First review of global efforts to curb small arms trade hails progress

The first Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects wrapped up a week-long meeting at UN Headquarters in New York last Friday.Chairperson Kuniko Inoguchi of Japan hailed the progress that has occurred since the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which adopted the Programme of Action. She said that a key element in moving forward was new or amended national legislation, with over 90 countries now reporting that they had domestic laws to govern the illicit manufacture, possession and trade in weapons.Regional and global cooperation was also growing, especially with respect to brokering, but States should agree on guidelines for authorizing exports, imports and the transit of small arms and light weapons, Ms. Inoguchi urged.She also observed that the destruction of almost half of an estimated total of over 4 million weapons collected and disposed of during the last decade had taken place over the past two years. The diversion of legitimate stocks was estimated as one of the main avenues for acquiring illicit weapons, and participants had agreed that assistance was needed to improve the security of armouries.Small arms and light weapons kill more than half a million people each year – including 300,000 in armed conflict and 200,000 from homicides and suicides – of which 90 per cent are civilians. In the 1990s, small arms were the weapons of choice in 47 of 49 major conflicts.The Programme of Action identifies national, regional and global measures, including: legislation on illegal manufacturing, possession, stockpiling and trade in small arms; stockpile management and destruction of weapons confiscated, seized, or collected; identification and tracing of the illicit arms; international cooperation and assistance to States to strengthen their ability to identify and trace the illicit weapons; and public awareness campaigns.

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