NEW YORK, 30 OCTOBER 1998
STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR ANTÓNIO MONTEIRO, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL, TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 53rd SESSION, FIRST COMMITTEE (Agenda item: small arms)
The unlawful and uncontrolled use of small arms is a problem that affects almost every country. At the global level, we know that far more people are killed by the use of small arms than by tanks or bombs. Small arms are the weapons increasingly used as the primary instrument of violence in armed conflicts and criminal activities and account for the greatest percentage of deaths, particularly among non-combatants.
These are also legal and legitimate weapons used by states for legitimate purposes.Yet their excessive accumulation, dissemination and availability, exacerbates and even triggers violence and destabilizes societies. Their control and destruction has become a central issue in conflict resolution, peacebuilding and disarmament.
The task ahead of us is demanding. The control of small arms and light weapons goes beyond the traditional instruments of disarmament and arms control. It is much more complex. In fact, arms control is only one dimension of the problem. Therefore a comprehensive, integrated and phased approach is needed. Concurrent actions must be taken at national, regional and international levels .
A number of welcome and promising initiatives to control the excessive accumulation and uncontrolled use of small arms have now been launched, particularly at the regional level. In this context, I would to stress the innovative nature of EU Code of Conduct, which sets high standards for arms exports and also provides for a consultation mechanism. Further measures on small arms are now being considered by the EU in the framework of its common policy.
We must of course pursue complementarity and avoid duplication. In this context, we welcome the decision of the Secretary-General to establish a mechanism to coordinate all action on small arms within the UN system (CASA). A strong role for the UN on small arms issue is in the interest of us all.
It is now necessary to identify a common and unifying objective and to agree on an agenda . We welcome the decision to convene an international conference on illicit arms trade in all its aspects not later than 2001, as well as the offer of the Government of Switzerland to host it. We consider that the aim of such a conference should be precisely to broaden the common international understanting of the concrete action required to address these problem.
Further discussion will certainly be needed concerning the objectives, scope, agenda, date and venue of the international conference. We should secure broad international support and a clearer understanding of the focus of the exercise. While the Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms is not the preparatory committee of the international conference, we do believe that careful consideration should be given to its work and recommendations.
In concluding, Mr. Chairman, I would like to reiterate my delegation´s total support to the draft resolution L.13 prepared with the lead of Japan and to the draft resolution L.41 prepared with the lead and just introduced by the distinguished delegate of South Africa on small arms, which we co-sponsored.