Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to express our appreciation to you, Mr. President, and to the delegation of Gabon for organizing today's debate on this important issue. I'd also like to thank Deputy Secretary Magiro for her comments and presence today, and Mr. Costa and His Excellency, Mr. Sylvain-Goma for their remarks.
Mr. President, every year, thousands of conventional arms worth millions of dollars flood illegally into every conflict zone in Africa, despite Security Council arms embargoes. These ongoing weapons flows mean many thousands of deaths, millions of displaced persons and refugees, and billions of dollars spent on humanitarian assistance and emergency relief aid. The numbers are heartbreaking: UN-generated data suggests that conflicts fueled by the illicit arms trade have left an estimated 14 million refugees homeless worldwide and 26 million people internally displaced.
The instability and insecurity born of these conflicts are massive obstacles to development. We all understand that Africa is harmed
disproportionally by these trends. Of the 20 countries that experience the lowest levels of human development, all but one of them are in Africa-and more than half of these countries have been shaken by significant levels of violence since 1990. One stark example is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the transfer of arms into the eastern DRC fuels a terrible conflict and threatens stability in the Great Lakes region. Indeed, a vicious cycle of underdevelopment and insecurity in Central Africa and elsewhere stokes conflict and illicit arms flows-and that, in turn, can thwart well-intentioned governments and international actors working for progress.
Mr. President, to stem this tide of illicit arms, we must not only strictly observe and enforce UN arms sanctions regimes; we must also rigorously implement other international or regional instruments, as well as national export controls on arms flows to embargoed regions in Africa. Moreover, we should consider which controls are appropriate for arms transfers to conflict zones not subject to Security Council sanctions.
The United States is particularly proud of our extensive and rigorous system of export controls.
We engage and assist other states-both bilaterally and through multilateral organizations and regimes-to raise their standards and to prohibit the transfer of capabilities to rogue states, terrorist groups, and groups seeking to unsettle regions. Conventional arms transfers are a crucial national security concern for the United States. We have always supported effective action, based on the highest standards of responsibility, to control the international transfer of arms.
Indeed, we face questions of both law and responsibility here. Legal but reckless international transfers often fuel the illicit arms trade. For this reason, the United States voted in the General Assembly last fall to support a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty. We will actively support ATT negotiations as long as the ATT Conference takes its decisions by consensus. This is necessary to ensure that all countries can be held to standards that will improve the global standard, to ensure the widest possible support for the Treaty, and to avoid loopholes that may be exploited by those wishing to export arms irresponsibly.
My government is also dedicated to combating the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons through support for destroying stockpiles of surplus, poorly secured, or otherwise at-risk weapons and munitions.
Since 2001, the United States has funded the destruction of more than 1.3 million small arms and light weapons, more than 50,000 tons of ordnance, and nearly 32,000 man-portable air-defense systems in over 38 countries around the world-including six of the 11 member states of the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.
Mr. President, the illicit arms trade hurts African countries disproportionately, but this issue should be a source of global concern.
Illicit small arms can intensify and spread regional conflicts; and the linkages among arms trafficking, narco-trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime are very real.
In the most basic sense, traffickers are traffickers: narcotics traffickers, for instance, may very well use their established routes
and networks to traffic in weapons or humans should the situation present itself.
Given the stakes here, my government is particularly pleased to be participating this June in the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States to consider the implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. We join Chairman-designate Ambassador Macedo in noting that this meeting is crucial to helping lay the foundation for a successful review conference in 2012.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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