Media release from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

11 May 2001

Workshop Addresses Small Arms Problem in the South Pacific

Following a commitment by Prime Minister John Howard at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Tarawa last October, the Federal Government has hosted a workshop for Pacific Island Forum countries on controlling the movement of small arms and light weapons.  The workshop was held in Brisbane from 9-11 May. 

The workshop promoted an informal and fruitful exchange on the range of social, political and economic issues affecting Pacific island countries, and the adverse impact of the spread and accumulation of small arms on regional security.  Law enforcement, military, government and non-government experts from Australia and the region led discussions on a range of issues, including the implementation and enforcement of legislation, law enforcement cooperation, weapons accountancy, post-conflict situations and customs controls. 

A key aspect of the workshop involved the discussion and further elaboration of draft model legislation to establish a common regional approach to weapon control.  This model legislation is being developed for the Regional Security Committee of the Pacific Islands Forum.  The direct input of Pacific Island countries at the workshop will help to ensure that the model legislation meets their particular needs. 

Recognising the connections between security problems in the region and the leakage of small arms from official armouries, participants at the workshop were briefed by police and military officials on safe storage and management practices for Government-owned weapons.  Participants made on-site visits to Australian Defence Force and Queensland Police Service armouries. 

Many participants acknowledged the importance of Pacific island countries contributing to international efforts to combat the small arms problem, including the United Nations International Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects, to be held in July.

Countries represented at the workshop were: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Japan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States and Vanuatu.

Media inquiries:  02 6261 1555

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