The United Nations Security Council today urged the world's countries to do more to halt the flow of the illicit small arms and light weapons, warning that they could end up in the hands of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida.
In a presidential statement read after an open debate on the issue, Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz of Chile, which holds the rotating presidency for January, acknowledged the right of countries to acquire arms for legitimate reasons of security and self-defence.
But he also called on all States to implement the Programme of Action against small arms and light weapons adopted at a 2001 UN conference and to support efforts to negotiate a legally binding international instrument that would help to track illegal arms sales.
"The Council encourages the arms-exporting countries to exercise the highest degree of responsibility in small arms and light weapons transactions," Ambassador Muñoz said. "It also encourages international and regional cooperation in the consideration of the origin and transfers of small arms and light weapons in order to prevent their diversion to terrorist groups, in particular, Al Qaida."
Some of the almost 40 delegates who spoke at the meeting noted that the easy availability of arms and weapons had sustained several conflicts, especially in Africa. Speakers also drew attention to the problems experienced by countries that are used as transshipment points. There was widespread agreement on the need for regional cooperation, including through combined law enforcement efforts, to combat the destabilization caused by the proliferation of small arms.
At the outset of the debate, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe, presented the most recent report on the issue by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who highlights the progress achieved in disarming and demobilizing former combatants in several post-conflict countries, and in tracking the flow of arms and weapons.
But his report also underscores the continuing need to fund disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes in post-conflict nations through the UN's peacekeeping.
In addition, the report notes that more political will and technical capacity are necessary to punish States that deliberately breach arms embargoes.