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Written Answers. - Arms Trade.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 551 No. 3

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62.

Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the initiatives Ireland proposes to [795] take to reduce the level of world resources being devoted to arms production, 846 billion dollars in 1995, at a time when a fraction of such resources would relieve the health and basic needs requirements of the countries to which such armaments are exported from countries of the developed world including a number in the European Union; if he has raised this matter at the European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10265/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Ireland's approach to disarmament has always been consistent with our policy toward developing countries where the question of diversion of resources to arms procurement and the consequences of accumulations of weapons is of particular concern. Ireland has also continued to play a very active role in efforts to achieve total nuclear disarmament. The acquisition and maintenance of a nuclear arsenal is one of the costliest forms of the arms race. Ireland has been similarly active in international efforts to reduce the flow of small arms and light weapons and eliminate the use of land mines.

With regard to nuclear weapons, Ireland has been consistently to the forefront in international efforts toward nuclear disarmament. The forum in which we are most active is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This treaty contains the only legally binding commitment to pursue nuclear disarmament which has been undertaken by the five nuclear weapon states. At the sixth review conference of states party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2000 Ireland was a key participant in the difficult negotiations which led to agreement on the final document of the conference. This final document outlines a significant number of steps to be taken by the nuclear weapons states to achieve the goal of total nuclear disarmament. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty cycle begins again in April this year and together with our New Agenda partners we will actively pursue progress on this blueprint for action. The New Agenda will present a working paper to the First Preparatory Committee on ways in which the steps agreed at the 2000 review conference might be implemented.

In July of 2001 the UN Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its aspects took place in New York. Ireland played an active role in this conference and worked with European Union partners to achieve the strongest possible outcome. This conference was the first major step in addressing the problem of small arms proliferation and significantly, represented a formal recognition by the member states of the United Nations of the effects of the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons on civilian populations. The major issues dealt with by the conference were export criteria and controls, tracing and marking of weapons and regulation of brokers. The programme of action agreed, by consensus, contains politically binding commitments at [796] national, regional and international level. It also establishes a framework for follow-up action including provision for a review conference to be held in 2006.

Ireland was actively involved in the establishment of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports which was adopted by the EU General Affairs Council in June 1998. The code lists the factors to be taken into account when deciding on whether to allow an export of military goods. One of these criteria provides that member states should look at the level of expenditure of the recipient country on arms relative to their social expenditure, to ensure that the proposed export would not seriously hamper the sustainable development of the recipient country. The third annual report on the code of conduct which was adopted by the General Affairs Council in November 2001 set as one of the priorities for this year continuing efforts in the area of control of arms brokerage. Thus, discussion is ongoing in the European Union working group on arms exports, COARM, on how best to develop EU-wide regulation on the control of arms brokerage. The issue of arms brokerage is a particularly important one in controlling the spread of small arms and light weapons and work is continuing in various forums outside of the EU on this subject including the Wassenaar Arrangement of which Ireland is a member. Ireland supports efforts in these forums to regulate the activities of arms brokers and will play an active role both within the European Union and elsewhere in trying to achieve progress in this area.

Ireland also played a key role in the negotiations for the 1997 Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and continues to advocate the need for all states to accede to the convention in order to ensure a worldwide ban on these weapons. Many countries which are parties to the convention and which are afflicted with mines will require international assistance in meeting their obligations under the convention. In recognition of this need Ireland has made ongoing contributions to humanitarian mine action programmes. Since 1994 Ireland has spent just under €9 million on a wide variety of de-mining and rehabilitation projects as part of its humanitarian assistance projects. In September 2001 states party to the convention established an implementation support unit to assist in the work of the Ottawa Process inter-sessional meetings. These take place between and prepare for the annual meetings of states parties. Ireland has committed €50,000 toward funding this unit.


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