|A former child soldier rests his hand on a gun that he is turning in, the final act in a UNICEF-supported demobilization process in Parwan, Afghanistan.|
By Kun Li
NEW YORK, 10 July 2006 – The United Nations unanimously adopted a Programme of Action in 2001 committed to preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Five years later – at an international conference that began on 26 June and concluded this past Friday – some 2,000 representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society gathered at United Nations headquarters in New York to review progress on the issue.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah told the UN Small Arms Review Conference that millions of children and families have been reached since 2001 through a range of initiatives:
Eradication of illicit trade
Delegates attending the meeting from all over the world reaffirmed the urgent need to control illicit arms brokers – an issue that will be studied in depth by a UN intergovernmental expert group, which holds its first session in November.
“As we see throughout the entire world, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and their widespread accumulation and misuse have a wide range of negative humanitarian and socio-economic consequences,” said Ms. Salah.
Small arms and light weapons kill and disable more children and adults than any other weapon, according to UNICEF and its partner agencies. Between 1990 and 2001, some 2 million children were killed in conflicts where small arms were used.
During the past decade, 5 million children have been disabled and another 12 million have been left homeless – all caused by conflicts involving the widespread use of small arms and light weapons. And the numbers have been on the rise, particularly in the past five years, as the scale and scope of armed conflicts continue to expand.