Center for Defense Information

JANUARY 24, 2006
2:07 PM

CONTACT: Center for Defense Information
The Small Arms Working Group:
Rachel Stohl,
Center for Defense Information, (202) 797-5283
Scott Stedjan,
Friends Committee on National Legislation, (202) 547-6000
Colby Goodman,
Amnesty International USA, (202) 544-0200

Media Adisory: UN Small Arms Meeting Ends Without Way Forward

WASHINGTON - January 24 - From January 9-20, 2006 governments met at the United Nations headquarters in New York in preparation for the second global conference aimed at eliminating the scourge of the illicit small arms trade. The meeting was intended to set the agenda for the global conference, at which governments will review implementation and clarify the Programme of Action (PoA) to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which was agreed to at the first global conference on small arms in July 2001.

Highlights of the meeting included acknowledgment by many states, including the United States, of the need to focus on controls of legal sales in the context of addressing the illicit transfer of weapons. While the majority of the world’s weapons are traded legally, many still find their way into illicit markets. In order to effectively address the illegal trade, states must better control legal transfers. Also encouraging were calls by some states to increase international assistance for less wealthy states that are battling the illicit trade of these weapons within their borders. 

Unfortunately, the plans for future UN action remain unclear. Near the end of the meeting, the Chair proposed a long agenda to steer debate at the Review Conference, which included almost all of the issues discussed at the meeting. While many States decided to accept this sometimes contradictory agenda, some States objected, leaving no clear agenda for the Review Conference.

The United States government prioritizes deeper implementation of the existing Programme of Action for the global conference.  While strengthening implementation is a crucial component of reducing the negative effects caused by small arms proliferation and misuse, participants in the U.S. Small Arms Working Group (SAWG), which focuses on U.S. small arms policy, call on the United States to examine additional strategies to push the UN process forward and reach consensus on the Review Conference Agenda. In particular, the United States should promote an inclusive agenda that represents the multi-dimensional nature of the small arms issue. In addition, in its support of the focus on export controls, the United States should promote the inclusion of “Global Principles,” which outline the legal responsibilities of weapons-exporting states in order to prevent small arms from being used for human rights abuses, to fuel conflict or to hinder development.