October 9, 1998

POSSIBLE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES (OAS) CONVENTION ON TRANSPARENCY IN ARMS ACQUISITION

In order to initiate a process for discussing the OAS General Assembly mandate for greater transparency on weapons procurement in the hemisphere, the United States and Brazil presented a joint proposal to other OAS member states on a convention for transparency in arms acquisitions. On October 6, 1998, the OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security voted unanimously to establish a formal working group to negotiate the language of this convention. The establishment of this working group brings to fruition two years of intense consultations by ACDA, the State Department and Brazil to implement a concrete Confidence and Security Building Measure (CSBM) in the region.

On June 5, 1997, the OASGA meeting in Lima, Peru adopted a significant resolution on transparency in conventional arms acquisitions (AG/RES. 1500 XXVII-0/97). The resolution resolves that the OAS consider the desirability of approving a legal framework on the issue of advance notification of major arms acquisitions covered by the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (The UN Register is an annual report by member states on their arms imports and exports of seven categories of weapons -- battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers). This OAS mandate was renewed at the June 1998 Caracas General Assembly (AG/RES. 1570 XXVIII-0/98).

In recent years, advances in the establishment and promotion of CSBMs and transparency in the region have strengthened military-to-military relations and decreased historic rivalries and tensions in the western hemisphere. Further progress on CSBMs will contribute to creating a regional environment that allows democratic governments to maintain and modernize defense forces without triggering suspicions from their neighbors or leading to an arms race.

In 1994, under the auspices of the Organization of American States, a CSBMs experts meeting was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Chile hosted a successful Vice-Ministerial Conference on CSBMs in November 1995 which led to the adoption of the Declaration of Santiago. The Declaration of Santiago provides, inter alia, that each country gradually adopt agreements regarding advance notification of military exercises; exchange information; participate in the U.N. Registers of Conventional Arms and Military Expenditures; promote exchanges of information concerning defense policies and doctrines; and invite foreign observers to military exercises.

A follow-on ministerial on CSBMs to Santiago was held in El Salvador in 1998. On February 27, 1998, the OAS Conference issued a consensus "Declaration of San Salvador on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures." Participating countries identified CSBMs that complement the 1995 Santiago Declaration. The Declaration recommended the application of CSBMs such as: a meeting of parliamentarians; teaching the application of CSBMs; cooperation among neighboring countries; promoting the exchange of information on the organization, structure, size, and composition of the armed forces; supporting the efforts of the small island states to address their special security concerns; and providing additional information to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

The Declarations of Santiago and San Salvador on CSBMs are important watersheds in building Inter-American cooperative efforts to build further confidence in the Americas. Today the Americas face the challenge of finding specific ways to enhance openness and transparency. Within an environment of future modernization efforts by countries, CSBMs and increased transparency will be essential to maintaining regional confidence and stability.

The transparency arrangement foreseen in the OAS General Assembly Resolutions would make it easier for countries in the region to evaluate their security situation, as far as it is related to arms procurement by other countries. Such a measure would create an environment even more conducive to trust, confidence, and mutual restraint. Transparency in arms acquisition would also make it possible to devote maximum resources to the economic and social development of OAS member states, one of the basic purposes of the OAS Charter.




Twenty-Seventh Regular Session
Organization of American States
June 5, 1997
Lima, Peru

Mutual Confidence in the Americas

The General Assembly,

RECOGNIZING:

That the strengthening of peace and security in the Hemisphere is an essential purpose of the OAS and that economic and social development and cooperation among its member states are fundamental to its achievement;

That, in accordance with the Charter of the OAS and the Charter of the UN, the member states have the right to maintain armed forces for individual and collective self-defense; and

The importance of confidence-building measures for regional and international peace and security;

EMPHASIZING that the application of confidence- and security-building measures helps establish a climate conducive to effective limitation of conventional weapons, which makes it possible to devote maximum resources to the economic and social development of member states, one of the basic purposes of the OAS Charter;

REAFFIRMING the Declaration of Santiago on confidence- and security-building measures adopted on November 10, 1995, which recommended, in the best possible manner, the application of confidence- and security-building measures;

RECALLING ITS COMMITMENTS IN RESOLUTION AG/RES. 1179 (XXII-0/92) TO:

Accept as a guiding principle of regional disarmament, arms control and limitation policies the requirement to enhance security and stability at the lowest possible levels of forces consistent with defense requirements and international commitments;

Express the commitment of the Organization to effectively contribute to the efforts being made at the international level toward the strengthening of peace and security;

Maintain only such military capabilities as are necessary for self-defense and fulfillment of international commitments, consistent with their Constitutions, laws and the principles and purpose of the OAS and UN Charters; and

Exercise restraint in conventional arms transfers with a view to preventing excessive or destabilizing arms build-ups;

AWARE that the preservation of a balance in the defense capabilities of states at the lowest level of armaments would contribute to peace and stability and should be a prime objective of conventional arms control;

CONVINCED that endeavors by countries to promote regional disarmament, taking into account the specific characteristics of each region and in accordance with the principle of undiminished security at the lowest level of armaments, would enhance the security of states and would thus contribute to international peace and security by reducing the risk of regional conflicts;

TAKING NOTE:

Of OAS resolutions AG/RES. 1409 (XXVI-0/96) and AG/RES. 1284 (XXIV-0/94), and United Nations resolution 50/70D of December 12, 1995, on transparency in armaments and that an enhanced level of transparency could contribute to confidence-building and security among States;

That the increase in openness and transparency in the arms field contributes to building mutual confidence, reducing tensions, and strengthening regional and international peace and security, and may contribute to decreasing the acquisition, production, and transfer of arms;

That there is consensus among the member states on the implementation of confidence-building measures, which include, in particular, transparency and exchange of information on arms.

RESOLVES:

1. That the Permanent Council, through the Committee on Hemispheric Security consider the desirability of approving a legal framework on the issue of advance notification of major arms acquisitions covered by the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, as a means to achieve an effective limitation of conventional weapons that will make it possible to devote the largest amount of resources to the economic and social development of the member states, in accordance with Article 2 (g) of the OAS Charter.

2. If the Permanent Council decides on the desirability of a legal framework then it will draft it with the goal of adopting such a legal framework at the next Summit of the Americas to be celebrated in Santiago, Chile.

3. To appeal to the international community to support this effort.