10 March 2000 

Fact Sheet: U.S. Initiative Against Small Arms and Illicit Trafficking 


(Outlines U.S. steps to address growing international concern) (1510)
Following is the State Department February 23 Fact Sheet as reissued
on March 10:
(begin Fact Sheet)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
February 23, 2000

(Revised 3-10-00)


FACT SHEET

U.S. Comprehensive Initiative on Small Arms and Illicit Trafficking

The United States is taking a wide range of steps to address growing
international concern about trafficking in small arms and light
weapons. U.S. efforts are intended to promote regional security, peace
and reconciliation in regions of conflict and to make the world safer
by helping to shut down illicit arms markets that fuel the violence
associated with terrorism and international organized crime.

As Secretary Albright told the United Nations in September 1999, "The
international community must develop an integrated, comprehensive
response -- in countries of origin and countries of conflict, among
buyers, sellers and brokers, and with governments as well as
international and non-governmental organizations." The U.S.
contribution to this effort is summarized below.

OAS Convention Against Illicit Firearms Trafficking. The United States
was a leader in concluding in 1997 the "Inter-American Convention
Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms," the
first international agreement designed to prevent, combat, and
eradicate illicit trafficking in firearms, ammunition, and explosives.
First proposed by Mexico and negotiated in just seven months, this
agreement strengthens the ability of the OAS nations to eradicate
illicit arms trafficking, while protecting the legal trade in
firearms. Key provisions include requiring an effective licensing or
authorization system for the import, export, and in-transit movement
of firearms, an obligation to mark firearms indelibly at the time of
manufacture and import to help track the sources of illicit guns, and
requiring states parties to criminalize the illicit manufacturing of
and illicit trafficking in firearms.

International Protocol Against Illicit Firearms Trafficking. The
United States is working toward completion of the United Nations
"Protocol to Combat the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in
Firearms, Their Parts and Components" by the end of 2000. This
protocol would build on and globalize the standards incorporated in
the precedent-setting OAS Convention. The protocol is currently under
negotiation in the UN Crime Commission in Vienna as part of the
negotiations to conclude the Convention Against Transnational
Organized Crime.

Arms Brokering Legislation. The President signed legislation in 1996
amending the Arms Export Control Act to give the State Department
greater authority to monitor and regulate the activities of arms
brokers. Cornerstones of the brokering provisions are the requirements
that brokers must register with the Department of State, must receive
State Department authorization for their brokering activities, and
must submit annual reports describing such activities. The United
States is one of the few countries to have instituted such
legislation, and we are working to promote adoption of similar laws by
other nations and to incorporate such a provision into the protocol
being negotiated in Vienna. Law enforcement officials made the first
seizure of munitions under the provisions of the new legislation in
November 1999.

Greater Accountability. The United States maintains the world's most
open arms export procedures, and is promoting greater openness in the
practices of other nations. In 1996, the President signed legislation
amending the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to require the annual
publication of information about arms authorized for commercial export
by the United States that fall below the previously existing reporting
thresholds for U.S. arms transfers. The report includes detailed,
country-by-country information on the numbers of firearms, ammunition,
and other "small-ticket" defense items authorized by the United States
for export, setting a world standard for transparency. The United
States has presented this report as a possible model of transparency
to the 33-nation Wassenaar Arrangement, which promotes restraint in
the export of conventional arms. The United States also publishes
reports on arms flows to regions of conflict in order to raise public
awareness of the issue. Last July, for example, the State Department
released Arms and Conflict in Africa. It is available at:
www.state.gov.

Careful Scrutiny of Export Licenses. If arms export license
applications exceed the normal, reasonable domestic needs of a given
importing country or show other abnormalities, the United States will
audit and, if necessary, cut off exports to that country. On that
basis, the United States has suspended exports to Paraguay since 1996.
In addition, U.S. law prohibits arms and munitions exported from the
United States to be re-transferred by the recipient without prior U.S.
approval, audits are conducted if diversions or transshipments are
suspected.

Destroying Excess Weapons. Helping other nations destroy seized or
excess firearms can be an important element in securing a lasting
peace in conflict regions. The United States has contributed experts
and funds to destroy small arms, light weapons and ammunition in
Liberia, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia. The United States recently
agreed with 10 nations of southeast Europe on a program to destroy
illicit arms in the region. The United States is also working with the
Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), to prevent illicit weapons
shipments to the Balkans and central Africa, and to improve security
of weapons holdings.

Cracking Down on Financing of Illicit Arms. Illicit markets in
valuable commodities such as diamonds have helped finance arms flows,
particularly to embargoed groups and nations. The United States and
other concerned countries are identifying ways to track and intercept
illicit trafficking in precious gemstones used in financing conflicts
in Africa. One possibility is legislation that would require each
diamond to be sold with a certificate of origin guaranteeing its
legality. Such an initiative would require continued close cooperation
with the diamond industry, whose participation is essential for any
dependably effective regime.

Embargo Enforcement. The United States carefully observes sanctions
and embargoes established by the United Nations. U.S. laws permit the
prosecution of those who violate embargoes. We urge others also to
criminalize such violations. We recommend that governments find ways
to exchange information on violations to truly globalize embargo
enforcement. In addition, the United States does not authorize
commercial or government-to-government weapons transfers to conflict
areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea,
and Angola, whose governments are not subject to UN embargoes. We
encourage other governments to announce and observe such voluntary
moratoria.

Vigilance at the Borders. The Administration has made the prevention
of illicit arms trafficking across our borders a high priority. The
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the United States Customs
Service have intensified their interdiction and investigative efforts.
The Attorney General has directed United States Attorneys along the
southwest border to make a dedicated effort to prosecute traffickers,
large and small, caught attempting to smuggle firearms.

Africa Focus. Arms transfers and trafficking and the conflicts they
feed are having a devastating impact on Sub-Saharan Africa. Some of
the programs we are pursuing, include:

-- Africa Baseline Survey. Support to the United Nations African
Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders
(UNAFRI) to survey the small arms legislation, regulations, and law
enforcement capacities of African countries to provide a benchmark for
future work.

-- The West African Small Arms Moratorium. Technical assistance for
the 1998 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) moratorium
on the import, export and manufacturing of small arms in West Africa.
We are also seeking congressional approval to release modest funding
for the moratorium, which was included in the Fiscal 99 Foreign
Authorizations Act.

International Diplomacy. The United States is working with many
nations and international organizations on the problem of illicit
small arms.

-- U.S.-EU. At their December 1999 summit in Washington, the United
States and the European Union released a statement of "Common
Principles on Small Arms and Light Weapons," in which they pledged to
observe the "highest standards of restraint" in their small arms
export policies, and took further steps to harmonize their export
practices and policies. They approved a 10-point "Action Plan," and
established a formal working group through which they will continue
their activities.

-- United Nations. The United States was an active participant and
strong supporter of the recommendations of the 1997 Report of the UN
Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms. The United States will
also take active part in preparations for the international conference
in 2001 on the "Illicit Arms Trade in All its Aspects."

-- Norway. The United States has worked closely with a group of
like-minded nations led by Norway that is helping to set the
international agenda for addressing the problem of small arms
proliferation. The statement released by the 18 countries attending
the last such conference in Oslo in December 1999 focused special
attention on the importance of regulating the activities of arms
brokers. President Clinton and Norwegian Prime Minister Bondevik also
announced a bilateral task force on small arms and light weapons,
focusing on efforts to destroy surplus small arms in conflict zones.

(end Fact Sheet)


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