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Implementing existing agreements key for combating small arms trade – UN

Implementing existing agreements key for combating small arms trade – UN

A meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York on progress to curb the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons under a 2001 agreement has wrapped up with UN Member States stressing the need to cooperate on combating the scourge, which continues to kill, maim and displace thousands of innocent people every year.

The week-long meeting, which closed Friday, was part of a follow-up to the July 2001 Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. That conference had adopted an action plan which identified national, regional and global measures aimed at small arms.

Convened in anticipation of a 2006 Conference that will review progress in implementing the 2001 accord, the five-day meeting provided an opportunity for States, international and regional organizations, and civil society to discuss regional and international plans and highlight successes and best practices in controlling the spread of the weapons, including legislation, stockpile management, weapons destruction, identification and tracing.

"New measures are not a substitute for good-faith implementation of old ones," said Pasi Patokallio of Finland, chairman of the meeting, as he summed up the discussions. The implementation of existing commitments remained the foundation of all efforts. Small arms trafficking, proliferation and misuse could be brought under much better control if all States implemented the commitments they had undertaken in 2001, he said.

He said that States had stressed international cooperation and assistance and capacity-building in affected States. Without capacity, even States with the strongest political will and commitment could do little. But there must also be political will and commitment on behalf of the recipient States for international cooperation and assistance to make a difference. Aid could be wasted on small arms projects just as easily as on any other projects, if the political will to effect real change on the ground was lacking.

Much had been said on a need for a comprehensive or holistic approach, he added. Small arms trafficking, proliferation and misuse impacted on security, development and human rights. There was a clear need for stronger supply-side measures. Enhancing controls on transfers, globally, would go a long way towards preventing small arms and light weapons from being used to stoke conflict, undermine or even reverse development and violate human rights.

All States enforcing proper criteria in authorizing their arms transfers would go a long way towards dealing with the problem of non-State actors. For the same reason, regulating brokers and brokering activities was also important, he said.