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Nigeria urges countries to heed 'clarion calls on our consciences' by negotiating arms trade treaty, as First Committee debates conventional weapons

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GA/DIS/3372

Sixty-third General Assembly
First Committee
13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)

'For Every African, There Are Seven Illicit Bullets and Three Guns Targeted At Him or Her', Says Speaker; Two Drafts Introduced, One on Arms Trade Treaty

The current global crises were "clarion calls on our consciences" to curb the illicit circulation of arms and weapons, Nigeria's representative said today, urging Member States to "look beyond the narrow prism of national commercial interest and embrace the more compelling and globally strategic reasons of practical solidarity with the international community on this issue".

Addressing the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) as it continued its thematic debate on conventional weapons, he underlined the fundamental right of States to procure arms for self-defence, but said that Africa had been sideswiped by the devastating consequences of a burgeoning unregulated illicit arms trade.

"For every African, there are seven illicit bullets and three guns targeted at him or her," he said. "This is scandalous especially at a time when an unacceptably high ratio of the world's population still lives below the poverty line. The more we ignore those realities, the more this august body risks losing its responsibility of being the conscience of man."

To remedy that, he stressed the "absolute" need for a universal, legally binding arms trade treaty that would put in place a mechanism to ensure that small arms and light weapons were not delivered into illicit networks. Closely related was the need for end-user certificates and international regulation of arms brokering to control illicit cross-border movement of arms.

With more than 740,000 people killed each year by small arms, "another diplomatic statement is no longer affordable", said Dalius Čekuolis, the Chairman of the Third Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects, held in July in New York.

Processes, frameworks and meetings were "mere tools" and means to tackle the real issues, he said. Ideas of substance developed over the years needed to be followed up. Demanding vigorous action was verifying the identity of end-users of weapons shipments to prevent arms diversion to the illicit market and to enforce arms embargoes. Without a standard format for authenticated end-user certificates, Governments in transit States had little means of establishingveracity. Some regional instruments addressed end-user certification and verification, but no global instrument existed. The omnibus small arms resolution before the Committee would "prod us to commence working on this practical issue".

The representative for Argentina said strong support for regulation had already been shown, as he introduced the draft resolution entitled "Towards an Arms Trade Treaty", which was co-sponsored by 88 Member States (document A/C.1/63/L.39). By its terms, the General Assembly, determined to prevent the diversion of conventional arms from the legal into the illicit trade, would establish an open-ended working group to meet in 2009 to further consider the possibility of a legally binding treaty on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.

Broad support emerged during today's debate to continue consideration of such a treaty. Speaking on behalf of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Burkina Faso's delegate said the devastating consequences, the culture of violence spreading in the region and the network of illegal arms trafficking across the world demanded an urgent response. In fact, the scourge of illicit arms trading had led to the adoption in 2006 of the ECOWAS convention.

The representative of Côte d'Ivoire agreed, saying the ECOWAS convention could serve as a guide for the international community, as it reproduced most of the principles for an international arms trade treaty.

Israel's representative stressed that the irresponsible transfer of conventional arms had strengthened extremist groups and turned terrorist cells into a dominating force, using arms against civilians as a method of gaining political advantage. It had been Israel's longstanding position that any initiative dealing with conventional arms had to maintain the balance between legitimate security needs of States and the need to prevent unnecessary human suffering. However, while the international community must address, as a priority, the prevention of arms transfers to terrorists, an arms trade treaty would be ineffective in ceasing uncontrolled flows of weapons and military equipment into untrustworthy hands, he said.

Sweden's representative, on behalf of Greece, Jordan and the Netherlands, introduced a draft resolution on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (document A/C.1/63/L.31), by which the General Assembly would, among other things, welcome the commitment of States parties to the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (Protocol V) to the effective and efficient implementation of the Protocol. It would call upon all States parties to express their consent to be bound by the Convention's Protocols and the amendment extending the scope of the Convention and the Protocols to include armed conflicts of a non-international character.

Statements in the thematic debate were also made by Daithí O'Ceallaigh, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chairman of the Dublin Conference on Cluster Munitions; Michael Hasenau, Chairman of the Group of Governmental Experts established to consider further steps to enhance cooperation with regard to the issue of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus; and Edvardas Borisovas of Lithuania in his capacity as the President-designate of the Second Conference of the High Contracting Parties to Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War.

General statements were also made by the representatives of Chile, Japan, South Africa, Pakistan, Jordan, Jamaica, Mali, Kazakhstan, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Colombia, Belarus, Fiji, Finland, New Zealand, Russian Federation, United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Cuba, Indonesia, Mozambique, Thailand, Turkey, India, Republic of Korea, Canada, Uruguay, United Kingdom and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Syria's representative spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The First Committee will meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 October, to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today in two meetings to continue its thematic discussion on conventional weapons, as well as to begin its thematic discussion on the issue of other disarmament measures and international security, and to hear the introduction of related draft resolutions.

Members were first expected to hear statements by Dalius Cekuolis, Chairman of the Third Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. That would be followed by statements by Daithí O'Ceallaigh, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Chairman of the Dublin Conference on Cluster Munitions; and Michael Hasenau, Chairman of the Group of Governmental Experts established to consider further steps to enhance cooperation with regard to the issue of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus.

Thematic Debate on Conventional Weapons

Mr. CEKUOLIS, Chairman of the Third Biennial Meeting of States, said the Secretary-General's report on small arms noted that these were the "instruments of choice" in crime and conflict. He highlighted the Geneva Declaration's latest figures estimating that more than 740,000 people were killed each year, directly or indirectly by small arms, with two-thirds of those people dying outside war zones. "Another diplomatic statement was no longer affordable," he said.

He said that the Third Biennial Meeting held in July had put the United Nations small arms process "back on track". The gathering had produced the first agreement in seven years on a way forward and had provided the means to spur the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects and the International Tracing Instrument at national, global and regional levels. The coming omnibus small arms resolution, sponsored by Japan, South Africa and Colombia, would provide the framework for future work.

The process of moving forward would include giving immediate effect to concepts and agreements, establishment of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's Programme of Action Implementation Support System and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research database for matching needs and resources. Other forward steps included more comprehensive national reporting and making better use of civil society expertise.

But processes, frameworks and meetings were "mere tools" and means to tackle real issues, he said, adding that ideas of substance developed over the years needed to be followed up. Those included intensified regional and national efforts to staunch illicit brokering and bolstered efforts on stockpile management, including capacity-building and financial assistance, where needed. The outcome on the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument had stressed the mutually reinforcing nature of weapons marking. The next steps were clear, and among them were training national personnel, bringing national laws and regulations in line with the instrument and providing assistance to non-manufacturing States for import marking.

He said that verifying the identity of end-users of weapons shipments also demanded vigorous action, as that was an important means of preventing arms diversion to the illicit market and enforcing arms embargoes. Without a standard format for authenticated end-user certificates, Governments in transit States had little means of establishing their veracity. Some regional instruments addressed end-user certification and verification, but no global instrument on end-user verification existed. In the Biennial Meeting's outcome document, States had stressed the importance of end-user verification, including certification and standardization. The omnibus small arms resolution this year would "prod us to commence working on this practical issue."

While the Biennial Meeting had been successful, it was only one step along the road, he said. Long-term success in rising to the small arms challenge would require sustained commitment of United Nations Member States to effective action in collaboration with partners in international organizations and civil society.

Mr. O'CEALLAIGH said the Dublin Conference had been the culmination of a series of meetings in Oslo, Lima and Vienna in 2007, and in Wellington in February, whose objective had been "to prohibit cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians". After two weeks of intense work, the Conference had adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions by consensus on Friday, 30 May. The Convention would be opened for signature on 3 December and would enter into force six months after the deposit of the thirtieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

He said that the Convention's main provisions maintained that there was a comprehensive prohibition on the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and transfer of cluster munitions, as well as on assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in behaviour prohibited for a State party. Cluster munitions were defined for the purposes of the Convention.

Weapons systems with certain characteristics, aimed at avoiding indiscriminate area effects and the risks posed by unexploded submunitions, were excluded from the definition, and thus, from the operative provisions applying to cluster munitions, he said. Explosive bomblets that were specifically designed to be dispersed or released from dispensers affixed to aircraft were subjected to the same prohibitions as cluster munitions.

The Convention contained obligations regarding the destruction of stockpiles of cluster munitions and the clearance of cluster munitions remnants from areas under the jurisdiction or control of a State party. Those obligations should be complied with as soon as possible and within certain prescribed deadlines, which might be extended where circumstances warranted.

The Convention's article 21 also took into account the fact that, at least initially, not all States would be party to the treaty and that some States not party might wish to continue to use cluster munitions. It permitted States parties, subjected to certain restrictions, to engage in military cooperation and operations with such States. He was particularly pleased that the Conference had reached an outcome through consensus. The Secretary-General had agreed to act as depositary of the Convention.

ALFREDO LABBE ( Chile) said he was extremely pleased that the Oslo process had successfully produced a legally-binding document prohibiting cluster munitions. That was an important step forward in humanitarian law. Proponents of the process had been able to "free themselves" from the restrictive atmosphere that had suffocated the Conference on Disarmament. An open-ended process had brought about results, and thus, the Oslo Convention would continue to grow, reflecting a consensus that cluster munitions were inhumane instruments of war.

He said he supported the regional campaign; to him the "guiding light" was that the region would be designated as a cluster munitions-free zone. The Oslo example was one to be followed whenever there was a lack of leadership in international diplomacy. As for the next chapter, perhaps the issue of small arms and light weapons was ripe, and fashioning a treaty on the matter might follow.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and of Their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention) had also born fruit, and was a landmark disarmament endeavour, generating an instrument, as well as a community of 156 States parties. That "community" had witnessed the participation of varied organizations in efforts to address the issues of mines. In Chile's region, the Convention had supported the political process and triggered new concepts of security. Bilateral disputes had been solved peacefully. Mine clearance, a dangerous, arduous and costly operation, would take a great deal of time, but that was covered by the Convention, as were issues of victim assistance.

The concept of surplus munitions also required attention and had also brought about a sense of community, he said. There were "fresh winds blowing from the Nordic fjords and Canada" in that regard, and the time had come to examine the multilateral treaty on these issues, he said. He asked Members States to reflect over the successes of the past year. Disarmament had gotten bogged down, but it was essential to continue along the road to success.

SUMIO TARUI (Japan) said with more than half a million people killed worldwide each year by small arms and light weapons, it was patently clear that the United Nations needed to continue to actively address that issue. This year's Biennial Meeting of States had adopted the first report on the issue since the 2001 Programme of Action, and it contained guidance on key issues. Innovations in the meeting had led to its successful conclusion, including its launch of the Programme's Implementation Support System, which would be beneficial for matching needs to resources. Japan had contributed $480,000 to the 1998 United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms database, which was the foundation of the new Implementation Support System. Japan had also submitted a draft resolution last week, on behalf of Colombia and South Africa, which would encourage the outline of the Biennial Meeting of States for "the way forward".

He said that regulating the arms trade was also effective for preventing conflict and terrorism, and the Group of Governmental Experts meetings on an arms trade treaty had discussed common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons, concluding that further consideration was required. Japan believed that the momentum for the creation of such a treaty should be maintained. From that perspective, the United Kingdom and co-sponsor countries, including Japan, had submitted a draft resolution proposing further deliberations between all United Nations Member States in 2009.

Concerning cluster munitions, Japan had been contributing to the clearance of unexploded ordnance in Lebanon, Lao People's Democratic Republic and other areas. He welcomed the Cluster Munitions Convention, saying his country was "seriously considering" concrete steps towards signing the treaty. Japan also continued to support an effective international instrument within the framework of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (Convention Certain Conventional Weapons).

While the Mine-Ban Convention had made progress, work remained on such issues as the universalization of the Convention and adherence to mine clearance and stockpile obligations, he noted. Meanwhile, Japan had provided victim assistance to landmine survivors in Cambodia and Colombia, contributing $51 million to projects in 14 countries. Japan planned to continue its support for affected countries.

TALENT DUMISILE MOLABA ( South Africa) said that the small arms Action Programme remained the central global instrument to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in those weapons. Through the adoption of a substantive report at the end of the Third Biennial Meeting of States, the United Nations small arms process was now widely considered to be back on track. International cooperation and assistance remained an essential aspect of the full implementation of the action plan. International cooperation and assistance should be built on the foundation of capacity-building because, without the necessary skills transfers, the sustainability of implementation efforts would be compromised.

She said that the Mine-Ban Convention remained the most comprehensive international instrument for ridding the world of the scourge of anti-personnel mines. States parties, therefore, should face the important task of deciding on requests for the extension of deadlines for completing the destruction of emplaced anti-personnel mines, in accordance with the treaty's article 5. Consideration of those requests was particularly challenging, as no precedent existed for making such decisions. The clearance of all mined areas in accordance with the Treaty was part of the comprehensive approach for ending the suffering and casualties. She was disappointed to have learned how long many mine-affected States parties had let languish their national assessments and related clearance implementation plans. He called upon those States that had submitted extension requests to redouble their mine clearance efforts.

The opportunity to have participated in the Dublin conference had been welcome and she would actively participate in deliberations on cluster munitions in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Conventional weapons often attracted less international attention than weapons of mass destruction. However, conventional weapons proliferation remained a very real problem, particularly in those areas of the world where small arms were not only cheap, but also easily accessible and where their proliferation continued to fuel violence and conflict. Arms control efforts, therefore, should be intensified, and transparency and confidence-building in arms trade transactions should be increased. South Africa would continue to ensure implementation of a legitimate, effective and transparent arms control process and to foster national and international confidence in control procedures.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR (Pakistan) said that while there was an urgent need to address the challenge of small arms and light weapons trade, it was imperative not to allow that debate to divert focus from the destabilizing impact of the huge volume of trade in combat aircraft, aircraft carriers, airborne and early warning and control systems, missile defence, nuclear submarines and warships, as well as related technologies. It was hard to overemphasize the fact that such dealings disrupted regional balances and exacerbated tensions. Driven mostly by commercial considerations, that trade had no meaningful legal or moral underpinning.

He said that citizens of developing countries were the target clientele for such sales. For sellers, a conflict situation opened a window of opportunity for peddling the wares of destruction to both antagonists. It was a moral and legal imperative to promote conventional arms control at the lowest possible levels of armaments and military forces, in order to promote regional and international peace and security. The key to ensuring success of conventional arms control was in its regional and subregional pursuit since most threats to peace and security originated from conflicts between States located in the same region or subregion. Efforts must be stepped up to curb excessive and destabilizing accumulation of conventional arms, as well as their uncontrolled transfers.

He said that a stable balance of conventional forces was necessary to ensure strategic stability, particularly in regions rife with tensions. In South Asia, Pakistan was pursuing a Strategic Restraint Regime, which had three constituents: conflict resolution; nuclear and missile restraint; and conventional balance. As part of a dialogue to address outstanding issues and work towards strategic stability and nuclear risk reduction, Pakistan would strive for conventional balance at the lowest possible level of armaments. In the interest of peace and security in South Asia, there must be restraint, both in demand and supply of conventional arms. In addition to a resolution on negative security assurances, he said his delegation had tabled three draft resolutions on those subjects.

He noted several developments in the area of "certain conventional weapons realm", among them, the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions this year, which should supplement and not supplant the Certain Conventional Weapons process. Any proposal with regard to the conventional arms trade had to take into account the right of all States to manufacture, import, export, transfer and retain conventional arms for self defence and security. Genuine efforts to prevent the destabilizing impact of conventional arms must consider not only constraints on their transfer and trade, but also their production and deployment. Controls on transfers or trade could not be divorced from the question of arms production and trade, as well as the motivation for their transfer and sale.

MOHAMMED AL-ALLAF ( Jordan) said that over the past three decades some 1 million people had fallen prey to landmines, and today, of the one-half million survivors, 80 per cent were civilians. The humanitarian price of those indiscriminate weapons and their continuous and latent danger remained high, and more needed to be done to rid the world of them. The international community was working towards universalizing the Mine-Ban Convention and towards providing more resources for mine clearance operations and victim rehabilitation. Jordan had destroyed all of its anti-personnel mine stockpiles in 2003 and hoped it would meet all of its treaty obligations by the 2009 deadline.

He said that the illicit small arms and light weapons trade remained a matter of grave concern, as it interrupted peace, security and development. Combating that illicit trade required a collective and concerted international and regional response. In that regard, the 2001 Programme of Action was the framework for such a response and its implementation was imperative. Jordan stressed the importance of providing technical, technological and financial assistance to States requesting it, in order to strengthen the Programme's implementation.

Jordan reiterated the importance of achieving the universality of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, one of the principal instruments of international humanitarian law, and he appealed to all States that had not yet done so to become parties to the Convention at the earliest possible date. Jordan, together with Sweden, Greece and the Netherlands, had sponsored a draft resolution on that Convention, which he hoped would be adopted without a vote.

ROBERTO GARCIA MORITAN ( Argentina) introduced a draft resolution A/C.1/63/L.39 entitled "Towards an Arms Trade Treaty". He noted that the resolution was sponsored by 88 Member States. The level of support clearly showed the renewed will that was behind the text. He invited all States to support it.

He said that the draft included elements that brought balance to the treatment of the matter of an arms trade treaty. There was a clear recognition of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, concerning the right to individual or collective self-defence in the event of armed attack. It also recognized the right to buy and sell weapons for defence needs. Additionally, there was a clear recognition that conventional weapons should not be diverted for illegal purposes. It allowed Member States to work hand-in-hand and to share opinions and find solutions to the problem in an incremental process.

The crafting of a common language for the resolution would allow for greater understanding during examination of the issue of a possible arms trade treaty, he said. The draft resolution indicated that an open-ended working group would be established to meet for up to six one-week sessions starting in 2009, of which the two sessions foreseen next year would be held in New York from 2 to 6 March and 13 to 17 July, respectively. The group would meet in an organizational session in New York on 27 February 2009. It would further consider those elements in the Group of Governmental Experts' report where consensus could be developed for their inclusion in an eventual legally-binding treaty on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.

RAYMOND O.WOLFE (Jamaica), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), expressed deep concern about the illicit small arms and light weapons trade. Like most developing States faced with the problem, Jamaica sought the urgent support of the international community to work towards a permanent solution. The unrestrained access and spread of those illegal weapons and ammunition posed severe humanitarian and socio-economic challenges to many States, particularly developing countries. The Jamaican Government had been obliged to divert scarce resources from its national development budget in a bid to stifle its far-reaching effects.

He urged the First Committee not to marginalize the need for coordinated decisive action to curb the illicit trade in those weapons, which were inflicting havoc in many countries. Small arms and light weapons were weapons of mass destruction to countries like Jamaica, which neither produced nor imported them on a large scale. Jamaica had implemented several measures in the past four years to address the issue. He welcomed the results of the Third Biennial Meeting of States and firmly supported the establishment of an arms trade treaty to impose strict controls on the illicit arms trade. The work of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly in the area of small arms and light weapons, remained crucial in that fight.

OUMAR DAOU ( Mali) said that peace and security must be managed in a preventive way. Those were issues of the highest concern to Mali and other African States, which had placed the fight against the small arms and light weapons scourge at the centre of its security policies. In the north of Mali and across the Sahel-Sahara band, areas of conflict had been affected by the use of those weapons, with which bandits and criminals had destabilized security. To better fight against banditry and terrorism, Mali had established a system of border cooperation, which had made it possible to exchange information on travelling criminal groups; it was a foundation for battling the threat posed by those weapons.

He said his country would soon host a regional conference on security and development in Bamako, which aimed to provide, among other things, responses to those threats, which included terrorism and trafficking of drugs and human beings. Following the 2001 small arms conference, Mali had sought to combat the proliferation of those weapons by conforming to the Programme of Action and the Bamako Declaration. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had adopted a convention on small arms and light weapons in Abuja, Nigeria in 2006, marking a significant step forward in that field. ECOWAS had also launched a programme on small arms that year.

On behalf of the African Group, he introduced a draft resolution on assistance to States to curb the illicit trade in, and stockpiling of, small arms and light weapons. He hoped for its adoption by consensus. The draft text, among other provisions, called upon the international community to provide technical and financial assistance to reinforce the capacity of civil society organizations. The text also called on the international community to support the implementation of the ECOWAS convention. "The world needed security and peace", he said, adding that this draft resolution was an important step towards that security.

RUSTEM SAGINDIKOV ( Kazakhstan) said the challenge caused by the destabilizing development, accumulation and proliferation of conventional weapons was one of the key issues in ensuring international stability and security. The illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons had a negative impact on security, human rights and socio-economic situations, particularly in crisis and post-conflict areas. Today, no country was immune to the disruptions in the mechanisms of control over conventional weapons arsenals.

He fully supported the provisions and recommendations of the recent reports of the Secretary-General on small arms and believed that the United Nations should play a leading role in countering that threat. The adoption of the outcome document at the Third Biennial Meeting of States constituted real progress towards countering the illicit arms trafficking.

Kazakhstan was working on the issue at the international level through several instruments such as the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, he said. It had also introduced a new law on export control adapted to today's realities and current standards. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons was the most important international instrument for reducing risks to civilians and military personnel. The adoption of the Convention had been an important step towards humanizing the principles of warfare, reducing casualties and alleviating the suffering of civilian populations in post-conflict periods. Accession to it was in the national interest of Member States.

KNUT LANGELAND ( Norway) said that improved security for all could be achieved with far less armaments than existed today. Arms control regimes were as critically needed for conventional weapons as they were for weapons of mass destruction to promote stability and confidence at the global and regional levels. While progress had been made in that area, much more remained to be done.

He said that, for more than half a century, cluster munitions had already caused untold human suffering. The Convention on Cluster Munitions not only addressed the related humanitarian issues, but was of great value to prevent future disasters that could easily reach the magnitude of the landmine problem. After inviting all United Nations Member States parties to sign the Convention, Norway would continue to work with other States parties on the Convention's implementation and universalization.

The Cluster Munitions and Mine-Ban Conventions had both resulted from cross-regional partnerships between affected and non-affected States through a process involving the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and civil society. But challenges remained regarding the former Mine-Ban Convention's deadlines for stockpile destruction and mine clearance. Requests for extensions should be well-documented and must not be used as "an escape clause of convenience".

Renewed efforts must also be made to combat the illicit small arms and light weapons trade, which killed half a million people each year and negatively impacted long-term development, he said. Norway had provided financial support for the implementation of the small arms Action Programme, which was a "point of departure" for developing new international instruments to better combat the illegal trade. Yet progress had been slow in strengthening the Programme and multilateral efforts should be reinvigorated with full recognition of the important role played by regional and subregional institutions.

Norway greatly appreciated the lead taken by the United Kingdom towards an arms trade treaty, he said, adding that his country had co-sponsored the treaty resolution, as it was vital to make full use of the open-ended working group and work towards a legally-binding instrument in that regard.

JURG STREULI ( Switzerland) said the adoption by 107 States of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dublin on 30 May, was undoubtedly the most noteworthy event of the year in the area of conventional disarmament. As a result, the use of cluster munitions would not only be subjected to the general principles of international humanitarian law, but as soon as the Convention entered force, the development, production, stockpiling and transfer of those weapons would be illegal for those States that had ratified the document. Switzerland would sign the Convention in Oslo on 3 December.

He said his country was also actively taking part in the efforts of the States party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, where an instrument regarding cluster munitions was being negotiated. He emphasized the importance of the implementation of Protocol V to that Convention concerning explosive remnants of war; the protocol had entered into force in 2006. Switzerland was pleased that the Group of Governmental Experts had been able to adopt a report on the arms trade treaty even though it would have liked a more ambitious document. It had been especially pleased with the report's conclusion and recommendations.

Concerning transparency in armaments, there were still issues to be addressed in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, he said. Switzerland attached great importance to the Biennial Meeting of States on the issue of small arms and light weapons. He also drew attention to the issue of armed violence and development, and urged States that had not already done so to subscribe to the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development.

ALEXANDER MARSCHIK ( Austria) said that destroying small arms and light weapons was not enough; national legislative and administrative provisions needed to be put in place or strengthened to prevent the undesired impact of their unregulated trafficking. Austria strongly supported the rule of law to help design and build better national and regional legal instruments against the small arms and light weapons scourge. Austria had already supported disarmament projects in Africa, Asia and small arms and light weapons, and ammunition destruction projects in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Jordan.

He said that advances had been made. The Third Biennial Meeting had been an encouraging example, which had demonstrated political will and shared responsibility, both necessary ingredients for the way forward to implementing the 2001 Action Programme. Regarding cluster munitions, Austria had taken bold and effective steps, including adopting a law banning their use and providing for their destruction within three years. He called on all States to sign the Convention in Oslo in December, as that was a unique opportunity to achieve real progress in disarmament –- something not encountered on a daily basis in that area of work. "Let us not squander such an opportunity," he stressed.

Austria had also been active in dealing with the landmines issue, financing this year €1.6 million in projects and placing a regional focus on Africa and South-Eastern Europe. But it was "undisputed" that countering the illegal arms trade could be assisted by the adoption of an arms trade treaty, and Austria was convinced that establishing a working group, as outlined in the current draft resolution, was a necessary first step.

CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that the issue of small arms and light weapons was of great importance, and the Action Programme was a key international instrument for advancing the fight and, as such, it should be implemented comprehensively. The final outcome of the Third Biennial Meeting of States showed that, through concerted efforts, States, international agencies and civil society were able to "rescue" the process.

She said that national, subregional and global actions to prevent both conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of non-State actors required a broader vision and more determined action. Relaxed national legislation on the issue stimulated supply and made illegal weapons even more profitable. She reiterated the importance of an international legally-binding instrument on arms trade to provide transparency and establish major controls. The treaty would also recognize Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and observe international law on human rights and international humanitarian law. Colombia supported the essence of the related draft text.

BUKUN-OLU ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) said the time was right for a renewed interactive engagement geared towards comprehensive regulation and the elimination of the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, an issue of utmost importance to his country. While the Stockholm Peace Research Institute noted that military expenditures had ballooned to $1.34 trillion, it was also a well known fact that 3 billion people lived on less than two and a half dollars a day. That imbalance demonstrated that global escalation of arms production and sales ignored the grave political, humanitarian and strategic realities and consequences, as well as the nexus between disarmament and development.

He said that the current global financial crisis further complicated and aggravated socio-economic conditions of developing countries. "The more we ignore those realities, the more this august body risks losing its responsibility of being the 'conscience of man'," he said. While agreeing to the legitimate and fundamental right of sovereign States to produce and procure arms for legitimate national defence and security needs, it was imperative that such arms were controlled to prevent their diversion to non-State actors and illicit end-users.

Nigeria's subregion had continued to witness conflicts as a result of the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Reports showed that "for every African there are seven illicit bullets and three guns targeted at him or her", he said. "This is scandalous especially at a time when an unacceptably high ratio of the world's population still lives below the poverty line."

There was an absolute need for a universal, legally-binding instrument in the form of an arms trade treaty that would put in place a mechanism or framework to ensure that small arms and light weapons were not delivered into illicit networks. Closely related was the need for end-user certificates and international regulation of arms brokering to control illicit cross-border movement of arms.

While welcoming the Third Biennial Meeting's results, he stressed the urgent need to vigorously pursue the implementation of the framework for international cooperation, assistance and national capacity-building. He urged all United Nations Member States to recommit themselves to the framework's full implementation at the national, regional and international levels, and urged development partners to make adequate provisions of financial and technical assistance to speed up the implementation process by developing countries.

He said that the current global crises were "clarion calls on our consciences" to curb the illicit circulation of arms and weapons. "We need to look beyond the narrow prism of national commercial interest and embrace the more compelling and globally strategic reasons of practical solidarity with the international community on this issue," he said. There was also an urgent need to alleviate the unnecessary suffering imposed on small arms and light weapons victims. An arms trade treaty was the most plausible solution to the tragedies that had visited those victims, and Nigeria stood ready to work in tandem with like-minded Member States in bringing about the adoption of the resolution on such a treaty. "The time is now," he urged.

IGOR UGORICH ( Belarus) welcomed the adoption of an outcome document at the Biennial Meeting of States in July in support of the 2001 Programme of Action. The issue of monitoring small arms and light weapons should be promoted in the United Nations. Belarus had established an effective system for small arms and light weapons, including their trade and destruction.

At the same time, he said, Belarus faced complex challenges in disposing of certain types of landmines, as there was little to no experience globally on the type planted on its territory. Thus, his country needed the assistance of the international community under the Mine-Ban Convention and was in the process of securing some assistance from donor countries. He appealed to donors to demonstrate a constructive approach in their assistance.

He said he shared the world's concern about the use of cluster munitions, and was pleased that a ban on those weapons had been elaborated. There was also a need to negotiate an arms trade treaty under United Nations auspices. Belarus favoured working out a mutually acceptable international arrangement.

MASON SMITH ( Fiji) said there was no doubt about the need for a universally accepted arms trade treaty, however, it was only through international cooperation and common language that such a truly global treaty could be created.

He said his country, as a non-manufacturer and non-exporter of conventional weapons, urged United Nations Member States to comply with increased transparency and confidence-building measures. While a core element in preventing conflict and securing peace and security rested on transparent reporting, regrettably, only 88 national reports and only 74 national reports on military expenditure were received by the United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons last year. Despite the fact that the Register was voluntary, those fairly low "compliance" figures did not augur well for confidence-building, and he urged Member States to provide national reports to both the Register and the United Nations instrument for reporting military expenditures.

Regarding small arms and light weapons, he said more needed to be done by the international community to address the manufacture and supply of those weapons. The international community must also consider further steps to enhance cooperation to ensure that surplus stockpiles of ammunition were either destroyed or better secured. There was an urgent need to promote the universality of the Mine-Ban Convention, and Fiji encouraged all States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify it. Fiji also strongly supported the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and had actively participated in the Dublin conference. He encouraged all States to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December.

TARJA PESAMAA (Finland), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said the adoption of an outcome document by the Third Biennial Meeting of States had been a sign of progress. The recommendations of the Group of Experts on the illicit brokering of arms and related actions were welcome. The issue of small arms and light weapons was a priority among European countries. She supported the efforts in that sphere by ECOWAS, and welcomed those of the international community on cluster munitions. She also noted the need to address the challenges of victim assistance. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons would help in addressing the humanitarian concerns emanating from the devastating effect of conventional weapons on civilians. Finland supported a legally-binding arms trade treaty, and felt that the political will in taking the issue forward was strong. An arms transfer treaty was indeed necessary.

JOAN MOSLEY ( New Zealand) said that the most significant advancement in the field of conventional weapons this year had been the successful adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibited the use, transfer, stockpiling and production of the weapon and incorporated strong provisions for victim assistance and clearance. Its adoption, with the endorsement of more than 100 States in May, had demonstrated the value of committed partnerships between disarmament, humanitarian, and civil society experts, in order to achieve substantive results for civilians on the ground.

She said that New Zealand would sign the Convention on 3 December in Oslo and was greatly encouraged by the number of States that had promised to do the same. Any outcome under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons should complement the substantial humanitarian achievement of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The result of the Biennial Meeting of States in July had put the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action back on a firmer footing after an uncertain few years, and had demonstrated that significant political will existed to tackle illicit trade and the significant problems it created. New Zealand was a strong supporter of the proposed arms trade treaty. She was encouraged by the progress made in the Group of Governmental Experts over the past year and looked forward to the progression of that work during 2009. New Zealand was committed to the full implementation of the Mine-Ban Convention.

Mr. HASENAU, Chairman of the Group of Governmental Experts on conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus, said the problems arising from that accumulation were a growing concern, with surpluses running into millions of tons. The magnitude of that had been proven by accidental explosions of surplus storage areas, with hundreds of lives lost each year.

He said that in considering further steps needed, the Group had agreed that it was the prerogative of each State to assess its requirements in line with legitimate security needs. However, unsecured and poorly managed stockpiles were an excessive risk that could lead to illicit use, undermine embargoes and sanction regimes and facilitate access to them by non-State actors. In addition, such stockpiles threatened peacekeeping operations and peacekeeping personnel.

The Group had argued that comprehensive and effective management of conventional ammunitions stockpiles was the only long-term means for States to prevent the growth of surplus stockpiles and minimize safety and security risks. The Group had recommended a set of mutually reinforcing measures in the areas of stockpile management, awareness-raising, capacity-building and international assistance, as a basis for concerted and structured attention to the issue.

National legislative and regulatory frameworks, supported by effective operational procedures, were essential and was the indispensable basis for any form of cooperation, including, in particular, training, he said. Technical guidelines could greatly facilitate international cooperation, and the Group also saw an important role for the United Nations in developing such a set of guidelines that would be available for States to use on a voluntary basis.

The Group had several key recommendations, at the national, regional and global levels. At the national level, it called on States to address stockpile management issues and develop or improve legislative and regulatory frameworks governing safe and secure storage, and to strengthen their support for projects and programmes to improve stockpile management, as well as the destruction and demilitarization of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus. At the regional level, the Group saw an important role for regional organizations to play to cooperate more thoroughly and exchange relevant information and experience. Globally, it strongly recommended the development of technical guidelines for stockpile management.

VICTOR VASILIEV ( Russian Federation) said that the issue of conventional weapons was attracting the attention of the international community because of the humanitarian concerns associated with their use. Russia had introduced and supported several resolutions on the topic and was prepared to support other initiatives in the area. Russia had tried to halt the wanton spread of conventional weapons and their effects, at both the national and regional levels.

He noted that in many developing countries there was a lack of financial resources, qualified staff and political will to deal with the issue. He listed several other challenges impeding the fight against the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons and noted that the Programme of Action on the issue was far from exhausted. The report on its implementation had failed to address some important areas, notably, the need for end-user certificates. He also highlighted concern over legally-acquired weapons drifting into the illegal trade, and called for the tightening of controls concerning re-export.

There was also a need to conclude an international arms trade treaty, he said, calling also for the tightening of controls over man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS). Discussions on a proposal to draft a global arms trade treaty had brought to light the complex nature of the problem. The Group of Governmental Experts discussion on the issue did not manage to give an answer to the key issue of its mandate. The main problems concerned the nexus between the illegal trade and the ability to divert legal weapons. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was a part of the problem in the illicit trafficking of weapons. It was among the mechanisms that were malfunctioning.

He noted support for transparency in arms, but said transparency was pointless when a known State's military budget had increased 50-fold yet had not caused concern.

EDVARDAS BORISOVAS ( Lithuania) addressed the Committee in his capacity as the President-designate of the Second Conference of the High Contracting Parties to Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War. The Meeting of Experts had been held in Geneva from 2 to 4 July and had succeeded in implementing a firm but flexible framework for international cooperation. That had been achieved through the active involvement of five coordinators from Austria, Croatia, Hungary, India and the Netherlands who were responsible for leading the discussions on the different substantive aspects of the Protocol's implementation, notably on clearance; cooperation and assistance, and requests for assistance; generic electronic template and national reporting; generic preventive measures; and victim assistance.

He said that modalities on implementation of those issues had been discussed during the informal meeting and recommendations would be presented for the approval by the Second Conference of the High Contracting Parties to Protocol V, in Geneva on 10 and 11 November. He congratulated 13 new States parties to Protocol V, which acceded since the first meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention in Geneva in November 2007. He hoped to see more States acceding to the Protocol.

As the Committee membership was aware, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons had increased its activities and implementation performance during the past few years, especially with regard to carrying out the obligations under Protocol V, he said. In order to guarantee that implementation and universalization of the Convention as a whole continued to receive adequate support and professional advice, he felt it was timely to invite all States parties to consider the possibility of strengthening support for the Convention's implementation. The establishment of an Implementation Support Unit for the Convention would secure the continuity and stability of the support provided by officers of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs to the States parties. It would help to establish a permanent secretariat dedicated to the Convention, and help to preserve the "institutional memory" of the Convention.

ANTHONY H. GIOIA ( United States) said during the last week of September, the United States Senate had provided its advice and consent to United States ratification of all the outstanding protocols and amendments before it relating to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Those protocols were: Protocol III on incendiary weapons; Protocol IV on blinding laser weapons; and Protocol V on explosive remnants of war, as well as the amendment to article 1 of the Convention that extends its application to non-international armed conflicts. Once the executive branch had completed the necessary procedures, those provisions would enter into force for the United States.

He noted that the actions demonstrated the continued commitment of the United States to the Convention. Protocol V, in particular, could do a great deal to mitigate the effects of armed conflicts on civilian populations. He called upon all States not party to the Convention to accede to it. States in the developing world were notably absent from the list of parties to the Convention. If they were worried about being saddled with onerous and expensive obligations once they adhered, they should not be since State parties were prepared to work with States that wished to join and show them how to fulfil the requirements of membership.

States parties could demonstrate the Convention's continued relevance and vitality by completing the negotiation of a sixth protocol on cluster munitions, he said. An agreement on that issue would have significant humanitarian benefits. The Group of Governmental Experts had gone a long way towards agreement on most of the issues that would be addressed by such a protocol. While there were some tough negotiations to complete, the United States believed that States parties to the Convention could conclude a cluster munitions protocol before the end of the year.

EDEN CHARLES ( Trinidad and Tobago) reported a recent surge in violence in his country and other Caribbean countries, largely attributable to a proliferation of illegal firearms. Not a producer of small arms and light weapons, Trinidad and Tobago bore a disproportionate burden of the illicit trade in those weapons and their related problems, owing to the absence of common international standards.

He said that the Millennium Development Goals and other development objectives were jeopardized by the need to redirect resources, while striving to deal with the negative consequences of the small arms and light weapons trade.

He commended multilateral initiatives, such as the last Biennial Meeting of States, and viewed international cooperation in that area as fundamental to the eradication of the illicit small arms trade and its link to serious crimes. He also commended the Group of Governmental Experts, whose work served as a sound foundation on which to build, while States worked together on the question of an international trade treaty on conventional arms.

Preventing the spread and misuse of conventional weapons was a multifaceted issue requiring a range of measures to address both supply and demand for weapons, he said. A recent regional meeting in Antigua and Barbuda had called for the negotiation of a legally-binding arms trade treaty, consistent with the United Nations Charter. He was convinced the time was ripe for international action to tackle that issue.

MAGNUS HELLGREN ( Sweden) introduced a draft resolution on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (document A/C.1?63/L.31), on behalf of Greece, Jordan and the Netherlands.

The purpose of the Convention was to ban or restrict the use of certain specific types of weapons. It formed an essential and integral part of international law applicable to armed conflict. It was designed to provide a framework within which humanitarian concerns could be managed. The Convention needed to be a dynamic instrument and it was as pertinent and relevant as ever. It now had more than 100 States parties, and that number was increasing. But the Convention still fell short of achieving universal membership, and he hoped those who had not yet signed it would do so. The draft resolution's purpose was to continue to express support for the treaty, and it reflected ongoing work within the Convention's framework.

CAROLINE MILLAR ( Australia) said the Cluster Munitions Convention was "a significant humanitarian achievement" with its ground-breaking provisions on victim assistance. States that signed should be proud and should now turn their determination towards encouraging maximum signatures, rapid entry into force and full implementation.

She said Australia had supported the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) clearance of cluster munitions in Lebanon and would make further contributions towards that effort. While Australia and many others were prepared to accept the prohibitions of the Convention, some major producers and users seemed likely to remain outside the treaty, so Australia would continue efforts in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to achieve meaningful bans on the use of cluster munitions by those who had not engaged in the Oslo process.

The outcome of the Biennial Meeting of States on small arms and light weapons had been fruitful, producing a number of papers that would put the Programme of Action back on track, she said. She congratulated Japan, Colombia and South Africa on their far-reaching draft resolution, which concretely built on the Biennial Meeting's outcome document and paved the way for successful Program of Action implementation for years to come.

But the progress and vision achieved on cluster munitions and small arms and light weapons was needed across the conventional arms agenda, she stressed, adding that an arms trade treaty was greatly needed to arrest the irresponsible and illicit transfer of conventional arms and their components. A legally-binding multilateral treaty could bring much needed transparency and accountability, among other things, and would provide greater assurance for legitimate trade. A co-author of the related resolution, Australia said the international community was moving towards the realization of that vital addition to the arms control and security architecture.

She said that while the issue of landmines had seen progress, with 40 million mines destroyed over the last decade, work was nowhere complete. All States parties to the Mine-Ban Convention needed to ensure they were fully and transparently moving towards meeting their obligations. At the upcoming meeting of States parties, requests for extensions, under article V of the Convention, would be considered, and she encouraged affected States parties to continue their de-mining efforts and fulfil their obligations speedily.

Black market weapons-related activity was an ever-growing proliferation challenge and, with that in mind, the Republic of Korea and Australia would table a new draft resolution on the prevention of illicit brokering activities. The draft text reaffirmed that brokering controls should not hamper legitimate trade and technology transfer. It would call on States to adopt national laws and measures to prevent illicit brokering and to fully implement relevant treaties, instruments, resolutions and initiatives.

Conventional arms could hamper development and seriously threatened security and stability, and Australia remained committed to addressing the threat of their proliferation, she said.

MARIETA GARCIA JORDAN ( Cuba) said that increasingly sophisticated and deadly conventional weapons were being used in the world. Industrialized countries must significantly reduce the production and trade of those weapons, with the objective of promoting international peace and security.

She said Cuba was concerned about the obvious imbalance in the priority given to determined categories of conventional weapons to the detriment of others. The illicit arms trade had severe social, humanitarian and economic consequences in several countries, which saw their right to life, peace and sustainable development seriously compromised. Cuba would continue to support the fight against small arms and light weapons, but it would also defend the right of States to manufacture, import and possess those weapons for their own security. It also supported an effective follow-up mechanism for the Programme of Action.

She noted that the Group of Governmental Experts created under resolution 61/89 could not agree on whether a legally binding instrument, establishing common international standards for the export, import and transfer of conventional weapons, was feasible or not. The complex question of conventional weapons transfers had no easy solutions.

Cuba shared the legitimate concerns associated with the indiscriminate and irresponsible use of anti-personnel landmines, she said. It was well-known that Cuba had been subjected for almost five decades to a policy of continuous hostility and aggression from a military super-Power. As a consequence, it was impossible for Cuba to relinquish the use of those weapons to preserve its territorial sovereignty and integrity. That was why Cuba was not a State party to the Mine-Ban Convention.

WITJAKSONO ADJI ( Indonesia) said that the impact of small arms and light weapons was not small or light. They inflicted suffering and inhibited social and economic development. It was clear that the dangers of small arms and light weapons could not be addressed by States individually. He supported the full implementation of the Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. However, he recognized the inherent right of individual States to the provisions of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter on self-defence.

He welcomed the process leading to the establishment of a common international standard on import, export, and transfer of conventional arms under United Nations auspices. Such common international standards should be negotiated multilaterally and should take into consideration the views and concerns of as many States as possible, including those from the developing countries, which were the main importers of those weapons.

Indonesia had completed the first phase of destruction of anti-personnel mines under the Mine-Ban convention in February, he said, adding that active international cooperation was needed for the implementation of the Convention and efforts to universalize it. The adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions this year by more than 100 countries had been a positive step against that scourge, and he encouraged countries to support the treaty.

MARIA GUSTAVA ( Mozambique) said that landmine clearance and their total elimination remained a priority for her country, but the elimination of landmines required international commitment. About 2 million landmines had been planted in Mozambique in the 16 years of war that ended in 1992, but they remained a serious challenge, continuing to kill people and hampering the foundation of development. More than 12 million square metres needed to be cleared as a matter of urgency.

She said that the recently approved national Mine Plan of Action, 2008 to 2012, aimed to eradicate mines and prevent further accidents. The plan was also part of the Government's effort to safely return people to their homes and livelihoods. Despite progress, Mozambique would face constraints addressing the plan's implementation owing to the lack of financial resources. Continued support from the international community remained crucial.

Mozambique had submitted a request to extend the mine clearance deadline to 2014, under article V of the Mine-Ban Convention, she said. This year, the Government had held a meeting to discuss its mine action plan. She appealed to Member States to sign the Mine-Ban Convention and called for the implementation of the Nairobi Action Plan, 2005 to 2009, asking Member States to meet the challenge.

Mozambique reiterated its commitments to the Mine-Ban Convention, even as it strove to eliminate poverty and hunger.

PAKAWAT SRISUKWATTANA (Thailand), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the illicit proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons posed a serious threat to peace, security and development, as it was inextricably linked to transnational crimes, drug trafficking, terrorism, human rights violations and had devastating consequences on humanitarian and socio-economic issues. The problems associated with the issue transcended national borders and affected poor and rich countries alike.

He noted Thailand's support for the United Nations Programme of Action, voicing its support also for the international tracing instrument. He welcomed the substantive outcome document of the Third Biennial Meeting of States. Thailand was also fully committed to its obligations under the Mine-Ban Convention. This year, the Thai Government set aside approximately $41 million to complete the task of de-mining Thailand's territory. Since becoming a party to the Convention, Thailand had never used anti-personnel mines for any purpose. As a result, Thailand had been shocked that, just two weeks ago, two Thai Army Rangers had stepped on anti-personnel mines while on routine patrol. Thailand viewed the incident with grave concern and suspected that the mines were of foreign origin. He regretted that, in this day and age, those weapons were still being used.

VEHBI ESGEL ETENSEL ( Turkey) said that the proliferation of conventional weapons was a cause for concern in Turkey. The excessive accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons posed a significant threat to peace and security and it affected the social and economic development of many countries.

He said that turkey, as a country fighting terrorism, would actively contribute to all efforts within the United Nations and other forums to foster international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Turkey attached great importance to the prevention and eradication of small arms and light weapons. Transparency and information sharing would help to promote consistency in the implementation of agreed multilateral standards for those weapons.

Despite the existence of many international instruments that addressed transfer controls, large numbers of weapons were still transferred illicitly, he said, pointing to the need for effective implementation of those instruments. A well-functioning transfer control system should be based in law and supported by comprehensive enforcement mechanisms.

As a State party to the Mine-Ban Convention, Turkey fully supported the efforts for the treaty's universalization and effective implementation and the vision of a world free from anti-personnel mines, he said. Turkey had nearly 2 million remaining parts of anti-personnel mines to be destroyed. Turkey also intended to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo in December.

ARJUN CHARAN SETHI ( India) said that conventional weapons remained a grave concern with wide negative social, political and economic consequences. The 2001 Programme of Action outlined a realistic and achievable approach to the issue, but the integrity of the Programme and its consensus nature must be preserved and strengthened. India would continue to pursue the goal of a non-discriminatory, universal and global ban on anti-personnel mines. But considering long borders where landmines played an important role, the process of completely eliminating anti-personnel mines would be facilitated by the availability of militarily effective, non-lethal and cost-effective alternative technologies.

He said that the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons remained the only forum of a universal character that brought together all the main users and producers of major conventional weapons. India had proposed a broad-based dialogue to consider a new and strengthened format for the Convention, which would, by common agreement, reaffirm and strengthen the application of international law.

India shared the international community's concerns about cluster munitions and contributed actively to ongoing discussions to negotiate an instrument in the Convention on Conventional Weapons, consistent with the mandate of the Group of Governmental Experts adopted in 2007. He looked forward to productive discussions of the Group at its meeting in Geneva next month.

KIM BONG-HYUN ( Republic of Korea) said while the destructive power of conventional weapons might not surpass those of weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian and development implications required that just as much attention be given to conventional weapons. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons had an increasingly important role to play, and the Republic of Korea attached great weight to the Convention, faithfully implementing it.

He said his country had joined the Fifth Protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, on Explosive Remnants of War, in January and had actively participated in discussions of the Group of Governmental Experts on cluster munitions under the Convention's framework. It was highly important to find a common ground in negotiations based on due consideration for both humanitarian and security concerns. The Group had reached a critical juncture and he called upon all States parties to take a more flexible approach to ensure a realistic and viable solution this year.

Restraining further inflows of small arms and light weapons and improving the management of existing stockpiles were critical in addressing their negative consequences, he said. Reducing the number of arms in circulation was pivotal in preventing the destabilization that resulted. He also pointed out the nebulous network of arms brokers that defied United Nations arms embargoes and other control measures, emphasizing the need to improve the arms embargoes monitoring system. He welcomed the Biennial Meeting of States' substantive report, which would serve as a valuable guide pointing the way forward for full implementation of the Programme of Action. He hoped that this Committee would further the debate on the Group of Governmental Experts' report on the arms trade treaty.

RICHARD BRUNEAU ( Canada) said that the illicit trade and misuse of conventional weapons continued to have a devastating impact on the lives of civilians around the world. Canada remained fully committed to implementation of the Programme of Action. It was pleased with the success of the Biennial Meeting of States and the strengthened momentum it had provided towards the Programme's full implementation. The early designation of the Chair, advance consultations with all countries and an agenda on priority items had contributed to its success.

He said Canada welcomed the report of the Group of Governmental Experts to examine the feasibility scope and draft parameters of an arms trade treaty. He noted the draft resolution being circulated on the issue. Also welcome was the draft resolution of the Republic of Korea and Australia on illicit brokering. That was a complex and pressing problem, and addressing it effectively would require concerted global action.

The adoption of a new Convention on Cluster Munitions had been a major step forward in addressing the humanitarian and development impacts of that type of weapon, he said, noting also Canada's continued support for the Mine-Ban Convention. There were now 156 States parties and many others had adopted its norms. Last year, Canada had provided more than $50 million to mine action and was one of the leaders in such assistance worldwide.

CHANTAL FANNY ( Cote d'Ivoire) attached crucial importance to the establishment of a legally-binding arms trade treaty. The West African subregion continued to suffer from the illicit trade and trafficking in small arms and light weapons. Since 1990, more than 2 million people had died from the use of those weapons, which also harmed development and caused displacement and instability.

Even before the international community outlined the main points in efforts to combat the illicit trafficking of those weapons in 2001, West African States had aligned themselves over a moratorium in 1998. That action was meant to send a strong message to the international community that an international dialogue and regional action could meet the challenge. In 2006, ECOWAS Member States transferred that moratorium into a convention, which was a sign of their commitment to move forward.

Continuing, she said that the ECOWAS convention addressed a broad range of issues and stipulated strict control over the production of small arms and light weapons. Cote d'Ivoire, which bore the brunt of failure to control arms, would heartily welcome an arms trade treaty. At this historic time, the international community should adopt measures to regulate the arms trade. She hoped throughout the process of establishing an arms trade treaty that her country's concerns would be considered. The ECOWAS convention could serve as a guide for the international community, as it reproduced most of the principles for an international arms trade treaty. For instance, a new treaty might be guided by the provision prohibiting the transfer of weapons if it was proven that they would be used to commit a violation of human rights or to serve terrorism.

She added that sub-Saharan Africa would not attain any of the Millennium Goals if nothing was done about the illicit transfer of arms.

FEDERICO PERAZZA ( Uruguay), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of MERCOSUR, said Uruguay placed special focus on small arms and light weapons. It also shared the view that, in analysing the issue, attention should be paid to humanitarian concerns and not just to security.

He said that Uruguay currently had a set of laws related to small arms and light weapons encompassing their production, import, export, transit and re-transfer. No illicit trafficking had been detected in Uruguay, however, it had started a national campaign to destroy small arms and light weapons not properly registered. Between 1998 and 2008, more than 35,000 illegal weapons had been destroyed. Uruguay also organised a national seminar in September to review a new arms law. The event had reflected a clear will to tackle the problem.

Multilateralism played a crucial role in the illicit brokering in conventional weapons, he said, expressing appreciation for the work of the Group of Governmental experts that had examined the issue of establishing an international arms trade treaty. Uruguay would vote in favour of draft resolution "L.39" on the treaty. With that, it hoped that the draft arms trade treaty would create a new process resulting in a legally-binding instrument guaranteeing that arms exporters would operate under agreed standards. Uruguay intended to sign the Cluster Munitions Convention in Oslo.

MEIR ITZCHAKI ( Israel) said that the international community had neglected the issue of conventional weapons for far too long. The irresponsible transfer of conventional arms had strengthened extremist groups and turned terrorist cells into a dominating force, using arms against civilians as a method of gaining political advantage. It had been Israel's longstanding position that any initiative dealing with conventional arms had to maintain the balance between legitimate security needs of States and the need to prevent unnecessary human suffering.

He said that the Middle East was particularly vulnerable to the impact of illicit arms transfers to terrorists. The conflict that erupted in the summer of 2006 had shown that MANPADS, UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], missiles of various types and ranges, as well as very short-range rockets, were not outside the reach of terrorists. Hizbullah, supported first and foremost by Iran, had continued to arm itself since 2006. The transfer of arms from Iran and Syria to Hizbullah had continued unabated, in contravention of United Nations Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). The smuggling of arms played into the hands of those who wished to ignite conflict in the region and had been facilitated by States turning a blind eye and sometimes even encouraging the phenomenon. The international community must address, as a priority, the prevention of arms transfers to terrorists.

He said: "small arms and light weapons are the most accessible weapons of choice for terrorists and organized crime. More than two-thirds of about 750,000 deaths per year occur outside of war zones." The small arms Programme of Action was one of the most important instruments addressing the problem. Israel commended the Third Biennial Meeting of States as a success, welcoming the outcome's substantive document, which set up an incremental process based on international cooperation and assistance. Israel regretted that no consensus had been reached on the outcome due to difficulties "mounted cynically" by Iran on the last day of the meeting. Iran was notoriously known as the "most heavily involved in the transfer of arms to terrorists in our region".

Israel still remained to be convinced that an international arms trade treaty could indeed provide commonly agreed standards which would enhance the overall level of control exercised by States, he said. His concern was that an arms trade treaty would be ineffective in ceasing uncontrolled flows of weapons and military equipment into untrustworthy hands. Additionally, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons remained the relevant and appropriate forum for addressing cluster munitions. Israel trusted and hoped that those States parties would work to conclude a new protocol on cluster munitions.

JOHN DUNCAN ( United Kingdom), associating himself with the Statement made on behalf of the European Union, focused on the progress that was being made in the field of conventional weapons, but noted that not all of it was in the formal track of the United Nations. The new Convention on Cluster Munitions banning a whole class of weapons, negotiated earlier this year, would make a real contribution to addressing the humanitarian threat posed by those weapons. The United Kingdom planned to sign the treaty on 3 December and had already taken practical steps to implement its norms.

He welcomed the adoption by the Biennial Meeting of States of a final outcome document, which paved the way for renewed efforts to fully implement the Programme of Action. He regretted that its adoption by consensus had not been possible. He noted, however, that those that had been unable to support it had no difficulty with the substance, but with the process. He reaffirmed the European Union's support for the universalization of the Mine-Ban Convention.

The United Kingdom was encouraged by the number of regional initiatives in support of the arms trade treaty, although two years after the launch of the process, some friends and colleagues were questioning the very need for a treaty. The United Kingdom was committed to achieving a global, effective arms trade treaty. As British Foreign Secretary David Miliband recently remarked, "It is bizarre that while treaties and conventions have existed for several decades to control the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, there is no equivalent global arrangement to stop weapons flooding into conflict zones."

Mr. Duncan went on to say: "We are told that major arms suppliers will not agree, or if they do then it must be a cartel. We are told that an arms trade treaty will be used to establish black lists or embargoes against certain countries because of concerns over their human rights records. We are told that the treaty will prevent countries in regions of tension from effectively pursuing their self defence against powerful neighbours."

None of those claims were true, he said, adding, "the time for an arms trade treaty is long overdue".

AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that recent history had demonstrated that the consequences of the small arms and light weapons menace were not limited to the subregion alone but could engulf the entire African region and suck in the developed world as well. The security and development of the region along with international investments were at stake. There was an irrefutable link between illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons, insecurity and human development.

He said that Security Council resolution 1653 (2006) called for, among other things, the disarmament of rebel groups and negative forces in the Great Lakes region. However, two years later, that task had not been accomplished. The situation had deteriorated despite the United Nations presence in the region. The United Nations could alleviate the situation by increasing peacekeeping efforts there. He called upon the international community to increase efforts to curb the illicit brokering of small arms and light weapons in the region by addressing issues orchestrated by stakeholders and enforcing existing agreements. In so doing, the force of logic must be made to prevail over the logic of force. There was an urgent need, therefore, to develop and employ some confidence-building mechanisms.

MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso), speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, said that the uncontrolled circulation of arms was an international concern, one that had devastating results. In West Africa, the humanitarian consequence of the illicit arms trade was evident, including a spread in the culture of violence and a hampering of development continent-wide. That was one of the reasons ECOWAS had established a convention and he called upon those remaining States that had not signed to do so as soon as possible.

He said that the network of illegal arms trafficking demanded an urgent response and a swift adoption of a treaty that would prevent those weapons from falling into the hands of organized groups. ECOWAS was convinced that the establishment of a global, legally-binding instrument would reduce the number of conflicts, which would promote human rights and democracy.

Discussions should continue on an arms trade treaty, and include such issues as transfers and transport through States, and humanitarian rights and rules. ECOWAS was committed to that and would make every effort to attain that goal.

Right of reply

The representative of Syria, exercising his right of reply, said that the representative of Israel had made a desperate attempt and had tried to misinform this Committee to cover its crimes. Regarding false allegations concerning the transport of weapons to Lebanon, Syria said reports from border commissions denied any arms transfers. That was confirmed by Lebanese officials. At the United Nations, it was noted that Israel continued its aggressions almost daily, violating Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006).

He said Israel had dropped more than 1 million cluster munitions after the adoption of Resolution 1701. Those bombs had claimed the lives of many Lebanese people and international volunteers who had been helping to remove mines. Israel continued to refuse to hand over the landmine maps, including for the Syrian Golan, an action which had claimed many lives.

Israel had brought terrorism to the Middle East and was responsible for the deaths of United Nations officials, he said. Israel's occupation of the Arab Territories was one of the best examples of terrorism.

For information media • not an official record