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Homeland Security

07 October 2005

Meeting Aims To Combat Illicit Arms Trafficking in the Americas

Arms trafficking linked to terrorism, organized crime, OAS official says

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The Organization of American States (OAS) held an October 6-7 meeting aimed at developing steps to prevent and combat illicit arms trafficking in the Western Hemisphere.

In an October 6 statement, OAS Assistant Secretary-General Albert Ramdin said the participation of national authorities from the Americas who are involved in this issue "reflects the determination to strengthen hemispheric cooperation against this transnational scourge."

Ramdin quoted statistics from the International Red Cross indicating that light weapons alone have caused 4 million deaths worldwide since 1990, including the deaths of almost 3 million women and children.  The United Nations, he added, says that about 500 million light weapons exist in the world, and that an estimated 40 percent of illicit light weapons have been diverted from legal transactions.  Ramdin said the illicit trafficking in firearms and its effect on society "ranks among the most disastrous criminal activities against humankind."

The OAS is concerned about the increase of illicit international arms trafficking, Ramdin said, noting the links of illegal arms trafficking with other criminal activities such as drug trafficking, terrorism, transnational organized crime and mercenary and other activities.  "We believe that urgent attention and action is required to stem this problem," he said.

The meeting, chaired by Colombia's ambassador to the OAS, Álvaro Tirado Mejía, is being held in accordance with the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials.

Tirado said the convention has been characterized as “groundbreaking and unique” as it is the first binding legal agreement on this issue, adding that the convention establishes a solid foundation for developing joint cooperation strategies at the hemispheric level.

The OAS said the event at its Washington headquarters marks the first time authorities at the operational level are meeting to exchange information and discuss ways to help prevent illegal manufacturing and trafficking of firearms.

In May, the OAS Permanent Council approved a method to allow countries in the region to share information on the situation, problems, challenges and experiences they have encountered with issues related to the inter-American convention against illicit arms trafficking.

Robert Loftis, the State Department's acting deputy assistant secretary for political-military affairs, said April 12 that the entry into force in 1998 of the inter-American convention against illicit arms trafficking made the OAS a leader in multilateral efforts to address the problem of illicit weapons trafficking. (See related article.)

The United States, he added, is a signatory to the convention and supports efforts to "aggressively" implement its provisions.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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