Tracing small arms key to preventing their diversion for illicit use – UN chief

Small arms at a disarmament collection point in Akobo, Sudan

25 April 2011 – Keeping track of small arms in conflict, post-conflict and conflict-prone areas is a key to identifying where such weapons and ammunition may be diverted for illicit use, and thus improve the security of stockpiles and shipments, says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“The Security Council may wish to encourage States to strengthen their tracing capacity and to enhance international cooperation regarding tracing in these contexts, including with the United Nations,” he writes in a report to the Security Council on the trade in illicit small arms and light weapons.

In his recommendations to the Council, which discussed the report in a closed-door meeting today, Mr. Ban states that in post-conflict weapons collection programmes, weapons should be recorded in sufficient detail to ensure accountability and to facilitate their tracing in the event of diversion.

He says that the International Small Arms Control Standards currently being developed by the UN will provide practical guidance on the appropriate collection and record keeping of small weapons gathered in post-conflict environments.

In the biennial report, submitted to the Council in line with requirements of the implementation of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA-ISS), Mr. Ban recommends that expert groups monitoring arms embargoes could be aided in their work if they have basic information on the ammunition marking practices of States.

He recommends that the Council encourages Member States to provide the UN, on a voluntary basis, with public information on the markings applied to ammunition for small arms and light weapons by manufacturers under their jurisdiction, as well as the markings on ammunition recovered from illicit use.

The Secretary-General notes that unsecured or poorly monitored national ammunition stockpiles account for a substantial amount of the global diversion into illicit markets, a key factor in the prolongation and escalation of armed conflict, as well as in terrorism, crime and other forms of armed violence. They are also an important source for the assembly of improvised explosive devices, he added.

“The destruction of surplus arms and ammunition is cost-effective when compared with the costs of properly securing and maintaining stockpiles, and should be pursued vigorously by States, United Nations country teams and peacekeeping missions,” writes Mr. Ban, adding that the Council may wish to encourage States to apply, on a voluntary basis, the international ammunition technical guidelines once they are finalized.

To effectively combat armed violence in conflict, post-conflict and conflict-prone settings, peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities and development assistance should require planning for armed violence reduction as a priority, the Secretary-General notes.

“In such contexts, it is vital that traditional arms control measures be integrated into interventions that target the demand for weapons and enhance the ability of security providers and governance authorities to strengthen community security, manage conflict and mitigate violence,” he adds.

The Secretary-General also recommends that in line with his 2009 report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the Council may wish to further identify ways to increase compliance by non-State armed groups with international norms relating to the use and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition in times of conflict.

He also reports that coordination with the UN on the issue of small arms has improved significantly over the past three years, with the world body’s Coordinating Action on Small Arms mechanism having grown from 16 participating UN entities in 2008 to 23 currently.

States are also being provided with such tools as a legislative guide, a technical guide and a model law on the UN Firearms Protocol.


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