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National statements

Statement to the UN General Assembly regarding conventional weapons

Thematic issues

  • Afghanistan
  • Cambodia
  • Central Africa
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia
  • Georgia
  • Guinea
  • Humanitarian
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Palestine
  • Sierra Leone
  • Small arms
  • South Sudan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Terrorism
  • Women

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY: FIRST COMMITTEE

Thematic statement on conventional weapons

Statement by H.E. Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mr Chairman

The proliferation and misuse of conventional weapons threatens all societies.
From illicit small arms and ammunition that fuel conflicts between communities
and across borders, or explosive remnants of war that maim and kill innocent
civilians in many parts of the world, the uncontrolled trade and use of such
weapons endangers security and development.

We are encouraged by the forward momentum over this past year to address these
threats.

The Preparatory Committee on an Arms Trade Treaty made steady progress toward
bringing that treaty into being at the diplomatic conference next year.

The Meeting of Governmental Experts under the UN Programme of Action on Small
Arms and Light Weapons was a successful first attempt at genuine expert-level
discussions on practical implementation challenges.

Last month, many of us met for the Second Meeting of States Parties to the
Convention on Cluster Munitions. This comparatively new addition to the global
response to explosive remnants of war will play a key role in reducing threats
to vulnerable populations.

These developments show that we can make progress on conventional weapons issues so long as States are committed to a common goal and determined to see it achieved.

Mr Chairman

Australia remains strongly committed to international cooperation on curbing
the illicit trade and misuse of small arms and light weapons. We have provided
practical assistance to help ensure the objectives of the UN Programme of Action
are fully implemented, but recognise that a lot more work remains to be done.
We are committed to providing significant assistance to the DRC, in support
of the UN Programme of Action, which will deliver training on marking, stockpile
management and destruction of small arms and light weapons held by the defence
and security forces; as well as assist with collection and destruction of illicit
small arms across the DRC.

The first ever Meeting of Governmental Experts under the Programme of Action was held in May this year and was ably chaired by Ambassador McLay of New Zealand.

The Meeting demonstrated that effective marking, tracing and record-keeping
of small arms are fundamental steps not only to combating the illicit trade
in these weapons, but also to strengthening national control over the possession,
use and movement of firearms. Australia supported a number of developing countries
to send experts to this meeting by contributing AUD150,000 to the UNDP voluntary
sponsorship fund. The funds supported experts from Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Central
African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, DRC, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Lesotho,
Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Zambia, PNG, Solomon Islands,
and Timor Leste.

These productive exchanges will contribute to a sound basis for success at
the Review Conference in 2012. At that Conference, we will work with others
to strengthen the follow-up mechanisms for the Programme of Action, undertake
a thorough assessment of implementation and improve understanding of its impact.
Through this we look to identify where more intensive efforts are needed.

At the end of this month we have the Second Review Conference of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development. We welcome the initiatives under this Declaration to incorporate armed violence reduction into development programs to better address the impacts of armed violence.

Mr Chairman

Australia welcomes the near universal recognition of the need to better regulate
the arms trade. As the General Assembly has recognised, unregulated trade and
the diversion of arms to the illicit market contribute to armed conflict, the
displacement of people, organised crime and terrorism – 'thereby
undermining peace reconciliation, safety, security, stability and sustainable
social and economic development'.

The second and third sessions of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations
Conference made strong headway in developing a solid basis for a treaty text.
We congratulate the Preparatory Committee's Chair, Ambassador Moritan
of Argentina, for his skilful guidance of our work and we look forward to his
continuing in this role at the 2012 Conference. Australia has been honoured
to play a supportive role as a Friend of the Chair. We are fully supportive
of the Chair's paper as a solid basis for the Conference, including its
extensive scope and indicative parameters.

Australia continues to pursue actively the achievement of an Arms Trade Treaty
that is comprehensive but also practical and effective.

We want the ATT to help enhance global standards through creation and strengthening
of national control mechanisms governing arms transfers. The Treaty should also
indicate a base of common minimum standards for assessments of the transfer
of arms against given criteria. International cooperation and assistance should
be available to strengthen States' capacities to regulate the cross –border
movement of arms and prosecute violations.

Recognising that the ATT will be strengthened by universal adherence, Australia
has actively sought the views and participation of a broad range of countries
including small island developing countries, many of which are particularly
susceptible to illicit arms trafficking.

Australia supported 18 government and civil society delegates from the Caribbean
and Pacific to attend the critical Third PrepCom in July. Delegates shared experiences
from their regions on developing common positions for international conventions
and combating illicit small arms and light weapons.

Australia has contributed to regional efforts in the Caribbean by assisting
CARICOM build common approaches on the ATT through two workshops. These workshops
provided a forum for constructive dialogue for CARICOM members on the treaty's
implications and, importantly, involved women's civil society groups.
A third Australian supported regional workshop will be held in March 2012 in
Jamaica.

Australia will also hold a Pacific Regional Workshop in March 2012 to facilitate
Pacific Island states preparation for the UNPoA Review Conference and develop
a regional position on the ATT before the final ATT negotiation conference in
July next year.

This workshop will continue Australia's work in the region to combat illicit weapons where, for instance, we have assisted the PNG Defence Force Armouries and Magazines Project in building seven high security armouries for the PNG Defence Force, thereby improving weapons storage, stock control and weapons management practices. Through these steps, the international community will build resilience in the legitimate trade in conventional weapons and make it harder for those who want to circumvent proper channels.

Mr Chairman

We congratulate the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Lebanon for
their bold leadership of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in its first two
years. We are encouraged by the national ownership demonstrated by the two countries
in their quest to clear their own territory of dangerous cluster munition remnants
and take the message of the Convention to the world.

Australia was honoured to have served as the first Friend of the Chair on clearance and risk reduction. The endorsement of States Parties of steps for the efficient survey and clearance of affected lands will help intensify efforts to return land expeditiously to local communities.

Mr Chairman

Australia is a strong supporter of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
including the negotiations on Protocol VI to eradicate cluster munitions that
cause unacceptable harm.

If agreed at the upcoming Review Conference, this Protocol would prohibit and
require the destruction of large quantities of old, unreliable and indiscriminate
cluster munitions. The Chair's revised text also contains useful commitments
on stockpile destruction, clearance, victim assistance and international cooperation
and assistance.

Australia appreciates the potential humanitarian benefits that could be achieved by the successful conclusion of a Protocol to cover the use of cluster munitions – especially one that would include the major producers, users and stockpilers of cluster munitions who have not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Australia continues to contribute constructively to these CCW negotiations – seeking an outcome that maintains the integrity of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and recognises the worldwide humanitarian benefits that both of these agreements will deliver.

Mr Chairman

Australia congratulates Albania for its effective leadership of the Anti-Personnel
Mine Ban Convention since the last Meeting of States Parties.

Australia is a leading contributor to mine action around the world.

The Australian Government has committed to provide A$100 million to mine action
from 2010 to 2014; delivering improved quality of life for victims, reducing
the number of deaths and injuries, and enhancing the capacity of countries to
manage their mine action programmes.

Our strong support to mine action considers the humanitarian impact of unexploded
ordnance and affected States' own priorities. In this way, we can directly
improve the social and economic well-being of affected communities through incorporating
clearance, risk reduction and victim assistance activities into development
programmes.

In the past year, Australia has supported projects in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan,
Cambodia, Chad, the DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guinea Bissau, Iraq, Jordan,
Lao PDR, Lebanon, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda and Vietnam
.Working in partnership with affected countries, humanitarian organisations
and local communities, we are removing the threat of old conflicts so new lives
can be built.

Even after ten years, the Convention continues to go from strength to strength.
It has seen over 44 million stockpiled mines destroyed, large areas of affected
land cleared and thousands of survivors provided with additional support and
assistance.

Over the past year, Australia has Co-Chaired with Uganda a Standing Committee
which has enhanced links between victim assistance and disability rights. There
are strong linkages between the practical efforts to assist survivors and the
implementation of obligations on non-discrimination, accessibility, mobility
and inclusiveness.

At the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties, to be held next month in Cambodia the Convention will return to a country deeply scarred by landmines and unexploded ordnance. We will collaborate with Cambodia, other States and civil society to promote the full realisation of the Convention's important goals.

Mr Chairman

Australia was honoured to serve as its President at the Conference of High
Contracting Parties of Protocol V of the Convention on Certain Conventional
Weapons in November last year. The Conference promoted efforts to clear affected
land, enhance transparency, strengthen preventative measures and assist survivors
of accidents from explosive remnants of war.

Clearing and destroying explosive remnants of war and improving security of stockpiles of explosive ordnance will also reduce the availability of source material for improvised explosive devices.

Mr Chairman

We urge all States, where they have not already done so, to join these Conventions. Cluster munitions, landmines and other explosive remnants of war are a tragic legacy of conflict. They continue to constrain development in several of the poorest countries and have devastating socio-economic consequences.

Mr Chairman

Australia remains committed to working with others to address the challenges
posed by the proliferation, misuse and unacceptable harm of conventional weapons.

Last Updated: 5 June 2015
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