Small Arms Meeting Addresses Progress, Pitfalls

Much work remains to be done in the effort to curb illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, according to representatives of governments and nongovernmental organizations who met in New York City July 7-11. The meeting was organized to discuss the progress made in the two years since the signing of a Program of Action, which identifies national, regional, and global measures needed to slow the illegal small arms trade.

The experts said that some of the outstanding issues that still need to be tackled include stockpile destruction and management, export and import controls, research, institution building, and human security issues. Receiving particular attention was the notion of marking and tracing small arms and light weapons so they can be better tracked from buyer to buyer. A group of governmental experts recommended the creation of an international instrument for marking and tracing.

The meeting provided an opportunity for states to report on their progress in enacting national legislation and coordinating regional and international action to stop small-arm and light- weapon trade. Both states and nongovernmental groups identified national legislation on arms brokering and end-use monitoring as major priorities. But neither issue was discussed in depth, according to a diplomat involved in the proceedings.

Some delegates attending the conference pointed out the difficulty in implementing the 2001 Program of Action in countries with internal conflicts or little infrastructure to create and enforce laws. Chairperson Kuniko Inoguchi of Japan said significant progress has been made worldwide on national implementation of measures to stop illicit arms trading, with more than 90 countries reporting that they have domestic laws to govern illicit manufacture, possession, or trade. Inoguchi also pointed out the important progress on the issue of destroying existing stockpiles, noting that “the destruction of almost half of an estimated total of over four million weapons collected and disposed of during the last decade had taken place over the past two years.”

The next biennial meeting is set to take place in 2005; representatives are expected to discuss a plan on how to create effective legislation that will address the wide variety of obstacles to curbing the illicit small-arms and light-weapons trade.