes.
The EU supports the proposals dealing with the follow-up to the Conference, including the proposal of a Follow-up Conference in 2006 (Section IV para 2.). We are also in favour of the proposal concerning meetings of States on a biennial basis to discuss the implementation of the Programme. (Section IV para 3.) In addition to considering national and regional implementation, it would be useful to consider global action at such meetings. The biennial meetings would benefit from reports submitted by States and regional organisations.
The EU strongly supports the role of NGOs and civil society in the implementation of the Programme of Action.
The EU proposes that timelines be introduced for the elaboration of international legally binding instruments.
These are some preliminary remarks that the EU wishes to make at this stage, and they will - as I have said - be followed up with drafting suggestions as we go through the document paragraph by paragraph.
The European Union is prepared to work hard with you and other delegations to accomplish the task that we have before us. We should remember that what we are doing can make a difference for the many people that are suffering because of the uncontrolled flows and destabilising accumulations of small arms and light weapons. If we keep that in mind, we are confident that we can agree on the necessary concrete steps to deal with the problems caused by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.