17 June 2010

Latin America and UNPoA

by Zunaira Choudhary, NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security

Attendees at a BMS side event titled “Latin America and UNPoA” gathered on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 to discuss the enhancement of “South to South” dialogue and relationships, specifically in regards with issues concerning small arms. In an introductory statement, the moderator of the event addressed the need for the establishment of political and academic interaction between Latin American and African nations.

Noting mutual interests and similar situations in terms of the development of the level of government, attendees stressed that both Latin American and African states can employ similar techniques in addition to technical and political cooperation in order to tackle the issue of small arms related violence. A representative of the West African Action Network on Small Arms stated that though Latin America has more experience in dealing with this issue, armed violence is a growing problem in Africa and consequently, there is a great deal that can be learned from Latin American cases. On the other side, it was mentioned that African states have a history of national commissions from which Latin American states can borrow insights and inspiration.

In a discussion on the adaptability of legal frameworks, one attendee, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, said that in light of prevalent corruption and extrajudicial killings, the need for transparency and accountability is of great importance. Noting the difficulty of obtaining accurate and comprehensive documentation of gun-related injuries in some African states, a representative from International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War suggested networking as a means to determine the best transferable practices that can be shared by interested parties. A representative from Zambia shared the concept of burial permits in Zambia; by requiring a permit in order to bury all bodies, including those brought-in-dead at a hospital, a registry of deaths becomes available. In addition, a Nigerian physician present at the event said that a major challenge is converting what is known as clear evidence on gun-related injuries into actual, meaningful legislation.

Lastly, participants mentioned that, as the victims of conventional weapons transfers, both Latin America and Africa can make a large contribution to the Arms Trade Treaty.

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