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UN Conference to Review Small Arms


Our feature series this week is on small arms and light weapons in Africa. Tonight, a look at a UN conference that’s reviewing the issue and what’s to be done about it. Virginia Gamba is the director of an NGO based in Pretoria, South Africa, that deals with issues of peace and security in Africa. From New York, she told Voice of America English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard the purpose of the conference “is to revise the progress…on implementing the United Nations program of action on the prevention, the combating and the eradication of the illicit trade of small arms and weapons worldwide.”

She says delegates will discuss problems encountered in implementing the program and how to solve them. She says since the original program of action, “follow-on articles” include finding out from a standing UN working group how best “to devise a common standard for marking and tracing firearms.”

The next topic for consideration is “a common standard for the future that could be adopted globally” for ammunition. Gamba says there is no connection between the conference and the proposed international treaty to curb small arms because in 2001 when the program of action was discussed, and there was no international consensus on the sale of arms to rebels and other groups and no legally binding convention on arms transfers.

She says, “This meeting will have a very large impact in Africa because Africa is the one region in the world that has done the most to implement the existing program of action which does three things: first: strengthen legislation relating to firearms so that they do not leave the legal market for the illegal market; second, to improve the capacity of law enforcement agencies in Africa so that they can actually stop the illicit traffic of arms at their own borders, thirdly, to reduce demand for arms through public education, and through the seizure of illicit arms collected from populations that might want to surrender them voluntarily.”

She says Africa has been implementing these things “a lot” over the last five years and says, “This meeting is important to Africa because it will recognize what countries have done to date, and to recognize the type of financial and technical assistance African governments need from the international community, including the United States, to support the efforts toward these three goals.”

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