Oxfam readies for an awareness-raising campaign on the control of the proliferation of small arms

Posted on Tuesday 17 January 2006

Port-au-Prince, 13 January 2006 - The international organization, Oxfam Great
Britain, is ready to launch a national campaign against the illegal and
unregulated influx of small arms and light weapons. Yolette Etienne, the OxfamGB
representative in Haiti, told AlterPresse that the proliferation of small arms
in Haiti urgently needs to be brought under control.

As part of the national campaign against armed violence, a national
commission composed of members of different parts of Haitian society will be set up.
The targeted sectors will be human rights organizations, and women’s and youth
groups, as well as other Oxfam partners working in the filed of civic education.

"At the international level, the campaign was launched three years ago. As
far as Haiti is concerned, it is beginning with a report published by three
organizations", including Oxfam, declared Yolette Etienne.

The aforementioned report, which denounces the armed violence that continues
to claim lives in Port-au-Prince, was published jointly with International
Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and Amnesty International in London on 9 January

The Oxfam awareness-raising campaign in Haiti will kick-off in
Carrefour-Feuilles, a poor area in south-west Port-au-Prince.

Yolette Etienne said that discussions with the State authorities will take
place with a view to asking them give their agreement on the question of the
regulation of the arms trade on a national and international level.

"We haven’t yet entered into official discussions with the Haitian
government. As an international organization, we don’t want to it ourselves, but now
there is a national commission that is going to try to develop a national
campaign on armed violence," indicated the representative of the British
non-governmental organization. This national commission, supported by Oxfam, will submit
a number of recommendations on the control of arms in Haiti to the government.

According to Etienne, discussions will also take place with representatives
of the United Nations, representatives of other international organizations and
with the media so that they can participate in this important project.

A United Nations conference to examine the progress achieved in the
implementation of an Action Plan on the prevention, combat and elimination of the
illegal trade in small arms will take place in June 2006. The OxfamGB
representative announced that a variety of international organizations will be mobilized to
present recommendations to the UN and to involve other sectors involved in
the issue.

"The battle that we are waging is to persuade the UN to make this accord into
legislation, that is to say, that if a government does not respect it, then
sanctions will taken against it", said Etienne. "We are conscious of the fact
that there are a certain number of States that do not show any interest in
supporting the process." For example, Etienne cited the United States, the country
considered the number one arms exporter in the world.

A second UN small arms Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) is being held at UN
Headquarters in New York (US), 9-20 January 2006. Steven Costner, a
representative of the US government at these meetings, has saluted to efforts made by the
international community since the adoption of the program. However he recalled
that his country "continues to oppose, amongst other measures, those
hindering the legal manufacture and trade of small arms and light weapons, or that
would impose national controls and restrictions on the holding and use of small
arms by civilians."

Jamaica’s representative at these meetings, Janice Miller, for her part
insists on the necessity of paying close attention to the aspect of the "supply" of
small arms, and states that action must be taken at the level of the sources
and of transfers. Miller referred to the importance of regional assistance
which could perhaps involve civil servants concerned with the application of
legislation, particularly in the case of CARICOM, whose members especially suffer
from the illegal trade in small arms.

Questioned on the position taken by Jamaica, the spokesperson for the Haitian
office of OxfamGB stated that CARICOM will be contacted in the framework of
the international campaign against the proliferation of small arms.

According to certain observers, the struggle against the illegal trade in
small arms must from the start involve governments. In Haiti, the authorities are
hesitating to engage in this means of struggling against the estimated
210,000 arms in circulation, as proved by the fact that the Haitian government is
not represented at the UN PrepCom currently being held in New York.

(Translated from French by Charles Arthur for the Haiti Support Group)