Media Center



March 8, 2004 - Bogotá, Colombia

Madame Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Carolina Barco,
Mr. Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Dr. Cesar Gaviria Trujillo,
Heads of Delegation,
Representatives of International, Regional, and Sub-Regional Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to welcome you warmly to Colombia and to the gracious Foreign Ministry headquarters of San Carlos. I am here to greet and celebrate your valuable participation in this First Conference of States Parties to the Inter-American Convention against the Manufacturing of and Illicit Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunitions, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA).

Let me also invite you, in your deliberations, to adopt a forward-looking vision of the function and implementation of this invaluable multilateral instrument we now wield, but above all, to consider the measures we jointly wish to take as an expression of our political resolve to deal effectively with an ever-growing scourge which—as the Convention itself recognizes—compromises the security of all States in the region and imperils its peoples’ welfare, their social and economic development, and their right to live in peace.

Adopted in Washington D.C. on 14 November, 1997, the Convention entered into effect on 1 July, 1988 and, to date, has garnered the subscriptions of 22 States Parties. It has been rightly described as a pioneering initiative, unique in its field. Indeed, it is the first legally binding treaty to broach this issue anywhere in the world among nations of a specific region. The Convention is also novel, however, because for States which have signed and ratified it—and thus, for their respective foreign policies—it confers “priority” status to actions taken to avoid, combat, and eradicate this dangerous and pernicious felony.

Both in nature and scope, CIFTA unquestionably offers an excellent starting point for the drafting of a universal instrument based on reciprocal commitments and shared responsibility to launch the global fight against a phenomenon which respects no borders in its aggressive invasion of our societies. The Convention also establishes a solid and promising foundation on which to build common cooperation strategies to serve the international community in this effort.

This is a struggle that cannot be waged alone. It requires marshaling the energy of all countries where, under one guise or another, the main protagonists in the long chain of illicit arms trafficking reside and operate, overseeing their manufacture, distribution, sale, and use by criminals ascribing unto themselves the right to terminate innocent lives.

We have taken decisive steps in common to confront the problem as a whole. But the road before is long and the challenges are great.

The welcome recent adoption in Mexico City of the “Declaration on Security in the Americas” last 28 October, 2003 provides the guide posts we need to move ahead.

A New Vision of Security

Traditional threats to security clearly subsist, but today we are forced to recognize and attend urgently to other very different realities. We have no choice but to face them squarely. Just as globalization has generated change that affects us all to a greater or lesser degree and which we cannot ignore, so too has it spawned new types of threats which no longer emerge as a result of inter-State conflict, but that are instead as likely to develop internationally as locally.

Against this backdrop, understandably enough, attention is being focused increasingly on new concepts of security. And the debate is not merely academic.

To the contrary, its implications are hugely important, both legally and politically. It can have a profound impact on decisions and actions taken to keep the peace internationally, regionally, and domestically. It will influence how individual freedoms and rights are guaranteed, as well as the protection of the collective welfare of millions whose suffering we seek to alleviate.

From that vantage point, it is noteworthy that thinking has evolved from a more circumscribed and conventional approach to security, one closely linked to International and State security, to a broader concept which surely recognizes the former view but expands its parameters to embrace a more sweeping construct, better able to encompass assorted new threats heretofore undefined. Among these, the notion of Human Security offers a multidimensional, comprehensive view of security which aims to strengthen our vulnerabilities by tackling new challenges in the political, economic, and social arenas, in health and the environment.

The countries of the hemisphere have assumed responsibility for adopting common policies and undertaking joint action reflecting their new conception of what constitutes Hemispheric Security.

A key component of that new conception is the accepted fact that each State is affected in different ways and to differing degrees by traditional threats and emerging challenges. State security priorities will thus vary.

A basic consensus has nonetheless emerged as to the new challenges before us, among which the following stand out: terrorism; the global trade in illicit drugs; organized international crime; money laundering; the illicit arms trade; trafficking in persons; attacks on cybernetic security; natural disasters, environmental degradation, and such man-made disasters and health risks as extreme poverty and social exclusion.

For all these reasons, the “Declaration on Security in the Americas” goes beyond positing an updated, broader concept of hemispheric security that encompasses new phenomena; it breaks new ground in making commitments and setting forth modes of cooperation to deal with these growing new threats.

The Member States of the hemisphere agree within this framework that “the manufacturing of and illicit trafficking in firearms, ammunitions, explosives and other related materials are a threat to hemispheric security” which “in the hands of terrorists and criminals, undermine the rule of law, engender violence and in some instances impunity, exacerbate conflict and represent a serious danger to human safety.”

Likewise, the Declaration adopted in Mexico reiterated the need for effective cooperation to prevent, combat, and eliminate this phenomenon; the value of the Convention was recognized and, what is even more significant, express mention was made of our resolve to combat it by varied means: bilaterally, multilaterally, and particularly through cooperation and consultation among CIFTA’s Consultative Committee and other relevant bodies of the OAS and the United Nations.

Having said this, I cannot fail to speak out as a Colombian citizen deeply committed to the search for wellbeing, peace, and security for all my compatriots, to underscore the gravity of the threat posed to such a country as Colombia by the manufacture and illicit trafficking of weapons, and their link to other types of international organized crime.

In our case, the scourge not only causes irreparable harm and constitutes an assault on the most elemental individual human rights; it poses a national security risk.

Colombia suffers from multiple types of violence. Society here is throttled by one of the oldest and most intractable armed conflicts in the world. Terrorism; the international drug trade; common crime; and the enormous illegal availability of arms all fuel and exacerbate violent confrontation. They cause the deaths of countless Colombian citizens; they leave homeless hundreds of thousands of people left with no choice but to become displaced; they constrain the economy and hamper national development.

We Colombians live under serious threat to our personal safety, a fact which in turn creates collateral effects, including the expulsion of persons seeking asylum in neighboring countries, and the incidence of border violence.

Stalwart and sturdy when battling age-old enemies, our institutions are now shaken daily, as surely as are our democratic forms of government. Each resists gamely by waging an ongoing fight to preserve the Rule of Law, but let me stress that a fundamental condition for doing so successfully will be the State’s recovery of its legitimate monopoly on the use of force.

An impossible task, so long as the entire international community fails to stand with us in this just and inexorable cause!

That is why, turning back to the issue before this conference, the Colombian State must fully comply with its Constitutional mandate to ensure, as a priority of the utmost urgency, that it alone may introduce and manufacture arms, war munitions, and explosives; that authorizing the possession and bearing of arms will be the sole purview of the State, to the exclusion of any entity issuing permits in this regard. Nonetheless, fulfilling the mandate will be difficult without the resolute solidarity and cooperation of the region and the world to prevent, combat, and eliminate this scourge that affects us all, however differently.

The Colombian State has fought this war for decades but is continuously overrun by multiple and ongoing incursions of illicit shipments of arms, ammunitions, and explosives destined for various illegal armed groups, drug traffickers, and common criminals. Such aggression is particularly difficult to contain. It stems not only from the deliberate and criminal action of arms dealers and their final clients, but also from the greed of some seeking quick ways to get rich, the apathy or negligence of others, and the private funneling of vast sums of money private parties channel toward corrupt government officials.

Ensuring effective compliance with the Convention we have gathered to examine constitutes a tremendous collective challenge as well as an opportunity to advance the common cause we espoused in subscribing and ratifying it.

That is my purpose as Secretary Pro Tempore in submitting the Declaration of Bogotá to you, the States Parties of CIFTA, and to the Member States of the OAS who have not become so yet but who are cordially invited to participate actively in our discussions in the hope that they will feel encouraged to ratify the Convention promptly. The Declaration was amply considered over the course of three preparatory meetings and was adopted by consensus at the last of these. We shall consider it with care subsequently.

It should be noted that following a thoughtful analysis of the possibilities and difficulties our governments face in implementing the provisions of this instrument in their entirety, and with the professional assistance of the Organization’s Secretariat for Legal Affairs, we have crafted a Draft Declaration that is fundamentally operational and meant to strengthen the activities of this Consultative Committee and to further strategic coordination with other pertinent entities of the OAS, namely with CICAD, as previously mentioned.

The Draft Declaration of Bogotá also includes a series of actions which will improve existing control mechanisms; prompt the adoption of domestic legislation in consonance with the Convention; lead to the exchange of experiences and training opportunities offered by several international organizations and cooperation agencies operating at the multilateral, regional and national levels.

I invite you to renew our commitment to each of these vital shared goals.

It would be remiss of me to end these remarks without expressing my profound gratitude to the General Secretariat of the OAS, its specialized organs and departments which have shown great dedication and energy in working toward the successful holding of this First Conference; to those various, distinguished delegations which accompanied us throughout the preparatory process and honor us today with their presence; to the representatives of the Permanent Observers among us; to the representatives of the international, regional, and sub-regional organizations whose knowledge and experience enriches our joint efforts; and to the representatives of civil society which have come to Colombia from the world over to be part of our endeavors.

Thank you.