Statement by Foreign Trade Minister Kimmo Sasi at the UN Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons
Mr. President, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me begin by congratulating Ambassador Reyes upon his election as President of this important UN Conference. I wish also to pay tribute to you, Ambassador Donowaki, for presiding over the high-level segment of this Conference, as well as to Ambassador Weston for his contribution to the substantive work of the Conference.
Most casualties in today's wars are caused by the massive and often indiscriminate use of military-style small arms and light weapons. Accumulations of these arms nourish tensions and aggravate conflicts. They destabilise entire societies. They make any post-conflict rehabilitation much more difficult. These are disturbing facts. Growing realization of the importance of a global effort to counteract these facts led our leaders to highlight the issue of small arms in their Millennium Declaration adopted here at the United Nations last fall. The same concern has brought us together in this Conference.
Finland is determined to do its part. The Delegation of Finland fully subscribes to the views expressed by the Presidency of the European Union, Foreign Minister Michel of Belgium, also on our behalf earlier in the debate. I will therefore be brief.
It is in our common interest that this threat to peace, human security and post-conflict recovery is dealt with in a comprehensive manner, addressing both supply and demand. The issue is complex. Small arms are often symptoms of far deeper problems, inequality, lack of opportunity, abuse of human rights. Dealing with the root causes of conflicts is necessary. It cannot and should not be invoked as an excuse to do nothing about the tools that prolong those conflicts and render them more lethal. Dealing with the tools of violence is the job of our Conference.
Arms exporting States have a particular responsibility to ensure that the small arms and light weapons they export do not end up in the hands of those, whether Governments or other actors, who violate human rights and international humanitarian law
The adoption and stringent enforcement of comprehensive national arms export controls are a key means of ensuring that weapons are not transferred to human rights violators or other illegitimate end users. While necessary, such controls are not in themselves sufficient if and when not implemented by all States. Efforts to halt the flow of arms to illegitimate end-users have in the past been undermined by the actions of States willing to “undercut” responsible arms exporting States. Many Governments still operate on the assumption that “if we don’t sell, someone else will”. Actions to develop sub-regional, regional and international controls on the legal transfers of small arms and light weapons are also keys to dealing with illicit trafficking.
More transparency about legal trade is necessary. States should publish comprehensive and detailed annual reports on their military arms transfers. In Finland's case even individual military arms export authorizations are accessible to the interested public.
Finland, together with the other member states of the European Union, considers export controls key tools in combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. There is a need therefore to assess applications for export authorizations in accordance with strict national or regional norms and procedures that cover all categories of these arms. They should also cover small arms and light weapons, which are surplus to national defence requirements. Surplus weapons have been and continue to be a major source of inexpensive weapons fueling conflicts around the world.
Factors that States should take into account in authorizing transfers of small arms and light weapons have already been developed regionally, in Europe and elsewhere. My Delegation is particularly encouraged by the attention given to this issue by African states in their well-known Bamako Declaration. There is a lot to build on when this Conference seeks to chart global norms in this regard, as it must.
On a more general note, I wish to underline the valuable role of non-governmental organizations in pushing the issue of small arms on to the world agenda, and in pushing Governments to much-needed action. Interested NGOs have a role to play in this Conference, and they should have an even larger role in its follow-up.
The many dimensions and dire consequences of the excessive and destabilizing accumulation and spread of small arms confront the international community with the need for immediate as well as long-term action. The Programme of Action that this Conference is to adopt must spell out concrete measures that tackle the challenge before us here and now as well as tomorrow.
This Conference is not the beginning. It must not become the end. Let us make it the end of the beginning.
Thank you Mr. President