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 Seventh Biennial Meeting of States (BMS7) 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 took place in New York from 26 to 30 July 2021 and concluded successfully with an outcome document, adopted by unanimous vote.
BMS7 was chaired by Ambassador Kimani of Kenya and focused on preventing and combating the diversion and the illicit international transfer of small arms and light weapons to unauthorized recipients.
States agreed to a wide range of national, regional and global action to strengthen efforts towards the full and effective implementation of the instrument. Among others, this includes the need to “ensure that international humanitarian law and international human rights law are taken into consideration in national small arms and light weapons transfer decisions”; to address emerging challenges related to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and to strengthen measurability and implementation efforts.
States specifically agreed to “consider the establishment of voluntary national and regional targets in line with the provisions of the Programme of Action, taking into account varying national and regional contexts, with a view to strengthening national and regional ownership and the measurability of implementation progress.” This new approach could further strengthen implementation, better channel assistance towards national priorities and revitalize the global political process.
Like in the past two Programme of Action meetings, particular focus during BMS7 was given to the nexus between armed violence and peace, security, and sustainable development, with progressive language on gender-related issues. During BMS7, Costa Rica, on behalf of 64 States, delivered a joint statement which called for “further enhancing gender mainstreaming and ensuring the equal, full, and effective participation of women in arms control and peace and security initiatives” and strong gender-related language in the outcome document.
BMS7 also considered the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument, in particular on new and emerging technologies and agreed in the final outcome document to “continue exchanging views on recent developments in small arms and light weapons manufacturing, technology and design, in particular polymer and modular weapons, and on ways of addressing them and to consider the proposal of an open-ended technical expert group at the Eighth Biennial Meeting of States…”. In the preparation of BMS7, dedicated informal consultations had taken place on this issue, facilitated by Belgium on behalf of Kenya. The Facilitator’s Summary, an Annex of relevant documents and the expert presentation delivered during the consultations by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) were made available to inform deliberations of Member States.
Progress was also made on the issue of international cooperation and assistance, in which States continue to call for increased “adequate, measurable, sustainable, and timely” measures to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument. States welcomed the proposal for a dedicated fellowship training programme on small arms and light weapons and requested the Secretariat to present funding and administrative arrangements for consideration by Member States at the Eighth Biennial Meeting of States with a view to its expedient establishment.
Only 92 national reports on the implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Instrument were received by States in 2020/2021. The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) presented ‘Trends, challenges and opportunities’ based on an analysis of the reports received.
BMS7 included official meetings conducted in an in-person and hybrid format and informal consultations, many of which took place virtually. Civil society, regional and international organizations delivered their statements during a dedicated session in the morning of 28 July.
Virtual side events took place in the margins of BMS7. UNODA and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), organized a high-level event to mark 20years of action to combat illicit trade in small arms and light weapons since the adoption for the Programme of Action on small arms and the Firearms Protocol in 2001. The full video recording of the anniversary event is available here.
BMS8 has been reconfirmed to take place in 2022, with the General Assembly due to adopt the proposed dates of 27 June to 1 July 2022. The next Review Conference is scheduled to take place in 2024.
The Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) established under GA resolution 72/55 on “Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus” concluded its work on 10 September 2021 with the adoption of its final report by consensus. The 18-member Group was chaired by Marcus Bleinroth of Germany. The Group began its work in January 2020 but was unable to complete it that year because of COVID-19 restrictions.
It is the second expert group to convene on the topic of surplus ammunition stockpiles. The first GGE, convened in 2008, recommended the development of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG) and establishment of the UN SaferGuard Programme. The fundamental conclusion of the 2008 GGE was that problems arising from accumulation of stockpiles in surplus, specifically unplanned explosions and diversion, are largely the result of inadequate stockpile management policies and practices and thus must be considered in the broader context of stockpiles management. This Group, therefore, focused on measures to enhance the physical security of ammunition.
The 2020-2021 GGE was able to adopt a more comprehensive approach to understanding the safety and security risks posed by conventional ammunition. This GGE agreed that ammunition challenges extend well beyond national stockpiles and are present throughout the full life cycle of ammunition from production through use or disposal. With this understanding, the GGE explored the full range of safety and security measures applicable to all stages of through-life management. The Group concluded that through-life management of ammunition applies to all types of conventional ammunition. It noted that most existing policy and legal frameworks applicable to ammunition at the global, regional and sub-regional levels address small arms and light weapons ammunition only and are generally limited and fragmented. In addition to practical, concrete measures to enhance the safety and security of ammunition throughout its life-cycle, the 2020-2021 GGE calls for the establishment of a new, comprehensive framework at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels to address the dual concerns of unplanned explosions and diversion. The framework would consist of a set of global, political commitments negotiated under a General Assembly mandate underpinned by optional agreements at the regional and subregional levels and a mechanism for international cooperation and assistance. For more information see the Group’s report A/76/324.
On 14 September 2021, the 76th session of the General Assembly was opened at the UN Headquarters in New York, in a hybrid format. The annual high-level week was kicked-off on 21 September with the opening address from UN Secretary-General António Guterres on this year’s theme – “Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people and revitalize the United Nations”.
Following the high-level week which concluded on 27 September, the General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security takes up its work over the course of five weeks from 4 October through 4 November. Informal exchanges with the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and civil society, as well as panel discussions with high-level authorities and groups of governmental experts, will be held in a virtual format. Unlike last year, the Committee is expected to hold a thematic debate on conventional weapons, anticipated for 18 to 20 October, including considerations of the issues of small arms and ammunitions. Action on all draft resolutions and decisions will begin on 27 October.
The annual resolution on “The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects”, is expected to carry forward the mandates agreed at the 2021 Seventh Biennial Meeting of States (BMS7) on the Programme of Action, including reaffirming the dates for the next Biennial Meeting (BMS8). The resolution ‘Assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them’ will also be tabled again this year for adoption.
The resolution on “Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus” will also be tabled at this session by lead sponsors France and Germany. The resolution is expected to highlight the recommendations and possible follow-on actions from the 2020-2021 Group of Governmental Experts (GCE) established pursuant to resolution A/RES/72/55 which successfully concluded its work in September 2021.
The biennial resolution “Countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices” (IEDs) will also be tabled this year by lead sponsors France and Afghanistan.
The Security Council – the primary organ of the United Nations responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security – remains actively seized of the small arms and light weapons challenge.
On 16 September 2021, Security Council members convened for a virtual Arria-formula meeting, organized by Mexico, to consider ‘The threat to international peace and security posed by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.’ Six years since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2220 (2015), Council Members reflected on the outcomes of the Seventh Biennial Meeting of States on the Programme of Action and the Seventh Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty and discussed ways in which the Security Council can be more effective in addressing this issue, strengthening its preventive role and its efforts towards sustaining peace.
On 6 October 2021, Kenya organized a briefing on the topic “Addressing the threat posed by illicit flows of Small Arms and Light Weapons in contexts of Peace Operations” as part of its Presidency of the Security Council during the month of October. The Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, briefed Security Council members on the latest report of the Secretary-General on Small arms and light weapons (S/2021/839), in which she encouraged the Security Council to fully integrate considerations of weapons and ammunition management, including small arms control measures, into its country and region-specific work as well as into thematic discussions such as the Women, Peace and Security agenda, children in conflict or climate security.
More information on small arms and light weapons in the Security Council are available here.
UNIDIR’s Reference Methodology for National Weapons and Ammunition Management Baseline Assessments
In June 2021, UNIDIR launched its Reference Methodology for National Weapons and Ammunition Management (WAM) Baseline Assessments. This publication and tool – which is part of a broader UNIDIR research workstream to advance WAM policy and practice – codifies the methodology that has been used to design and implement baseline assessments with 11 States from 2015–2020, in cooperation with sub-/regional, UN and other partners.* Some of the key findings of these assessments have been published in Country Insights, which provide a brief overview of strategic and operational WAM efforts in these countries, and highlight practical recommendations that can inform policies, programmatic responses, international cooperation and assistance.
Comprehensive, holistic, and systematic national WAM baseline assessments are an essential prerequisite for informing and guiding effective strategic formulation, programme planning, and monitoring and evaluation, and – more broadly – support governance, oversight and accountability over weapons, including SALW, and ammunition, to prevent diversion and misuse, and to reduce and mitigate risks associated with unplanned explosions. Baseline assessments allow comparison and measurability of variation or progress over time periods, as well as impact of interventions, in different environments.
Such assessments and their results have and can be used by interested parties at the strategic level to:
- Review or inform national security strategies and policies;
- Develop a dedicated national strategy for WAM;
- Inform and support the establishment of a dedicated national WAM coordinating mechanism;
- Establish, or reposition and leverage, a national WAM lead entity;
- Inform the development of a dedicated national policy for ammunition management;
- Inform UN partial arms embargo regime benchmarking, implementation, reporting and monitoring.
At the operational level, they are an essential component in the development and/or review of national actions plans including SALW control action plans; the development and/or revision and adoption of operational procedures, as well as capacity-building programming and activities.
The Reference Methodology represents UNIDIR’s practical contribution to the community of practitioners and ongoing efforts and new initiatives at different levels to undertake or support WAM baseline assessments and strengthen comprehensive WAM frameworks. This resource and practical tool seeks to enhance knowledge and to promote consistency in the use and application of WAM baseline assessments by national authorities and interested stakeholders, enabling cooperation and collaboration between States seeking assistance in WAM or in a related field, UN entities, regional organizations, civil society and specialized non-governmental organizations that support such efforts.
The UNIDIR Reference Methodology including an executive summary is available in English and will become available in French and Spanish in late October 2021. For queries on how to use this resource and tool, feedback or comments, or hard copies, please contact: email@example.com.
* As of 2020, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Iraq, Liberia, the Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Somalia, have conducted WAM baseline assessments at the national level, together with UNIDIR, in cooperation with regional, UN and other partners.
Group of Governmental Experts on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms
The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) enables Member States to report to the United Nations their international transfers of seven categories of conventional arms. Governments report on their arms imports and exports and are also encouraged to report their annual acquisition of weapons through domestic production. Moreover, they can report their total military holdings. UNROCA thus serves as an important transparency instrument and confidence-building measure that can help build trust among States through information-sharing, contributing to preventive diplomacy, peace and stability.
UNROCA is a living instrument. Every three years a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) reviews the operation and relevance of UNROCA and its further development.
The General Assembly resolution 74/53 “Transparency in armaments”, adopted in 2019, requests the Secretary-General, with assistance of a GGE, to prepare a report on the continuing operation and relevance of UNROCA, including by exploring the relationship between the participation in, scope of and use of UNROCA, and its further development. Pursuant to this resolution, a GGE will meet for three one-week sessions, which are tentatively scheduled as follows:
First meeting: 17-21 January 2022 in New York
Second meeting: 4-8 April 2022 in Geneva
Third meeting: 27 June – 1 July 2022 in Geneva
For more information on the GGE visit UNODA Meetings Place
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 sixteen of these modules in the six 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
- Collection of illicit and unwanted SALW
- Destruction: Weapons
- Border controls and law enforcement cooperation
- National controls over the end-user and end-use of internationally transferred SALW
- National regulation of civilian access to SALW
In this issue, we will focus on the remaining modules in the Design and Management Series (Series 4): Awareness-raising; and Monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
Awareness-raising is a critical part of small-arms-control, through increasing understanding of the risks associated with the possession (both legal and illegal), proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons. Such an understanding contributes to the conditions that must exist for putting effective controls in place. Such initiatives may also help to prevent harm and encourage safe behaviour and are applicable to all situations in which there is a significant risk to civilians of death, injury or other serious harm resulting from the misuse and illegal possession of small arms or light weapons.
This MOSAIC module provides guidance on awareness-raising through dividing such efforts into three main components: risk education; public information; and advocacy. In addition, it covers awareness-raising initiatives in multiple contexts, such as the local, national and regional levels. As stated in the module, awareness-raising initiative should, ideally, aim to minimize or even eliminate the negative consequences of small arms and light weapons control through changing behaviour, increasing knowledge and promoting appropriate control measures.
For guidance on awareness-raising, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/mosaic
Monitoring, evaluation and reporting are processes most commonly associated with programmes or action plans or may be a requirement of donors. However, it should not be forgotten that all States are also required to report on small arms and light weapons measures, whether under global instruments, regional agreements and/or national legislation.
Conceptually, monitoring, evaluation and reporting are understood and defined as related, but distinct. As this module sets out, effective implementation of these concepts should adhere to the guiding principles of respect and support for local/national ownership; participation and inclusiveness; sustainability and capacity building; integrity and impartiality; transparency and accountability; confidentiality; gender responsiveness and sensitivity; and conflict sensitivity and security.
This MOSAIC module specifies the guiding principles, different purposes and set key methodological considerations for monitoring, evaluation and reporting of small arms and light weapons control activities. It sets out requirements in this regard, whether those interventions take the form of clearly-defined and time-limited programme or long-running actions taken by States in accordance with national laws, policies and international commitments.
For guidance on monitoring, evaluation and reporting, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/mosaic
The UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR) launched the 2021 Call for Proposals and will receive applications until 31 October 2021 (Visit www.un.org/disarmament/unscar). Please carefully follow the instructions provided in the Call for Proposals Document, and submit 3 forms: 1) application form, 2) log/results framework form, and c) detailed budget form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Civil Society Organizations, UN entities and regional organizations are eligible to apply. Interested Member States need to set up a partnership with an eligible entity, which submits an application, on behalf of Member States.
UNSCAR is a flexible, quick-impact, multi-donor funding mechanism, established in response to calls from Member States for a sustainable funding mechanism, with a view to matching assistance needs with available resources related to conventional arms regulation.
Since its inception in 2013, UNSCAR has received contributions from 15 donor countries (Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). It has funded 94 projects in all regions of the world in a total amount of 12.5 million dollars for the benefit of 144 Member States. In partnership with civil society organizations notably, UNSCAR has supported a variety of focused, technical small arms control measures, including stockpile management, marking and record-keeping, craft production management, legislative assistance and gender considerations, and emergency assistance in special circumstances in which weapons, ammunition and explosives have presented a risk.
Recent UNSCAR projects supported civil society’s efforts for the promotion of BMS7, data collection for SDG Target 16.4 (e.g. significant reduction in arms flow) and stockpile management in Africa, Central America and the Balkans.
UNSCAR will ensure complementarities with SALIENT programmes and seek synergies in the impacts of their respective outcomes. UNSCAR also works closely with the ATT Voluntary Trust Fund to avoid duplication.
As highlighted in the July 2021 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) is open as a window within the Peacebuilding Fund, thanks to contributions from France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. A joint undertaking of UNODA and UNDP, operational planning began in December 2020, with initial activities focused on Cameroon, Jamaica and South Sudan.
In keeping with the requirements of SALIENT, and its foundational principle of “national ownership,” proposal for work support by SALIENT must be put forward by at least two UN entities, in coordination with the Resident Coordinator’s Office and jointly with the host government. Proposals for work in Jamaica and South Sudan have now been received and approved, with the proposal for activities in Cameroon expected soon. UNODA and UNDP will soon be moving ahead with scoping activities in additional pilot countries in Africa, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean.
• 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)