German Ambassador Martin Huth on instruments of arms control

German Ambassador Martin Huth on instruments of arms control Enlarge image (© Picture alliance / Daniel Kalker)

Your Excellencies,

Honourable Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here to open today´s Conference alongside with fellow representatives of the Arab League Permanent Peace Movement at the 2017 Beirut Conference. The Federal Republic of Germany is happy to support this important gathering as part of its efforts for the promotion of effective instruments of arms control in the Middle East and North Africa.

Let me thank the Permanent Peace Movement and the League of Arab States for their efforts and their cooperation in making this Conference happen and for gathering us for discussions on a challenge which needs to be overcome effectively to reach long term stability and security in this region.

The proliferation and illicit trade of small arms and light weapons today poses a major threat to the region’s security at several levels. They severely affect national, regional and human security. To recall Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – I quote: “Small arms do not only make the taking and maiming of lives easy, they also kill economies and the social bonds on which every kind of collective institution and progress rely.”

My government is very happy to support both this meeting as well as the initiative, which provides the larger framework for this gathering, namely the project on “Promoting international instruments of arms control in the Middle East and North Africa” initiated by the Permanent Peace Movement.

This project comprises this conference in order to inform about the instruments of multilateral arms control, the reporting mechanisms of the United Nations Programme of Action, and states´ best practices.

Furthermore the project includes an exchange of information between various stakeholders which we hope may result in successfully establishing national committees for arms control.

Additionally, the project includes an educative and preventive pillar: The Permanent Peace Movement intends to reach out to members of civil society and to raise awareness about the danger of firearms through dialogue and workshops in Lebanese schools.

The Federal Republic of Germany welcomes this comprehensive approach to minimize the negative impact of illicit trade and illegal possession of small and light weapons in the region. I am convinced that it will make a contribution to stability and security in the Middle East, which Germany considers as a priority also in light of our own security in Europe.

We see this conference as an opportunity to raise political awareness for this topic, exchange best practices and to explain instruments for the effective control of Small Arms and Light Weapons.

We are delighted that first steps were taken to improve the current situation. Lebanon legally banned celebratory shootings in order to prevent unintended injuries or deaths. Nevertheless, an increased number of small arms in private households as well as an increase in their use by individuals has been recorded. Our task should be to prevent individuals from getting illegally traded weapons and to train national security forces to counter illicit proliferation.

A milestone in combatting the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons has been the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty by the United Nations in 2015. Content and goals of this very treaty were welcomed by many countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

Now the next step should be to further promote its central ideas and measures. My government actively engages with states of the region to win wider acceptance among states in order for them to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty. My government stresses the need to restrict the possibilities for illegal transfer of weapons and to counter illicit trade. This treaty does explicitly apply to these challenges, and does not restrict state-led import or export of conventional weapons.

The goal of the Arms Trade Treaty is to provide mechanisms to better trace the flow of weapons. State Parties are required to establish and maintain a national export and import control system as well as to designate competent national authorities to ensure the effective and transparent national control and regulation over the cross-border-trade of items covered under the Arms Trade Treaty.

In addition to that, I would like to emphasize the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects. It has been adopted in 2001 by all UN member states and reflects the international consensus regarding the necessity to combat illicit trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons. Germany will be working hard over the next few months to make the 2018 Review Conference of the PoA a success.

Regional conferences, such as the Beirut Conference, offer the opportunity to discuss and improve implementation and verification processes. In 2005 it was agreed on the International Tracing Instrument, which requires States to ensure that weapons are properly marked and that records are kept. I am convinced that with these instruments, we can take effective steps on the national, regional and international level.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me highlight again the importance of the combat of Small and Light Weapons as I close my remarks: it is estimated that more than 500.000 deaths are claimed every year by the use of small and light weapons. More than 90% of victims of armed conflicts lose their lives as a consequence of the use of these weapons. These figures illustrate the immensity of the challenge we are facing.

Therefore, we call for action to actively engage in existing multilateral and comprehensive approaches to combat the disastrous impact of illegally traded small arms and light weapons. I am convinced that this conference can make a strong contribution towards more stability and security in the Middle East and North Africa. I wish you all successful and substantive discussions.

Thank you!