Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, believes that small arms and weapons in the wrong hands could cause “instability”, encourage criminal activities and disrupt peace.
Fiame made the point last week when she spoke at the Regional Pacific Island States Parliamentary Workshop to advocate for Improved Compliance with the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (S.A.L.W.).
Fiame, who is also the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment was the Acting Prime Minister at the time.
“It only takes a few small arms and light weapons in the wrong hands, to cause instability,” she said.
“Our own region has witnessed how such arms can support criminal activities, disrupt the peaceful lives of communities and impede development. Therefore, international instruments such as the UN Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Lights Weapons in All Its Aspects, if successfully implemented, further contributes to our efforts to ensure the stability, peace, security and protection of human rights in our region.
“The rising number of reported cases on the illicit trade of small arms and lights weapons in our region indicates the threat is real.”
According to the Deputy P.M., the presence and accumulation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (S.A.L.W.) legally or illegally in the region is an issue of great concern.
“In comparison to other regions, it is said that our region suffers minimally from large-scale arms trafficking.
“However, given our extensive but vulnerable borders, small populations and limited human and financial resources, we continue to face challenges in countering the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, and in controlling its negative consequences to our people.
“Our Pacific Forum Leaders have noted with extreme concern the availability throughout the Pacific of guns and small arms and light weapons, which have been used to fuel and exacerbate violence and conflict and to inflict harm upon the vulnerable, in particular women.”
Samoa, according to Fiame, continues to support the promotion of the principles of general disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons that kill and maim people indiscriminately.
“We remain committed to partnerships for international peace and security and that is why we are committed to the UN Programme of Action and have also joined a number of Disarmament and Arms Control Treaties such as the Arms Trade Treaty; Convention on Cluster Munitions; Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling and Use of nuclear weapons.
More recently we ratified the Biological Weapons Convention and signed the historical Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons,” she said.
“As a small island developing state without a military and with an unarmed police force, our joining these conventions is testimony to our firm commitment that their implementation will contribute significantly to saving lives, stopping human rights abuses, avoiding crises, ensuring the respect for rule of law and can effectively reduce and eventually eliminate altogether, the human cost of conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction.”
She added that Samoa has taken key steps in implanting these conventions including complying with the UN Programme of Action.
“In 2016, we submitted our Compliance Report on the Programme of Action and since that report Parliament has passed the Conventional Arms Act 2017 which is critical to regulating trade in the weapons and our implementation of the UN POA and the Arms Trade Treaty.
Addressing the illicit trade of these weapons are also crucial to the local regional and international implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG16 on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies.
“Sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security; and peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development.”
The two-day workshop held at Tanoa Tusitala Hotel was facilitated by the Parliamentarians on Global Action organization in collaboration with the Legislative Assembly of Samoa.
Participants included Parliamentarians from the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, New Zealand, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands and Samoa.
“It will be irresponsible for us as Parliamentarians to ignore this crucial opportunity to address the illicit arms flow within our region given it is real concern for our populations; it threatens the stability of our region and negatively impacts our sustainable developments efforts,” Fiame concluded.