PSAAG, in collaboration with Papua New Guinea’s Department of Foreign Affairs, co-hosted a two day workshop on ‘Advancing PNG’s Arms Control System’ on 20-21 October, Port Moresby. This was the first opportunity for PSAAG to work with the PNG government to conduct a national workshop specifically addressing PNG’s unique context. The participants highlighted that the workshop content was timely with the national elections next year. Arms have historically been used for political ends.
Throughout the past two years, the PSAAG Secretariat has had the opportunity to meet a number of Papua New Guinea government officials at sub-regional workshops on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). As an outcome of these meetings, it was identified that additional national-level training on the UN Programme of Action on Illicit Arms (UNPoA) and ATT was required. Of particular importance was raising awareness on PNG’s UNPoA reporting requirements and building capacity on the legal provisions of the ATT.
At the PNG workshop, government officials identified familiar strengths and challenges to arms control implementation, that PSAAG had encountered elsewhere throughout our region. Maritime patrol capabilities was a highlighted issue, and hence, transit and trans-shipment detailed in the ATT provisions was addressed in detail. The participants also identified the need for a national arms control list and a centralised database for arms registration and tracing.
However, as the most populous nation within the Pacific Islands region, and a state with a land boarder with West Papua (Indonesia), the workshop was an opportunity for government officials to communicate the unique issues that PNG does not have in common with neighbouring Pacific Island states.
PNG has comprehensive firearms legislation. However, the participating officials identified issues in marking and tracing, ‘home-made’ firearms and tribal conflict as challenging the enforcement domestic law and order. The UN PoA was well-received as a way to overcome some of these challenges. While developing legislation that addressed ‘home-made’ firearms was another.
The workshop was the initial national engagement to build capacity of PNG policy makers’ on the UNPoA implementation and provisions of the ATT. The workshop also identified PNG’s internal and international commitments, and the existing and foreseeable challenges as PNG considers acceding to the ATT. Despite, such challenges participants were convinced of the value of the ATT and supported the need for ATT accession by PNG.