Speech by Ambassador Yukiya Amano
Director-General for Arms Control and Scientific Affairs
At the United Nations First Biennial Meeting
to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action
to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade
in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects
7 July 2003
First, let me congratulate you on your assumption of the chairpersonship of the Biennial Meeting of States on Small Arms and Light Weapons. I have no doubt that you will guide this meeting to great success through your long experience as a scholar and outstanding talent as a diplomat. As your compatriot, I am very proud of your chairpersonship and my Government's commitment to resolving small arms issues.
- Japan has been endeavoring to solve the problems associated with small arms and light weapons. It is indispensable that this issue be resolved in order to prevent the resumption of conflicts, to facilitate humanitarian relief activities as soon as conflicts end, and to lay the ground for reconstruction activities. In 1995, then Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali brought the issue of small arms and light weapons to the attention of the international community. Since that time, Japan has continued to stress the importance of this issue by introducing resolutions almost every year in the General Assembly. Japan chaired the Panel, and then the Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms established by such resolutions, and also actively participated in the activities of the Group of Governmental Experts on Tracing and Marking.
- In 2001, the United Nations convened the Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Ambassador Donowaki served as a Vice-President and presided over the high-level segment of the Conference. After serious debate and difficult negotiations, the Conference adopted the Programme of Action. This was without question the result of the strong political will of the entire international community to combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms. Japan highly values this Programme of Action as a guideline, because it embodies a comprehensive approach, which is desperately needed in view of the multi-faceted nature of the issue.
The task before us today is how best to implement the Programme. The Biennial Meeting of States assembled here today is the first opportunity to hear the reports from Member States, regional and international organizations as well as non-governmental organizations on the implementation of the Programme of Action. This Meeting will serve as an important occasion to exchange views and seek forward-looking ideas on how best to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms. The thematic discussions to be held during the latter part of this Meeting should provide direction for our future goals.
- In order to facilitate the implementation of the Programme of Action, Japan has organized regional seminars and workshops. Some examples are the "Tokyo Follow-Up Meeting of the UN Conference" in January 2002, the "Regional Seminar for Pacific Island Countries," again in Tokyo in January 2003, and the "Regional Seminar" in Bali, Indonesia in February 2003. These meetings were good occasions to address important problems including the weaponization of societies, child soldiers, restoration of law and order, and DDR. Taking into account the multi-faceted nature of the problem, Japan is now preparing to work out concrete measures that should be taken.
- As for the future, Japan believes that the establishment of a tracing system of small arms is an effective preventive measure. Marking and ensuring record-keeping on each weapon would make it possible, through international cooperation, to trace and identify exactly how and where the illegal diversion of weapons takes place. Furthermore, it would facilitate the disruption of such illegal supply lines if the illicit trafficking routes could be identified. On this question of tracing, the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Tracing and Marking has completed its task, and the Group is going to recommend to the Secretary-General that he initiate negotiation of an international instrument. Japan hopes that the tracing system will be agreed as soon as possible following this recommendation. We will also have to keep in mind that stricter control measures should be ensured to control and prohibit weapons exports to the regions where the Security Council imposes embargoes. I wish to add that Japan, as a national policy, does not export any arms whatsoever.
- It is also important to reduce the number of victims of small arms, which is said to be about a half million per year. The primary responsibility for tackling the problems associated with such weapons falls on the countries that are affected, but these countries require international cooperation and assistance in order to eliminate the very causes of possession by civilians of such weapons through the improvement of border controls, national laws and regulations, restoration of internal law and order, and like measures.
- Consolidation of peace is one of the main pillars of Japan's foreign policy, and it therefore follows that the issue of small arms their collection, destruction and so forth should be seriously addressed. As an example of such diplomacy, Japan hosted the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan in 2002. Participating states made significant pledges for assistance to Afghanistan, which was suffering from civil wars that had lasted more than twenty years. The success of the reconstruction of Afghanistan depends largely on whether peace can be consolidated or not. As one of the leading nations of DDR in Afghanistan, Japan is now very much involved in the efforts for the consolidation of peace in Afghanistan. Also, Japan embarked upon a project to support the Cambodian government's effort for the collection of small arms. This is what we call "weapons for development" project, and it consists of weapons collection, destruction ceremonies, raising of public awareness, and weapons registration. A pilot project that preceded this project has been substantially expanded, and weapons collection is now included. Japan hopes that this will become a successful model as a weapons collection and destruction project that takes into account the multiple development needs of local communities.
In conclusion, Japan is determined to intensify its efforts to eradicate the illicit trade in small arms, as a nation dedicated to peace and advocating the culture of peace. As Japan chairs this First Biennial Meeting of States, Japan wishes to reaffirm its strong commitment to tackling the problems associated with small arms.
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