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Assessing progress: Global efforts to prevent small arms proliferation

08-07-2005 News Release 05/39

ICRC (Geneva) – Governments, international organizations and NGOs will meet in New York from 11-15 July to assess progress made in four years of implementing the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

Participants are also expected to begin identifying ways of strengthening the Programme of Action when it is formally reviewed in 2006. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will participate in the event as an observer.

In its work assisting victims of armed conflict, the ICRC witnesses daily the price that civilians in many war-torn societies pay for inadequate controls on the availability of weapons and their frequent use in violation of international humanitarian law. The widespread proliferation of assault rifles, machine guns and other small arms and light weapons makes attacks on civilians easier and more lethal. Even after hostilities on the battlefield end, the threat of armed violence often persists, fuelled by easy access to military-style weapons remaining from the conflict.

The UN Programme of Action, which is not a legally binding document, is widely perceived as only a first step towards reducing the suffering resulting from the unregulated availability of small arms. On 17 June, States concluded another international instrument to facilitate identification and tracing of illicit small arms. Governmental support is also growing for a global agreement that would define common standards for regulating all conventional arms transfers. The ICRC supports such an agreement, which should include a requirement not to authorize arms transfers when the weapons are likely to be used to violate humanitarian law.

The ICRC also supports proposals for a global agreement to prevent illicit arms brokering. Brokers operating outside any nati onal or international legal framework often facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law in armed conflicts. Such activities frequently continue with impunity for years owing to weak or nonexistent regulation of arms brokers at the national and international levels.

" The year ahead will be crucial in determining the direction of future global efforts to prevent unregulated small arms proliferation. " underlined Peter Herby, head of the ICRC's Mines-Arms Unit. " If we are to succeed in reducing the use of weapons to violate international humanitarian law, more comprehensive measures are needed. The terrible human costs of easy access to military weapons will continue to grow unless States act with greater urgency. "


 Further information:  

 Camilla Waszink, ICRC (in New York), tel. ++41 79 217 3200  

 Ian Piper, ICRC (in Geneva), tel. ++41 79 203 4338