Media Center



March 8, 2004 - Bogotá, Colombia

Mr. Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Dr. César Gaviria;
Heads of delegation;
Ladies and gentlemen:

It is deeply gratifying for me to bid you a warm welcome to Colombia and especially to the Palacio de San Carlos on the occasion of the First Conference of the States Party to the Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials.

The Government and the people of Colombia are especially pleased to see all of you here, in your capacity as representatives of the states party to the Convention, the signatory states, the permanent observer states to the OAS, international organizations, and civil society.

I would also like to express our special thanks to the OAS Secretary General for his presence and for the Secretariat’s valuable work done in preparation for this First Conference of the States Party.


Colombia, a victim of illicit trafficking in firearms, has made the promotion of international action against the illicit production and marketing of this type of weapon one of the priorities of its foreign policy, aware of the international dimensions of this business that call for collective and universal measures if they are to be dealt with efficiently.

Colombia has been maintaining systematically that successful efforts against illicit trafficking in firearms necessarily require stronger national arms control legislation and procedures; the destruction of firearm stockpiles exceeding legitimate national defense and security needs; the establishment of mechanisms for monitoring all links involved in the firearms trade, from their production to their distribution and sale; a substantial increase in cooperation between the police and customs officials to shore up border control; transparency in the firearms trade; effective sharing of information so that firearms can be tracked and traffickers captured; and cooperation and coordination among countries to reduce demand and control supply.

In the words of the United Nations Secretary-General in the Millennium Report, “The death toll from small arms dwarfs that of all other weapons systems” and therefore “ . . . small arms, indeed, could well be described as ‘weapons of mass destruction.’”

Illicit trafficking in firearms, ammunition, and explosives is the root cause of one of the worst tragedies experienced by a large part of humankind, to which it seems condemned. All so-called low-intensity conflicts are fueled, sustained, expanded, intensified, and exacerbated by the inability to eradicate illicit trafficking in these weapons. Any possibility of negotiation to solve these conflicts is adversely affected by the steady flow of these instruments of war and death. Even signed peace agreements have failed because world trafficking in firearms have made it possible to rearm. The world is outraged as it sees large, enormously wealthy firearms traffickers circulating freely with absolute impunity regarding their serious crimes against humanity.

The international community agrees that illicit trafficking in firearms also increases violence, contributes to the displacement of civilians, undermines respect for international humanitarian law, hinders the provision of humanitarian assistance to victims, and promotes crime and terrorism.

That is why the Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials, generally known as the CIFTA, which for the time being is the only legally binding instrument in this regard, constitutes a major contribution by the Hemisphere to the worldwide struggle against this terrible scourge.

We have assembled here today to begin consideration of the functioning and application of the Convention in order to identify both the difficulties encountered in its implementation and its contribution to the prevention, control, and eradication of illegal trafficking in the Hemisphere. This exercise should also allow us to define the necessary measures to ensure full implementation of the Convention. This requires political resolve and the participation of all states of the Americas if we are to move forward in a frontal attack on this transnational problem, which generates large earnings, has great destabilizing power, and causes considerable humanitarian damage.

Given the serious humanitarian and socioeconomic impact of this scourge as well as the threat it represents for international peace, security, and stability, it is critically important for the Convention to be implemented and thereby bring about stronger controls and regulations on the firearms trade at the national, regional, and global levels.

It is also important to consider the establishment, within the Consultative Committee, a mechanism for following up on the decisions taken by this Conference and for making effective use of the mechanisms recommended in the Declaration on Security in the Americas for coordination and cooperation among the different hemispheric organs, agencies, and entities. Likewise it is important for the Committee on Hemispheric Security to make headway in the development of coordinated strategies and integrated plans of action on the basis of the recommendations prepared by the Consultative Committee of the CIFTA during the preparatory process.

Consequently, I invite all of you to take full advantage of the Hemisphere’s institutional framework to implement any actions agreed upon that enable us to wage an all-out war on these problems related to terrorism, drugs, and transnational organized crime. Every inter-American institution is intended to work with the others in countering each of the “new threats,” referred to as such by the Special Conference on Security.

The serious nature of the threat posed by illicit trafficking in firearms, ammunition, and explosives does not give us cause for hope. It is urgent that this First Conference of the States Party to the Convention establish the foundations for the commitment and political action called for by our peoples and the international community with a view to achieving the objective of a safe and free Hemisphere for all.

At this time, I would like to draw special attention of the recent ratification by Trinidad and Tobago, which bring to 22 the number of states party and constitutes a decisive step toward the hemispheric application of the Convention.

In conclusion, I wish to declare formally open the First Conference of the States Party to the Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA).

Thank you very much.