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OAS head wants region to confront 'causes' of illicit firearms trafficking

Wednesday, February 08, 2012    

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WASHNGTON, DC, USA — Secretary General of the OrganiSation of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, has called on governments of the region to face the causes of the illicit trafficking of firearms as an issue "of the greatest importance" in a continent in which 80 per cent of homicides are committed with this type of weapon.

During the inauguration of the three-day seminar on the illicit trafficking of arms in Washington, DC, on Monday, Insulza recalled that in Latin America and the Caribbean "all manifestations of organised crime — the illicit traffic of drugs, human trafficking, the illicit traffic of migrants, money laundering, corruption, terrorism, kidnappings, gangs — have a link to the constant flow of arms generally from the exterior."

"[As a result of this] it is impossible to delineate a public security policy, strengthen the police, make our controls more efficient, improve our courts to fight crime, if criminal gangs are benefitting themselves from the constant, permanent and safe flow of firearms from illicit trafficking," he emphasised.

"We cannot continue to lament the consequences, we must face the causes," he added.

The secretary general recalled that in the international framework the issue was mentioned in the first Summit of the Americas in Miami in 1994 when the countries resolved to strengthen the efforts to control firearms, munitions and explosives, to prevent them from falling in the hands of organised crime. This led the countries to adopt in 1997 the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials, of which the OAS is its depository. The OAS also has signed cooperation agreements for firearms marking with nearly 20 countries, in a programme financed with the support of the United States and Spain.

But accoridng to Insulza, member states "still have much to do".

"Until we seek at least a possibility to harmonise the laws of our countries on matters of firearms, we will continue to suffer a very complex situation. The greatest part of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have very restrictive policies on matters of firearms, and yet we are full of arms, some much more powerful than those of the police," he added.

Also present at the event's inauguration was thedirector of the Inter-American Defense College, Admiral Jeffrey A Lemmons (United States), who said that "venues like this are an important part of our curriculum," referring to the institution he directs.

"We are committed to exposing our students to the full range and complex nature of hemispheric multidimensional security and providing them with the tools and the methodologies they will need to conduct critical thinking and to find solutions," he added.

The session was moderated by Giovanni Snidle, the alternate representative of the United States to the OAS and vice chair of the Committee on Hemispheric Security. The seminar, he said, "actually demonstrates the valuable role that the Inter-American Defense Board and its College play for our hemispheric security."

The seminar, which ends today, is a collaborative effort between the OAS and the Inter-American Defense Board in response to a resolution of the Organis ation's General Assembly that seeks to promote an agenda for the reduction of small arms trafficking in the Americas.

The event's first day was held jointly with a regular session of the Committee on Hemispheric Security of the OAS Permanent Council, at the OAS headquarters. The rest of the seminar is being held on the campus of the Inter-American Defense College, in a series of sessions to examine regional priorities in confronting the illicit trafficking of arms in the Americas, with special emphasis on the role of domestic and international stakeholders, fulfillment and compliance with laws and international treaties, and the great variety of activities related to this illegal market which constitute threats to hemispheric security.

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