UN arms control conference ends in disarray

David Fickling
Sunday July 9, 2006
The Observer

Protests by American gun lobbyists and arms-producing countries have derailed attempts to restrict the illegal trade in guns, which kills more than 800 people every day.A two-week United Nations conference on gun control in New York broke up in disarray on Friday night after US delegates vetoed further meetings of the body and blocked discussion of domestic gun laws. Cuba, Iran, India, Pakistan and Russia also voted down measures to prevent the export of arms to countries that abuse human rights.

Up to 308,000 people are killed every year by small arms and there are 640 million guns in circulation worldwide – one for every 10 people on the planet.

A gun control organisation the International Action Network on Small Arms (Iansa) said a small minority of countries had, in effect, vetoed attempts at an agreement. ‘It is to their lasting shame that governments let this happen. They allowed a small number of states to… derail any plans which might have brought improvement in this global crisis,’ said Iansa director Rebecca Peters.

Despite British attempts to strike a last-minute compromise the conference concluded without any agreed policy, and there will be no future meetings because of America’s objections.

Sierra Leone’s UN ambassador Sylvester Rowe, a leading advocate of gun control, said that US objections had been instrumental in sinking the deal. ‘We are sending the wrong message to the victims and the potential victims of gun violence,’ he told The Observer.

An estimated 60,000 people were killed in Sierra Leone’s gun-fuelled nine-year civil war from 1991, and a postwar disarmament programme resulted in 25,000 firearms being handed in.

One UN source said certain US delegates appeared set on wrecking the process. ‘For US pro-gun organisations it’s not about these countries in Africa that need to get rid of arms for development and to end civil wars. It’s about Americans’ right to bear arms, and their fears about some world government trying to take that right away,’ the source said.


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