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Annan ‘disappointed’, no agreement on illicit arms

Secretary-General ‘disappointed’ by lack of agreement at conference on illicit arms trade

While noting that a United Nations conference that closed Friday put an international spotlight on the illicit trade in small arms that fuel conflict, Secretary General Kofi Annan today expressed disappointment that delegates were unable to agree on a common declaration that would guide further action.

The conference, which opened on 26 June to review progress in the 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons – the pivotal framework for international, regional and national activity to curtail illegal gun trafficking – failed to adopt an outcome document as wide differences between delegations on follow-up actions remained unresolved.

Through a formal statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Annan noted, however, that “many States sent high-level representatives to the conference, and that many civil society groups contributed energetically to its discussions.”

“To that extent, the Conference did succeed in recalling the issue of small arms and light weapons to the attention of the international community, which clearly remains committed to the Programme of Action as the main framework for measures to curtail the illegal trade in these weapons,” said the spokesperson, Marie Okabe.

Delegates from all parts of the world reaffirmed that taking firm steps to control illicit arms brokers was an extremely urgent task, she added.

In his opening address to the Conference, Mr. Annan reminded participants that every year an estimated $1 billion worth of small weapons are traded illicitly worldwide, exacerbating conflicts that kill tens of thousands, sparking refugee flows, undermining the rule of law and spawning a “culture of violence and impunity.”

In the past five years since the Programme of Action was adopted, nearly 140 countries have reported on illegal gun trafficking, while a third of all States have made efforts to collect weapons from those not legally entitled to hold them, Mr. Annan said in that address. Other progress included increased cooperation among and within regions to stem the flow of illicit weapons across national borders.

The issue will be studied in depth by a UN intergovernmental expert group, which will hold its first session in November, Ms. Okabe said.

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