U.N. panel urges reduction, control of small-arms trade
August 4, 1999
UNITED NATIONS -- The availability of hundreds of millions of small arms and light weapons worldwide has contributed to an increase in violent crime and internal conflicts, a U.N. report said on Wednesday.
A panel of 27 international experts, convened by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, estimated that more than 500 million small arms and light weapons -- ranging from revolvers and submachine guns to missile launchers and low- caliber mortars -- are in use across the world. Many of the arms have become weapons of choice for insurgent forces, criminal gangs and terrorist groups.
"They are increasingly lethal, are relatively cheap, easily portable and concealable, and (in most cases) require minimal maintenance and logistic support," the panel's report said.
While such weapons were standard equipment for the military and internal security forces in every country, the report said their "excessive and destabilizing accumulation and transfer ... is closely related to the increased incidence of internal conflicts and high levels of crime and violence."
Among the panel's recommendations: Urging states to use "utmost restraint in transfers" of small arms and ammunition to areas of conflict and ensuring that weapons carry markings to identify their country of origin and the manufacturer.
The report faulted some countries for exercising insufficient control over the transfer or holding of small arms. It said negligent and corrupt governments and inadequate border and customs control played a role in illicit trafficking.
The United Nations, long focused on nuclear weapons and conventional disarmament, has become increasingly concerned about the role of small arms. It plans to hold an international conference on the illicit arms trade by 2001.
The panel did say that progress was being made on some recommendations for the reduction and control of small arms due to efforts by the United Nations, other international groups and member states.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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