July 30, 1997


On June 5, 1997 the OASGA meeting in Lima, Peru adopted a significant resolution (attached) on transparency in conventional arms acquisitions. 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) with the goal of adopting such a legal framework at the next Summit of the Americas. The resolution also appeals on the international community to support this effort.

In recent years, advances in the establishment and promotion of confidence and security building measures (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. Next year, another follow-on ministerial on CSBMs is tentatively scheduled for February 1998. The Declaration of Santiago provides, inter alia, that each country gradually adopt agreements regarding advance notification of military exercises, exchange information, participate in the UN Registers of Conventional Arms and Military Expenditures, promote exchanges of information concerning defense policies and doctrines, and invite foreign observers to military exercises.

The Declaration of Santiago on CSBMs is an important watershed 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 and preventing unnecessary arms purchases.

The transparency arrangement foreseen in the OAS General Assembly Resolution 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, and hence to avoid unnecessary arms procurement based on a misperception of what others in the region are purchasing. Such a measure also 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.