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Pacific Islands Society

PO Box 632 | Ebensburg, PA 15931 | USA


843.271.6891 ph pacificislandssociety.org web
Domestic Non-Profit Organization
Young Leader on Disarmament:
Statement to the U.N. Conference
on Disarmament
By Ms. Charity Porotesano
Published: March 27, 2014

Today the world faces new and unique
challenges as a result of globalization. As
countries economies become more
interconnected, the spread of conflict and the
proliferation of arms have intensified. Hence,
the immediacy for the CD to take action has
never been greater.

These threats to security and peace have long
made their way onto our distant shores. In fact,
Pacific Island Countries (PICs) face increased
transnational criminal activities as a result of
small arms and light weapons (SAWL)
proliferation in the region.

In my home of American Samoa, we worry that
our sons and daughters in the military might be
called to serve in conflicts occurring in other
parts of the world. Already, we have paid the
ultimate sacrifice for peace with the lives of our
Toa o Samoa, military warriors. American
Samoa holds the highest death rate per capita
of any U.S. state or territory in the Wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan.

We also worry about the possibility of a
catastrophic nuclear explosion, for according to
American Samoas Lt. Governor Lemanu Peleti
Mauga, there is no immediate plan for
humanitarian emergencies for American Samoa
in the event of a nuclear weapons explosion.
Let us not forget that even after fifty years,
radioactive contamination from US nuclear
testing continue to pose considerable
environmental and health risks to the people of
the Marshall Islands.

Despite the perils that accompany globalization,
I believe that our global interconnectedness can
be an asset in creating a safer world. As the
worlds foremost multilateral disarmament
forum, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) is
in the best position to prevent the occurrence of
devastating attacks.

Unfortunately, the CD has failed to make
progress because mistrust between states
keeps the CD mired in its seventeen-year
impasse. The CD cannot afford to remain in this
deadlock.

As economies draw closer, issues become
more interwoven and hence more complex than
needed. In order to move forward, the CD must
adapt to the times and become more inclusive
and transparent. Allow me to make a few
suggestions that will help the CD become a
more accessible institution.

First, I urge you to make agenda item number
seven (transparency in armaments) a top
priority. I would like to applaud those countries
that have faithfully fulfilled the annual
requirements of the UN Register on
Conventional Weapons. Not only does this
example lead the way for responsible
governance, their efforts show us that
transparency is possible.


Charity Anna Porotesano is a 2013 2014
Young Pacific Leader on Disarmament. She is
also a former Truman Fellow and a recent
graduate from Grinell College. She hails from
American Samoa.
Horizons
Insights and Analysis from Next
Generation Leaders
Pacific Islands Society Horizons | March 27, 2014
Regrettably, most states do not treat
transparency with the importance it deserves.
The number of UN member states providing
data to the Register is at the lowest since it was
created in 1991. This paucity in reporting is
indicative not only of a lacking political will but
also of apprehension.

However, armament reporting is much more
than publishing information, it is about states
making the effort to communicate better and
improve relations. As nations cooperate to
collectively address security problems for
mutual benefit, transparency can help eliminate
misperceptions states have of one another and
clarify misunderstandings of each others
foreign affairs.

The United Nations Programme of Action (PoA)
already provides a range of control
mechanisms to monitor conventional weapons
and promote transparency. Voluntary data
reporting alone is no longer enough to create
true transparency between states.

Therefore, I propose that the CD take the PoA
one step further and make it a legally binding
treaty to include both conventional weapons
and weapons of mass destruction. By virtue of
its legal authority, the creation of a
comprehensive, transparent treaty provides
states with no other choice than to let their
guards down and report about their armament
reserves.

Next, the CD must open its door wider to NGOs.
The CD has made efforts to improve NGO
engagement such as allocating one informal
plenary meeting to NGOs. The truth is that
these efforts are not enough. The CD must
create capacities where NGOs can engage in
meaningful participation because countries with
very limited resources need NGOs to be as
knowledgeable about disarmament affairs as
possible. PICs, indeed, lack many resources
and therefore need the services and expertise
of NGOs. The more informed an NGO, the
better its resources will be.

The CD can also become more accessible by
reaching out to countries regionally; for doing
so would help the PICs access the necessary
resources to draft and implement legislation.

The Pacific Island Forum (PIF) Deputy Secretary
General Feleti P. Teo has already
acknowledged that due to a shortage of
lawyers, a single government lawyer performs a
gamut of responsibilities each day. These
responsibilities include running a criminal
prosecution, advising a Cabinet on a new
commercial tender, and drafting legislation for
international treaties.

Teos insight shows us what it really means to
lack resources, a fact that cannot be
overstated. The governments of PICs have
insurmountable workloads but only very few
qualified, educated persons to do the work.
Resources are allocated to the most immediate
needs, which often times pushes international
work to the wayside. On top of that, the lack of
funding makes it very difficult for Pacific states
to send officials to Geneva.

American Samoa, for example, has only two
flights to Hawaii per week. These flight
infrequencies are also the case for many other
small Pacific Island Countries. With very
minimal participation in the CD, many PICs
remain uninformed about the CD in general.
The CD can work hand in hand with NGOs to
spread awareness of available resources to
different governments. The CD can also
conduct training in drafting legislation with the
PIFs Law Officers Network in addition to other
appropriate authorities (e.g. Foreign Affairs and
Defense).

Lastly, I strongly urge the CD to promote
educational outreach programs and build on
the disarmament education efforts of UN
resolution 65/77. Educational programs are the
most proactive way to enhance accessibility
because they directly engage people. Twenty-
two years since the end of the Cold War, I find
that people in general have become
complacent with the state of disarmament
affairs.

For people in the Pacific, I think the lack of
interest can be attributed to our distance from
Pacific Islands Society Horizons | March 27, 2014
Pacific Islands Society
PO Box 632 | Ebensburg, PA 15931 | USA
843.271.6891 ph pacificislandssociety.org web
Domestic Non-Profit Organization
Geneva or to the mentality that disarmament
issues are only for world powers to discuss.

Nevertheless, disarmament concerns everyone,
and so the CD should consider education as a
means to combat this growing sense of
complacency. I would like to encourage the CD
to begin educational programs with the very
young because they are the change that will
make a difference in the future.

As revealed by the Oslo Conference on the
Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons this
past March, a nuclear explosion hurts
development in many countries, especially
some of the most marginalized groups in
society: women and children. So, while the CD
represents the views of states, at the end of the
day, the work you do really represents everyone
from the people, to the environment, to the other
creatures on this planet.

So I challenge you and the Conference to keep
this great responsibility in mind when the
politics overwhelm the process. The people of
the world deserve the transparency and
accessibility necessary to hold the CD
accountable to move forward on disarmament
measures, which will be to the benefit of
everyone.

There is so much work to be done but I have
faith in the human ability to keep trying. So, I
wish you and the Conference all the best.

Faafetai tele lava.

The views expressed are those of the author.