Global perspective Human stories

States need help in cooperating with arms embargoes: UN official

States need help in cooperating with arms embargoes: UN official

In order to cut off the supply of weapons that fuel conflicts, States need more support for complying with arms embargoes, a United Nations disarmament official told the Security Council today as it reviewed progress in controlling the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons ahead of a major June conference on the subject.

“Such support could include technical assistance for improved monitoring of national air spaces and maritime borders as well as the development of means to identify and prosecute those that violate arms embargoes” said Hannelore Hoppe, Officer-in-Charge of the Department for Disarmament Affairs, as she introducing a review of progress in the area since a milestone 2002 report by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In that report, Mr. Annan called for support to a small arms advisory service within the UN to assist States’ control efforts. Ms. Hoppe said initiative, called the Coordination Action on Small Arms (CASA), had made great strides but required more backing from Member States.

The report had also called for an international convention to identify and trace illicit arms, suggesting that countries fully utilize the Interpol tracking system for weapons and explosives. Ms. Hoppe noted that the General Assembly had recently adopted a politically binding international pact for that purpose, as well as an arms-trade protocol to the convention against trans-national organized crime.

She suggested the Council urge States that have not yet ratified or acceded to that treaty to do so.

The 2002 report also urged the Council to include in the mandate of peacekeeping operations clear provisions for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants, including measures for the collection and disposal of weapons.

There had been some progress in that area, Ms. Hoppe, but efforts to systematically integrate long-term weapons control measures in the DDR process had to be intensified.

An encouraging sign of progress, she said, was the increased focus on the link between the illicit arms trade and the illicit exploitation of natural resources, as well as on measures to disrupt that linkage.

In her presentation, Ms. Hoppe called attention to the upcoming major UN conference to review progress made in the implementation of the 2001 programme of action to eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

She said the intensity of the debates during the preparatory process for the conference confirmed, on the one hand, that States remained as committed as they were in 2001 to tackle the challenges posed by the trade.

On the other hand, she said the wide diversity of views expressed regarding the question was “symptomatic of the complexity of the challenges posed by the problem of the illicit trade and its multifaceted nature.” The conference will be held from 26 June to 7 July.

In the day-long discussion that followed Ms Hoppe’s presentation, in which some 40 delegations took part, most speakers agreed that in order to halt conflicts, particularly those decimating Africa, it was crucial to complete the implementation of the 2001 action programme and the 2002 recommendations of the Secretary-General.

This year’s Review Conference presented a vital opportunity to focus on areas where obstacles to full implementation persisted, namely marking and tracing, brokering regulations, transfer controls, ammunition, and the integration of small arms measures into development assistance, participants said.

While the majority of speakers welcomed the recent adoption of the instrument for marking and tracing arms, they regretted that it did not have a legally binding character or contain provisions regarding ammunition.