First Observatory Report
April 1, 2006
Each day, more and more of us parliamentarians work for control over small arms and light weapons. We do so because we consider them as the true weapons of mass destruction, bringing each minute, in some part of the world, a life to end. We are convinced that combating the proliferation of small arms is an urgent task for every parliamentarian who is devoted to the promotion of peace, both between our nations, and within our societies. How do we fulfill that task? In principle, there is no certain or exhaustive answer to that question. The diversity of parliamentary activities is, and always shall be, a fundamental feature of every democratic society. Accordingly, the parliamentary work for disarmament and control over small arms, also takes on various expressions. Some of these are known and put to practice, such as e.g. ratification of the relevant international instruments, while others are still to be identified and explored. What is clear, nonetheless, is that parliamentary measures for arms control, can and should be furthered. The Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons, an organisation composed by parliamentarians, is dedicated to promote parliamentary activity in favour of small arms control, to translating the clear political will for such control, into concrete parliamentary action. Seeking to accomplish that objetive, it has stood clear that the Forum needs to identify, describe and suggest types and examples of parliamentary initiatives, distilled from that diversity of parliamentary activities for greater control over small arms, which are or could be undertaken. Which measures are at hand? How can they be applied? What can I demand from the Executive power? What international commitments require my parliamentary attention and initiative? How can I convince my electorate? What have my parliamentary colleagues in other countries promoted? What successful experiences can I share with them? The Parliamentary Observatory, a mechanism of the Forum, takes on to formulate, channel and respond those questions – from a parliamentary perspective. Hence, this first report of the Observatory is a compilation of best practices, precisely geard towards that idea on furthering the parliamentary work for small arms control. Its aim is to observe the parliamentary actions undertaken for the purposes of reducing armed violence. Since this is the first report from the Observatory, based on best practices and the parliamentary example, the report will not limit itself to study elements too narrowly defined, nor just those countries which already count with a regular and active participation in the Forum. Rather, the report adopts a generic approach and its analysis is divided into three basic headings: legislative initiatives, control over the Executive power, and aspects regarding awareness-raising and the creation of public opinion. On that account, it is worth noting that the report should not be read as an annual summary of the forum members’ activities. Nonetheless, it is the Forum’s intention that this first effort shall lay the grounds for a more systematized and continuous observance of the parliamentary activities in this field, and likewise that those countries, where we look for and find the best practices.