The Chair of the 2nd Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Regional Workshop on UNPoA and Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), Mr Edmond Heau of the Department of Commerce, Solomon Islands welcomed members of the MSG, PSAAG and Civil Society Organisations to the Workshop held at the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila from 1 -2 September 2015.
In his opening remarks, Mr Heau conveyed the appreciation of the members of the MSG to the Pacific Small Arms Action Group PSAAG) through Ms Laura Spano and her staff for the funding assistance and content provided towards this workshop which is an important security issue of the MSG as a leading organization in the region.
The Chair explained that the global increase in illicit trade of small arms across borders, diversion of arms and official stock and other illicit activities associated with arms trade has necessitated the drafting of a multilateral agreement on Arms Trade.
“This treaty will enable UN Member countries to regulate international transfers with the view to strengthening domestic laws for the purpose of effecting export and import control mechanisms,” added Mr Heau.
He further reminded participants that in the regional context, MSG members have had their share of armed violence over the past decade and that is why the discussions this week are very important to the grouping. Mr Heau said that although concerns have been raised in our region that reporting on the UN PoA on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) has been inconsistent and has the lowest reporting rate in Oceania and he anticipates that this workshop will look at these challenges and how the MSG can address these issues.
Ms Laura Spano of PSAAG also informed the participants that the workshop is being held less than a week after the conclusion of the Conference of State Parties on the Arms Trade Treaty in Cancun Mexico which highlighted a number of issues concerning the region. She further added that the purpose of two-day workshop is to primarily raise awareness on the Arms Trade Treaty in the region and to realize the status of the Treaty in the countries of the region that have not yet ratified the treaty.
In response, the Acting Director General of the MSG Secretariat, Mr Molean Kilepak said that the Secretariat is positive that the workshop will assist members to discuss and action some of the remaining issues regarding the Treaty as some members are still yet to sign and ratify the treaty. He confirmed that Vanuatu is the only MSG member that has signed the Treaty.
Mr Kilepak also took the opportunity to equally acknowledge and thank the participation of civil society organisations who have agreed to be part of the workshop. “We can work together as one team in raising awareness to ensure our people understand the importance of having a treaty to regulate illicit use of arms and light weapons,” concluded Mr Kilepak.