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’.
The 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened its doors on 18 September. As every year during the high-level segment, it welcomed the presence of world leaders bringing their views and proposals to the spotlight. In his opening speech, the UN Secretary General emphasized that “peace is inextricably linked to sustainable development” and expressed that “we must not relent in working for peace – a just peace in line with the UN Charter and international law”. To bring peace, reduce conflict, and save lives, a number of world leaders condemned the increased militarization, the perils of war, the sheer volume of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and their devastating socio-economic consequences, in particular to young people.
But what happens after the words of the world leaders stop reverberating through the halls of the United Nations? Following the high-level segment, the UNGA directs its efforts to deepen discussions and pursue negotiations on international peace and security during its First Committee, taking place every October. During this year’s discussions, a number of resolutions will be negotiated and adopted under the conventional weapons cluster. These will include addressing the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, adopting a new Global Framework for the through-life management of conventional ammunition, and restating support to existing instruments such as the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, or the Arms Trade Treaty.
In addition to the above-mentioned discussions, the First Committee will present States with a first opportunity to reflect on the ideas and recommendations contained in the New Agenda for Peace, unveiled by the UN Secretary-General in July 2023. Transforming gendered power dynamics, reducing the human cost of weapons, or building a stronger collective security machinery are some of the key actions recommended in an agenda that puts humans at the center of peace, disarmament, and security efforts. Across negotiations, UNGA resolutions and decisions, States will be able to assess how these recommendations could be transformed into actions by the General Assembly.
By the time the 78th session of the UN General Assembly closes its doors, States could show the world how divides could be bridged, how common ground could be found, how lives could be saved, and how humanity could be led into a more peaceful world.
The Secretary-General’s September 2021 report, Our Common Agenda, called for a new agenda for peace to achieve “better understanding of the underlying drivers and systems of influence that are sustaining conflict, a renewed effort to agree on more effective collective security responses and a meaningful set of steps to manage emerging risks”.
DPPA, DPO, ODA and OCT co-led an extensive consultative process with Member States, UN entities and civil society to develop the New Agenda for Peace. This policy brief was then presented to Member States by the Secretary-General on 20 July 2023. The brief outlines the Secretary-General’s vision for multilateral efforts for peace and security in a world in transition, based on international law. It sets out an ambitious set of recommendations that recognize the interlinked challenges faced by the multilateral system in five issue areas: addressing strategic risks and geopolitical divisions; preventing conflict and violence and sustaining peace; strengthening peace operations and addressing peace enforcement; novel approaches to peace and potential domains of conflict; and strengthening international governance.
Within the policy brief, the Secretary-General recognized that small arms and light weapons (SALW) are the leading cause of violent deaths globally, in both conflict and non-conflict settings. Further, he underscored the negative impact of their proliferation, diversion and misuse on rule of law, conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and sustainable development and their role in fostering criminal acts, including terrorism, human rights abuses and gender-based violence.
Accordingly, the brief contains concrete recommendations on reducing the human cost of weapons, including SALW. It suggested that States develop and implement regional, sub-regional and national instruments and roadmaps, set national and regional targets to measure progress on implementation of regulatory frameworks; and pursue whole-of-government approaches that integrate SALW control into development and prevention strategies.
The New Agenda for Peace, and the recommendations therein, may inform Member State discussions on the Summit of the Future, scheduled for September 2024, and the Pact for the Future.
In June 2023, the Open-Ended Working Group on Conventional Ammunition, established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 76/233, adopted its final report (A/78/111), without a vote. Throughout four substantive sessions conducted in 2022 and 2023, the Group elaborated a set of political commitments as a new global framework addressing existing gaps in through-life ammunition management, including international cooperation and assistance. In its final report, the Group recommends to the General Assembly the adoption, at its seventy-eighth session, of the Global Framework for Through-life Conventional Ammunition Management. The Global Framework comprehensively addresses both the safety and security risks associated with conventional ammunition to prevent diversion and unplanned explosions, filling the gap of a dedicated regulatory framework on conventional ammunition at the international level.
In elaborating the Global Framework, Member States expressed grave concern over the diversion and unplanned explosion of conventional ammunition at ammunition sites, recognizing the significant threat that such incidents pose to peace, security, stability and sustainable development at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels. In response, the Global Framework addresses the safety and security risks associated with conventional ammunition in a comprehensive manner. The Global Framework contains 15 objectives and 85 concrete measures to promote the safety, security and sustainability of through-life conventional ammunition management. In addition, it seeks to strengthen gender mainstreaming and the full, equal, meaningful and effective participation of women and encourages multi-stakeholder cooperation with civil society. It recognizes the important role of international cooperation and assistance and lays out a dedicated follow-up and review process for the effective implementation of the Global Framework.
The Global Framework is expected to be endorsed by the 78th session of the General Assembly through the mandating First Committee resolution. Germany and France, as co-sponsors , intend to table the resolution under a new title “Through-life Conventional Ammunition Management”. . The resolution is anticipated to operationalize the mandates contained in the Global Framework. This includes the establishment of a global assistance mechanism under the UN SaferGuard Programme, the maintenance of a roster of ammunition management experts, the review and expansion of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines to address security aspects comprehensively and the collection of information on sub-regional, regional and global initiatives on conventional ammunition management. States also committed to establish a standing fellowship training programme on conventional ammunition, similar to the one developed under the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons and to convene a Preparatory Meeting of States in 2025, followed by a Meeting of States in 2027.
Against the backdrop of conflict, uncertainty and volatility, transparency in military spending, arms acquisitions and arms transfers plays a crucial role.
In this context, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and Stimson Centre co-organized a Symposium entitled “Transparency in Times of Conflict” in July 2023. The goal of the symposium was to identify ways to build confidence between States, reduce the risk of military conflict through transparency, increase predictability of military activities, and raise public awareness of the UN’s toolkit for enhancing disarmament and conventional arms control. In total, 24 participants attended the symposium, including governmental experts and civil society representatives. The symposium provided an opportunity to discuss the drivers of the deteriorating trend in transparency and generated ideas for counteracting these developments, including ways to promote greater participation in the United Nations Report on Military Expenditures (UNMilEx) and the United Nations Report of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) and leverage the provided information. Participants outlined some recommendations for addressing the declining participation rates in the UNROCA and UNMilEx instruments. Firstly, UNROCA and UNMilEx ought to become more active instruments, for example, by facilitating discussions on the reported data in international fora, including the United Nations General Assembly First Committee, raising awareness of the instruments among potential new data users and underscoring the continued relevance of the instruments. Secondly participants suggested engaging at a regional and sub-regional level to create a culture of transparency among neighboring States and institutionalize reporting processes. Thirdly, the discussants pointed to the need to reduce redundancies. For example, how could reporting be best embedded in national record-keeping systems or how could the UNROCA and UNMilEx reporting tools be made more user-friendly. Participants agreed on the critical importance of transparency, particularly in these uncertain times, and on the unique role that UNMilEx and UNROCA can play in enhancing the understanding of military spending and arms transfers.
This symposium will be part of an event series, in which the UN Secretariat will work with key partners to incubate and develop ideas from think tanks, research institutes, academia and non-governmental organizations with the aim of having a strategic discussion on topics related to military spending and transparency.
The Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA), agreed by States in 2001, set out a regular schedule of meetings of States and review conferences to assess the implementation of the commitments contained within the PoA and its International Tracing Instrument (ITI) adopted in 2005
Between 17-28 June 2024, the fourth review conference on the PoA (RevCon4) will take place in New York and build upon the third review conference in 2018 as well as the recent biennial meeting of States in 2021 (BMS7) and 2022 (BMS8) including thematic issues raised at those meetings such as preventing and combating the diversion and illicit international transfer of SALW to unauthorized recipients and international cooperation and assistance.
RevCon4 is expected to take up a range of issues on the key challenges and opportunities relating to the implementation of the PoA and ITI at the global, regional and national levels. This includes international cooperation and assistance, national voluntary reporting, and ways of addressing the impact of new technologies, among other topics.
UNODA is implementing a series of activities in an effort to help Member States prepare for RevCon4 through a project supported by the European Union. The activities include a series of expert-level roundtable discussions cohosted with UNIDIR on topics such as international cooperation and assistance, new technologies, integration of SALW control into development processes, and voluntary national and regional target setting. The sessions have been held in June, July, and September 2023. The discussions will be captured in a recommendations paper, which will be published, translated, and distributed widely prior to RevCon4 to inform its deliberations.
All information about RevCon4 is available on a dedicated webpage, which is frequently updated.
Release of three new practical IATG implementation support tools to promote safe and secure ammunition management
Under the UN SaferGuard Programme, the Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Ammunition Management Advisory Team (AMAT) of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) recently launched three new tools to support the uptake and implementation of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG).
(1) The IATG Online Digital Tool is a an easily accessible and navigable digital database and web application. It allows users of the IATG to navigate an extensive compendium of practical guidance and find the required information quickly and easily, with the option of translating it into Arabic, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
(2) The Comprehensive IATG Training Programme is an online training package comprised of a foundation course for technical personnel and a policy seminar for senior policy developers. It aims at assisting States in enhancing the safety and security of their ammunition stockpiles, as well as maintaining up-to-date strategies, standards and procedures in line with internationally recognized good practices.
(3) The Self-Assessment Tools are designed to assess a State’s through-life ammunition management capabilities at the strategic, operational and technical levels. These online assessment tools allow States to conduct an in-depth review of their overall organizational capabilities, as well as practices in key areas, including in ammunition storage areas, explosive store houses, or ammunition processing and disposal. The tools also focus on reviewing national ammunition strategies and training needs. As a whole, this series of 7 tools can be used to identify persisting needs and gaps in national ammunition management, as well as opportunities for strengthening national organizational capabilities.
Altogether, these IATG implementation support tools are designed to support relevant stakeholders to effectively address the dangers posed by poorly managed ammunition stockpiles, including the risks of unplanned explosions at munition storage sites and diversion of ammunition from stockpiles. As such, the tools provide an opportunity to further advance safe, secure, and sustainable ammunition management at all levels.
Transparency in armaments remains a prerequisite for arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation and thus the maintenance of international peace and security. That holds particularly true during these times of uncertainty and volatility. Transparency acts as a confidence-building measure, thereby contributing to the prevention and reduction of ambiguities, misperceptions and tensions among Member States and, in turn, paving the way for international cooperation.
In order to promote transparency in military spending and arms transfers, the UN General Assembly established two universal instruments, the UN Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) and the UN Report on Military Expenditures (UNMilEx).
The UNROCA was born out of conflict in order to identify the dangerous and excessive accumulation of arms, help track the diversion of equipment, and serve as an early-warning mechanism. The Register was established in 1991 following the adoption of the General Assembly resolution 46/36 L. The resolution created an annual reporting mechanism through which governments can share information on arms transfers during the previous calendar year, as well as additional background information on military holdings and procurement through national production of conventional arms.
Much like the Register, UNMilEx was born out of a more ideological endeavor aimed at reducing excessive military spending. However, when it became clear that these discussions would not bear fruits, the focus shifted to the promotion of transparency in military matters instead. The UNMilEx instrument was established in 1980 following the adoption of General Assembly resolution 35/142 B. The resolution called on Member States to provide information on their annual military expenditures to the Secretary-General, which would then be shared with other Member States and the broader public.
During the 2023 reporting cycle, as at 1 October 2023, 70 Member States or 36% of UN membership reported to UNROCA, which marks the highest participation rate in more than a decade. Regarding the type of information submitted by Member States, of the 70 UNROCA submissions, 5% were nil reports. Of the non-nil reports, around 71% provided information on exports and/or imports of major conventional arms and 92% provided information on international transfers of small arms and light weapons. In addition, 26% included data on military holdings. The 2023 report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (A/78/165) is available here: https://undocs.org/A/78/165.
In the case of UNMilEx, as at 1 October 2023, 61 Member States or 32% of UN membership submitted their annual reports. This is the highest level of submissions since 2007. Around 87% of the submissions were electronic. The 61 submissions included 23 standarized, 26 simplified, 6 single-figure and 6 nil reports. Some States provided clarifications and additional information on defence planning to explain their military expenditures. The 2023 report of the Secretary-General on objective information on military matters, including transparency of military expenditures (A/78/158) is available here: https://undocs.org/A/78/158
In 2018, during the Third Review Conference (RevCon3) on the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspect (PoA), Indonesia on behalf of the Movement of Non-Aligned (NAM) Countries proposed to establish a United Nations fellowship training programme on small arms and light weapons control (A/CONF.192/2018/PC/WP.3). This proposal was welcomed and in 2022, pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution A/RES/77/71 Member States decided to establish “a standing dedicated fellowship training programme on small arms and light weapons in order to strengthen the technical and practical knowledge and expertise of government officials directly responsible for the implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument, particularly in developing countries”.
The Fellowship Training Programme will consist of a self-paced online course and a four-week in-person training with the objective to familiarize trainees with the conceptional and practical framework of small arms control in support of national implementation. The substantive content of the PoA/ITI, the Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC), and the MOSAIC gender-mainstreaming small arms control manual will form the foundation of the training courses, together with other global instruments, mechanisms, tools, and practice for the practical regulation and control of small arms and light weapons (SALW).
States will be invited to nominate qualified candidates who are responsible for the implementation of the PoA/ITI (one per country). A total of sixty government officials – fifteen per targeted region in Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe and the Middle East, will be selected annually through a competitive evaluation process.
UNODA will provide the overall coordination and management of the Fellowship Training Programme and its substantive direction, oversee the execution of the self-paced online course, and manage the selection of fellows. The four-week in-person training will be run through an independent specialized training institution of excellence with support of UNODA’s Regional Centres in the four targeted regions.
The annual Fellowship Training Programme will run its first pilot course in 2024.
Visit https://disarmament.unoda.org/salw-fellowship-training-programme for further updates.
Promoting Peace in Asia-Pacific: United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific Supports States in the Region Combat Illegal Arms Trade
UNRCPD, serving as the regional arm of UNODA for the Asia-Pacific, is working to tackle the menace of illegal weapons trafficking in the region. The Regional Centre is actively working on the implementation of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (UN PoA) because its success is pivotal not only for global peace but also for realizing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Its approach centers on emphasizing collaboration with and between development partners, and highlighting the integral role of disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control in achieving the SDGs.
Key Initiatives for 2023:
- Regional Preparations for RevCon4 2024
The UNRCPD is gearing up for the Fourth Review Conference of the UN PoA in June 2024, where States will examine how well the UN PoA has been implemented. UNRCPD will be supporting governments and stakeholders to prepare and participate meaningfully at this pivotal meeting. For instance, UNRCPD will organize a series of virtual seminars, which will kick off on 4 October 2023. The goal of these seminars will be to provide a platform for national representatives to strategize and amplify their efforts to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms. This will be followed by an in-person meeting slated for January 2024 in Kathmandu, providing an opportunity for Asia-Pacific representatives to share information, common challenges and lessons learned to promote synergies among national efforts in the region ahead of the global conference in New York.
UNRCPD will work with regional organizations such us the ASEAN and the PIF to support discussions on regional approaches and strategies on implementing the UN PoA. UNRCPD hopes that these efforts could also contribute to the effective implementation of other relevant regional processes and dynamics, such as the recently adopted Declaration on Combating Arms Smuggling, and other efforts for regional cooperation for Peace and Security Frameworks.
- Support the full implementation of the UN PoA
UNRCPD will also deliver direct assistance programmes at the national level in the Asia-Pacific region in support of national efforts to combat illegal weapons trafficking. These include, among others, working with national authorities to tighten laws, reviewing weapons control processes, and addressing border security. A special focus will be on making sure these efforts are gender-balanced and inclusive, and actively promoting increased participation of women in these activities.
The Centre has also partnered with civil society organizations including the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and the Centre for Armed Violence Reduction (CAVR) to assist States put their plans into action. By November 2023, UNRCPD and MAG will launch a project to support the Government of Lao PDR to review their current efforts to tackle the illegal weapons trade, and to assist the Government to conduct a technical risk assessment of weapons and ammunition stockpile facilities.
- Supporting gender-responsive SALW control policies and programmes
Based on past initiatives and activities from 2020 to 2022, UNRCPD will continue to actively support States in the Asia-Pacific region to mainstream gender considerations when developing arms control policies. UNRCPD will be conducting online and in-person seminars discussing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, and the Arms Trade Treaty. This work will draw on the discussion on arms trade and human right violations – which was the subject of discussions during the Ninth Conference of States Parties of the Arms Trade Treaty in August 2023.
The Secretary General’s New Agenda for Peace, and the ongoing efforts to realize the SDGs, demand a more integrated, networked, and collaborative approach to tackle the human impacts of illicit SALW transfers. UNRCPD recognizes these intersectionalities, and consistently strive to develop targeted and co-creative approaches with our regional partners and stakeholders to meaningfully tackle the illicit arms trade in the region.
For more information, contact Ms. Ida Scarpino, Political Affairs Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR) is a funding mechanism for small-scale (up to $100K or $150K), short-term (1-year), theme-specific, quick impact projects, funded through an annual call for proposals. For project proposals to be implemented in 2023-2024, a significantly increased number of applications were submitted. Out of 50 applications, the following ten projects were selected, giving priority to applications from civils society organizations. The current funding cycle is supported by Australia, Finland, Germany and the Slovak Republic.
- Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace (CAMYOSFOP) – PSSM in Central Africa
- Conflict Armament Research – Identification, documentation and tracing of weapons in Somalia
- HALO Trust – Weapons and ammunition management in Libya
- International Action Network on Small Arms – Support for civil society toward PoA RevCon4
- Non-Violence International Inc. Southeast Asia – Regional platform for dialogue on conventional arms and SALW
- Norwegian People’s Aid – PSSM, i.e. marking in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons – Harmonization of global-regional reporting on SALW
- UN regional disarmament Centres (UNREC, UNLIREC & UNRCPD – Integration of SALW control into national/regional development frameworks
- UNLIREC – Regional youth and disarmament training for Latin America and the Caribbean
- 21st Century Community Empowerment for Youth and Women Initiative – Reporting military expenditures in West Africa
In 2023, UNSCAR dispatched 3 monitoring missions to:
- Cameroon: Provided Kinshasa Convention member countries with technical guidance.
- Philippines: Supported the drafting of the regional roadmap on SALW for participating States in Southeast and South Asia.
- Malawi: Moderated dialogues with stakeholders, attended a weapons destruction event and trained for PoA reporting.
UNSCAR is committed to ensuring national ownership of recipient countries and to promoting thematic priorities, including the integration of small arms control into national development frameworks, as agreed by the Strategic Planning Group. In order to sustain regular funding operations for the 2023-2024 implementation cycle, UNSCAR is in need of annual financial contributions. Please contact email@example.com or visit UNSCAR page for updates: https://disarmament.unoda.org/unscar.
Consultations in Papua New Guinea convey national need for intervention on small arms issues.
On 23 July-3 August 2023, the UNODA-UNDP Saving Lives Entity (SALIENT) team conducted national and regional consultations in Papua New Guinea to identify the country’s needs on small arms and light weapons proliferation and armed violence reduction. The mission was conducted in response to a request from the Resident Coordinator in Papua New Guinea.
Ranked 156 per Human Development Report data, the lowest rated of all Pacific and wider Asia-Pacific countries, Papua New Guinea experiences high levels of armed violence, but has not previously received significant international attention or support on this issue. The Mission team noted that the Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces in particular experience extreme forms of violent inter-group or intra-group conflicts of varying scale, where violence remains the normative response to disputes and continues to be perceived as a culturally ‘legitimate’ means of prosecuting claims and seeking restitution.
The impact of armed violence is significant, resulting in fatalities, physical and psychological suffering, destruction of private and public property, sexual assault, curtailed freedom of movement, internal displacement, and loss of access to services such as education or health.
Papua New Guinea is unique in its geographic context and has a significantly young population: 63% of the Southern Highlands population and 68% in Hela Province are under the age of 18. Large numbers of young, disaffected men are often directly drawn into conflicts as paid fighters, due to the lack of alternative educational and employment opportunities. As part of its review, the SALIENT Mission team also noted the need to prioritize data collection, and by extension establishment of data collection mechanisms, as the most recent compilation of data on the illicit flows and impacts of SALW in the country is from a 2005 Small Arms Survey report.
The Fourth United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in 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 (RevCon4) will take place in New York from 17 to 28 June 2024.
Representation by countries severely affected by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons at the PoA review conferences is key. To support expert participation from capitals and to enrich the deliberations at RevCon4 in June 2024, UNODA will sponsor up to 15 government officials from the most-affected countries to attend the Review Conference in person. UNODA will cover a round-trip airfare to and from New York and travel expenses in accordance with the UN rules and regulations.
Highest priority will be given to the most affected countries including those classified as Least Developed Countries (LDC) and included in the most recent “DAC List of ODA Recipients” issued by the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD. Preference would be given to States that have demonstrated continued commitment to the implementation of the PoA, e.g., establishment of a national commission, submission of national reports, designation of a national point of contact and active participation in the regional preparatory meetings. Balanced gender representation among final recipients will also be given due consideration.
Official call for nominations will be sent out to Member States in early 2024.
The Sponsorship Programme is funded by the European Union and is part of the global project supporting the implementation of the Programme of Action. Learn more about the project here: https://disarmament.unoda.org/unpoa-project-2025/.
• 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)