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UN meets next week to chart progress on suppressing illicit trade in small arms

UN meets next week to chart progress on suppressing illicit trade in small arms

Calling small arms the real weapons of mass destruction because of their daily toll on human life, the heads of a conference next week to review how United Nations Member States have implemented a programme to eliminate the trade in illicit weapons today said that despite some progress, much more needed to be done.

The Chairman of the Biennial Meeting of States on the illicit small arms trade, Pasi Patokallio of Finland, said the welcome news included the entry into force a few days ago of a legally binding UN protocol against illicit firearms trafficking which sought to fight criminality by using the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Two weeks ago, he added, another politically binding UN instrument was negotiated to identify and trace small arms, both in crime and in conflict situations.

On the other hand, the annual "Small Arms Survey" estimated that about 100,000 people per year died in direct conflict and small arms were responsible for up to 90 per cent of those deaths. In addition, a recent study by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue called "No Relief" showed that small arms violence played a major role in preventing the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance, Mr. Patokallio said.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Nobuyasu Abe said people were now realizing that the "culprits" in the spread of small arms were international arms brokers, not necessarily Governments.

Brokers bought the arms legitimately, but then diverted them into underground markets, a practice which had saturated African countries and fuelled conflicts elsewhere, he said.

With the conclusion of the negotiations on tracing small arms, attention was now moving to controlling the brokers and that topic would also be discussed next week, Mr. Abe said.