UN Small Arms Conference Approves Modest Plan
Whitehair, Rebecca, Arms Control Today
CONCLUDING A UN conference July 21, more than 140 nations achieved compromise on a non-binding plan to curb the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, after relenting to U.S. demands to trim measures Washington opposed.
Beginning July 9, UN member states gathered at UN headquarters in New York with a mandate to strengthen international efforts curtailing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and their illegal trade by adopting a program of action-a final document reached by consensus that is not legally binding and has no enforcement mechanisms.
The conference was scheduled to end July 20, but delegates were forced to work overnight and into the next day in order to reach an agreement.
The final document resolved to "prevent, combat, and eradicate" the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons and outlined voluntary measures states could take at national, regional, and global levels.
Among the steps at the national level, the program of action encouraged states to pass laws controlling the export and transit of small arms and light weapons; regulating arms brokers; criminalizing the illegal manufacture, possession, stockpile, and trade of such weapons; and ensuring that licensed manufacturers mark weapons appropriately for tracing purposes.
Measures at the regional level included establishing regional information-sharing mechanisms among law enforcement, border, and customs control agencies.
The program of action also called on states to cooperate with UN arms embargoes and with one another to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons in a timely manner.
The conference convened under a December 1999 General Assembly resolution, which also established a preparatory committee that met in February 2000, January 2001, and March 2001 to draft the conference's program of action.
Measures contained in the original draft restricting civilian small arms ownership and limiting trade in small arms and light weapons to substate groups were removed due to U.S. pressure.
At the opening ceremony July 9, John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs and head of the . …