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UN officials stress need to curb portable missiles, other light arms used in terror

13 July 2005 From portable missile attacks on civilian aircraft to the deaths of thousands from light arms fire each year to massive population displacements, United Nations officials are stressing a litany of concomitant ills as Member States seek to strengthen measures against the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons.

As Member States meet at UN Headquarters in New York on the Implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, speaker after speaker has stressed the need for stronger action at the international level, with many voicing concerns about the links between the illicit arms trade, terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking.

Concerted efforts and responsible policies on the part of all governments are needed to control so-called Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS), including shoulder-launched and other portable missiles, which have been deployed against civil aircraft in more than 40 incidents over the past three decades, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) legal officer Jiefang Huang said.

The ICAO has been developing standards and recommending practices and procedures that would incorporate preventive measures on the ground, he told yesterday's session of the meeting. The agency is urging all contracting States to strictly control the import, export, transfer and storage of these weapons and to ensure the destruction of non-authorized MANPADS in their territories.

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) representative Hazel De Wet said small arms and light weapons were killing thousands and injuring millions every year. Their widespread use and misuse ignited and fuelled conflicts, causing massive population displacement and destabilizing regions all over the world.

The effectiveness of all efforts to combat the proliferation of illicit arms will remain minimal unless the causes of small arms violence are properly addressed and all aspects of the Programme of Action are implemented at each level, national, regional and global, she said.

David Meddings of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention said the way forward should be broadened to address the demand for small arms. Social investments could lead to measurable reduction in violence, he said.

UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) representative Patricia Lewis said evidence-based research enabled States and civil society to increase the efficacy of their work in implementing the Programme of Action. Research that ascertained the needs and concerns of affected States and local communities is vital for effective policy-making, decision-making and donor collaboration, she added.

The Director of the UN Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA), Hannelore Hoppe, said capacity-building for affected countries was essential for eliminating that traffic but the challenge was enormous.



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