I wish, of course, to thank the delegation of Gabon for having organized this discussion. A few days ago, when President Ali Bongo came to New York, he outlined his detailed plan for the prevention of conflicts. The problem of small arms and light weapons that we are addressing today is naturally closely linked to that.
The illicit manufacture and distribution of small arms and light weapons and of ammunition is one of the major threats to international peace and security. Millions of people have been their victims since 1945. Clearly, it is in this area that, if any progress is to be made, the issues of disarmament would be dealt with most fruitfully when it comes to security for all human beings.
Central Africa, sorely tried by conflicts for many years and victim of unstable land and sea borders, is particularly exposed. The example of the Lord’s Resistance Army, composed of several hundred rebels, reveals the ability of armed groups to despoil entire regions and sow terror and desolation.
Apart from the impact on the physical safety of the people of Central Africa, small arms and light weapons have a long-term negative impact on the economic and social development of a region already beset by numerous development challenges. The trafficking in small arms and light weapons also contributes to prolonging conflicts. Illicit deliveries of arms in unstable areas are detrimental to efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement of conflicts and thus make peace difficult to achieve. They also impede the efforts of the Security Council and regional organizations in Central Africa.
The struggle against the illegal distribution of small arms and light weapons is an unequal combat. There is indeed a considerable disproportion between the several hundred thousand dollars that are sufficient to arm a rebel group and the human and financial costs for States and the international community of peacekeeping and disarmament operations or further initiatives for security sector reform. Those are the instruments available to us to end a crisis. Thus it is of capital importance that the problem of the distribution of small arms and light weapons be attacked at its root.
To fight the trafficking, it is necessary to mobilize States of origin and transit of these arms. That means enhanced surveillance of manufacturers and brokers and of air and maritime companies that are knowingly involved in the flow of illegal arms.
In order to prevent the circulation of such weapons from fuelling conflict, the Security Council has set up sanctions and embargo regimes, the implementation of which is of capital importance. We urge all States to cooperate with the sanctions committees to ensure their follow-up.
The international community has also established legal tools to buttress the action of Central African States, and we must encourage their full implementation. I refer, inter alia, to the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and the international disarmament conventions. We also lend our full support to the initiative of the Economic Community of Central African States for the establishment of a register of small arms and light weapons on a regional basis.
The future arms trade treaty, which we very much hope for and for which my country is sparing no effort, will also be an essential tool in stopping the destabilizing flood of arms. France counts on the support of its partners in the upcoming deadlines and in view of the conference in 2012 to draw up the treaty.
Initiatives to prevent conflicts and to maintain and keep peace also contribute to reducing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons. Disarmament, demobilization and resettlement programmes, for example, make it possible to reduce the number of arms in circulation. Supporting security sector reform helps strengthen the abilities of States to combat arms trafficking.
May I conclude by recalling that, in the fight against the dissemination of small arms and light weapons, my country has played its role. Since 2006 France has launched a series of regional initiatives in the framework of the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the European Union to prevent arms trafficking by private air companies. Regular reports submitted by European Union member States regarding implementation of the United Nations Programme on Small Arms provide an interesting experience with regard to actions that the Economic Community of Central African States intends to undertake at the institutional level within the framework of its subregional initiative. Finally, within the framework of European Union and Africa, we contribute, together with our European partners, to enhancing the capacities of African States to combat that trafficking by supporting the African training centre.