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20 October 2008 - First Committee "Conventional weapons" - Statement by H.E. Ambassador Eric Danon

63th session of the United Nations General Assembly Statement by H.E. Ambassador Eric Danon, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on behalf on the European Union

Mr Chairman,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union,

1. The Candidate Countries Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia2, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.

2. The illicit manufacture, transfer and flow of small arms and light weapons (SALW), together with their accumulation and their uncontrolled dissemination, remain today the prime risk to the security of the greatest number of inhabitants of our planet. SALW and their ammunition lead to the death of more than 500 000 persons each year, the majority of them civilians. They represent a key element in the triggering and propagation of conflicts and in the collapse of State structures. Their dissemination contributes to terrorism and to organised crime, delays post-conflict reconstruction and constitutes a curb on development.

3. The EU is highly committed to eradicating the accumulation of and illicit trade in SALW and their ammunition. To serve its objectives, the EU has adopted a specific strategy to combat the accumulation of and trade in SALW and their ammunition. Other specific instruments include a Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, a joint action to combat the accumulation and the destabilising dissemination of SALW, and a common position committing Member States to introduce national legislation in order to control brokering activities effectively. The EU’s strategy on SALW and their ammunition is global and includes technical and financial assistance for a wide range of programmes. We urge the other States to join our efforts.

4. The EU is convinced of the need for assistance to countries affected by armed violence, which must form an integral part of development strategies. Given the close link between security and development, States should be encouraged to incorporate actions aiming to eliminate illicit SALW and to prevent armed violence into security, development and poverty reduction plans and strategies. In this context, we reaffirm our support for the "Geneva Declaration on armed violence and development" in respect of which the meeting to follow up implementation was held in Geneva on 12 September 2008.

5. Resources should be further mobilised in order to support the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, especially in the developing countries. However, this goodwill and these resources will not alone suffice to make the difference, without an avowed political will and assured determination by national administrations to commit themselves to the objectives in the Programme of Action. The technical projects to destroy surplus SALW stocks and improve techniques to combat trafficking will not be enough, unless they are conducted in parallel with efforts at the legislative and administrative levels. In many regions and many countries of the world, legislative provisions should be adopted concerning SALW and existing provisions should be improved, particularly as regards exports, imports, transfers and brokering of SALW, and controls should be intensified.

6. The EU is pleased that the third biennial meeting to review the United Nations Programme of Action, which was held in New York from 14 to 18 July 2008, led to the adoption of a substantial report, the content of which will genuinely provide for improving and strengthening its implementation. It welcomes in this respect the remarkable work done by Ambassador Dalius Cekuolis in the course of chairing the meeting. We regret that, on account of the attitude of just one delegation, this report had to be adopted by means of a vote. We reaffirm that, as we see it, the review cycles must continue to include review conferences and biennial meetings examining the implementation of the Programme of Action and functioning on the basis of a consensus.

7. The European Union is determined to play its full part in the multilateral effort to facilitate proper implementation of the International Instrument on the marking and tracing of SALW. That is why, on 12 February 2008, its Member States adopted a Joint Action with an allocation of EUR 300 000 aimed at supporting the Instrument. The UN Member States have also undertaken to submit a report to the UN Secretary-General every two years on the activities they have carried out in order to implement the Instrument.

8. States have become aware of the problem of the illicit brokering of SALW and for the first time have started to deal with it at global level, in the United Nations Programme of Action. They have undertaken to regulate brokering activities at national level, since it is generally admitted that controls imposed by States are a first essential stage in preventing illicit brokering. In 2003 the European Union adopted a Common Position on the control of arms brokering which applies to SALW, amongst others. It aims to prevent the circumvention of multilateral embargoes by laying down specific provisions for the authorisation of brokers, the conservation of data on transactions and the exchange of information between Member States on authorised transfers.

9. However, the European Union thinks that it would be beneficial for the specific provisions about brokering in the United Nations Programme of Action to be applied more vigorously. The United Nations General Assembly decided, in Resolution 60/81 of 8 December 2005, to establish a group of governmental experts to consider further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating and eradicating illicit brokering in SALW. The group met during 2007 and produced a substantial report. The report argues strongly for intensifying international cooperation and proposes ways of promoting such cooperation. Also - by no means the least of its achievements - the experts group agreed on an accepted definition of what is covered by the illicit brokering of SALW. It is now necessary to move on to implementing all the recommendations in this report.

10. The fight against the illicit trade in ammunition continues to be another urgent task inseparable from the campaign concerning weapons themselves. Uncontrolled stocks of ammunition contribute to the risk of trafficking and proliferation and to the lengthening and intensification of armed conflicts. In addition they are a threat to security, health and the environment. The work of the Group of Governmental Experts (GEG) on surplus stocks of conventional ammunition, the setting-up of which was initiated by two EU Member States, Germany and France, led this year to the drafting and adoption of a substantial report. This report, which was circulated to the Member States under reference A/63/182, will be examined at this session of the General Assembly, which will decide on what action to take in a resolution which we are going to adopt within this Committee. We welcome this report and its recommendations and we shall build on it in order to involve the international community actively in this field.

11. The EU continues to give strong encouragement to progress in strengthening controls on the transfer of SALW and their ammunition. This year we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, which has made a significant contribution to that objective. The European Union also continues to attach great importance to the efforts made under the Wassenaar Arrangement.

12. Each day, everywhere in the world, people are affected by irresponsible transfers of arms. The negative impact of this phenomenon on peace, reconstruction, security, stability, respect for human rights and sustainable development is mainly detrimental to developing countries, particularly in Africa. That is why the EU firmly supports the drafting of a full, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons. The EU is convinced that the United Nations is the only appropriate forum for preparing a truly universal instrument.

13. The EU welcomes the very firm appeal launched by the States and civil society in favour of establishing a treaty so as to better regulate trade in conventional weapons. With the adoption two years ago of resolution 61/89 by an overwhelming majority, this movement has led to the setting up of a Group of Governmental Experts which has held meetings throughout this year. At the end of its discussions, it succeeded, by common accord of all its members, in providing the Secretary-General and all the UN Member States with an opinion on this question which was enlightened, studied and representative of all sensitivities present. This report, distributed to the Member States under reference number A/63/334, will be examined during this session of the General Assembly, which will decide on the appropriate follow-up to be given to it by means of a resolution that we shall adopt within this Committee. Based on the work already done within the General Assembly, the framework for which was given to us by the terms of resolution 61/89, it recommends that the work started in the UN should be pursued.

14. The Member States of the European Union consider that we must pursue our efforts along the path already started: aiming to establish a legally binding instrument by which the UN Member States would undertake inter alia to examine the applications for authorisation of conventional arms exports on which they are required to give a national point of view, making full use of their sovereignty, in the light of a number of criteria. These jointly defined criteria should in particular aim to prevent these transfers from contributing to actions constituting a violation of fundamental rights recognised by the UN Charter, undermining the regional stability of the zone concerned or indisputably hindering the development of the countries concerned. To achieve this, the forming within the United Nations of a working party with open membership and a mandate to define the scope and parameters of such an instrument would appear to us to be the next most logical step in the process.

15. The use of MANPADS by terrorists and non-State actors as a tool to threaten civil aviation calls for greater attention as well as full and sustained action. MANPADS are lethal, easy to conceal and inexpensive. In this respect, the EU firmly supports broader efforts in the different multilateral fora, concentrating especially on export controls. We have worked with other States in the field of MANPADS destruction and storage and security management and we shall continue to work very actively to assist those States which are unable to do so to make their stocks secure and destroy their surpluses of such weapons. The EU urges the other States to contribute towards this task.

16. The EU fully supports the intensification of efforts aimed at preventing the illicit transfer of and unauthorised access to use MANPADS, especially through the implementation of the General Assembly resolutions adopted each year by consensus.

17. The EU welcomes the progress made in the universalisation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines. Significant progress has been made in clearing mined areas and assisting victims, but much still remains to be done.

18. The EU remains fully committed to implementing the Nairobi Action Plan adopted at the first Review Conference in 2004. The Nairobi Conference adopted this ambitious plan, which will remain our road map until next year. We hope that the Review Conference planned next year will enable us to give new impetus to the efforts required to reach the objective of a world without anti-personnel mines, and without any further victims. The meeting of the States Parties last year in Jordan was a significant step in this respect. We would like at this point to thank the Kingdom of Jordan for the energy and resources it put into hosting that meeting.

19. Promoting the universality of the Ottawa Convention remains a priority. Ten years ago, more than 15 countries were producing and selling anti-personnel mines. A major effort has been achieved since then to prohibit the production of and trade in those weapons. Almost 80 % of States have now acceded to the Convention, but several important countries remain outside the Convention. We urge all those States which have not yet ratified or acceded to the Convention to do so as soon as possible.

20. The EU and its Member States continue to provide major financial and technical assistance to the campaign against mines worldwide. Over the past ten years, this financial support has totalled EUR 1,5 billion. We encourage other States which are able to do so to give more sustained assistance to the countries affected by mines. The EU thinks that particular emphasis should be placed on demining, and on assistance to victims. Rehabilitation and reintegration of survivors is a crucial task that must be incorporated into a broader context.

21. The European Union remains very committed to conserving the CWC, which is a key element of humanitarian international law. It has decided to give active support to its universalisation through a Joint Action involving more than EUR 800 000 which it launched in this very forum last year in the margins of the First Committee.

22. The European Union is deeply concerned by the humanitarian consequences of cluster munitions. It considers it essential to make strong commitments in this area, which are likely to have concrete results on the ground and vis-à-vis the victims of these weapons and to have a true humanitarian impact.

23. All the EU Member States, either as stakeholders or as observers, attended the diplomatic conference which was held in Dublin last May, at which the text of an ambitious convention was adopted, that will be open for signature in Oslo in December 2008.

24. The EU considers that this initiative and the discussions pursued in parallel to the CWC, on the same topic, were mutually enriching and reinforced each other and the outcome of the Dublin Conference represents a strong signal which should encourage the States Parties to the CWC to pursue their efforts with the firm commitment to successfully conclude a credible legally binding instrument in Geneva. In any case, the European Union stresses that the future instrument will have to be compatible with the text of the document adopted in Dublin by two-thirds of the States Parties to the CWC, even if the two instruments could vary as to their States Parties, their field of application and their implementing procedures.

25. The EU hopes that an agreement may be reached on this matter between States Parties to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) by the end of 2008, and that therefore the mandate for negotiation approved in November 2007 is fully met. The success of this negotiation in the context of the CCW, which groups together most States producing and using cluster munitions worldwide, would be strong signal of the desire of these States Parties, and in particular the countries with large stocks of such weapons, to strengthen the role of the CWC as the preferred forum for dealing with issues cross-cutting disarmament and international humanitarian law.

26. The EU considers that the results of the four working sessions of the Group of Governmental Experts in Geneva in 2008 are encouraging. The field and scope of the prohibitions and restrictions of a future instrument that were presented may serve as a starting point for the November negotiations. It is also encouraging that a number of countries which hitherto had serious reservations on the very principle of bans have initially assessed the text in a positive manner.

27. Transparency in the field of conventional weapons is a key component for combating the uncontrolled dissemination of such weapons and for promoting an atmosphere of trust and security. As we already emphasised last year, we draw attention to the very useful contribution made in this respect by the recommendations of the Group of Government Experts on the establishment of the UN Register of Conventional Arms and its strengthening. The EU Member States express the wish that the review of the Register of Conventional Arms in 2009 be based on the success of the exercises conducted in 2003 and 2006 and lead to a further extension of its range. In particular, the EU would be in favour of an expansion of the Register by categories including data on purchases, production and national allocations as well as the establishment of a corresponding form. In particular, the inclusion of SALW in a separate category of the Register remains the most important of the EU’s priorities in this area.

28. Transparency in the field of military expenditure is a key element for trust between States and conflict prevention. The EU welcomes the fact that participation in the mechanism of national reports on military expenditure has increased regularly since its establishment in 1981, under resolution 60/44. This participation testifies to a growing awareness of transparency with regard to military expenditure. However, the increase in global military expenditure since 1999 emphasises the need for an effective mechanism, which is why the EU welcomes and supports last year’s decision to set up a Group of government experts to examine the implementation and development of the standard instrument to account for military expenditure. The EU is devoting particular attention to the preparations for the Group’s discussions when it meets in 2010. States not yet having done so are urged to submit their report.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

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