Statement at the Consultation meeting for the Permanent Representatives of the African Member States on the issue of Small Arms and Light Weapons
Let me first welcome you to these consultations and thank you all for your participation. Let me especially thank Mr. Duarte and the Office of Disarmament Affairs and for joining OSAA in co-organizing this very important meeting.
The mandate of my Office is to ensure a coherent and integrated approach for United Nations support for Africa and to bring at the forefront of the United Nations agenda critical issues affecting Africa, in particular those which inter-relate the peace and development agendas.
Very few other issues are more relevant and would have a greater impact in keeping the peace of the continent and in fostering its development than addressing the scourge of illicit arms and light weapons.For decades, the uncontrolled trade in and presence of these weapons has threatened the livelihoods of millions of Africans, killed and maimed an unacceptable number of people, forced young people to fight in the wars of adults, protected those abusing women and committing human rights violations and served as deterrent to many encouraging development initiatives.
Africa has been, and it continues to be, disproportionately affected by this deadly trade. Small arms are rarely alone in using those mortal trade routes. Drug trafficking, organized criminal activities, blood diamonds or the smuggling of human beings constitute a lethal combination that continues to shame humankind.
Africa has said enough and has taken resolute action to put an end to this trade. We all remember how today’s Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons is a direct consequence of a pioneer initiative promoted by the government of Mali that extended to West Africa and then to the world. The spirit of this enterprise has also been taken by the African Union and several African subregional organizations. Collectively, Africa is determined to end the “trade of death” and provide their citizens with a peaceful environment conducive to social reconciliation, economic progress and political participation.
The UN Programme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects constitutes the cornerstone of the international community’s fight against this deadly trade. Its implementation has already yielded many positive results. It has encouraged people to surrender illegal weapons in exchange for development initiatives; it has fostered the state’s capacity to deal with and manage stocks and has promoted the international community’s agreement on a method to trace weapons. But most important, it has taken weapons off the streets and contributed to save lives.
African nations must however redouble its efforts to implement the programme of action. The stability of many African communities remains fragile. Small arms will take advantage of and ignite conflict because of a spur of violence, a drought, a religious misunderstanding or an unmanageable electoral process. We must not allow violence and small arms to jeopardize the social, economic and political progress that Africa has worked so hard to realize in the last decade.
Continuing the effective implementation of the Programme of Action is therefore critical. National policies must build on regional approaches. Only by fighting this scourge together, at the regional and global levels, will we be able to succeed. The forthcoming Biennial Meeting of States will provide us all with an important platform to better understand the mechanisms of the Programme, learn lessons from countries that have successfully implemented its provisions, and share concerns and information on how better serve the peoples of our nations by enforcing an agreement aimed at creating the conditions for human development.
Small arms constitute and old and a present threat. Its impact on development, human rights, education, gender and many other areas is undeniable. Addressing this menace requires, therefore, a concerted action by all stakeholders. It is also critical to look forward and identify the future challenges and opportunities posed by this phenomenon. In 2012 the international community will review the Programme of Action and assess its impact and relevance after one decade of implementation.
In 1998 the Secretary-General issued his report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. A decade ago, small arms were identified as a major cause for exacerbating or protracting conflict in Africa. Stopping the proliferation of arms, establishing subregional arms registers and publicly identifying international arms merchants were some of the recommendations contained in the report. Other recommendations related to human rights, gender, development or conflict prevention. They were all effectively linked.
A decade after the report was issued, the General Assembly has requested the Secretary-General to review those recommendations and provide a snapshot of future threats and challenges. The consultative process recently launched by OSAA will require the active participation and consultation of all African stakeholders; member states, regional organizations, civil society and the private sector. OSAA will soon call on your missions to engage in this important exercise and to hear your views on the kind of relation and cooperation that the United Nations should build with Africa in the coming decade.
Despite much progress in the last few years, the illicit circulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons continues to threaten the wellbeing of peoples and the development of nations.
I am encouraged by the presence of so many Ambassadors in this meeting. Your personal engagement is proof of the commitment of African nations to addressing this deadly trade, to effectively implement the programme of action and to provide innovative formulas to advance the peace and development agenda in the continent. The Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the Office for Disarmament Affairs stand ready to assist you in this challenging task.