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UN conference draws attention to illicit trade in arms, but closes without a text

UN conference draws attention to illicit trade in arms, but closes without a text

The United Nations conference on progress in stemming the illicit trade in small arms that fuel conflict and crime ended today without adopting a common position paper – as differences between delegations on follow-up actions remained unresolved – but it succeeded in drawing world attention to the issue, its chairman said.

“This conference was a success in that it brought great international attention to the issue,” Chairman Prasad Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka said, noting the broad media coverage of the conference, which opened on June 26 to review the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, which remains the pivotal framework for international, regional and national activity to curtail illegal gun trafficking.

Though an agreed final declaration was not concluded, that Programme of Action firmly remained “an enabling framework that empowered states, international and regional organizations and other relevant organizations and civil society” to work to end the illicit trade in small arms. “Its validity and effectiveness remained undiminished,” he said.

As Secretary-General Kofi Annan reminded the Conference in his opening address, every year an estimated $1 billion worth of these weapons are traded illicitly worldwide, exacerbating conflicts that kill tens of thousands, sparking refugee flows, undermining the rule of law and spawning a “culture of violence and impunity.”

In the past five years since the Programme of Action was adopted, nearly 140 countries have reported on illegal gun trafficking, while a third of all States have made efforts to collect weapons from those not legally entitled to hold them, Mr. Annan said. Other progress included increased cooperation among and within regions to stem the flow of illicit weapons across national borders.

More than 2,000 representatives from governments, international and regional organizations and civil society took part in the two-week event.