Report on the Public Engagement Roundtable, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, March 25th- 26th, 2002
Organised by: South Asia Partnership Canada and Project Ploughshares In collaboration with: CPCC Small Arms Working Group
With the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) & the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Table of Contents
Speakers from South Asia:
The public engagement roundtable, Small Arms after the UN Conference: The way forward, arose from work done in preparation for and following the July 2001 United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
Previous activities include the Project Ploughshares sponsored June 2001 workshop on small arms demand reduction in Toronto and the Small Arms in South Asia (SASA) Initiative of South Asia Partnership. Under the SASA initiative, national consultations were held in Delhi, Dhaka, Colombo, Islamabad and Kathmandu in February and March 2001, culminating in a regional civil society strategy meeting in Colombo. The Toronto workshop addressed demand-side issues related to small arms proliferation. Reports from all these activities are available from South Asia Partnership Canada and Project Ploughshares respectively.
- To communicate, to the wider Canadian peacebuilding and development communities, the process leading up to the UN Conference and a review of the outcomes.
- To advance the understanding of how arms control and peacebuilding frameworks can address the problem of small arms and light weapons through regional case studies.
- To discuss how to expand and make more effective the engagement of the Canadian public.
- To explore ways to build support for NGOs working on small arms related issues.
The Public Engagement Roundtable in Ottawa also acted as a follow-up meeting, but with a broader focus that included, in addition to general perspectives on the achievements (and weaknesses) of the UN Conference, case studies on the small arms situation in the Horn of Africa and in Central America as well as South Asia, and also a presentation on the regional and sectoral strategies adopted by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).
Since the focus was on public engagement, the participants were almost exclusively drawn from Canadian non-governmental organizations but representing a broad range of humanitarian, human rights and development NGOs alongside those specifically involved in peace and security issues. There were also some academic representatives, consultants and participants from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and from the International Development Research Centre. Three members of the Arias Foundation were able to attend from Costa Rica, and Bethuel Kiplagat of the Africa Peace Forum came from Nairobi, and all made welcome contributions to the discussion.
An important background paper was the Project Ploughshares seven-page briefing, The UN and a small arms program of action; measuring success, written by Ernie Regehr, Executive Director of Project Ploughshares.
Participants heard presentations from seven speakers. These were David Viveash, Director, Peacebuilding and Human Security division, DFAIT; Ernie Regehr, Executive Director of Project Ploughshares; Wendy Cukier, Professor, York University and representing the Facilitation Committee of IANSA; Bethuel Kiplagat, former Kenyan Ambassador to Britain and France, currently Executive Director of the Africa Peace Forum; and Viviana Arroyo, Program Officer, The Arias Foundation. They also heard, by satellite phone from Islamabad and Colombo respectively, from Ayesha Siddiqa-Agha, a security specialist in Pakistan, and Dr James Arputharaj, Coordinator of the South Asia Small Arms Network.
The round table was organized by Faruq Faisel, Canadian Program Manager, SAP Canada, and Lynne Griffiths-Fulton, Program Associate, Project Ploughshares. This report was compiled by Clyde Sanger the roundtable’s Rapporteur.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided to SAP Canada by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and to Project Ploughshares by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of CIDA or DFAIT.
Richard Harmston, Executive Director SAP Canada, began by tracing the paths by which various non-governmental organizations had converged over the past two years to focus their attention on the issue of the illicit trade in small arms in preparation for the UN Conference in July 2001. They were, he said, an eclectic group of civil society activists reflecting a wide range of interests who had come together to mount public information forums, to engage in advocacy with government officials and to become involved in the UN conference itself. He acknowledged in particular the collaboration that SAP Canada had enjoyed with Project Ploughshares and Partnership Africa Canada.
Project Ploughshares, which celebrated its 25th anniversary a few days before the roundtable, had for all those years maintained a constant focus on peace and development issues, and the convergence was a natural approach for Ploughshares. It was less so for SAP, with its concerns focused upon human development in South Asia; but his colleagues had instantly owned the issue of the illicit trade in small arms, recognizing it as a community issue and an indicator of malfunction in a community, presenting problems to those working to alleviate poverty. So convergence had come by different tracks; but SAP hoped, and fully intended, to continue this partnership.
The national seminars in South Asia during 2001 had drawn peace activists together with academics, development, human rights and poverty workers. As a result these partners had helped form SASA-Net (the South Asia Small Arms Network) and they were hoping to build a broader base in months to come.
The UN Conference had drawn mixed reviews, and its practical results had been described as minor. Even so, it was a pivotal point and did provide further stimulus to continue the struggle to reduce the small arms trade. A further result was the encouragement it gave to South-South cooperation on this issue. The present roundtable would review what progress had been made in the months since the UN conference and its preparatory meetings, and would take stock of the resources available to participants.
A Note on the UN Program of Action
In order to put into context the comments of the seven main speakers at this Roundtable, some background to the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in All Its Aspects (July 2001) and its principal product, the Program of Action (PoA), is deemed necessary. What follows is a brief overview of Ernie Regehr’s Briefing Paper, ‘The UN and a small arms program of action; measuring success’, which Roundtable participants received as a background document, and is, in the author’s own words, “a summary of the results of the conference, and an overview of the challenges now faced by NGOs seeking the implementation of the Program of Action”.
The paper sets out the major divisions among states going into the conference. Sub-Saharan African states wanted concrete measures to stem the small arms flows that exacerbated conflict and undermined human security; meanwhile, the European Union and Canada pressed for specific commitments for more effective controls on legal transfers as an aid in combating illicit trafficking. In contrast, the United States was (and remained) firmly opposed to any action that would “constrain legal trade and legal manufacturing of small arms and light weapons”. It also said “measures that prohibit civilian possession of small arms” were outside the conference’s mandate. China and many Arab states similarly wanted the conference to confine itself strictly to the illegal trade in small arms.
In these circumstances NGOs identified four minimum requirements for a successful conference: (1) that it build international political will and momentum in support of serious attention to the problem; (2) that it produce a Program of Action with some significant and specific commitments; (3) that it commit new resources for action on small arms; (4) that it put in place a follow-up mechanism to hold the international community to account for the extent to which its promises are (or are not) implemented.
The conference, writes Regehr, should be judged a mild success on all four counts. The Program of Action does contain significant commitments, and it is a consensus document, to which the United States, China and all others assented. Less clear is the financial commitment to small arms action – so far, only Britain and a few other states have formally promised funds. However, momentum for serious attention is evident in the conferences that have taken place to review progress made so far. As for follow-up mechanisms, states are committed in the PoA to set up institutions and – a critical factor – National Focal Points (NFPs) through which to co-ordinate national SALW control measures and co-operate in regional and global measures. Specifically they are “responsible for policy guidance, research and monitoring of efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in SALW in all its aspects.” These aspects include manufacture, trafficking and trade as well as the tracing, collecting and destruction of illicit SALW.
But, there were disappointments. One was the failure, due to a great extent to American resistance, of states to make an explicit commitment to more effective regulation of civilian possession and use of SALW. Secondly, was the absence of any reference to regulating legal trade between states. China was adamant on this point. Yet, the PoA does call on all states to put in place “adequate laws” to exercise effective control “over the export, import, transit or retransfer” of SALW, and to make violations of these laws a criminal offence. And, as David Viveash explains in the next section, a later clause in the PoA goes some considerable distance in establishing international standards for arms transfers by linking export authorizations to a state’s responsibilities under international law. And thirdly, perhaps the greatest disappointment was a general reluctance to formulate concrete policies and measures for reducing the demand for SALW. The briefing paper states: “Demand reduction is critically important. It ought to be especially clear that efforts to control small arms proliferation and illicit use will be unsuccessful as long as demand-generating conditions remain deeply rooted in troubled and underdeveloped communities.”
Project Ploughshares takes some comfort in the fact that in the PoA states express concern at the implications that poverty and underdevelopment have for the illicit trade, and commit themselves to promote a culture of peace and to encourage education programs on the problems created by this trade. There are also references to the peaceful resolution of conflict, and to building effective law enforcement capacity. These references skirt the central issue of reducing demand, and Regehr clearly sees this as a particular challenge for civil society.
In their roundtable presentations, both Viveash and Regehr deal fairly comprehensively with the subjects of improving compliance of agreed measures and securing implementation of PoA commitments. The role of NFPs has already been mentioned, and the PoA then goes one level higher, to regional agreements on small arms, including harmonization of laws and, one hopes, moratoria. At the national level, there are sections dealing with arms brokering (weak in its recommendation for action) and the unique marking of each new weapon for purposes of tracing the illicit trade. As well, states pledge to improve the management of stockpiles and prevent the leakage from military or police arsenals to the general population. There is a general commitment to research and to enhanced transparency.
Were the four objectives set down by NGOs achieved? Certainly, political attention was focused on the SALW issues and, with persistent engagement by civil society, it could be turned into a genuine political will to act. But, says Regehr, the conference was disappointing for its failure to extract firm commitments, which were “overly tentative”. However, having established an effective follow-up process, there is hope that “future global events and conferences will renew the pressure to act in response to this urgent and global problem”.
Session 1 – Follow-up to the UN conference
In giving a government perspective on the UN conference and the Program of Action (PoA) that emerged from it, David Viveash referred frequently to the Project Ploughshares briefing paper written by his panel companion, Ernie Regehr. He said he agreed entirely with the assessment that the conference was “a basic, if not spectacular, success”. There were some 85 elements on the conference agenda on which participants had reached consensus, and the wise course was to “make the most of what we did get”. One success was the recognition of the human dimension in the Preamble – and Canada had been active in this, emphasizing the plight of war-affected children – the government working closely with NGOs. He hoped these alliances, including putting a human face on the “excessive and destabilizing accumulations” of small arms, would continue when taking the PoA forward. In this respect he cited figures showing that small arms kill at least 1,000 people each day, the majority of whom are women and children; also, while in the 1914-18 war some 95 percent of the casualties were soldiers, today, 95 percent are not professional soldiers.
Viveash acknowledged that there had been, at the outset, a major division between those, like the Arab League, China and the United States, who placed the emphasis on the “illicit” trade in small arms and others, like Canada, the European Union, Japan and some African states, who tried to focus discussion on the final phrase in the conference title – “in all its aspects”. Canada had wanted a comprehensive approach, addressing the arms control, crime control and peacebuilding dimensions at all levels, and arguing that to deal effectively with the illicit trade you also needed to address the licit trade and, in particular, “leakages” from it – and Afghanistan was currently a good example of this.
In finding an appropriate balance between words such as PoA commitments and practical actions, Viveash spoke to the three categories of measures the Ploughshares paper had highlighted: increasing controls over access to, and availability of, small arms; reducing demand for such weapons; and improving compliance with, and implementation of, the proposed measures.
In terms of increasing controls over civilian access to small arms, the United States throughout rejected any efforts to limit arms transfers to “non-state actors”, as an unacceptable constraint on their foreign policy. Also disappointing was American resistance to any restrictions on civilian possession of small arms. Viveash commented that since the PoA was a political declaration, rather than a treaty, it clearly did not require the United States to institute domestic gun control.
In terms of state access, Viveash thought that the PoA call for states to put in place “adequate laws” covering exports and imports represented a control on the licit trade. Under the PoA, states are committed to assess export applications in light of their “existing responsibilities under international law”, which the Ploughshares briefing paper suggests is “a breakthrough in the sense that it asserts the relevance of international norms and standards (not just national interests) in restricting international transfers”. Canada and the EU worked closely, if unsuccessfully, to include examples of specific export criteria; and Canada has endorsed the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports generally. There are, said Viveash, “significant commitments” in the PoA regarding destruction of surplus stocks and weapons collection in post-conflict zones; however, there is no specific fund established for this work, which costs “a lot of money”.
Many states were reluctant to make commitments about reducing demand, and Viveash thought this was in line with allegations that the North was trying to place the blame on the South for the problem of small arms proliferation by focusing on demand rather than supply factors. He thought regional action plans, including the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), might be the best approach to take into account demand-related factors, including security sector reform.
On improving compliance, he was pleased to see the Ploughshares assessment that “the PoA is strongest in defining compliance”, and he agreed that the requirement to designate NFPs was an important measure. Canada, he said, has designated its focal point and he suggested Canada might set up a “watch list” on which states had established focal points. The 13-nation Human Security Network together with partner NGOs could be useful in pressing for the identification of focal points in their own countries and regions.
Finally, in assisting with follow-up actions, Britain had led with its L320 Conflict Prevention Fund, which is subject to “three keys”, i.e., approval by the Foreign Office, the Defence Ministry, and Ministry of Overseas Cooperation. This joint custody of funds, he suggested, forces different departments to talk together; he hoped the Canadian government would establish a similar system since this subject combined security and development issues and involved two divisions in DFAIT as well as CIDA. He also believed there was considerable scope for greater partnership between governments and NGOs in identifying priorities and working on implementation.
Having presented the Ploughshares briefing paper that measures the success of the UN conference, Ernie Regehr focused on the subject of implementation, and offered an NGO perspective. He suggested NGOs could look to the review conference, scheduled for 2006, to improve the Program of Action and its implementation. He acknowledged that, “the sum is greater than the parts” in the current PoA. He agreed on the weakness of the decisions covering the international control of arms transfers; but, in sum, the requirement to observe “existing obligations under international law” was an important mandate. On the issue of civilian possession of small arms, the conference failed to agree to control transfers to non-state actors, but the PoA offers scope to build up databases, which can provide political momentum for greater control. A lesson from the conference and follow-up meetings was the importance of collaboration with civil society groups in other countries.
He had just returned from an All-Africa and OECD conference on the implementation of the PoA (in Pretoria, 18-21 March), and the consensus report coming from it had “15 compelling priorities”. Equally important, the recent Geneva Forum suggested work that usefully overlapped with it. He offered the following basic principles to guide implementation:
- There should be partnerships and collaboration between governments and civil society organizations (CSOs) at regional and sub-regional levels, as well as among donor countries and affected regions of the South.
- There needs to be commitment to long-term programming and to resources to sustain programs over the longer term. The predictability of resources was of equal importance to the actual amount of funds in this respect.
- As was central to the Bamako Declaration, NFPs and sub-regional links were needed to coordinate implementation work between government departs and with CSOs.
- There was need to update and harmonize the legal basis of small arms control in sub-regions, to make compatible the laws on possession and penalties and on the control of arms transfers. Otherwise, there would be “jurisdiction shopping for illicit trade”.
- A template would help the harmonization of voluntary reporting by states, and for setting reporting standards in a region or sub-region.
- In the areas of regional cooperation and training, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization were useful resources. States should develop regional or sub-regional Centres for Arms Management as a priority in legal training.
- Democratization and good governance, according to the Horn of Africa working group, were issues that “lie at the root of many of the conflicts in the region, and addressing them in a sustainable and comprehensive manner will eliminate much of the demand for small arms and light weapons in the region”.
In speaking of the role of CSOs in all these processes, Regehr stressed the need for them to nurture and maintain regular contact with NFPs. He then pointed to the low level of public awareness of the size and scope of the small arms problem. With churches and other faith groups, civil society should develop curricula for community education, which includes training in gun care and responsible use of guns. Civil society is also the pre-eminent source for governments on information about the demand side of small arms activities – feelings of insecurity in communities, and a myriad of other social and political conditions that lead to violence and the further acquisition of arms. African academics and researchers can help the NFP in several directions: research into national legislation, into arms flows and into the impacts on local communities as well as national economic development. Communities and CSOs were also important in monitoring social conditions as an early warning network about tensions that involved small arms accumulation. He had found a wide belief among Africans that a revolution was occurring in the form of a growing trust and confidence between governments and NGOs.
Session 2 – IANSA regional and global strategies
Before talking about the regional and sectoral strategies of the International Action Network on Small Arms, Wendy Cukier spoke of how IANSA had grown “like a snowball” since its founding meeting in Orillia, Ontario, in 1998. It had spread rapidly to embrace some 350 organizations, because it was inclusive and gathered together people representing the development community, public security, public health, the culture of peace, educators, lawyers and others. It is, in fact, a network of networks with a small London-based secretariat.
IANSA does not have any overarching campaign, because the nature of the small arms problem takes various forms in different areas; for example, in South Africa and Colombia it is hard to separate the problem from the issue of crime. Many activists had come out of the anti-personnel mines process looking for ‘The Campaign’; instead, IANSA is providing the capacity to deal with a multi-faceted problem at different levels. “It has the capacity to link NGOs worldwide, to share best practices, and leverage each other’s skills – on an unusual scale because of its diversity.”
Its principal goal, said Cukier, is “to reduce death and injury due to small arms and the abuse of human rights in the context of humanitarian law”. [Sally Joss, IANSA coordinator, wrote recently of “binding principles that bring our diversity together. Above all, IANSA must have a clear common message based on the human cost of arms, their impact on communities and what needs to be done to protect lives.”] Cukier adds that, while in the past there has generally been a focus on reducing the number of weapons, “IANSA’s focus is on misuse and the impact on human security, with a particular effort to put a human face on statistics”.
It is a network built from the grassroots, and it places critical importance on bottom-up activity. At the New York conference, some representatives fed information home for their groups to “beat up on” their governments, which were obviously more interested in their own constituents than some distant body of activists. A focus in many regions is on raising public awareness and collecting local data. While UNDP and WHO are ignorant about many countries which don’t monitor data on age and other social factors, the regions are often far ahead of the global level in collecting such data.
She gave examples of regional diversity. A network in the United States has been studying domestic legislation covering export trade, having discovered that 80 percent of the weapons in Mexico originated from the north. In researching “what works” in various places, it is recognized that “there is no cookie-cutter answer to the South African problem”. IANSA’s concerns go beyond conflict zones to other post-conflict areas, like South Africa where some 10 percent of weapons recovered were found to be homemade. Recently, IANSA has received grants to pull organizations together in other parts of the globe. There is increasing activity in the Caribbean, and also in Eastern Europe from where the safety of Western European countries may be put at some risk from an influx of illicit arms through the expansion of the European Union and the full opening of borders.
While regional contexts vary in the possession and misuse of small arms, IANSA has encouraged sectoral initiatives that cut across regions: health is one such network. IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) has been driving a medical network. [Roundtable participants received copies of the working paper IPPNW produced with SAFER-Net for the New York conference, entitled Global Trade in Small Arms: Public health effects and interventions.] Similarly, church groups have formed a broad network, and the World Council of Churches has identified common themes across regions. Again, groups projecting a gender perspective have shown how there is often a male bias in negotiations on issues of human security. WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) has been a driving force in the women’s caucus, linking women in North and South. In general, said Cukier, there were more IANSA meetings last year in the South than in the North. Two difficulties they encountered were travel and translation costs. [The IANSA Newsletter, with admirably short articles from every continent, runs contributions in both English and French, and others translated from the Spanish.]
Session 3 – Horn of Africa case study
Bethuel Kiplagat, who has been permanent secretary in Kenya’s foreign ministry as well as ambassador in Britain and France, presented the first case study of the response by both government and civil society to the problem of small arms proliferation. It covered the Horn of Africa, and he spoke in his capacity as executive director of the Africa Peace Forum. The Horn of Africa, in its true sense, consists of only five countries – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan – but it is often expanded to include Kenya and Uganda. Recently, the term Greater Horn of Africa has been coined to refer not only to the seven member countries (named above) of the Inter-Governmental Authority and Development (IGAD) but also to Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His case study focused for the most part on the seven IGAD member countries
For many reasons it has been a region prone to conflict and violence, exacerbated by colonial history and the Cold War. To give only two examples: the second phase of the Sudan conflict is entering its nineteenth year, while Somalia has been without a government since 1991. There have been 19 successful coups in these countries, and five presidents have been assassinated in the past 40 years. Except for Kenya and Djibouti, all the current presidents have ascended to power by overthrowing a sitting government. Even in Kenya there are fears of politically instigated violence breaking out ahead of the imminent general election. “It is often argued that the leadership in the region is marred by a weak political power base and that clan, ethnic and religious dimensions are more important in the exercise of political power.”
Weapons brought in during the struggle against colonialism and during the Cold War’s proxy tensions (to Ethiopia and Somalia in particular) remain and are difficult to control, especially the policing of porous borders. An industry for producing bullets has grown in the region, with three main factories in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. Arms overtly acquired for security purposes have passed into the hands of cattle rustlers – and of pastoralists protecting their livestock. They in turn supply surplus weapons to criminal gangs in cities. Kiplagat pointed therefore to the pastoral areas and their marginalized peoples as an important group to address in any measures to respond to the problem of illicit proliferation of small arms. Regional political forums can only tackle one measure –effective policing of national borders –. Meanwhile, because of livestock rustling a belt of severe instability extends all the way from Somalia to Uganda.
A further complication – the speaker called it “an interesting dynamic” – is the movement of arms from one conflict to another as a rebel movement seizes power and the defeated army regroups in a rural base. One result is that arms licitly acquired and owned by the government fall into all manner of hands. Among the victims of gunmen are magistrates and district administrators; two senior police officers were shot dead in Nairobi within ten days of another in February 2002. With news of killings, insurance costs soar, and tourism slumps.
Turning to responses to the problem, Kiplagat cited half-a-dozen declaration and protocols agreed by African political leaders since 1998, focusing particularly on The Nairobi Declaration on the problem of the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons in the Great Lakes region and Horn of Africa, signed by ten countries in March 2000, which calls on states to strengthen national mechanisms to deal with the illicit arms problem. So far, he added, only Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have even created National Focal Points. Nevertheless, he said, the Nairobi Declaration, which followed four days of talk on small arms, was an extremely important milestone; and it had established a Secretariat in Kenya for action. The Africa Peace Forum over the next year will organize workshops for CSOs in the IGAD countries to encourage governments to set up their NFPs, and where they are already in existence, to lobby their respective governments to implement a range of resolutions agreed to in the declarations.
There are also, he added, some bilateral mechanisms such as border security commissions. IGAD is one: it was revitalized in 1996 to broaden its mandate from simply addressing the problems of drought and development to embracing conflict management. It established a Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) at its January 2002 summit, and envisages civil society playing an important role in this (still undeveloped) system.
A further array of recent meetings – involving the Quakers, the World Council of Churches and its regional council, and national chapters of IANSA – makes clear that action over the proliferation question has gained momentum in the region. Kiplagat went on: “The view of the Africa Peace Forum is that the problem requires collaborative approaches involving organized CSOs in the region, communities, partnerships with donors and the international civil society and a commitment from the states.” Matters of security, he said, cannot be left to the law enforcement agencies alone. A Mombasa workshop in August 2001, bringing together members of civil society, media groups and the police force, talked about confidence-building through dialogue and planned for an analysis of ways to strengthen security acts and recommend them to Kenya’s constitutional review commission.
He ended his presentation with a balance of pessimism and optimism. On the gloomy side, many of the best people were leaving the region because of instability; while insecurity lasts, all kinds of people will buy guns – and the Mozambique example of exchanging guns for farm implements was a unique situation. Also, parliaments spend hardly any time debating security issues, so the public remains ignorant. On the more positive side, some interesting research results are emerging about traditional control of small arms. Sungu Sungu elders in Kenya’s Kisii province, deciding that “enough is enough”, called on the community to collect guns, on threat of raiding known houses. A less forceful approach in collecting arms was taken in Wajir district, in Kenya’s Northeastern province, involving government officials and community leaders. It was started by women, and included seven days of a peacemaking ceremony. The lesson from these cases, he suggested, was that the community was an essential element in any effective response.
Session 4 – Central America case study
In presenting the second case-study, on the situation in Central America, Viviana Arroyo said surveys showed that citizen security (or insecurity) ranked second only to the cost of living in a poll taken on perceived problems in this region. The problem embraced crime in the street and at home, kidnapping, car thefts, bank robberies – and anxiety about the role of police forces. Most people in Central America thought their governments had abandoned their responsibility for guaranteeing citizens’ security, delegating it to private security enterprises and to the citizens themselves. This had led to citizens arming themselves, and also hiring private security companies, which possess large amounts of unregistered weapons. Police forces lack appropriate laws to search out and inspect such arsenals. [She brought to Ottawa a few Spanish copies of the volume Arsenal Invisible, containing consultants’ studies of arms proliferation in each country, which the Arias Foundation had supported.]
The private security companies now have twice the manpower of the region’s armed forces, and possess more weapons. They are subject to regulations in all countries except Nicaragua, but the regulations are sketchy and the police do not have the means to enforce them. Ms. Arroyo said that many executives of these security companies were Nicaraguan, prompting the joke in Costa Rica that “they don’t need to invade”. They mostly recruit ex-policemen as security personnel at low wages, and are suspected of renting out weapons on a daily basis. Much of the investment in these security companies has come from Venezuela and Colombia.
Historically, Central America had since the 1970s been the stage for conflict between government armies and guerilla groups in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, spilling into Honduras and Costa Rica. Panama, meanwhile, had suffered a military intervention from the United States. While the political conflicts ended during the 1990s, the problem of social inequality was not resolved, ex-combatants were not reintegrated into society, and only a small portion of the arms in circulation were ever collected. Efforts to build democracies in the 1990s faltered because of government corruption, political arguments and reformers adopting too short time frames. These failures led to the proliferation of private security companies and an arms build-up, as well as an increase in crime. Although the sense that people have of being unsafe may be greater than their real insecurity (as studies have shown in El Salvador and Costa Rica), the feeling is increased by media stories and leads to calls for harsher penalties and the presence of armed forces in the streets. “If we don’t change the way we think, television will keep on showing violent movies, and the cycle of violence will continue,” she said.
To illustrate the spread of small arms, Arroyo offered a fistful of statistics. The percentage of homicides committed with a gun ranged from 54 percent in Costa Rica to 70 percent in Guatemala and 75 percent in El Salvador. The rate of homicides in Guatemala was 101 per 100,000 people, while in El Salvador it had bounced from 30 during the 1960s up to 140 in the mid-1990s before subsiding recently. Nevertheless, the deaths from weapons in El Salvador are, by a current indicator, “a September 11 event every year”. While violence used to be mainly political, it was now more related to revenge and gang fights and to family problems. Fewer than half the estimated 300,000 weapons in El Salvador have been registered.
Although most Central American governments have recently enacted arms legislation, implementation has been inadequate. For example, Costa Rica introduced a one-year amnesty to register illegal weapons in 1995, but did not publicize the campaign. In El Salvador, the constitution gives responsibility over firearms to the Ministry of Defence instead of the Ministry of Security, thus effectively excluding the police force from controlling weapons. Also, only the latest of three gun laws since 1980 actually defined what arms were permitted, or differentiated between registering and licensing.
Similarly, buy-back programs have yielded disappointing results. Quoting Elvira Cuadra’s study of Nicaragua, some 250,000 military weapons were distributed to the Sandinista army, of which 54,000 were later collected. A buy-back program in El Salvador attracted 10,000 weapons over three years, while in Panama only 866 weapons were collected.
Initiatives by civil society in each country were important, said Arroyo. Community and women’s groups in El Salvador, working with the UNDP, were the most advanced in research on violence and security; and these groups had tackled the media about its tendency to provoke insecurity. At the regional level, the Arias Foundation with DFAIT support held a conference in December 2001 with police representatives and customs agents, and developed a matrix that set out national and regional activities to meet specific objectives enumerated in the UN conference’s plan of action – and assigned responsibility for particular activities. However keen the police and customs were to tackle illicit arms trade, resources were short: for example, the police needed an $80,000 machine for ballistic tests. In Costa Rica, private security companies lacked data processing capacity, and turned to civil society for help.
In her recommendations, Arroyo said Central American governments needed to articulate a comprehensive security policy, and to coordinate their work more closely with civil society. Specific needs included an efficient system of collecting information, and statistical programs to systematize the information; also a unified system throughout the region for registering arms; and more technical resources for these activities. Since Central Americans tend to say that guns have always been an important part of their lives, “we need to develop a permanent campaign to tackle this veneration of arms and the resort to violence”.
Session 5 – South Asia case study
Speaking by phone from Islamabad, Dr Ayesha surveyed the current situation in South Asia, with a particular focus on Pakistan and (inevitably, although it is not formally part of the region) Afghanistan. She had attended the UN conference, and also the follow-up meeting in Colombo; so she placed her remarks in a broad context. She said there had been little attention to the illegal production (as opposed to trade) in small arms, and there was no attention being paid in South Asia to the small arms industry that has grown in the region. The Afghanistan connection was important, since the proliferation of arms from there had increased since the U.S. bombing and land campaign. The figures of landmines and unexploded ordnance in Afghanistan were amazing – an estimated 730 square kilometres was mined, and it possessed no security structure to organize the de-mining.
By her calculations, some 10 million weapons had flowed into South Asia over the past 20 years, and there was an ebb and flow between countries, which made national figures unreliable. The recovery of 100,000 weapons over those 20 years was a meaningless, small percentage – one percent of that inflow. The situation could not be compared with that in Africa, where there is a lively discourse about the problem of proliferation and about regional initiatives. Nevertheless, a regional approach was essential and Afghanistan must be included in a broader region.
As for responses, the political structure inhibited ‘de-weaponisation’, since the people were concerned about their own security. Yet there was an untested strategy of offering development assistance in exchange for weapons. One would need to develop a corps of experts in weapon technology, to analyze the origins of returned weapons. Also, a plan was needed to reintegrate ex-combatants, especially child soldiers, into society with retraining – this both in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. She was unenthusiastic about a suggestion to train child-soldiers in de-mining, as (even if they survived the hazards) it would not offer long-term employment. There had as yet been no study on the issue of child-soldiers in South Asia.
Dr Ayesha posed the question: how well prepared was civil society in South Asia to play a significant part in ending arms proliferation? Answering herself, she thought they had far to go to mount any joint initiatives. People on the whole were reluctant to take responsibility and build a vibrant network. But she thought SAP was an association that might come up with a strategic plan covering three to four years, looking at the prospects and mechanism for networking. It had been good to draw in development and human rights groups into the small arms debate, but merger in an effective and balanced network has yet to come. Possibly, another round of follow-up conferences was needed, and it was really important to strengthen links with groups in Latin America and Africa, because knowledge of their work would help others in her region.
Dr W. James Arputharaj
South Asia Partnership International, Sri Lanka
On the telephone from Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dr Arputharaj spoke about the work of the South Asia Small Arms Network (SASA-Net) of which he is the co-coordinator. It was formed in June 2001 after national seminars, organized by SAP, had taken place in five South Asian capitals and in Ottawa. It arranged for 12 South Asian participants to attend the UN conference, working there alongside IANSA. Some SASA-Net members had been at follow-up meetings in Nairobi, Tokyo, Katmandu, Colombo and Delhi.
Where do all these meetings lead?, he asked. South Asia is “weapon-dependent”, dating back to the turmoil of independence. Many people have come to think these conflicts will not yield to resolution, and blame politicians. The proliferation of arms has undermined democracy in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and eroded local government. The participation of women in public affairs is still low, and violence against women is widely ignored. In sum, human development is not assured.
Against this dark background the UN conference, he said, was “a first step in the right direction”. Some groups were disappointed it did not result in a binding convention, and were dismayed that no ban was placed on private security organizations. But there were several items in the Program of Action to applaud. As well, bilateral agreements were being made to share information and for countries to act together against drug trafficking. So a joint position on small arms is not impossible. As an early measure, the Arms Acts brought in by South Asian governments need updating.
He went on to say that “the Independence Day glorification of weapons must stop”. For this to happen, there needs to start a community-based campaign to build a culture of peace, which would address the demand side of the arms issue. The government needed to improve the management of its stockpiles – 80 percent of illegal arms in South Asia are coming from governments. This would also involve the safe disposal of retrieved weapons.
Picking up on Dr Ayesha’s suggestion that Afghanistan be included in any regional strategy, Dr Arputharaj said that the flow of weapons in northeast India to and from Burma would argue for that country’s inclusion in a strategic plan.
Answering a few questions about the flow of weapons, he said that both Pakistan and Sri Lanka were known to re-export arms; and that most of the available ammunition came from government stockpiles, but there was a ‘cottage industry’ in making bullets, usually close to conflict areas – for example, among the Maoists in Nepal. Challenged that paramilitary forces in India were using arms to suppress political dissent, he agreed that this was a problem equal in size to the illegal production of ammunition and ar He also agreed that an enduring priority was poverty alleviation in the age of globalization, which one participant characterized as “corporate terrorism”. For poverty measures to have effect, he said, there needed to be effective democratic governments. With that remark, the roundtable had come fully round the circle and back to the starting-point.
After each of the five presentations, time was allotted for questions and comments by participants. This report has incorporated some of these discussions into the presentations themselves, for the sake of coherence. However, participants brought up a number of subjects that either overlapped two or more sessions, or else did not form part of an original presentation. These subjects are therefore pulled together thematically in the following section.
Human Security Network: In speaking of the UN conference, David Viveash mentioned the usefulness of the HSN for crosscutting regions. He was asked for further details, and gave a list of the 13 members: Norway and Canada had been leading spirits; Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, Greece, Slovenia, Ireland from Europe, Mali, Chile, Thailand and Jordan, with South Africa as an observer. He said officials meet twice a year (this year in Chile and Thailand), and ministers will meet twice (including two days in Chile). It places three issues a year on its agenda. At its Petra meeting in 2001, the HSN published its common view for the UN conference on small arms, and it has also produced a common declaration for the UN Special Session on Children (May 2002). It has engaged contract work at Harvard and the University of British Columbia (on a human security index), and it is concerned to highlight the human dimension in all small arms meetings. Bethuel Kiplagat later suggested the HSN could – indeed should – put a paper in to the launch meeting in July of the African Union. Later still, Luis Alberto Cordero of the Arias Foundation suggested the HSN should make the linkage between arms transfers and corruption; he added that, as well as Transparency International, the Inter-American Development Bank was engaged on a study of the cost of corruption. Viveash replied that ministers of the 13 countries were being asked to agree on indicators of corruption for the work being undertaken at Harvard.
Corporate profits from arms: A representative of World Literacy, Mamta Mishra, raised this issue of who profits from small arms: “Is there a list of manufacturers, including Canadian firms? Are most suppliers from the North? Is there a difference between manufacturers of guns and of bullets? Does Canada have a clean record? To which countries do we sell arms? How much of my RRSP goes into this trade? Can we, that is anyone, buy arms through the Internet?”; Ernie Regehr answered that the International Yearbook on Small Arms, published in Geneva, would give her answers – some hard facts, others only broad estimates. He added that he didn’t think corporate profits were a driving factor in the increasing arms trade, although “greed is not irrelevant”. The U.S. economy was more reliant on big guns and aircraft. Nowhere was there an entirely clean record over small arms, but Canada was not a major player in supplying arms to conflict zones. Wendy Cukier interjected that IANSA knows where manufacturers were based, and an increasing number were in the South. David Viveash added that the only major weapon maker in Canada was in Waterloo (the home-town of Project Ploughshares, coincidentally). He was personally worried about the recycling of weapons moving between conflict zones.
United States resistance: Following early statements describing the U.S. stance on various issues at the UN conference, notably its narrowing discussion to illicit trade, its permissive view about transfers to non-state actors and its general resistance to negotiate away from a first position, Robin Collins of the United Nations Association of Canada asked about the forthright remarks of Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham and about strategies over U.S. unilateralism – could advocates of a more comprehensive approach go ahead without the Americans? Ernie Regehr said he thought the Americans were not a major factor in the overall situation; the African states could move by themselves on various issues. Greg Puley of the Arias Foundation agreed that one can overstate the effect of U.S. resistance, as most efforts to curb proliferation would be made at regional levels – as had happened at the OAS and ECOWAS, and should soon at the African Union.
Research: On several occasions Stephen Baranyi of the International Development Research Centre brought up this issue. He felt the references to research in the Plan of Action were narrowly phrased and put emphasis on research into problems without carrying through to suggesting solutions. Ernie Regehr pointed out that the phrase “action-oriented research” implied a broader mandate. Later Baranyi showed concern that the SASA-Network should be closely linked to NFPs to aid the exchange between research centres, which in Asia and Africa were short of experienced staff in this area.
Social Justice: Hari Sharma brought the issue of social justice. He suggested that to talk of peace with social justice made him nervous. Those struggling for democracy and social justice usually find they have to arm themselves against repressive forces. What security – human security – will ordinary people have without arms? Vigilante groups will always have access to weapons. The most direct answer he received were several references to the importance attached to alliances in civil society between groups concerned with human rights and poverty alleviation and peace and security groups.
Brokering and marking: These subjects were not explored to any degree. Peggy Mason, Canada’s former Ambassador for Disarmament, is now an independent adviser with a special interest in the brokering issue. She told the roundtable that an UN Expert Group had produced a consensus report on the brokering and marking of weapons for the UN conference. She also said Canada does not regulate arms brokers. [The Ploughshares briefing paper describes action on these issues at the UN conference. While the conference called for the national registration of brokers, the licensing of activities and penalties for illicit activities, “the specific action recommendation was disappointing” in committing states only to consider further steps to enhance international cooperation in eradicating illicit brokering. On the other hand, the PoA refers extensively to the need for reliable and unique marking on each weapon as an integral part of the production process, so that authorities can trace the country and manufacturer.] Final session and conclusions
Ernie Regehr chaired this open session, and pulled the common threads of discussion together at its close. This report attempts to gather comments in a thematic form, which may involve dividing a participant’s single intervention into more than one part.
Ernie Regehr set the scene by pointing to the review conference due in 2006 as “a marker”, and advised participants to make a four-year plan of activities. He emphasized the basic point that work on small arms most definitely requires the engagement of civil society – in information gathering and exchange, in advocacy and in programs on the ground. The NGOs needed to make links for mutual reinforcement, and to increase sustainability. He noted that Dr Ayesha had stressed the importance of drawing human rights and development groups into this work; and he threw out two questions: what are the mechanisms that civil society should use (or create) to work on the small arms issue? And, indeed, what are the priority issues within this wide topic?
- South-south linkages. Comments on this subject tended to be wide-ranging. Sean Krausert, of CAUSE Canada, which supports programs in Guatemala, Honduras and Sierra Leone, and is starting a program in Afghanistan, said this linkage was important, in sharing ideas and experience among its Southern partners. Viviana Arroyo (Arias Foundation) recalled a promising meeting she had attended in 2001 at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria, where there was an effort to create a south-south group, but there had been no follow-up, as its coordinator Virginia Gamba had left. She hoped this idea could be revived, with field trips to review experience. Peggy Mason said Gamba had moved to SaferAfrica, and that both she and her ISS replacement Sarah Meek should be contacted. Bethuel Kiplagat suggested this initiative should not be left simply to ISS – perhaps the Arias Foundation could take the lead. In East Africa, where NFPs had been established, civil society needed to identify an NGO that could press them on implementing the PoA and the Bamako Declaration (which followed and pulled together SADC’s work, the Nairobi Declaration and the ECOWAS moratorium). He further thought that those countries that have peace and security committees in their parliaments should organize a regional meeting, for one should not assume they know about the PoA. Finally, he suggested contacting the governments of South Africa and Nigeria, the co-sponsors of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), to make sure that the issue of small arms is on the agenda at the G-8’s Kananaskis meeting in June 2002 and at subsequent meetings. Peggy Mason agreed about NEPAD, and added that Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) was a very useful mechanism. Celina Tuttle added that PGA was useful for disseminating information, and might also act as parliamentary watchdog for PoA implementation, if civil society stimulated PGA with workshops. Robin Collins (UNAC) said South-South co-operation could be enhanced with computers and satellite communication, databases and training. Bernard Taylor (Partnership Africa Canada) said the African Union, to be formally inaugurated in July, was “a huge advance” on the OAU, which it replaces, and a second round of NGO consultations is set for June, a time for CSOs to speak out on small arms.
- Civil Society Co-ordination in Canada. Much of the discussion under this heading centred upon the Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee (CPCC) and its Small Arms Working Group (SAWG). Faruq Faisal (SAP Canada) said the CRCC-WG needed terms of reference and a work plan; he proposed a web-based discussion list and a web site focusing on a resource centre with all necessary linkages. The WG could tackle the role of connecting human rights and development groups with peace and security groups through a ‘mapping’ of Canadian NGOs. [Wendy Cukier did not speak up at this point, but Peggy Mason suggests she and IANSA are already engaged in mapping. Cukier did say, towards the discussion’s end, that IANSA should be thought integral to any effort at co-ordination, and duplication should be avoided.] David Lord, the new CPCC co-coordinator, said he would like to see a concrete and ambitious Plan of Action for SAWG – he also hoped for more funding. He wanted to develop better linking between various working groups; the CPCC was co-sponsoring with the Canadian Consortium on Human Security an annual peacebuilding consultation, covering among other themes conflict prevention and security sector reform. Hari Sharma (Simon Fraser University, speaking on behalf of South Asia Forum) supported Faruq’s views on SAWG; he added SAF had solid links with a large variety of human rights organizations in South Asia. Celina Tuttle said a working group of the International Landmines Campaign has been working with non-state actors, and the SAWG could tap into the resources built up by the ILC. Bill Janzen (Mennonite Centre Committee) asked a fundamental question: did Canadian NGOs need to create a new institutional mechanism to help co-ordinate their efforts in this area? Or should they equip an existing mechanism to take on the full panoply of issues with an expanded agenda? He felt some issues discussed at the roundtable were ones where the NGOs’ task was mainly to urge government to act, but there was also scope for NGO action in harmony with government objectives; funding could be found through alliances in this work. In terms of a bilateral alliance, Faruq Faisal hoped to build up partnerships on the SALW issue, extending for example the partnership with Project Ploughshares; funding would be required for new programming in South Asia. Peggy Mason raised the possibility of a national commission that functioned as a body to recommend policies and to monitor the government’s compliance with the UN PoA, including helping developing countries implement the PoA. She suggested it could act as the pressure point for the government’s own co-coordinating body or NFP.
- Priorities. Raising awareness in Canada, and pursuing a policy dialogue with the government, were priorities mentioned several times. On the former activity Sean Krausert thought his organization might incorporate SALW issues into its AIDS awareness program in schools and its social justice groups in high schools. David Lord was interested in raising awareness among donors, the general public and government by publicizing success stories – like, Mozambique, Sierra Leone. Robin Collins thought one should collect case studies, both good news and bad news and lessons learned – perhaps collect 50 of them for a book and a web page. Kathy Vandergrift (World Vision, Children in Armed Conflict Group) said her organization would want to raise SALW issues during the UN Special Session on Children (May 2002) and will launch a watch list on children in armed conflict, trying to move from words to action, after three UN Security Resolutions on this topic. Mamta Mishra (World Literacy) added a warning about public advocacy: before it is undertaken, it needs to be clear who is independent and who is a government agent; after all, Canada is at war in Afghanistan and does not in this context carry an independent voice.
On pursuing a policy dialogue with government (or governments), Peggy Mason’s idea of a national commission has its place. Celina Tuttle told how Mines Action Canada had a positive experience in simply writing to states setting out the step-by-step procedure for ratification of the Ottawa Treaty. (The Mauritius Government ratified the treaty a week after receiving the MAC letter!) Similarly, that treaty required states to report on its moves to implement, and the ICRC had developed a kit on how to report, as several states were unaware of this obligation. A template could be developed that included the harmonization of domestic law with a [future] international convention on SALW. Bernard Taylor reinforced Celina’s comments on landmines kits by referring to the NEPAD document and then learning how ill-informed some African states were on it. Similarly, with the PoA a kit could be put together and shared with governments. Paul Hannon (Mines Action Canada) said the landmines experience was that the treaty did not contain stringent compliance provisions, and civil society has had to do monitoring – with generally positive results. It would be worthwhile to meet and apply this experience to small arms.
- Research. There were three levels of research, in the view of Stephen Baranyi (IDRC). A basic level of research was monitoring compliance on the PoA – and IDRC was supporting such work in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. A further level was to pull together lessons learned in implementation: for example, stockpile management and what works in technical assistance. The third level is research on “problems that don’t lend themselves to quick fixes” – for example, how to promote social justice issues while trying to curtail proliferation of small arms. IDRC was interested in the second and third levels.
Daya Varma (CERAS, Montreal) had a different take on research and suggested that the roundtable, and Canadians more generally, might be missing important elements in our concept of human security. He thought it would be good to go to villages and ask the villagers their concept of security, and what they would want done to achieve human security in their terms. He suggested doing this in Nepal and India, and Hari Sharma added Pakistan. Faruq Faisal said SaferWorld and the Regional Center for Security Studies, Colombo center have started a participatory process to study fear and the reasons for it. Debbie Grisdale (Physicians for Global Survival) stressed the importance of community development and confidence building among communities over the issues of small arms, violence and human security; she urged a study of community action in this area.
- Conclusions. Ernie Regehr identified six conclusions from the discussion:
- The CPCC WG was currently the primary coordination mechanism. It needed clearer terms of reference, and a specific and ambitious work plan. It needed to relate to other working groups without duplication, and take advantage of imminent events such as the Peacebuilding Consultations and the Special Session on Children. One may conclude that a more elaborate mechanism is necessary down the road, but a first step is to focus on SAWG.
- There is advocacy work to be done in Canada, work to make the focal point more effective, work to monitor progress on implementation of the PoA.
- Internationally, there is a need for the Canadian groups or coalition to make stronger partnerships in the North, and then partnerships North-South.
- Individual agencies involved in human rights and development issues need more deliberately to include small arms in their work.
- We need to help promote south-south-south co-operation.
- A broad range of program activities awaits our efforts – with PGA, over NEPAD, in monitoring regimes and with a relevant research agenda.
Richard Harmston claimed the last word, reinforcing Wendy Cukier’s point about not neglecting to use existing resources to the full, and stressing the vital importance of good communications as raw research is turned into public information framed around key messages.
South Asia Partnership (SAP) Canada Project Ploughshares
1 Nicholas Street, Suite 200 Institute for Peace & Conflict Studies
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7 Conrad Grebel University College
Tel (613) 2411333 Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G6
Fax (613) 1129 Tel. (519) 8886541
www.sapcanada.org Fax. (519) 8850806
Human Concern International
Coalition for Gun Control
The Arias Foundation
International Development Research Centre
United Nations Association Canada
Canadian Red Cross
South Asia Partnership Canada
United Nations Association Canada
Luis Alberto Cordero
The Arias Foundation
International Action Network on Small Arms/
Coalition for Gun Control
Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee
South Asia Partnership Canada
Physicians for Global Survival
Mines Action Canada
South Asia Partnership Canada
Amnesty International Canada
Project Ploughshares Calgary
Mennonite Central Committee – Ottawa
CAMEO Land Mine Clearance
Africa Peace Forum
Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade
University of Texas
Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee
Partnership Africa Canada
Peace & Security Consultant
CAMEO Land Mine Clearance
World Literacy of Canada
Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade
The Arias Foundation
Sisterhood is Global Institute
South Asia Partnership Canada
International Development Research Centre
Simon Fraser University
Canadian International Development Agency
Partnership Africa Canada
Mines Action Canada
World Vision Canada
United Nations Development Programme
Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade
Project Ploughshares Fraser Valley