States Can Be Made Accountable for Small Arms

Article excerpt

Small children have big dreams; small arms cause big Stragedies", said Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette at the inauguration of the exhibit on "Taking Aim at Small Arms: Defending Children's Rights". This statement dearly illustrates the three dimensions of the problem caused by small arms and light weapons. The first dimension is the humanitarian concern for the victims and the easy access to those weapons, particularly by children and teenagers. The second is the economic concern, because resources are used to buy small arms instead of applying them to development. And the third is the security concern, since the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weapons has a considerable impact at the subregional, regional and global levels.

The existence in various parts of the world of small arms and light weapons that exceed the level necessary for legitimate security and defence needs, and especially the illicit transfer of such weapons often associated with destabilizing activities, is a long-standing problem of a complex nature which, in order to be solved, requires a proportional and integrated approach to security and development. This article focuses on the security dimension, starting with the premise that States can be made accountable for small arms and light weapons.

The transfer of illicit arms is one of the international community's main concerns, since it threatens both the internal security of States and subregional, regional and global stability. Illicit transfers violate national laws and international law. States, as responsible members of the international community, must therefore participate and encourage the functioning of systems and regimes for the control of arms transfers, whether agreed to at the multilateral, regional or subregional level, or even as a result of unilateral decisions, in order to prevent the illicit arms trade.

States are aware of the magnitude of the task as well as of the need to address it. So, what are the measures that States can take to tackle the problem and be "accountable" regarding small arms and light weapons? There are three areas that require States to enact adequate laws, regulations and procedures to control activities regarding small arms and light weapons.

* Control on manufacture (restricting manufacturing to those authorized by States, marking arms, destroying unmarked or inadequately marked arms);

* Control on transfers (restricting brokering activities to authorized manufacturers or brokers, adopting end-user certificates, strengthening customs control);

* Control on stocks (monitoring and record-keeping, requiring secure storage). …