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Small Arms and Light Weapons


Introduction. Discussions take place in several fora on measures to restrain transfers and, potentially, holdings and production of conventional arms. There is, however, no broad-based international agreement or arrangement in this area.

Small arms and light weapons. In a January 1995 speech to the Security Council, the Secretary-General discussed the dangers to the stability of developing nations posed by small arms. He called on the international community to take action against illicit small arms sales. In November 1995, Japan tabled a resolution calling on the United Nations to investigate the problem of small arms.
A UN panel of governmental experts on small arms, created by UNGA resolution 50/70B {12.12.95}, agreed on several recommendations for restraining current and future accumulations of light weapons in its final report. Panel members disagreed on the role of supply and demand in the problem of light weapons proliferation, on a definition of “excessive accumulation” of light weapons, and on the issue of transparency in light weapons. {18.7.97}

The EU Council of Ministers adopted a program to combat illicit light arms trafficking {26.6.97} and the Federation of American Scientists called for a campaign against light weapons sales patterned after the landmines ban campaign {31.7.97}. The Organization of American States members signed a convention against illicit manufacture and trade of light weapons {14.11.97}. The UN Department for Disarmament Affairs suggested consolidation of all UN activities on small arms under one office. {13.7.98}

In 1998, an international meeting on global small arms trafficking in Oslo, attended by delegates from 21 countries, discussed a variety of steps for preventing illicit arms trafficking and reducing weapons already in use. They agreed on the need for a coordinated approach to the problem, but disagreed on what to do. {13-14.7.98}

In 1999, a variety of activities took place at the level of international organizations in the area of small arms and light weapons. An international agreement to control firearms was under negotiation in Vienna under the auspices of the UN Crime Commission {30.4.99; 13-15.10.99}. The Coordinating Agency on Small Arms (CASA) was established within the UN Department of Disarmament Affairs, while NGOs launched the International Action Network on Small Arms at The Hague. {1.4.99; 11.5.99}

In August 1999, The UN Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms submitted its report, listing further action to be taken by the UN, other international and regional organizations, and individual states in curbing illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. The UN First Committee debated the scope and mandate of an international conference on small arms and light weapons to be held in 2001 {3.8.99}. In September, the UN Security Council discussed the small arms issue for the first time in a formal session. {24.9.99}

On 28 November 2000, the OSCE agreed on a document to combat the spread of small arms and light weapons. The agreement “sets real norms and concrete measures for monitoring the spread of weapons in the OSCE region.” In addition, foreign ministers agreed to exchange information on exports and imports of small arms and light weapons within the OSCE region. The agreement is supposed to encourage the prosecution of illegal manufactures, the marking of weapons and the destruction of unmarked weapons. Also, new standards for licensing and documentation for import, export and transit have also been established.

The UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects was held in July 2001. State Parties adopted a Programme of Action, consisting of a broad range of undertakings on the national, regional and global level which follow the principles of the rule of law, transparency and cooperation. These measures include the marking on each SALW during the process of manufacturing, trans-border customs cooperation, and the demobilization of ex-combatants and their reintegration into civilian life.

In 2003, the Security Council discussed small arms and security in West Africa and adopted resolution 1467 to hinder small arms and light weapons proliferation and “mercenary” activities in the region {19.3.03}. At the fifty-eighth session of the UN General Assembly a group of governmental experts submitted a report on marking and tracking illicit small arms and light weapons {3.6.03}. The first Biennial Review Conference on the 2001 UN Program of Action showed that more than 90 countries enacted national laws overseeing illegal trade, possession and manufacture of weapons. The program also destructed about two millions weapons {14.7.03}. The fourth expert review of the UN Conventional Arms Register called for improvement on procurement through national production and on military holdings. It had also recommended technical changes in two out of the seven arms categories covered by the Register {4.8.03}. In October, IANSA, Amnesty International, and Oxfam launched a campaign in 68 countries to have a draft international arms trade treaty in place by 2006. They want an endorsement of the treaty at the next 2006 UN conference on small arms and light weapons 10.10.03}. OSCE adopted a new text to provide useful procedures for the destruction, upgrading, management and security measures of surplus stockpiles of ammunition stockpiles signed the document. This completes the 2001 OSCE document on small arms and light weapons {2.12.03}.

In 2004, Central and Eastern African countries discussed common standards on transfer, export, import, and transit control of SALW {3-4.11.04}. Eastern and Horn of African countries created a regional center on SALW {8.11.04}. The 59th session of the Security Council adopted new text on MANPADS to prevent illicit transfer and unauthorized access to and use of such arms. The General Assembly also decided to hold the review conference of the 2001 Program of Action in New York from 26 June-7 July 2006 {4.11.04}. Amnesty International implicated the five permanent Security Council members in the supply of arms to Sudan {16.11.04}. At its plenary session in Strasburg, the European Parliament voted to strengthen restrictions on the export of military equipment {17.11.04}.

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