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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 53, December 2000 - January 2001

UN Small Arms PrepCom Meeting

Note: the Preparatory Committee meeting was held in New York from January 8-19.

'Preparatory Committee on Small Arms emphasizes need for consensus in Conference decision-making: defers decision on NGO participation' United Nations Press Release DC/2749, January 19, 2001.

"The Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects concluded its second session this morning. Its report adopted today included a decision that the July Conference should not vote on substantive matters until all efforts to achieve consensus had been exhausted. Several key decisions were deferred to the third Preparatory Committee session.

The second preparatory meeting's report included an approved draft agenda for the Conference, which would have the Conference conduct a general exchange of views and adopt final documents, containing a series of measures aimed at collective action to eradicate the illicit small arms trade. The disarmament Conference, the first since 1987, will convene from July 9 to 20 in New York.

Meanwhile, several decisions were deferred to the third session of the preparatory process, to be held in New York from March 19 to 30. Among them was consideration of the final documents, the draft rules of procedure and the draft objective of the Conference, as well as modalities of attendance of non-governmental organizations.

Following a wide-ranging discussion at the first meeting about how to proceed on the formulation of a draft action plan, it was decided that the Committee would undertake a sequential consideration of the Chairman's draft action programme in formal plenary meetings. That text contained four sections: a 30-paragraph preamble; a section on preventing, controlling and curbing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, containing concrete measures at the national, regional and global levels; another section on international cooperation and assistance; and a fourth on implementation and follow-up.

Consideration of the preamble drew sharp debate, as delegations delved into the question of whether or not to formulate a separate political declaration or include all references to political commitments in the lengthy preambular section of the action programme. Most delegations expressed flexibility, but sought to ensure that, either way, the final document or documents would contain strong language on the political commitments underpinning the goal of the Conference to eradicate the illicit small arms trade.

A divergence of views also emerged during consideration of the rules for attendance of civil society groups. That decision had been deferred during both the first and second preparatory sessions. Many delegations insisted that civilians had been the main victims of the small arms scourge and, thus, their representatives should be awarded a key role in the process. The Chinese delegation agreed, but sought to limit the participation of those groups specifically involved in the disarmament aspect of the small arms question. Specifically, the Chinese delegation called for the inclusion of NGOs, which had not only gained consultative status with the Economic and Social Council, but which were 'relevant and competent' as regards 'the scope and the purpose' of the Conference. Subsequent agreement was reached to hold an informal plenary meeting at the present session to hear NGOs. A decision concerning their future participation at the third preparatory session and the Conference, however, was, once again, deferred. ...

Also today, the representative of South Africa announced that on 17 January, the South African Police Service destroyed 102 tons of small arms, and parts and spares, worth an estimated $3.5 million. A total of 27,816 small arms, including pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns and homemade arms, were confiscated, as well as 23,292 redundant police arms. Seven launchers and 20,335 parts of arms and spares were also destroyed."

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.