Vienna, 7. Dezember 2006 Rede/Interview

Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the Wassenaar Arrangement (English only)


Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary
of the Wassenaar Arrangement

Introductory speech
by Austrian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Dr. Hans Winkler
Vienna, 7 December 2006


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you here in the premises of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs in order to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies. I wish to extend a special welcome to the representatives of other organisations and institutions as well as to the media. Let me express my great appreciation to Ambassador Sune Danielsson for his commitment and the valuable services he has rendered to the Wassenaar Arrangement in his capacity as Head of the Secretariat during the past four years.

The objective of this event is to make the crucial role of the Wassenaar Arrangement in strengthening international security more visible and understandable to the world outside the Arrangement. Being the host country of the Wassenaar Arrangement’s permanent Secretariat since 1996, Austria has been following since a long-time an active policy in strengthening multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament instruments.

Over the past fifteen years the world’s security environment has undergone profound changes. Let me highlight two developments which seem to me to be of particular importance.

First, the international community has made the non-proliferation of weapons a top priority issue. As a result, export control regimes like the Wassenaar Arrangement nowadays play an increasingly important role in the fight against uncontrolled arms proliferation. In fact, export control regimes can be considered as instruments which put non-proliferation efforts into practice.

Second, in addition to the persistent concerns about weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation, the international community is facing new challenges through a growing number of regional conflicts and the international terrorism. Although the effects of a terrorist attack could be maximised easily by using weapons of mass destruction, it is noteworthy that, for the time being, most attacks have been committed through the use of conventional arms. The uncontrolled transfer of conventional arms - often referred to as “weapons of factual destruction” - poses a serious challenge. One particularly lethal and inexpensive weapon used by terrorists is the so called Man Portable Air Defence System (MANPADS). This missile has already been used against civilian airplanes in the past and is able to kill hundreds of people all at once.

While Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) - including MANPADS - are only one category of conventional arms, they currently cause the greatest devastation in many regions of the world. Let me quote the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who declared in his address to the SALW Review Conference in June 2006 that “these weapons may be small, but they cause mass destruction”. In fact, through these arms and weapons more than 500.000 people are killed every year - approximately 1.400 per day. The vast majority of victims are civilians. The fight against the illicit trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons has become even more urgent in the context of the intensified international action against terrorism.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In view of these threats posed by the uncontrolled spread of conventional arms an efficient international export control system is of utmost importance. The Wassenaar Arrangement was established at Wassenaar, a village near The Hague in the Netherlands, in December 1995. In April 1996, the inaugural Plenary Meeting was held in Vienna. The first regular Plenary Meeting took place in December 1996, exactly 10 years ago.

The Wassenaar Arrangement’s objective is to contribute to regional and international security and stability by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in the transfer of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies - thus preventing destabilising accumulations. Currently 40 Participating States seek, through their national policies, to ensure that transfers of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which could undermine these goals.

The Wassenaar Arrangement, which is not directed against any state or any group of states, complements and reinforces the other existing control regimes for weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. I would like to mention here the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Zangger Committee (ZC) for nuclear weapons, the Australia Group (AG) for chemical and biological weapons and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

In 2001, the Participating States committed the Arrangement to prevent terrorist groups and individuals from acquiring conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. In other words, the Wassenaar Arrangement uses export controls also as a mean to combat terrorism. In my opinion, it is very encouraging that all the Participating States reaffirm - in a Ministerial Statement which will be presented in the course of this event - the importance of the Arrangement’s role as a pillar of multilateral efforts towards peace and stability.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ten years ago, the Participating States decided to establish the Secretariat of the Wassenaar Arrangement in Vienna to provide the necessary operational and logistical support. The Secretariat represents the institutional memory of the Arrangement, assists the rotating Chair in preparing the meetings of the Plenary and the subsidiary bodies and plays an important role in conducting outreach activities with non Participating States and international organizations. Most of the Arrangement’s meetings are held in the premises of the Secretariat. In this context, I would like to stress that the Wassenaar Arrangement is the only export control regime which has a permanent Secretariat at its disposal.

Austria is proud to host this Secretariat in addition to the IAEA, the CTBTO, the OSCE and the HCOC. As a matter of fact, the Wassenaar Arrangement has further strengthened the role of Vienna as a centre of international non-proliferation efforts. When we also take into account the Vienna based United Nations units engaged in the fight against terrorism - such as the Terrorism-Prevention-Branch and the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention - Vienna can be considered THE host city of international organisations in the field of security.

Thank you for your attention.