Flood of Weapons, Ammunition into Countries under Sanctions Shows Current Control Systems Do Not Work, Conference on Arms Trade Treaty Told
United Nations Conference
on the Arms Trade Treaty
9th Meeting* (PM)
President of Liberia Cites $2.2 Billion Worth of Guns
Flowing into Targeted Countries despite United Nations, Regional Embargoes
The $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition that found their way into targeted countries in spite of United Nations and regional arms embargoes imposed on Liberia and other countries was proof that the current system was not working, the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty heard today as it concluded the high-level segment of its discussions.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia said in a video message to the Conference that her own country’s experience and those of other States in Africa and other parts of the world showed that without such a treaty, armed violence and wars would continue to be fuelled by irresponsible arms transfers. “As a development economist, I am acutely aware of the devastation to African economies due to armed violence,” she added.
“One cannot but be appalled by the cost of conflicts for Africa, which loses at least $18 billion a year,” she continued. “This is money our continent can ill afford to lose.” By contrast, in 2008, the Millennium Development Goals Steering Group had identified an annual requirement of $14 billion to scale up effective HIV prevention and universal access to AIDS treatment across the continent, she noted.
The representative of the United States said the international community should strengthen international peace and security, as well as the rule of law, by requiring the universal establishment of responsible national standards for the arms trade, but warned that a treaty should not in any way handicap the legitimate right of self-defence.
He said that lawfully conducted international arms transfers, managed according to transparent national control practices, were vital to maintaining good governance, protecting citizens and upholding international security, consistent with the United Nations Charter, he added.
Exporting Governments should be obliged to weigh carefully whether a potential recipient of conventional arms would use them or divert them for criminal or other unacceptable or inhumane purposes, he continued. That was why the United States supported establishing additional criteria that each Government must consider carefully before authorizing the export of conventional arms.
For his part, the representative of Lesotho warned that regulating international trade in some weapons while excluding others from the scope of a treaty would run counter to the aims of the Conference. Urging the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the treaty, he said they were of great concern to many African countries, including his own. They were the “real weapons of mass destruction”, accounting for daily loss of life and the commission of many crimes. The inclusion of ammunition, parts, and components in the treaty was crucial, he added.
Speaking in a similar vein, the Deputy Secretary-General of the East African Community said small arms and light weapons posed the most serious threat to peace and security in that subregion.
The observer for the Holy See said the Treaty should have a broad scope and go beyond the seven categories considered by the United Nations Registry of Conventional Arms to include small arms and light weapons, their ammunition and the licensing technologies involved in their production. References to human rights, humanitarian law and development must also be included in the treaty, he said, adding that basic principles should recall respect for human dignity and human life, peace and security, development and fundamental human rights, which were essential for collective security.
Also addressing the Conference today were representatives of Mongolia, Botswana, Cameroon, United Kingdom (speaking on behalf of China, France, Russian Federation and the United States), Kenya, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Ghana and Togo.
The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator also addressed the Conference.
Representatives of Syria and Iran made statements in exercise of the right of reply.
The representatives of Morocco and Norway, respective Chairs of the Conference’s Main Committees One and Two, presented their reports, before hearing comments by representatives of Algeria, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Egypt, Syria, Kenya, Cuba, Pakistan, Nigeria and India.
The Conference will reconvene in plenary on a date to be announced.