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United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, 9-20 July 2001


Outcome of the conference and ICRC position



The first-ever UN conference on small arms and light weapons, which ended in New York on 20 July, adopted a programme of action that proposes modest steps towards addressing the grave humanitarian consequences of unregulated arms availability. " Although we had hoped for a stronger programme of action, the ICRC welcomes the political commitments made with respect to strengthened control over transfers of small arms and light weapons. We are also pleased that the international community has explicitly recognized the important role that uncontrolled arms availability plays in undermining respect for international humanitarian law and in impeding the provision of humanitarian assistance to victims of armed conflict " , said Peter Herby, coordinator of the ICRC's Mines-Arms Unit, who attended the UN conference. In addition to delivering a statement to the conference on the human cost of unregulated transfers of small arms and light weapons, the ICRC, together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, organized a special briefing for delegates on the issue.

The ICRC considers that far more is needed to effectively address the serious problems in humanitarian terms caused by both licit and illicit transfers of small arms. " If we really want to keep weapons from getting into the hands of people who are likely to violate international humanitarian law, we will have to be prepared for years of sustained efforts at the national, regional and global levels, both by governments and civil society " , said Mr Herby. The ICRC and the International Red Cross and Red Cr escent Movement as a whole will continue to build the public awareness and political will needed to achieve this.

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