LIMITING THE SPREAD OF SMALL ARMS
Presidency annual report on the implementation of the EU Joint Action on small arms and light weapons and on the implementation of the EU programme for preventing and combatting illicit trafficking in conventional arms.
||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 14 June 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|Discussed in Council:
||25 June 2001|
||Not cleared; further information requested
The Joint Action
10.1 On 16 December 1998, we cleared the Joint Action
(JA) in draft form.
Since then, we have cleared a number of measures based on it seeking
to limit the spread of small arms in different parts of the world.
10.2 The JA includes a number of objectives, principles
and measures, including combatting the destabilising accumulation
and uncontrolled spread of small arms, reducing existing accumulations
to levels consistent with legitimate security needs, and helping
to solve the problems which these accumulations cause.
10.3 The EU pledges in the JA to work towards building
consensus in international fora on commitments to support these
- commitments by exporting countries to supply
small arms in accordance with criteria set out in the EU Code
of Conduct on Arms Exports;
- maintaining national inventories and establishing
legislation to restrict small arms;
- combatting illicit trafficking in small arms
through effective national controls of arms transfers; and
- challenging and reversing "cultures of violence"
through public education and awareness programmes.
- assistance to countries seeking to control or
eliminate surplus small arms on their territory;
- encouraging voluntary surrender of surplus or
illegally-held weapons; and
- removing surplus small arms to safe storage and
The EU programme for Preventing and Combatting
Illicit Trafficking in Conventional Arms
10.4 This programme was adopted by the General Affairs
Council on 26 June 1997. It seeks to address the problems of illicit
trafficking in conventional arms, particularly small arms, both
within the EU and in countries affected by illicit trafficking.
The first part of the programme suggests fostering enhanced
law enforcement co-operation and improving information exchange.
The second part encourages the EU and its Member States
to assist other countries in combatting illicit trafficking of
arms, for instance, by strengthening laws and administrative measures
for regulating and monitoring the transfer of arms, and by providing
an adequate number of appropriately trained police and customs
officials for the enforcement of national arms export control
legislation. The third part outlines ways for the EU and
its Member States to assist affected countries, especially in
post-conflict situations, in suppressing the illicit circulation
and trafficking of arms. Methods suggested include setting up:
- buy-back and destruction programmes; and
- educational programmes to promote awareness among
the local population of the negative consequences of illicit trafficking
in small arms.
10.5 A first annual report on the Programme was
published on 8 July 1998, and a second on 19 January 2000. The
reporting procedure under the Programme has now been co-ordinated
with that of the Joint Action.
10.6 This is the first report, so it covers activities
undertaken in 1999 as well as 2000. It is in three parts:
- Part I covers national efforts by Member States
to address the problems related to small arms, such as inter-agency
co-operation, newly-enacted legislation, and other initiatives
such as support for relevant research;
- Part II covers international measures, such as
assistance to projects conducted by international, regional organisations
or non-governmental organisations, assistance to affected states,
and international conferences. This part also includes EU co-operation
with other states; and
- In Part III the priorities for a more systematic
approach to EU assistance in the field of small arms and light
weapons are discussed. This part covers the need for a comprehensive
approach and targeted action, as well as preliminary criteria
for the allocation of funds, and measures to ensure thorough assessment
and evaluation of projects supported by EU funds.
10.7 Action taken in Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Spain
and the UK on internal coordination and exchange of information
between administrative and law enforcement agencies are summarised.
In the UK an inter-departmental Small Arms Policy Committee was
established in 1997 under the chairmanship of the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office. It meets quarterly to monitor and co-ordinate
policy developments on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) issues.
Regular contact is maintained with NGOs.
10.8 In France a bill has been approved by the Prime
Minister which will reform the law applicable to brokers and other
intermediaries engaged in commercial arms dealing, not only of
SALW but also all arms and war-related materiel which is subject
to national regulation.
10.9 A bill on export control and non-proliferation
was published by the UK Government in March 2001 which would introduce
powers to license brokering transactions.
10.10 Other Member States have taken action in a
variety of ways, increasing penalties, passing resolutions and
reviewing legislation. The German Government, for instance, has
adopted amendments to the "Political Principles for the Export
of War Weapons and other Military Equipment".
10.11 Projects supported by the EU include the collection
and destruction of weapons in Albania,
and South Ossetia,
as well as a contribution to the UN Regional Centre for Peace,
Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
10.12 A number of UN projects have been supported
by Member States. The Swedes have contributed to many, but the
UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark have
also made contributions, some substantial.
10.13 Most of the same Member States have been active
in organising and participating in international conferences,
with the UK funding a conference in Kampala, which led to an outline
Action Plan for Eastern Africa and the Greater Horn. The EU took
an active interest in preparations for the UN Conference on the
Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects
and endorsed Sir Michael Weston as the EU candidate to chair the
Conference, which was due to take place in New York on 9 - 20
10.14 Priority guidelines have been drawn up by
the Member States for improving implementation of the Joint Action
and the Programme of Action for future assistance which was expected
to be adopted by the UN Conference in July.
10.15 The report recognises that there is a need
in future for basic criteria to be met before funds are allocated.
Projects have been supported up to now on an ad hoc basis. A list
of basic criteria set out in the report includes:
- a genuine political will in the recipient state;
- all weapons collected should, in principle, be
- assistance on SALW should be part of an overall
strategy of development and security in the recipient country;
- for each project, clear objectives, benchmarks
and time lines should be set, to enable the impact of the project
to be assessed.
Assessments will be carried out by independent experts.
The Government's view
10.16 In an Explanatory Memorandum dated 14 June
2001, the Government describes the report as entirely consistent
with UK policy. The Government's aim was to seek as ambitious
and far-reaching an outcome as possible from the UN Conference,
"in order to make real inroads into tackling the problems
associated with small arms proliferation".
10.17 We have drawn this report to the attention
of the House in order to demonstrate the extent of the activity
in this area which has been undertaken since the Joint Action
was adopted in 1999. The importance attached to this activity
by the UK and other Member States is emphasised in the Conclusions
of the 25 June 2001 General Affairs Council,
in which deep concern is expressed at the "tremendous humanitarian
problem" caused by the spread of these weapons. In the same
Conclusions the Council underlined the high priority it attached
to a successful outcome to the UN Conference on 9-20 July 2001.
10.18 We ask the Government to inform us of the
outcome of the UN Conference in a Ministerial letter, and meanwhile
shall not clear the document.
22 (19638) 14126/98; see HC 34-iv (1998-99), paragraph
10 (16 December 1998). Back
12746/00; see HC 28-i (2000-01), paragraph 18 (13 December 2000). Back
13624/99; see HC 23-iv (1999-2000), paragraph 13 (15 December
-; see HC 23-xxx (1999-2000), paragraph 21 (22 November 2000). Back
-; see HC 23-xxxi (1999-2000), paragraph 23 (29 November 2000). Back
-; see HC 28-viii (2000-01), paragraph 30 (14 March 2001). Back
Release (10228/01) page IX. Back