2003 Statement


H.E. Mr. Mitsuro Donowaki

Alternative Representative of Japan

On the Report of the 2003 Group of Governmental Experts on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms

At the First Committee of the 58th Session of the General Assembly

20 October 2003

Mr. Chairman,

I wish to thank you for allowing me to take the floor at this time to speak, on behalf of the delegation of Japan, on the report of the 2003 Group of Governmental Experts on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms contained in the Secretary-General's report A/58/274. Japan has been one of the strongest supporters of the Register from the time of its establishment.

By establishing the Register in 1992, Member States of the United Nations agreed for the first time in the history of disarmament to go transparent about their international transfer of major conventional arms by submitting data to the Register annually. In this way, unwarranted suspicion and fears among States may be reduced, and mutual trust and confidence promoted. The Register was established as a global instrument for transparency and confidence-building.

As the Register marked ten years of its operation last year, it was encouraging to note that the number of participating States which averaged about 94 for the first eight years jumped to 118 in the ninth year and 126 in the tenth year, or for years 2000 and 2001. Over these ten years, more than 160 States have reported to the Register at least once, demonstrating that a growing majority of States support this global transparency and confidence-building instrument.

Also, the quality of data submitted to the Register improved considerably. Of course, since this is not a legally binding instrument, the submission of data is voluntary. Still, the Register managed to capture the great bulk of global trade in seven categories of major conventional arms, because almost all significant suppliers and recipients of such arms submit data regularly. According to some estimates, more than 95% in monetary value of such trade is reported to the Register every year. As a matter of fact, the success in this regard owes not a little to the United States of America who exports about a half of such arms and regularly reports to the Register about such trade.

The quality of data submitted to the Register improved also because of the fact that most of the Member States started to fill in the so-called "remarks column", with the model and types of arms transferred on a voluntary-voluntary basis. Thus, the accuracy of data submitted to the Register improved significantly.

It was on the basis of this encouraging trend of growing support and value of the Register that the Group of Governmental Experts met for its periodic review this year. The task of the Group was to prepare a report on the continuing operation of the Register and on its further development.

As was pointed out by the Secretary-General in his statement in August last year celebrating the Register's tenth year anniversary, how to increase the Register's relevance in all sub-regions, and thereby facilitate greater participation, was one of the major questions that had to be addressed by the Group. From this viewpoint, technical adjustments to the agreed categories of weapons systems needed to be considered.

In response to such an expectation, this year's Group of Governmental Experts came up with the recommendation for technical adjustments in two of the seven categories covered by the Register. The report containing this recommendation was approved by consensus. Technical adjustment of the categories was what the Group of Governmental Experts attempted every time in the past, in 1994, 1997 and 2000, but without a success. Therefore, this was an outstanding achievement.

The success this time did not come easily, but was made possible as a result of intensive debate among the members of the Group, and thanks to the spirit of flexibility and compromise demonstrated by them as well as by the governments they represented.

Also, it should be stressed that the Group was fortunate to have had highly-qualified Ambassador Roberto Garica Moritan of Argentina as its chairman. Under his able and experienced guidance, the Group could efficiently carry out its work with a remarkable success.

The technical adjustments recommended in the Group's report are (1) to lower the calibre of large-calibre artillery systems from 100 mm to 75 mm, and (2) to include Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems (MANPADS) as a new sub-category to missile and missile launchers. By lowering the calibre of artilleries, some of the light weapons such as 81 and 82 mm mortars actually used in regional conflicts, in Africa for example, will be covered, making the Register more relevant to some regions or sub-regions. By including MANPADS the misuse of which by terrorists has become a matter of global concern after the 9.11 incident the Register will be made more relevant to all regions.

Of course, the addition of these weapon systems to the Register would not put an end to the illicit trafficking in such weapons, because the Register requires only the official transfers of such weapons to be reported as a transparency and confidence-building measure. Nevertheless, their inclusion should have the effect of further discouraging the illicit trafficking in such weapons.

In this connection, since both lower calibre artilleries and MANPADS belong to the category of small arms and light weapons, the relationship between the Register and small arms and light weapons in general was discussed extensively by the Group of Governmental Experts. The Group noted the significant efforts made by the Member States in this regard through the adoption of the Programme of Action on Small Arms in 2001, and recognized the need "to encourage regions to develop, where appropriate and on a voluntary basis, measures to enhance transparency with a view to combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects" as stated in that Programme of Action.

Therefore, the Group came to recommend that "interested Member States in a position to do so, where appropriate and on a voluntary basis, provide additional information on transfers of small arms and light weapons made or modified to military specification and intended for military use", and that where national, sub-regional and regional mechanisms exist, to make use of these reporting methods. In addition to the two recommendations related to technical adjustments, this was the third important recommendation included in the report of the Group this year.

I may add that this year's report gives special recognition to the value of regional workshops to promote the Register, organized by some Member States in cooperation with the Department for Disarmament Affairs. Five such workshops held between 2001 and 2003 in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Accra (Ghana), Windhoek (Namibia), Lima (Peru) and Bali (Indonesia) are mentioned in detail. As one of the co-sponsors of these workshops, Japan feels grateful for this recognition.

It should also be mentioned that this year's Group did not succeed in solving all the issues they considered, which unfortunately was inevitable. For example, there was no agreement on technical adjustments to reflect latest developments in some of the weapon systems, or on the expansion of the scope of the Register by covering national holding and procurement on the same basis as international transfers. Similarly, the low level of participation in some sub-regions of tension where security concerns of States may prevent them from taking a positive attitude to the Register remains as an issue for further consideration.

However, in spite of some remaining tasks, what has been achieved so far is a valuable asset of us all, and well deserves to be consolidated and strengthened. The report of this year's Group containing technical adjustments for the first time marks a major step forward in further strengthening the Register.

Therefore, the report of this year's Group deserves to be endorsed by the General Assembly and implemented. I wish to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the delegation of the Netherlands for introducing a draft resolution for this purpose, as it has been doing over the years. Japan, together with a large number of Member States in support of the Register, will give its full support to the draft resolution.