UN forum on small arms is not drafting binding legal treaty, official says

UN forum on small arms is not drafting binding legal treaty, official says

Responding to a recent newspaper editorial published in the United States, a senior United Nations disarmament official has clarified that the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in New York is not drafting a binding pact to control those armaments.

In a letter to the editor published in Friday's edition of The Washington Times, Jayantha Dhanapala, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, says the paper's editorial, which appeared on 13 July, mistakenly assumed that the forum is engaged in a treaty-making exercise. "It is not," Mr. Dhanapala writes. "There will be no treaty to be signed or ratified."

Pointing out that Conference participants recognize that effective solutions require the cooperation of all States, Mr. Dhanapala says the two-week forum that began on 9 July aimed to "achieve a global political consensus on a programme of action that describes the problem and identifies various national, regional and global measures to alleviate it."

The clear focus of the Conference is "obvious to all but a small minority," the Under-Secretary-General notes. "Few of your readers would want to protect or, even less, promote illegal trade that places military-standard small arms and light weapons into the hands of terrorist groups, criminal gangs or drug lords who use such arms to protect their illicit global interests."

Mr. Dhanapala points out that in his speech at the conference, John R. Bolton, the US Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, called attacking the global illicit trade in small arms and light weapons "an important initiative which the international community should, indeed must, address because of its wide-ranging effects. ... Alleviating these problems is in all our interest."