Brazzaville explosion
Ammunition depot explosion in Brazzaville, Congo
on 4 March 2012, where 200 people were killed
and 2000 more injured.

Ammunition Stockpiles: The Issue

The problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus are of great concern to the international community. The magnitude of the problem is illustrated by the frequency of accidental explosive events in ammunition depots worldwide. These explosions invariably result in the loss of many lives, particularly where depots are located in or near urban areas.

There is also alarming evidence of high rates of diversion of ammunition from poorly secured stockpiles in or close to conflict or high-crime areas. Diverted ammunition is a major source of supply for groups involved in intra-state conflict or criminal activities and for the making of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are often used in acts of terrorism.

Number of unplanned explosions at munitions sites
Data source: Small Arms Survey

Ammunition Stockpiles: Alarming Trends

The number of reported unintended explosive events happening around the world are on the rise. 46 such events were reported in 2011, as compared to the 18 events reported in 2001.

The UN supports Governments, international organizations, research institutes, NGOs and other interested parties in the exchange of information on explosions, theft, diversion and other unintended use of ammunition, with a view to enhancing understanding of these phenomena and improving the planning of relevant preventive actions.

The UN SaferGuard Programme

On the basis of recommendations by a United Nations Expert Group addressing the issue, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), under its UN SaferGuard programme, engaged the assistance of a highly qualified ammunition expert and a Technical Review Panel consisting of experts from United Nations Member States to develop the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG) in close collaboration with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).

At the end of 2011, United Nations Member States welcomed the completion of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines as well as the establishment of the UN SaferGuard programme for ammunition stockpile management (A/RES/66/42).

Disarmament and demobilization
UN Peacekeepers assist with disarmament, demobilization
and reintegration in the DRC. UN Photo/Martine Perret

The UN SaferGuard Programme: Implementation

The IATG are currently being implemented by United Nations partners including in Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan. The IATG are also in the process of being adopted by the armed forces of Brazil and by an ammunition manufacturer in the UAE. Plans for IATG implementation are also in place in Latin America and the Caribbean through UNODA's Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC).

Training programmes are now available for use, on a voluntary basis, by the military, law enforcement officials, peacekeepers and other interested stakeholders such as ammunition manufacturers. Software to help in the management of conventional ammunition stockpiles will also be available soon.

More about the UN SaferGuard programme