Cluster "Conventional Weapons" - Statement by Ambassador Marschik
63rd Session of the General Assembly, First Committee: Cluster “Conventional Weapons”
Statement by Ambassador Alexander Marschik, Director for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs
New York, 21 October 2008
Let me congratulate and thank you and the other members of the Bureau for your excellent work in presiding over this Committee.
Austria fully supports the statement of the EU-Presidency.
In addition, Austria would like to stress a couple of points it deems particularly relevant.
1. Small Arms and Light Weapons
The availability of and easy access to small arms and light weapons has terrible consequences:
- destabilisation of state structures and societies,
- national and international conflict.
As my colleague from France on behalf of the EU pointed out in his statement yesterday simply destroying surplus SALW is not enough. National legislative and administrative provisions need to be put in place or strengthened in order to prevent the previously mentioned undesired consequences of unregulated SALW trafficking.
Austria as a staunch supporter of the rule of law is precisely doing this: to help design and build better national or regional legal instruments against the scourge of SALW.
Apart from projects on destruction of SALW and ammunitions in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Jordan we have supported various disarmament projects (with up to 700.000 Euros) particularly in Africa and Asia to strengthen national and regional instruments to curb the illicit flow of these weapons. One such project focuses on “Regulating Small Arms Brokering in Africa” (€ 100.000) another one envisages the “Elaboration of a Legal Instrument for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Central Africa (€ 230.000)”. Austria is also engaged in the development and administration of training courses in the field of stockpile management in Africa and the Balkans.
Together with Burkina-Faso we also organized an international conference on “Peace and Security in West Africa”. The conference underlined that only sustainable and
resilient structures can guarantee long-lasting peace and prosperity. As Austrian
Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik stressed at the conference the abundant availability of SALW in various regions of the world is a challenge that has global dimensions and engenders internationally shared responsibilities.
For the rest, - including Austria’s commitment to the Wassenaar Arrangement and its support for the Group of Gouvernmental Experts’ Report on Brokering – I refer to the EU statement.
The Third Biannual Meeting of States regarding the implementation of the UN Programme of Action against SALW of last July was one encouraging example which demonstrated that political will and shared responsibility – by almost all states – are the necessary ingredients for “the way forward” to implement the UN Program of Action. We also thank Ambassador Cekuolis for his leadership and Daniel Prins from ODA for his vital assistance. Austria hopes that the Third Biannual Meeting will mark a turning point towards further successful Biannual Meetings and Review Conferences on SALW underpinned by regional preparatory meetings.
3. Cluster Munitions
To end the suffering caused by cluster munitions, Austria has undertaken bold and effective steps:
Nationally, Austria this year adopted a law banning the use of all cluster munitions and providing for their destruction within three years.
Internationally, Austria together with Norway, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and the Holy See called for an international ban on cluster munitions in fall 2006. Within 18 months and following several regional conferences the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in May this year.
The proposed Convention prohibits cluster munitions as an entire category of weapons and stigmatises the use of cluster munitions.
The provisions relating to victim assistance set new groundbreaking standards in humanitarian law.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions will be opened for signature on 3 December
2008 in Oslo. We call on all States to sign the Cluster Munitions Convention on that
occasion. This is a unique chance to achieve real progress in disarmament – something we do not encounter on a daily basis in our area of work. Let us not squander such an opportunity.
In this context we would like to point out that today after this morning session a panel event in this conference room on the Oslo signature event will take place. We encourage all Member States to attend the panel event.
4. Land Mines
Another central area in which Austria has traditionally been active and which reflects our interest in the intersection of disarmament and humanitarian policies is Land Mines.
Here, over the years Austria has been able to establish considerable expertise and credibility. For more than a decade now Austria has consistently advocated and supported projects for mine clearance, capacity building, programmes for mine risk education and the rehabilitation of mine victims. In 2008, Austria financed projects related to anti-personnel mines with 1.6 million Euros, placing a regional focus on Africa and South-Eastern Europe and a thematic focus on assistance for victims.
Austria will continue to support the Mine Ban process and cooperate with all interested states in order to:
- achieve universal adherence
- improve international cooperation
- continue assistance for victims
- continue to raise awareness and to educate about the risks
- support the clearance of mine-affected areas
- assist states in their efforts to eliminate stockpiles
- work towards ending production and the use of APMs.
It is undisputed that the illegal trade in arms contributes to the problems associated with the weapons involved.
Austria was pleased to see the strong support among United Nations member states for a concerted effort to address the question of irresponsible trade in arms as
reflected by the overwhelming majority voting in favour of Resolution 61/89 last year. Building on the report of the Group of Governmental Experts, Austria is convinced that by establishing a working group as outlined in the current draft resolution we undertake a necessary first step towards establishing an instrument to regulate conventional arms trade.
Thank you Mr Chairman.