UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – The first conference to review the 2001 “Programme of Action” to control the illicit trade in small arms ended without agreement on a final outcome document, thus failing to provide the General Assembly with either a mandate to conduct a further review in five years.
Some 2,000 anti-gun activists descended on the United Nations from June 26-July 7 to push for a strict set of international rules to curb the $1 billion-a-year trade in small arms, which kills approximately 200,000 people every year.
But the gun-rights activists, led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), were able to get their message out that the goal of the conference was to pressure all nations to ban the individual use of firearms. Ahead of the conference, the NRA was able to get 100,000 Americans to write the UN demanding the defeat of a treaty that is non-existent.
“We are not out to take guns away from Americans,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.
The 2001 plan established broad guidelines for national and international measures to better track the sales of arms, manage government stockpiles and destroy illicit weapons.
“The purpose of this conference is simply to follow up on activities authorized by the 2001 conference, and we don’t see any need for treaties or agreements coming out of this,” stated U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.
The anti-gun activists said they wanted the 2006 review conference to back a new treaty or, failing that, international guidelines governing arms transfers. Mr. Annan expressed disappointment that delegates were unable to agree on a common declaration that would guide further action. He noted that in the past five years, nearly 140 nations had reported on illegal gun trafficking, while a third of all nations had made efforts to collect weapons from those not legally entitled to hold them. Other progress included increased cooperation among and within regions to stem the flow of illicit weapons across national borders.
“It is to their lasting shame that governments let this happen. They allowed a small number of states to hold them hostage and to derail any plans which might have brought improvement in this global crisis,” said Rebecca Peters, director of the International Action Network on Small Arms, when commenting on the failure of the conference to come up with the plan of action.
Observers contend that Cuba, India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan obstructed a call for global standards for international arms transfers. Some 115 governments had said they supported stronger provisions on transfer controls.
Ms. Peters stated that delegations from nations in Africa and Latin America complained that their interests were overlooked.
“My country has suffered appallingly from the effects of the uncontrolled arms trade, and continues to suffer because the guns remain among the civilian population even now that our war has ended. We don’t manufacture these guns, yet they end up in our country, erode our security and have terrible consequences for our development,” stated Florella Hazeley of the Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms.
She added that he had attended the conference hoping that governments would work together to tackle the many problems caused by the proliferation of small arms. “How can I go home and explain this?” she asked.
Ms. Peters noted that the failure of the conference would not detract from the “enormous amount of work being done at local, national and regional levels to protect people from gun violence. “But because gun proliferation is a global problem, it does require a global solution, and we will continue to seek ways to make this happen,” Ms. Peters argued.
In a July 11 op-ed in London’s The Guardian, Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, wrote that a resolution may be forthcoming through the UN General Assembly in October “for governments to start negotiations on an international arms trade treaty, which could be based on states’ existing responsibilities under human rights and humanitarian law.”
She further wrote: “Governments must not let the setback of the review conference stop them from winning the battle against the unregulated trade of arms.”