OAS to Draft Arms Transparency Convention

ON OCTOBER 6, the Organization of American States' (OAS) Committee on Hemispheric Security established a working group to negotiate a convention for transparency in arms acquisitions. When completed—a draft is expected by the end of this year—the convention would mark the first time that any region required annual reports on major weapons exports and imports, as well as timely notifications of arms acquisitions through both imports and domestic production.

The convention, as proposed by the United States and Brazil, would require each OAS country that ratifies the completed convention to make annual reports to the OAS General Secretariat on weapons exports and imports in the seven categories of the voluntary UN Register of Conventional Arms. (Those categories are tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and missiles and missile systems.) Only 13 of the 34 OAS members submitted reports to the UN register for 1997.

OAS members would also be called on to provide advance notification of arms acquisitions through both imports and national production in the same seven weapon categories. However, states would have 90 days from the inclusion of the weapons into their inventories in which to make the notification. No notifications or reporting is to be mandated for small arms or power projection equipment such as transport helicopters.


The Working Group Begins

The OAS working group, which is co-chaired by Brazilian Ambassador Carlos Alberto Leite Barbosa and U.S. Ambassador Victor Marrero, met for the first time on October 27 to begin discussions on the text of the convention. Mexico, which has expressed skepticism regarding the convention, is seeking to include a commitment to future talks on arms limitations and reductions, but other OAS states are not likely to endorse such talks. A U.S. government official familiar with the negotiations said the convention "represents an important first step as we wait for the political will [among OAS states] to develop for more ambitious arms control measures."