NEW YORK, 17 JULY 2001
STATEMENT BY Mr. NUNO BRITO, CHARGÉ DAFFAIRES A.I. AND DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS, TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON THE ILLICIT TRADE IN SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS IN ALL ITS ASPECTS
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I would like to congratulate you on your election as President of the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects. I am confident that with your past experience you will be able to guide this ship with a steady breeze to good port. I would also like to congratulate Ambassador Carlos Santos for his remarkable work chairing the three Preparatory Committees and for presenting a Draft Programme of Action that enabled us to engage very early in a substantive debate.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Belgium has already spoken on behalf of the European Union and Portugal, of course, fully subscribes to that intervention. I am addressing the Conference in support of that statement and to emphasize certain aspects.
We are gathered here to solve a serious problem, that has claimed and still claims, thousands of innocent victims. Over 500 million small arms are in circulation today and this excessive and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons is one of the greatest curses of our time. It is essential that the international community tackle this problem in a comprehensive way.
Small arms are todays real weapons of mass destruction. Millions of them are spread all over the globe and a vast number are illegally held outside governmental control and are used to cause death and pain to civilians.
Portugal has recognised this problem from the beginning and it is well aware of its profoundly negative impact. We supported Resolution 53/77, that decided to convene the UN Conference on Illicit Arms Trade in All its Aspects no later than June/July of this year.
Also within the European Union, we have engaged in trying to find appropriate solutions to address this problem and have adopted (1) the Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, (2) the Joint Action on the EU Contribution to Combating the Destabilising Accumulation and Spread of Small Arms and Light Weapons and (3) the Council Resolution on Combating the Excessive and Uncontrolled Accumulation and Spread of Small Arms and Light Weapons as Part of the European Unions Emergency Aid, Reconstruction and Development Programmes.
The adoption of an international Programme of Action by the United Nations on the Illicit Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects is, therefore, an essential first step in order to achieve the goal of the complete eradication of surplus and illegally-held small arms and light weapons.
We think that the Draft Programme of Action contained in L4 (Rev.1) is a good basis for our work. During the three Prepcoms held here in New York, it was possible to incorporate some fundamental ideas into the text presented by Ambassador Carlos Santos, but we, nevertheless, deem it important that some of the proposals the European Union presented that are not yet on board, should be considered and incorporated into the final version of the international Programme of Action.
The EU has actively developed and supported measures taken against the threat caused by small arms and light weapons in several regions of the globe and we have gained considerable experience in this field. We would like to share this valuable experience and incorporate some of its key ideas into the Programme of Action.
We must never forget that this problem is indeed one of the most serious that some members of the international community are facing. The uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons is killing innocent civilians and is hampering the peaceful development of several countries, deeply affecting their social stability. At the same time, this excessive circulation of small arms also, inter alia, undermines post-conflict reconstruction, the implementation of peace agreements and poses a threat to the respect for international humanitarian and human rights law.
This Conference must approve an international Programme of Action that will enable us to engage all available resources to tackle effectively this serious problem. It is essential that an integrated approach is taken, and that the follow-up process be used to draw on the experience gained in different actions in several parts of the world. An effective response to the small arms problem will require complementary efforts at the national, regional and global levels.
We believe it imperative that the follow-up of the international Programme of Action maintain and develop the impetus created at this Conference. We also deem it essential that, in the context of the follow-up, sufficient technical and financial resources be secured so that countries affected by this problem can free themselves once and for all from this scourge.
The co-operation of NGOs in this process is also important because their active engagement in the field provides an important added value to the global combat against the uncontrolled accumulation of small arms.
The solution for this problem may not be simple and there may be more than one solution for the problem in different countries and regions. Consequently, it is imperative that we share our experience and concentrate our efforts. Portugal is fully prepared to co-operate with the international community to achieve these aims. Only by working together can we really solve this problem, mainly by collecting and destroying the small arms and light weapons that circulate in excess and that cause unnecessary suffering to innocent people.
Thank you, Mr. President.