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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 28, July 1998

International Meeting on Small Arms

International Meeting on Small Arms, Oslo, Norway, 13-14 July 1998

Editor's note: the meeting, held in private, was attended by 21 States - Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Zimbabwe.

Opening Remarks by Norwegian State Secretary

Opening Statement by Norwegian State Secretary Aslaug M. Haga, 13 July 1998

"Small arms represent great challenges. That is why we have called this meeting and that is why I am indeed pleased to welcome you to Oslo. I trust we will have two days of fruitful work that will bring the process on small arms further. ...

The subject we will address over the next two days is of great concern to my government. The governments invited to this meeting share this concern, and have in various ways been involved in regional and global initiatives on small arms and conventional weapons. Our common aim is now to further and foster an international process which will enable the international community to address the excessive accumulation and uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons in a constructive, coherent and effective manner.

The great human costs of the excessive accumulation and uncontrolled proliferation of small arms are the major reason for our common concern. The uncontrolled use of these weapons causes untold human suffering in many parts of the world. It increases the level of violence in armed conflicts, it complicates the resolution of conflicts and facilitates criminal activities.

In addition, political and economic development is seriously hampered if governments are not able to provide satisfactory security to their citizens. We are convinced that increased control with the transfer of small arms is necessary. Progress in this area will contribute towards the reduction of violence and the violation of human rights. It will also foster political and economic development in many parts of the world. We note with great satisfaction that Governments are increasingly committing themselves to new international cooperation in this vital area for human security.

Conflict is a natural ingredient of political life. It is the resolution of conflict by violent means we should avoid. It is my hope that our work will contribute to prevent conflicts from becoming lethal. We should have no illusions that our efforts will be easy. We are addressing a class of weapons that are important tools in the shady areas between the legal and the illegal, between the political and the criminal - where respect for international norms and agreements is sometimes low or absent. The transfers of these weapons are often legal at their inception, but move towards illegality and underground very quickly.

New lofty declarations will not help. We must be practical in our efforts, searching for approaches that are effective and, let me stress, implementable.We should choose our instruments wisely, well aware that the problems will differ from continent to continent, from region to region and among sub-regions. We fully support the important work of UN bodies working on conventional arms and the efforts of the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] in strengthening humanitarian law in the area of small arms. This work should be further encouraged.

In our efforts to be as practical as possible, Norway has been eager supporters of the Moratorium proposed by the President of Mali. We cooperate actively in the Wassenaar context, we commend the work done by the European Union, and we have commissioned a study on Security Sector Reform for the DAC Task Force on Conflict, Peace and Development. All these processes - and other initiatives could have been mentioned - should be seen as complementary processes to the one we are embarking on today.

When we invited you to this meeting, we were fully aware of the tremendous complexity of the issue. Political decisionmakers are impatient by nature, we are, however, quite conscious of the fact that the solution to the problems caused by small arms will be hard to find in the very near future. It is therefore our ambition to contribute to the development of a constructive, incremental and cumulative process which will be joined by an increasing number of States. We need to reach an understanding of our short-term and long-term priorities and agree on practical steps to be taken.

We are at this stage anxious to emphasize the responsibility of governments to put this issue high on the international agenda, and the ambition for this meeting is to initiate an intergovernmental process where all regions of the world are represented. I am delighted that other governments, such as the government of Belgium, already have plans to continue this process. Yet we fully recognize that non-governmental organizations will play a key role in raising the level of awareness among the public at large, international organizations and governments. They are also important in identifying the key issues and analyzing the problem at hand. With this in mind, the Norwegian government is pleased to support NISAT - the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers - which consists of a consortium of research institutions and humanitarian organizations. ...

I wish you all the best for the coming day and a half of deliberations..."

Source: Text - Norwegian State Secretary Haga at Small Arms Conference, United States Information Service, 14 July.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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