Global perspective Human stories

States must set up norms banning illicit small arms, Annan tells Security Council

States must set up norms banning illicit small arms, Annan tells Security Council

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Secretary-General Kofi Annan today told the United Nations Security Council that the progress made at last month's UN conference on small arms must be followed by certain key activities, including the establishment of legally binding norms banning the illicit trade in light weapons.

The Secretary-General's comments were made at the outset of a daylong open debate proposed by Colombia to examine the way the issue of small arms has been handled since the item was first introduced in the Council's agenda in September 1999. The discussion, which involved representatives of some 40 countries, was chaired by Foreign Minister Guillermo Fernández de Soto of Colombia, the president of the Council for the month of August.

A second goal of the debate was to discuss how the Council could help implement the Programme of Action adopted on 21 July 2001 at the "UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects."

At that conference, countries had committed themselves to develop measures aimed at preventing the illicit manufacturing of - and trade in - small arms and light weapons. They had also agreed to place special emphasis on post?conflict situations, to destroy illicit or surplus weapons as necessary, and to act responsibly in the areas of export, import, transit and re-transfer of weapons, since legal weapons often found their way into the hands of terrorists, criminals and drug?traffickers.

"These are significant first steps in alleviating a grave threat to international peace and security," Mr. Annan told the Council. "We must now consolidate these gains. A programme of action is a beginning, not an end in itself. Implementation will be the true test."

Stressing the need for international treaties banning illegal small weapons, the Secretary-General pointed out that States had established binding norms and/or treaties in the areas of nuclear non?proliferation, chemical and biological weapons, and anti?personnel land mines. "The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is conspicuous for its lack of such a framework of binding norms and standards," he said.

Another problem area, Mr. Annan said, was the increase since the mid-1980s in the number of companies and countries manufacturing small arms and light weapons. "Some of the world's wealthy nations are the main suppliers," he said. "But many developing countries also produce small arms, including for export."

Finally, the Secretary-General called attention to the devastating impact of light weapons on children, who face "death, injury or displacement; the loss of parents and siblings; and trauma at witnessing violence." He said the glorification of guns sent children the wrong message: that non?violent solutions were unworkable and unrealistic, and that power was to be found not in one's skills or intellect, but by intimidating or inflicting harm on others.

"Children are the most vulnerable victims of small arms and light weapons, and their special needs have not been given sufficient attention," he stressed.