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Participants in the first panel addressed the concerns of trade associations and legitimate arms owners, including hunters and sport shooters around the world. Speakers highlighted the hunters’ contribution to wildlife conservation efforts and their positive impact on national economies. Cooperation between governments and non-governmental organizations, under the Programme of Action, should be as broad as possible and include non-governmental organizations from the hunting and shooting community.

CARLO PERONI, President of the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities -- a non-governmental organization comprising over 40 hunting, sport shooting and trade associations with over 10 million individual members worldwide -- said his statement was a message of good faith and cooperation. Both were essential if there was to be real progress in the fight against illicit small arms. Unfortunately, there were those who ignored the fact that hundreds of millions of hunters and sport shooters were legitimate stakeholders in the process. The Meeting’s efforts at inclusion and transparency were to be commended. “Please do not ignore or demonize us. We want to work with you in good faith. We are not a problem -- we are part of the solution”, he said.

SEZANEH SEYMORE, Safari Club International, highlighted the positive contribution of hunters and sport shooters worldwide. According to the Swiss Small Arms Survey, over 377 million small arms were legally owned by civilians. Hunters and sport shooters played an important conservation and economic role and they were not the people upon whom United Nations efforts should focus.

Several panellists focused on the human cost of small arms and light weapons, which included loss of lives, trauma, lack of development, lost opportunities, violence and conflict. Small arms affected the lives of individuals and whole communities. For every one of the estimated 350,000 people who died from small arms use and misuse every year, the World Health Organization ( WHO ) cautioned that there may well be three times the number of survivors with physical injuries, as well as mental and emotional trauma.

A speaker said that health-care services in some developing countries were over-burdened with gunfire victims, who often had poor chances of survival. A single hospital in El Salvador, for example, could see 60 victims in one day. In treating victims of small arms, attention was diverted from such important issues as children’s vaccinations, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and maternal health.

Guns were bad for health, a physician said, summarizing the discussion on misuse of small arms. Physicians needed to address their concerns to governments, helping the international community to understand the impact of small arms and light weapons on national health systems. The public-health sector could help evaluate the implementation of the Programme of Action and present its recommendations on the matter. By removing guns from circulation, governments were not only saving lives, they were also saving money. Prevention was better than cure.

According to WHO, men accounted for over 90 per cent of homicide victims globally. Young, poor and socially marginalized men constituted the largest group of victims and perpetrators of gun violence. However, human behaviour was the product of society and not biology, so it was important not to stereotype.

Also emphasized in the discussion was the role of women in efforts to curb the uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons. Women were also victims, and they were acting as agents of change globally. While largely excluded from formal peace-making efforts, women were participating in programmes to introduce peace education in schools, collect weapons and provide assistance to victims. Efforts to combat small arms proliferation should include women at all levels. States should meet existing international norms on gender participation and eliminate male-dominated attitudes. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmers and planners should pay attention to relevant Security Council resolutions, which stressed the role of women in peace efforts.

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* FW Note:


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