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  HOME | Latin America (Click here for more)

South American Conference on Interdiction and Regional Security of Small Arms & Light Weapons

By Ann K. Ganzer
Acting US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Threat Reduction, Export Controls, and Negotiations

BUENOS AIRES -- We live in a world of stark challenges and conflicting demands. Economic conditions around the world continue to hinder many national efforts to sustain social and economic development in difficult times. The strain on resources is nearly universal, creating an environment in which criminal and terrorist organizations can strengthen and grow their illicit businesses. As a result the demand for small arms and light weapons, in particular, to support criminal activities including drug trafficking is growing just as quickly. In addition, the ready availability of these weapons can also facilitate an increase in the likelihood of terrorist attacks against our populations.

Yet despite the growth in both the number and severity of the challenges and demands we face today, the international community is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its efforts to prevent or disrupt illicit arms trafficking. That’s the good news. For example, the United States dedicates significant resources to establish and strengthen export controls in the hemisphere. The Export Control and Border Security, or EXBS, program works with countries in South America to help them fulfill their obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all nations to develop WMD interdiction capabilities. EXBS draws on expertise already resident in the region to develop strategic trade control systems that draw on internationally recognized best practices.

For example, under the Merida Initiative, EXBS established a regional firearms advisor to work with partners to interdict firearms and interrupt trafficking networks. A key component of this initiative is access to a U.S. ATF firearms tracing program to coordinate the sharing of firearms trace data and investigative information. Any law enforcement officer will tell you that one of the keys to preventing criminal activity is getting the right information to the right people at the right time. In addition, working with the OAS, EXBS funded a program to collect and channel financial resources to a multi-year stockpile destruction program underway in Central America.

Our commitment also reaches to the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, where EXBS works with members to review their existing export control laws in an effort to develop a Reference Legal Framework. Once in place, this Framework will help establish a region-wide export control system that meets internationally accepted standards, as required under UNSCR 1540.

The United States has also assisted with disposing excess and obsolete munitions; with improving operational standards; and with additional capability to support munitions requirements and construction of new state-of-the-art storage facilities. These activities are all managed by the Department of State via its Office of Weapon Removal and Abatement, or WRA. WRA programs help partner nations advance their existing strategic munitions logistical support plan and infrastructure, as well as prevent weapons proliferation. Tomorrow, Mr. Mark Adams will provide a detailed presentation on WRA program assistances.

Export controls are not static, and the Administration also is undertaking a comprehensive review of the U.S. export control system. As part of this review, President Obama has tasked agencies to update the system where necessary to better address threats to the United States and its allies and friends. He also wants to ensure that the system functions efficiently, predictably, and transparently, and I’m happy to say we will be implementing many of these reforms in the coming months.

Another significant U.S. strategic step came in October 2009 when Secretary of State Clinton described a long-standing U.S. commitment to strong international standards on the international arms trade, outlining U.S. conditions for supporting an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). In the words of Secretary Clinton “The United States is committed to actively pursuing a strong and robust treaty that contains the highest possible, legally binding standards for the international transfer of conventional weapons.” We consider the Secretary’s remarks an important first step toward a significant and meaningful international treaty.

In our view, the ATT must cover all conventional weapons, from military small arms and light weapons up to nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Let me be clear, the ATT is not about banning anything – it is about ensuring that states take necessary steps on a national basis to effectively regulate and control transfers of conventional weapons so that they only wind up in the hands of those who are supposed to receive them and stay OUT of the hands of those who are not. The 2010 ATT Preparatory Committee or PrepCom – ably chaired by Ambassador Roberto Garica-Moritan - made significant progress in discussing issues that must be addressed in any ATT. It also showed that much work remains to be done. The United States looks forward to working with others as we move toward PrepComs in 2011 and 2012, as we prepare for the start of the treaty negotiations in 2012.

In the next couple of days, our common objective will be to learn from each other how we can review, initiate new, and improve existing, efforts to control and, if possible, eliminate the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons.

In that regard, the United States is taking strategic steps to reduce and control the proliferation and the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons at the national, regional, and global levels. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of our most recent nonproliferation strategic initiatives aimed at doing just that.

First, the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and other Related Materials, also known as CIFTA. The Convention was transmitted to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification in 1998, and remains pending before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. During President Obama’s trip to Mexico and the Summit of the Americas, he announced his commitment to seek ratification of the CIFTA and urged the U.S. Senate to act. We are continuing consultations with the Senate today and seek prompt ratification. While this is pending, the U.S. is in compliance with the Convention implementing many of its commitments.

In addition to CIFTA ratification, the reform of our export control system, and our commitment to validating the ATT, we are also increasing initiatives to open new dialogues and promote discussions of new ideas and mechanisms to share potential solutions to the problem of proliferation networks and the illicit trafficking of SA/LW. The Department of State has called for a U.S. interagency effort to promote international forums such as workshops and seminars that bring together government officials and international experts to discuss innovative and effective solutions to the problem of SA/LW. Forums like the one we are about to begin today.

We are delighted with the opportunity to participate in these discussions, and listen to and work with this group of highly qualified experts from throughout the international community. We look forward to two days of discussions with our South American colleagues and this tremendous opportunity to discuss the problems and identify solutions to improve interdiction capabilities and regional security measures; and ultimately to increase the safety of all our citizens.

The United States supports and welcomes closer partnership, increased cooperation, and greater collaboration with each of its partner nations in the hemisphere, including both intergovernmental entities and civil societies. Our goal is to make sure we all understand the security challenges we face as a result of the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. To be effective in our efforts, we count on the support of regional organizations such as the Organization for the American States. We see ample opportunities to shape a new and more assertive position in our collective efforts to counter proliferation networks and illicit trafficking of SA/LW.

I have no doubt the security of the Americas will be significantly and positively impacted if we work together, learn from each other, and share information about interdiction, border security training, and other programs offered by members of the international community. As citizens of responsible states and fellow members of international organizations, it is incumbent upon all of us to do whatever it takes to put an end to the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

Ann K. Ganzer is the Director of Conventional Arms Threat Reduction in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.

She and her staff lead USG efforts to curb the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons (ACW) such as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS), major weapons systems and heavy military equipment (tanks, aircraft, missiles), sensors and lasers, and precision-guided munitions. She heads the U.S. delegation to the General Working Group of the 40-nation Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual Use Goods and Technologies, and leads U.S. Government participation in other Wassenaar Arrangement committees. She is also responsible for the implementation of dual-use export controls, U.S. efforts to interdict or sanction illicit transfers. She is also responsible for nonproliferation policies related to exports of commercial space technologies, such as remote sensing technology, and chairs the Remote Sensing Interagency Working Group.

Ms. Ganzer joined the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer, serving tours in Mexico and Washington, including a variety of assignments in Western Hemisphere Affairs, Political-Military Affairs and Nonproliferation. She participated in the U.S. delegation to the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

Ms. Ganzer has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from St. Norbert College of De Pere, Wisconsin. She is married and the mother of three children.


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