A bonfire of weapons in the city center of The Hague will mark the kickoff Tuesday of an international campaign against small arms, in which Human Rights Watch and 200 other organization are taking part.
Small arms have been the only weapons used in 46 out of the 49 wars since 1990, and an estimated 500 million small arms are in circulation globally. Three million civilians—almost equivalent to the entire population of Ireland—have been killed by small arms since 1990.
Weapons in the bonfire have been donated by governments around the world to launch the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), which will be the biggest international movement since the landmines campaign. IANSA's founding members come from human rights, development and relief organizations, as well as gun control, victim support, and local community groups.
"At one time or another, we have all been confronted by the threat that small arms pose," said Loretta Bondì, advocacy coordinator for the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. "This campaign will aim to reduce the demand for small arms, to expose the illegal arms trade, and to prevent the supply of these weapons to human rights abusers."
The IANSA launch takes place on the eve of the Hague Appeal for Peace—a five day conference of over 6,000 activists and nongovernmental organizations to establish civil society's agenda for the next millennium.
'Flame of Peace' bonfire of guns:
Time: 11.30am, Tuesday 11 May.
Location: Het Plein, The Hague.
Speakers: José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize winner
Olara Otunnu, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict
Ambassador Kiplagat, International Resource Group, Kenya
Mick North, Gun Control Network
Time: 2pm, Tuesday, May 11, 1999
Location: The Netherlands Congress Center, The Hague
The speakers will give a more detailed explanation of the need for a new support and campaigning network, and the work of IANSA.