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Statement by Vice Foreign Minister Qiao Zonghuai at the Opening Ceremony of the UN Workshop on Small Arms and Light Weapons

Respected Under Secretary-General Abe,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives us much pleasure to host the UN Workshop on Small Arms and Light Weapons in Beijing on this balmy spring day. First of all, I would like to extend, on behalf of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, a warm welcome to all of you and express our heartfelt thanks to the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs and the governments of Japan and Switzerland for their contribution to the meeting.

As we enter the new century, the advance of economic globalization has brought along a greater degree of inter-dependence among countries in the world. To work for global peace, common development and mutually beneficial cooperation has become an irresistible trend of our times. However, the world is not tranquil. While disturbances and conflicts arising from race, religion, territory and other traditional security factors are yet to be settled, non-traditional security problems such as transnational crimes, epidemic diseases, terrorism and arms proliferation have stood out.

When we look into these old and new security threats, we cannot afford to overlook the devastation wrought by illicit trafficking and excessive accumulation of small arms and light weapons (SALW). They were used in 47 of the 49 major conflicts worldwide in the 1990s, posing a real threat to the innocent civilians living in the shadows of the conflicts. Every year, victims of small arms can reach half a million and more, and 80% of them are women and children. Even after the conflicts, SALW still remain a hazard. Those left in private hands are not only hidden risks for post-conflict reconstruction efforts, but may also spark or exacerbate conflicts in other regions.

Yet these problems do not come from SALW themselves. SALW remain an important tool for social order and legitimate defense for sovereign states. Nevertheless, tougher measures against illegal activities in SALW and appropriate control of lawful manufacturing and transferring of SALW will undoubtedly contribute to world peace, stability and development, curb spiraling terrorist activities, smuggling, drug trafficking and other transnational organized crimes and mitigate humanitarian crisis.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the years, the international community has made enormous efforts to crack down on the illicit trade in SALW with notable achievements in the following aspects.

-Year after year, the UN General Assembly adopted a host of resolutions and the Security Council issued a number of Presidential Statements to express the consensus and resolve of the international community against illegal activities in SALW. Leaders of all countries made solemn pledges at the UN Millennium Summit Meeting. Several governmental experts groups set up by the UN have probed deep into the problems of SALW for better resolutions. Recently, the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change set up for the UN reform and Secretary-General Kofi Anna both put forward candid suggestions to address the problem of SALW in their reports.

-By 2001, the Firearms Protocol, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, and the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in SALW in All its Aspects (PoA) were both concluded. These instruments provide the legal base and policy guideline for resolving SALW problems, thus starting a new process in the global fight against the illicit trade in SALW.

-In 2003, the UN successfully held its First Biennial Meeting of States to consider the implementation of the POA at the national, regional and global levels. In 2004, the UN launched the Open-Ended Working Group to negotiate an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit SALW, a milestone in the multilateral campaign against the illicit trade in small arms.

-Regional organizations like the European Union, the African Union, the Organization of American States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have also mapped out initiatives and taken measures to address SALW problems.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The problem of the illicit trade in SALW involves a number of factors, such as security, disarmament, humanitarianism, economic development and post-war reconstruction. In order to promote multilateral efforts in cracking down on the illicit trade in small arms, we think priorities should now be given to the following areas.

-States should take up primary responsibility. While establishing and improving their legal system, states should work to enhance their own capacity building in light of their own national situation and try their utmost to prevent SALW lawfully manufactured and transferred from ending up in the hands of illegal possessors and users.

-The United Nations has a leading role to play. For one, the UN should make good use of the review mechanism of the POA to step up efforts against the illicit trade in SALW at the national, regional and global levels. For the other, negotiation of an international instrument on identifying and tracing of the illicit SALW should be concluded as soon as possible and the work of a Group of Governmental Experts dealing with illegal brokers should also be started timely.

-There should be stronger international coordination and cooperation, in particular, between law enforcement authorities such as police and customs. Regions may also coordinate measures and actions according to their different situations. Developed countries are expected to assist developing countries in their endeavors of mechanism building, cooperation in tracing and staff training.

-The problem of illicit brokering should be settled effectively. Tougher control and better international cooperation are needed to deal with brokers who play an important role in the illicit trade in SALW.

-Both the symptoms and root causes of the problem should be addressed by adopting a comprehensive approach. In addition to its efforts for world-wide and regional legal and political arrangements on SALW, the international community should help relevant countries maintain their peace and stability and strive for economic development, so as to eradicate starvation, poverty, social injustice and other security hazards. This, in turn, will remove from the stem the root cause and spread of illicit SALW.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Chinese Government, committed to putting people first and governing for the people, attaches great importance to the fight against the illicit trade in SALW, and plays an active part in the relevant international efforts.

-In 1996, the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Control of Firearms was enacted, which puts in a legal framework the control of SALW manufacturing and holding. In addition to tightened control, China has adopted resolute measures to crack down on firearm related crimes in recent years. In the campaigns to confiscate illicit firearms, more than 4 million pieces were seized and destroyed. Firearm related crimes dropped considerably year by year.

-China adheres to the following three-point principle in SALW export. China's SALW export will only help the recipient countries with their capability for rightful self-defense, will not undermine peace, security and stability of the region concerned and the world as a whole, and will not constitute an interference in the internal affairs of the recipient country. China has also faithfully honored its international treaty obligations and strictly observed relevant UN resolutions on arms embargo.

-China promulgated Regulations on the Administration of Arms Export in 1997, which was amended in 2002 with a control list attached. Thus we have matched the international practices by exercising stringent and effective administration on the export of arms, including SALW. Under the regulations, only the arms trading companies who have obtained in accordance with the law the business operations right for SALW export can do business in this area; the state shall implement a licensing system for SALW export, which is subject to strict examination and approval; an arms trading company shall, when filing an application to the State Administration of Arms Trade for approval on its SALW export, provide valid certification documents from the recipient country; the company shall not trade SALW with non-state entities, individuals or brokers; and any companies or individuals who violate the regulations will be severely punished.

-China has played a constructive role in the negotiation and conclusion of the Firearms Protocol. Since we signed the Protocol in December 2002, we have been working hard for the establishment of a nation-wide management system of SALW manufacturing, holding and trading information, and put in place and improved a marking system for SALW at the time of manufacture. Currently preparation for implementing the Protocol has been proceeding well.

-China has all along been committed to the multilateral efforts in combating the illicit trade in SALW. We have taken an active part in the work of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on SALW, earnestly implemented the PoA and submitted the national report in time. We have also been active in the deliberation in Security Council on SALW and taken a constructive attitude in partaking the open-ended working group to negotiate an international instrument to enable states to identify and trace illicit SALW in a timely and reliable manner.

-Under the Beijing Declaration issued at the 2000 Ministerial Conference of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, China has constantly intensified cooperation with Africa against illicit proliferation, transfer and trafficking of SALW. We are also ready to work with ASEAN and Central Asian countries within the frameworks of 10+1, 10+3 and Shanghai Cooperation Organization to meet the challenges posed by illicit SALW.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This workshop proposed by the Chinese Government is an important effort to advance the multilateral commitments against the illicit trade in SALW. We hope that all of you will feel free to speak your mind and contribute your valuable thoughts and ideas. We are convinced that as long as we have a firm determination and cooperate closely in a down-to-earth manner, we will be able to reach the goal of eliminating the illicit trade in SALW.

Finally, I wish the workshop a complete success.

Thank you.

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