At the 2018 UN small arms review conference, governments agreed to use national points of contact to strengthen the exchange of information and other forms of international cooperation. This bulletin fills that gap.
We aim to inform national authorities every six months on good practices in small arms control and the latest developments in the United Nations, so that they have access to the most authoritative and tested methods and policies.
If you, as a national official working on effective small arms control, are easily able to retrieve state-of-the-art tools and information, this will contribute to the goal of ‘disarmament saving lives’: the key objective on conventional arms regulation in the UN Secretary-General’s ‘Disarmament Agenda’.
In September, Member States convened for the opening of the 75th session of the General Assembly against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The unconventional high-level segment began with a virtual commemoration to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, followed by the general debate from 22 through 29 September. Most Heads of State, Heads of Government, and other senior authorities addressed the new session of the Assembly via video message with a focus on this year’s theme—”The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism.” Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of interventions focused on the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic and how international cooperation, including in the framework of the United Nations, remains essential to fighting the virus.
Following the high-level segment, the General Assembly’s First Committee which deals with disarmament and international security matters convenes over the course of five weeks from 9 October through 4 November. Informal exchanges with the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and civil society, as well as briefings by Chairs of relevant subsidiary bodies such as groups of governmental experts, will be held in a virtual format. In order to minimize the number of in-person sessions, the Committee will forego thematic cluster debates, and instead have only a general debate followed by meetings dedicated to action on resolutions and decisions.
Following a decision of the General Assembly to postpone to Seventh Biennial Meeting of States on the Programme of Action (BMS7) due to COVID-19, the annual resolution on “The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” is expected to set new dates for BMS7. The current proposal for BMS7 to be held are 26 to 30 July 2021.
The resolution on “Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus” will also be tabled at this session by lead sponsor Germany. This item was placed on the agenda for 2020 in anticipation of the completion of the work of the group of governmental experts (GGE) established pursuant to resolution A/RES/72/55 in 2017. However, the Group’s work was postponed due to COVID-19 and thus the First Committee is expected to take note of the postponement and address the continuation of the Group’s work in 2021.
Other resolutions related to small arms and light weapons that are traditionally adopted on an annual basis include those on “Assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them” and “The Arms Trade Treaty”. The biennial resolution “Countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices” will also be tabled this year by lead sponsor Afghanistan. Trinidad and Tobago will table the resolution “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control” celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The report of the Secretary-General on small arms and light weapons was published and includes a consolidation of requests from the General Assembly contained in resolution 74/60 on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects and resolution 74/51 on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them.
The report provides an overview of challenges related to the diversion of small arms and light weapons at the national, regional and international levels and includes an overview of good practices, lessons learned and recommendations on preventing and combating the diversion and illicit international transfer of small arms and light weapons to unauthorized recipients. The views of Member States, the United Nations system, the International Criminal Police Organization and the World Customs Organization are also reflected in the report.
The report has been prepared in preparation for the Seventh Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (BMS7), which will consider key challenges and opportunities relating to the implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument at the national, regional and global levels for the purposes of preventing and combating the diversion and the illicit international transfer of small arms and light weapons to unauthorized recipients.
BMS7 has been postponed to 2021 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and is tentatively scheduled for 26 to 30 July 2021, pending the adoption of the dates by the General Assembly.
On 24 September 2020, the Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC) launched three new modules, bringing the total number of available modules to 21:
- 02.20 Small arms and light weapons control in the context of Security Sector Reform (SSR)
- 02.30 Small arms and light weapons control in the context of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)
- 04.40 Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting
The successful launch of the modules on SSR and DDR would not have been possible absent close cooperation and collaboration with the SSR Unit and DDR Section of the UN Office for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI).
The module on SALW control in the context of SSR is intended to provide guidance primarily for small-arms-control project managers / project implementers on operationalizing the linkages between small arms control and SSR. It also seeks to provide insights to support the development of synergies between the two issue-areas and, in so doing, to head off contradictions in the design, implementation and sequencing of different elements of small arms control and SSR programmes.
Similarly, the module on SALW control in the context of DDR provides guidance on designing and implementing SALW control activities – both disarmament and transitional weapons and ammunition management (TWAM) – in the context of DDR. It aims to equip practitioners with the basic legal, programmatic and technical knowledge to design and implement safe and effective disarmament and TWAM activities in both mission and non-mission contexts.
Finally, the new module on Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting sets out the guiding principles, different purposes and key methodological considerations for monitoring, evaluation and reporting of SALW control interventions.
All modules are available on www.un.org/disarmament/mosaic.
The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) launched the Spanish and French versions of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATGs). The IATG support States in their efforts to improve national stockpile management, with the twofold aim of reducing the hazard to local communities from unplanned explosions and mitigating the risks to wider communities posed by the uncontrolled proliferation of ammunition.
These Guidelines – originally published in English in 2011 under the UN Safer Guard Programme – form a frame of reference to achieve and demonstrate effective levels of safety and security of ammunition stockpiles. Based on sound and accepted explosive science, they provide an integrated approach to a quality management ammunition system and allow for improvements in safety and security in line with good practice and international normative and legal frameworks.
Currently, the IATG (version 2) are available in Arabic, English, Portuguese and Russian. A few modules have also been translated into German.
The governments of Germany and Switzerland financially supported the translations of the IATG to Spanish and French, respectively. To access the complete compendium of Guidelines, please access the following link: www.un.org/disarmament/un-saferguard/guide-lines/.
Weapons and ammunition management (WAM) has become increasingly central to the work of UN peace operations, including as part of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) activities and processes.
To support comprehensive DDR efforts, the United Nations Department of Peace Operations (DPO) and the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) are implementing a joint initiative on “Effective Weapons and Ammunition Management in a Changing Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Context.
Under this joint initiative, the Integrated DDR Standards (IDDRS) (sub-) modules on “Disarmament” (4.10) and “Transitional Weapons and Ammunition Management” (4.11) were recently published. A new MOSAIC module on “Small arms and light weapons control in the context of DDR” (2.30), firmly based on IDDRS 4.10 and 4.11, was subsequently published.
In collaboration with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the 2020 annual training course on WAM for DDR practitioners (based on a practical handbook –available in English and French) is being rolled out in a participatory, virtual format in November in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. To complement the training, an online Community of Practice “WAM & DDR Hub” was established, bringing together DDR practitioners and WAM experts to connect, network and share experiences, advice and guidance.
This joint initiative also provides technical assistance on WAM to peace operations. In support of the transition from a peacekeeping operation to a special political mission, a technical assessment mission was deployed to Haiti in August 2019, which led to the development of follow-on activities, including support from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) on a comprehensive national firearms law.
The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) published a Briefing Paper and Podcast on the gender dimensions of ammunition management, developed in close cooperation with the research institute Small Arms Survey.
Unplanned ammunition depot explosions, as well as conflict, violence and crime resulting from ammunition diversion, affect women, men, girls and boys differently. Responding to these challenges requires the integration of gender considerations across the lifecycle of ammunition. However, to date, there is insufficient knowledge available about the link between gender and ammunition management.
The Briefing Paper and accompanying Podcast attempts to narrow this knowledge gap by examining the gender dimensions of ammunition management and highlighting key entry points in all phases of the life-cycle management of ammunition. The Paper makes important recommendations on increasing the involvement of women in all aspects of ammunition management and relevant parts of the security sector.
UNODA presented the Briefing Paper at a Virtual Launch Event on 29 October 2020 and recorded a Podcast with the author to further raise awareness of the Paper’s main findings.
As of 7 October 2020, PoA/ITI national reports (covering the implementation period 2018 and 2019) have been received from 80 States. (https://smallarms.un-arm.org/national-reports) Since national reports are past due, it is strongly encouraged to submit them as soon as possible, if your Government has not done so already.
Pursuant to the RevCon3 outcome document, international and regional organizations are encouraged to share information on their focal points and implementation of PoA and ITI. Relevant reports have been submitted by INTERPOL, NATO, OSCE, RECSA and WCO. Other applicable organizations are encouraged to do so.
Further information on reporting is available in the BMS7 website.
Disarmament is at the heart of the system of collective security set out in the United Nations Charter.
The purpose of this system was nothing less than the elimination of war as an instrument of foreign policy “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.
Disarmament and arms control are tools to help prevent armed conflict and to mitigate its impacts when it occurs. Measures for disarmament and arms control are pursued for many reasons, including to maintain international peace and security, uphold the principles of humanity, protect civilians, promote sustainable development, and prevent and end armed conflict.
Young people, the largest generation in history, have a critical role to play in raising awareness and developing new approaches to bring about change to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms, including their proliferation.
By its resolution 74/64 of 12 December 2019, entitled “Youth, Disarmament and Non-proliferation”, the General Assembly reaffirmed the important and positive contribution that young people can make in sustaining peace and security.
In his Agenda for Disarmament, issued in May 2018, the Secretary-General recognized young people as a tremendous force for change in the world who have “proved their power time and again in support of the cause of disarmament”. In this connection, he committed the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), in partnership with all interested entities, to further invest in disarmament education, including through the establishment of a platform for youth engagement.
Recognizing the importance of young people in effecting change, UNODA launched the #Youth4Disarmament initiative in August 2019 to connect geographically diverse young people with experts to learn about current international security challenges, the work of the United Nations and how they can actively participate.
By placing youth engagement and empowerment at the core of its disarmament education efforts, UNODA aims to support the Secretary-General’s recommendation to improve youth access to technical support and capacity-building while providing space for their participation in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. UNODA aims to impart knowledge and skills to young people and empower them to make their contribution to disarmament and sustaining peace, as national and world citizens.
For more information on the #Youth4Disarmament including its projects and activities please visit www.youth4disarmament.org.
UNLIREC conducts Specialized Courses on Firearms Investigations from a Gender Perspective for Officials from Costa Rica and Argentina
The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) conducted its Specialized Course on Firearms Investigations from a Gender Perspective (FIGP) from 18 to 31 August for Argentina and from 25 August to 4 September 2020 for Costa Rica.
In total, more than 80 officials from both countries were trained. In Argentina, 50 officials from the Judiciary were trained, including prosecutors, judges, ministers of provincial courts and authorities of specialized bodies on gender-based violence against women. Notably, forensic experts and specialized police personnel working on criminal investigations and ballistics also participated, providing an inter-institutional approach. In Costa Rica, the target audience included officials from the Judicial Branch, including prosecutors from the Public Ministry, as well as investigators and training managers specializing in firearms from the Judicial Investigation Agency and School.
The course addressed theoretical and technical aspects of criminal investigations and the way in which a gender perspective – as a method of analysis – can contribute to formulating conclusions free of stereotypes and based on objective scientific or technical studies. For training purposed, case studies highlighted the absence of a gender perspective in firearms investigations and the violation of rights this implies for victims and their families. Both courses took place virtually and included six interactive meetings.
The course also highlighted the importance of appropriately handling the crime scene and firearms and ammunition as physical evidence in the gendered investigation of crimes against women. Throughout the course, good practices were shared, and participants were urged to strengthen coordination and cooperation between all actors involved in the different stages of the judicial investigation, with the aim of optimising their individual and collective efforts to tackle firearms-related crimes. This requires special attention to cases of gender-based violence, thus contributing to reductions in impunity levels and to strengthening the capacities of institutions in the justice and security sectors.
The course concluded with a practical group exercise via a newly developed on-line platform, whereby participants had to apply the content observed in the classes: preservation of the crime scene, search and prioritisation of evidence supported by the gender perspective for the formulation of the preliminary hypothesis of events.
This activity forms part of UNLIREC’s ‘Women, Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-proliferation Programme’, supported by the Government of Canada and the European Union.
States create Political Momentum to “Silence the Guns” in September 2020 as they commemorate the Africa Amnesty Month
With joint support from the African Union Commission, UNODA and the Regional Centre on Small Arms, RECSA, seven African countries campaigned to support the African Union flagship initiative of “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020” commemorating the Africa Amnesty Month in September this year.
Through widespread nation-wide outreach on the harmful effects of illegal gun-ownership, National Small Arms Commissions and Focal Points for small arms control in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya, Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo created significant political momentum in the fight against the illicit proliferation of small arms in Africa.
One key component of the project was the involvement of youth through nation-wide slogan contests where young women and men were encouraged to share their ideas and thoughts on a slogan for the Amnesty Month Campaign. High levels of participation reflected the interest these young men and women show in the subject of peace and security as well as their general willingness to play an active role in shaping the future of their countries and the continent.
The presence of high-level government officials at the launch events helped elevate the subject of small arms control within the countries’ political agendas supporting to engage law enforcement and the media to effectively reach out to the public and spread the message to hand over illegal small arms to the authorities.
In the Central African Republic, the President of the Republic, Faustin Archange Touadera, launched the initiative and underlined the “crucial role disarmament plays for sustainable peace in the country”. Quoting the winning slogan of the youth campaign:
“Voluntary hand-over of weapons means free movement of goods and people, voluntary hand-over of weapons means security, voluntary hand-over of weapons means fewer conflicts”, the Head of State called upon Central Africans to hand over illegally owned weapons during September and October 2020.
Sending a strong message for peace obsolete weapons collected during the national Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration process were destroyed during the launch event.
To complement outreach and sensitization activities, the project also includes national-level capacity building through the organization of workshops on Physical Security and Stockpile Management for national law enforcement as well as community-based policing concepts. In Burkina Faso and Cameroon, national small arms commissions implemented specific workshop formats on topics such as “Gender and Small Arms Control”, encouraging the participation of women at all levels of the small arms control continuum, as well as the sensitization of local craft weapon producers.
Through active participation, design, and steering capacity by national, regional, and continental partners, the initiative has shown a high degree of ownership and traction at the national level raising awareness on working together towards peace by silencing the guns.
National small arms commissions and focal points together with civil society organizations will continue activities, weapon collection and destruction throughout the month of October. Countries that launched activities later carry on up to December 2020.
October 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. With the landmark resolution, the Security Council addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women for the very first time and stressed the importance of women in conflict prevention and resolution, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian responses and post-conflict reconstruction.
Over the past 20 years, the Council adopted several follow-on resolutions – known as the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda – which guide the work on promoting gender equality and strengthened women’s participation, protection and rights in efforts to prevent conflict and build sustainable peace throughout the conflict cycle.
The increasing convergence of the WPS and the small arms control agendas has been illustrated particularly in Security Council Resolution 2122 (2013) and 2242 (2015). The later includes explicit references on the impact of arms and armed conflict on women, sexual violence against women, and to the key role women have in small arms control.
The latest report of the Secretary-General on small arms and light weapons to the Seurity Council also stresses the important link between the agendas and calles for a better integrataton of small arms and light weapons considerations into the WPS agenda, including in the context of sexual violence in conflict.
The WPS agenda consists of four pillars – Participation; Protection; Prevention; and Relief and Recovery – all of which must take into account small arms and light weapons comprehensively. The synchronization of National Action Plans (NAPs) on small arms and light weapons and NAPs on WPS at the national and regional levels could be a stepping stone for a more coherent and synergized approach, as would the regular exchange and interaction of SALW and WPS national and regional focal points.
The 20th anniversary of the WPS agenda provides an opportunity for the global community to take stock and to renew its commitments to achieving the objectives set out in the WPS agenda, including through small arms control.
The recent research paper by UNIDIR is beneficial to identifying entry points for further synergies and calls such as the one by Izumi Nakamitsu, United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and Ambassador Selma Ashipala-Musavyi of Namibia provide impetus for accelerated progress towards gender equality, based on effective, gendered arms control and disarmament.
MOSAIC is a set of voluntary practical guidance notes on the full range of small arms control measures, organized into 24 modules (21 completed and 3 under development). We have highlighted eleven of these modules in the three previous issues of the Bulletin:
- Setting up national coordinating mechanisms;
- Stockpile management;
- Conducting small arms survey;
- Improving national manufacturing controls;
- Designing and implementing a national action plan;
- Tracing illicit small arms and light weapons;
- Improving national controls over international transfers;
- Designing and implementing community safety programming; and
- Marking and record-keeping
- Women, men and the gendered nature of SALW
- Children, adolescents, youth and SALW
In this issue, we will focus on the remaining modules in the Operational Series (Series 5): Collection of illicit and unwanted SALW; Destruction: Weapons; and Border controls and law enforcement cooperation.
Whether as a result of civil unrest or as a consequence of armed conflict, large numbers of SALW, and their ammunition, become concentrated in the hands of combatants. This often leads to their dissemination into the civilian population, including after the cessation of hostilities. With the majority of post-conflict environments being innately fragile, the presence of a large number of SALW, and their ammunition, can contribute to an increase in a number of negative factors, from violent crime to interpersonal and intergroup violence. These hinder post-conflict recovery, thwart sustainable development and may facilitate a relapse into armed conflict.
This MOSAIC module provides practical guidance on designing, implementing and evaluating programmes that encourage civilians to relinquish illegal or unwanted small arms, light weapons and ammunition in order to contribute to the broader objectives of preventing armed violence and crime, and promoting peacebuilding and reconciliation.
For guidance on collection of illicit and unwanted SALW, go to MOSAIC
The success of a small arms and light weapons control programme is directly related to the means by which weapons are ultimately disposed of. Programmes that decide upon the final disposal of weapons on an ad hoc basis often find that shortfalls in finance and resources can hamper the destruction process and thereby damage confidence in the programme, as well as in future programmes.
However, the destruction of illicit and surplus small arms and light weapons is a critical component of any comprehensive small arms and light weapons control programme. Destruction is self-evidently an effective method of reducing the actual number of weapons on the illicit market, as well as the potential supply of weapons to the illicit market. In contrast to other methods of disposal such as sale or gift, destruction ensures that small arms and light weapons cannot find their way (back) into the illicit market. It thus contributes to building confidence in overall efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate their illicit trade.
This MOSAIC module draws together guidance on the planning and safe execution of small arms and light weapons destruction activities, as well as on the recovery, recycling and reuse of materials derived from the destruction process. It is applicable in situations where destruction has been chosen as the method of disposal of small arms and light weapons, including those that have been relinquished as part of a weapons collection programme, recovered in crime or identified as surplus to the requirements of the armed services of a State.
For guidance on Destruction: weapons, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/ mosaic.
A prerequisite for preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is ensuring that every State has effective controls in place to deter, detect and intercept illicit movements of small arms and light weapons across their borders. In order for this goal to be achieved, law enforcement agencies – in particular customs, immigration and border police – must be able to coordinate and cooperate effectively with one another, both within their own countries and with their counterparts on the opposite side of the border.
It is clear that the prevention of illicit, cross-border movements of small arms and light weapons cannot be effective unless they are integrated into a broader strategy. Moreover, such a strategy cannot, by definition, be piecemeal, but must be aimed at curtailing all cross-border criminality, given that small arms and light weapons control necessarily represents only one part of a State’s overarching border security strategy.
This MOSAIC module focuses on the implementation of effective border controls to prevent illicit cross-border movements of small arms and light weapons. It also provides guidance on achieving cooperation between different law enforcement agencies with responsibility for border controls, both within a State and between neighbouring States, in particular related to the deterrence, detection, interception, investigation, and prosecution of illicit cross-border movements of small arms and light weapons. It sets out the steps required to achieve effective border controls and law enforcement cooperation, from reviewing the mandates of the agencies responsible for border control, through reviewing existing law enforcement cooperation mechanisms, to identifying additional control and cooperation mechanisms that can be put in place to improve performance.
For guidance on border controls and law enforcement cooperation, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/mosaic.
The 2020 UNSCAR Call for Proposals was open in August and September. Thirty-one (31) applications were received for 2021 UNSCAR funds. The results of the selection process will be announced on the UNSCAR webpage in December.
As highlighted in the previous issue of the Bulletin, the establishment of a dedicated facility to ensure sustained financing for coordinated, integrated small-arms control measures in most-affected countries has been completed and the Saving Lives Entity (SALIENT) has been opened as a window within the Peacebuilding Fund. SALIENT is a joint undertaking of UNODA and UNDP and was formally launched in October 2019. Contributions to SALIENT have thus far been made by France, Japan and New Zealand, with other Member States expressing interest in the fund.
Notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19 in moving forward with activities on the ground, planning is nonetheless underway in the expectation of the start of initial activities on at least two pilot projects, by the end of 2020.
• National Points of Contact / National Coordination Agencies for the Programme of Action
• United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA)
• Regional Centres for disarmament
• United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR)
• UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
• UNODC regional centres / offices
• SEESAC (South-Eastern & Eastern Europe)