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 74th session of the General Assembly. The annual high-level segment took place from 24 through 30 September. Heads of State, Heads of Government, and other senior authorities addressed the new session of the Assembly with a focus on this year’s theme— “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate change and inclusion”.
Following the high-level segment, the General Assembly’s First Committee will convene for five weeks from 7 October through 8 November to focus on specific issues in the field of disarmament and international security. As usual, a dedicated thematic exchange on ‘conventional weapons’, including small arms, will form a key component of the discussions.
The annual resolution on “The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” is expected to be considered (A/RES/73/69). This resolution is likely to reflect the outcomes of the 2018 Third Review Conference of the Programme of Action and International Tracing Instrument, including the decision to convene a one-week Biennial Meeting of States from 15-19 June 2020. Deliberations will take into account the recommendations set out in the 2019 report of the Secretary-General on the issue (A/74/187).
The biennial resolution on “Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus” will also be tabled at this session, and is likely to recall the request to the Secretary-General to convene a group of governmental experts on this topic in 2020 (A/RES/72/55). Such a Group will usually pave the way for the UN as a whole to make progress on the issue it deals with. For details: see below under ‘Ammunition’
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” (A/73/52) and “The Arms Trade Treaty” (A/RES/73/36).
The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) enables UN 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.
At the end of this past June, the most recent GGE on UNROCA concluded its work and adopted a consensus report.
The Group was composed of experts – equally women and men – from Argentina, Brazil, China, Croatia, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom. The Chair, Ms. Mariela Fogante of Argentina, was the first woman to chair a Group of experts in the area of conventional arms since 1999.
This 2019 GGE report contains a number of recommendations to ensure that the Register remains relevant and keeps pace with technological developments.
Two main highlights:
This Group reached a milestone by recommending that UN Member States report international transfers of small arms and light weapons in parallel with reporting on the seven major weapons systems (battle tanks, armored vehicles, large artillery, manned and unmanned aerial combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers);
The report includes a section dedicated to the use of UNROCA as a confidence-building tool.
The Group’s report can be found at https://undocs.org/en/A/74/211.
The Fifth Conference of State Parties (CSP5) to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was held from 26-30 August 2019 in Geneva. The Conference was chaired by Ambassador Jānis Kārkliņš of Latvia, who had proposed gender and gender-based violence in the context of the ATT as a priority theme for the Conference.
The Treaty, which entered into force in 2014, has now 105 States Parties, who have committed themselves to applying common standards in the international trade in conventional arms and ammunition.
CSP5 adopted a final report, with recommendations and decisions on gender and gender-based violence, the ATT Voluntary Trust Fund, and effective Treaty implementation. States also acknowledged the importance of universal adherence to the Treaty and emphasized the significance of transparency and reporting.
CSP5 also decided to hold its next formal annual session, the Sixth Conference of States Parties, in Geneva, Switzerland on 17 to 21 August 2020. Ambassador Carlos Foradori of Argentina has been elected President of the 2020 Conference.
- Keynote statement by the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, at CSP5
- Non-paper on gender and gender-based violence by the President of CSP5, Ambassador Kārkliņš
- Remarks on gender and gender-based violence by the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
- Conference documents, including the final report
The UN Women Training Center, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Women, Peace and Security section of UN Women, have jointly developed an online training on Gender and Disarmament.
The online course is divided into two modules:
- The first module introduces the concepts and normative frameworks on gender, disarmament and arms control, and explains why disarmament and gender matter to sustainable development. It highlights the need for gender-responsive disarmament and arms control because of the gendered impacts arms have and explains how gender norms and roles underpin conflict and decision-making processes.
- The second module focuses on the role women can and should play in disarmament and arms control.
The course is available free of charge, and can be accessed here. It has been designed for policy-makers and advocates wishing to learn more about the relevance of gender-responsive disarmament and arms control, though general audiences will also benefit from the course.
The course is currently available in English. French and Spanish versions will follow shortly on the UN Women Training Center website.
The development of the course was funded by UNSCAR.
Since adoption, under the UN Programme of Action on small arms, of the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) in 2005, weapon design and production methods have emerged that could have consequences for global efforts to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Since 2011, States have discussed how non-traditional materials, such as polymers, and modularity in weapon design have the potential to alter marking, tracing and recordkeeping.
In 2018, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to make recommendations on ways to address the challenges and opportunities presented by these developments (A/RES/73/69).
Through his annual report on “The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” (A/74/187), the Secretary-General now provides a list of elements that could serve as a basis for a supplementary annex to the ITI. These elements are intended to help take forward the recommendation from 2014 for States to discuss a supplementary document to the ITI that would reflect the implications of recent technical developments, while ensuring the full effectiveness of the Instrument moving forward.
The Secretary-General invites States to make use of the forthcoming seventh Biennial Meeting of States in 2020 (15-19 June) to undertake focused deliberations on concluding such a supplementary annex.
Many countries include representatives of civil society in their national coordinating mechanism for the implementation of the UN Programme of Action on small arms, or their national coordinating mechanism consults them regularly (see MOSAIC 03.40: National coordinating mechanisms on small arms and light weapons control).
UNSCAR has supported and catalyzed cooperation and dialogue between local civil-society organizations and national authorities, from Cameroon, Ghana and Guatemala, to Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and Sierra Leone.
The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) has launched a survey on the participation of civil-society representatives and women in national coordination mechanisms on small arms. Are you currently a National Point of Contact (NPC)? Then kindly fill out this survey by 31 October 2019, to help IANSA complete this UNSCAR-funded research.
Access survey here.
IANSA is the official coordinator of civil society in the UN small-arms process.
Note that the information will be used only to identify good practices of inclusion, not to criticize any government. If you have any questions about the survey, please direct them to IANSA at email@example.com.
This project is of course separate from the official national reporting on the implementation of the UN Programme of Action which countries submit every two years. UNODA will inform States of the procedure for the upcoming national report (covering 2018-2019), to be submitted in the first half of 2020.
Peacekeeping remains one of the United Nations’ most effective tools to promote and maintain international peace and security. Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) activities are often a part of United Nations peace operations and are vital to laying the groundwork for long-lasting peace, security and development.
To support innovative approaches by DDR practitioners, the UN’s Department of Peace Operations (DPO) and the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) work together on “Weapons and Ammunition Management in a Changing Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Context”.
The initiative seeks to develop resources and expertise, including through a practical handbook (available in English and French) and training course, to enable DDR practitioners to design and implement weapons and ammunition management activities that are in line with the highest international standards and guidelines, namely the Modular Small-arms control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC) and the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG).
The joint initiative will also support the provision of technical assistance in peace operation settings. Between 28 July and 6 August 2019, DPO and ODA deployed a first technical assessment mission to the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH). The mission focused on weapons and ammunition management activities that could support community violence reduction and DDR initiatives in Haiti.
MOSAIC is a set of voluntary practical guidance notes on the full range of small arms control measures, organized into 24 modules. We have highlighted six of these 24 modules in the two previous issues of the Bulletin, covering the setting up national coordinating mechanisms; stockpile management; conducting small arms survey; improving national manufacturing controls; designing and implementing a national action plan; and tracing illicit small arms and light weapons. In this issue, we will focus on the modules on improving national controls over international transfers; designing and implementing community safety programming; and marking and record-keeping.
Nearly all States have regulations to control the import, expert and transit of arms. But such controls with respect to small arms and light weapons are often in need of strengthening and updating. Moreover, they may need to be supplemented with effective controls over weapons transshipment and brokering, as well as on enforcement.
Effective national controls are an integral component in the prevention of excessive, destabilizing and illicit arms transfers.
Developing effective controls over the international transfer of small arms and light weapons is made more difficult by the lack of capacity in some States to put effective controls in place and to enforce them. This is often further compounded by limited practices and resources for cooperation and harmonization of practices between States.
This MOSAIC module provides step-by-step guidance on the development of effective and accountable government controls over international transfers of small arms and light weapons. It also focuses on how to regulate prosecution of those who engage in such practices.
For guidance on national controls over international transfers of small arms and light weapons, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/salw.
Community safety programming links to small arms and light weapons control by helping communities feel more secure. With this increased sense of security comes a decreased likelihood weapons are used for intimidation and extortion, in displays of toxic masculinity, in crime and domestic violence. Community safety programming can thus be a useful precursor to, or a component of, small arms control initiatives.
Community safety programming, including the use of Community Safety Plans, can encompass small arms self-regulation and reduction objectives, as well as broader public safety and health and community empowerment objectives.
This MOSAIC module provides practical guidance on designing and implementing community safety programmes that support, complement or form an integral part of small arms and light weapons control initiatives. It is applicable at the community and local levels in contexts of insecurity or poor public safety, including post-conflict settings. It is not applicable in situations in which a community perceives an armed conflict to be in progress.
In addition to being applicable to small-arms control programming, guidance provided by this module may also be applied in the context of public safety and public health programming.
For guidance on designing and implementing community safety programming, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/salw.
The ability to trace illicit small arms light weapons – as well as illicit parts, components and ammunition – back to the point where they passed from the legal to the illicit realm is necessary for effective action to prevent further diversions from taking place. Such tracing operations themselves depend on two prerequisites: the unique marking and the efficient recordkeeping of the weapons.
This MOSAIC module covers the technical aspects of marking. It also provides guidance on building an effective recordkeeping infrastructure, for use in support of national tracing operations. The primary objective of the module is to help States adopt and implement measures to ensure that small arms and light weapons, their parts, components and ammunition, are adequately marked and to encourage the small arms and light weapons manufacturing industry to assist in developing means of protecting against the removal and alteration of markings. In so doing, they can also help other States to identify the source(s) of illicit small arms and light weapons.
In addition, the module provides guidance on methods of marking, as well as on the types of markings to be applied at the time of manufacture, of import, of transfer from government stocks to civilian use, of permanent confiscation, and of deactivation. For guidance on tracing, a separate MOSAIC module is in place – one that was highlighted in the previous Saving Lives Bulletin (Issue 2).
For guidance on marking and recordkeeping of small arms and light weapons, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/salw.
2020 Group of Governmental Experts
In resolution 72/55, the General Assembly encouraged open, informal consultations focusing on conventional-ammunition management. In the same resolution, it also requested the Secretary-General to convene a group of governmental experts (GGE) on “problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus” in 2020 taking into account the discussions in the open, informal consultations.
Such informal consultations were held in 2018 and 2019, with particular focus on the dual challenges of unplanned explosions at munition sites and the diversion of munitions to unauthorized recipients.
The Secretary-General will convene the GGE for three sessions – in January, April and July 2020. The GGE’s report will be taken up by the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly.
International Ammunition Technical Guidelines
The 2020 GGE will be the second on the topic of conventional ammunition. A 2008 GGE submitted a comprehensive report on the problems arising from the accumulation of conventional stockpiles in surplus, concluding that problems from accumulation of surplus are largely the result of inadequate stockpile management policies and practice.
In taking up the specific recommendation of the GGE, the General Assembly requested the United Nations to develop guidelines for adequate ammunition management. In response, the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG) were developed in 2011 and the UN SaferGuard Programme was established as the corresponding knowledge management platform.
The IATG are reviewed and updated, at a minimum, every five years to reflect evolving ammunition stockpile management norms and practices, and to incorporate changes due to changing international regulations and requirements. The latest version of the IATG was published in 2015.
With the support of a Technical Review Board composed of selected national technical experts and a corresponding Strategic Coordination Group comprised of expert organizations, the UN SaferGuard Programme is currently in the process of updating the IATG. IATG version 3 will be completed in 2020.
The World Customs Organization WCO initiated its Small Arms Strategy in 2015 to support Customs administrations implement the Arms Trade Treaty (2013).
In 2017 the WCO developed a Small Arms and Light Weapons training curriculum delivering a small-arms ‘train‐the‐trainer package’ designed to provide sustainable training for front-line customs officers in the detection and prosecution of illicit small arms detected at the border.
The training covers elements such as risk management, licensing and end-user certification, identification and physical examination, and forensic handling techniques. The training has been successfully delivered in a number of locations and materials are provided to member administrations to incorporate into their own national training programmes.
Elements of the training are also available through the WCO online learning portal, which is available to customs officers from all member administrations. In addition, as a part of the wider WCO Security Programme, the WCO can also conduct assessment missions and provide capacity building for policy makers and senior managers in relation to small-arms detection.
INTERPOL provides a number of tools to help law enforcement agencies across the world address firearms crimes:
- INTERPOL Illicit Arms Records and tracing Management System (iARMS). This is the only global database containing records of lost, stolen, trafficked/smuggled firearms. It also serves as a platform for the international tracing of firearms, providing investigative leads on the last legal owner of the firearm, information on trafficking routes and the criminal organizations involved.
- INTERPOL Firearms Reference Table (IFRT). Embedded within the iARMS database, IFRT provides a standard framework for identifying and describing firearms. Containing references and images of firearms, IFRT enables investigators to obtain and verify details such as make, model, caliber, country of origin and serial number
These tools are available through INTERPOL’s secure communication network, known as I-24/7, that links all 194 member countries via their INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB). In order to fully benefit from these databases, NCBs are encouraged to extend iARMS to:
- Firearms record-keeping agencies: Key actors in the tracing of illicit firearms, these agencies are responsible for firearms registration and maintaining records of firearms that have been declared as lost and stolen.
- Law-enforcement agencies: It is imperative that frontline investigators obtain all possible leads from recovered firearms. While IFRT will help officers to accurately identify seized firearms, iARMS will allow them to trace the firearms in view of obtaining intelligence leads about the diversion of the firearm into the illicit market.
- Specialized units dealing with firearms-related crimes: iARMS enables the development of intelligence and analysis regarding illicit firearms at a national level. Therefore, specialized units such as firearms focal points can extract leads on trafficking routes and criminal organizations and pinpoint deficiencies in firearms chain of custody.
The value of iARMS depends on its widespread and systematic use by member countries. It is crucial that as many relevant agencies as possible have access to iARMS and IFRT to ensure that investigative leads are gathered and are retrievable whenever necessary, and to facilitate the prompt exchange of information on time-sensitive investigations.
UNLIREC forms part of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs in New York. Its main function is to support States in achieving and maintaining peace and security through disarmament, arms control and WMD non-proliferation. UNLIREC operates out of Lima, Peru, with 33 States in the Latin American and Caribbean region forming part of its geographical mandate. For more information, please access: www.unlirec.org.
Mitigating illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition
UNLIREC is working with screening officials from Central and South America to improve the detection of illicit shipments of arms and ammunition through entry/exit points, including airports, and courier and penitentiary services. Crucial to this teaching effort is an UNLIREC-developed x-ray identification guide. It contains descriptions and technical specifications of weapons, as well as guidance to detect innovative concealment methods used by traffickers.
UNLIREC also helps States design adequate policy responses to combat ammunition proliferation. That’s why we deliver a series of national workshops for policy makers on ammunition controls in Central and South America.
Meanwhile, with a view to supporting Central American and Caribbean States to implement the Arms Trade Treaty, UNLIREC delivered diversion prevention training and guidance on how to establish a national control authority responsible for international arms transfers.
Improving small-arms tracing capacity
To further harmonize and enhance tracing capabilities in line with the International Tracing Instrument (ITI), UNLIREC increased the capacity of Caribbean firearms examiners to present reliable ballistic evidence in courts of law. State-of-the-art equipment was donated to forensic laboratories to improve the quality management of evidence and casework
Fostering prevention of violence against women through arms control
UNLIREC worked with Latin American States to implement gender-sensitive approaches to armed-violence reduction, as well as to empower women to advance the disarmament and arms control agenda. Activities are in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—in particular Target 5.2 on eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls and Target 16.4 on reducing illicit arms flows—and General Assembly resolution 65/69.
United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR) is a small-scale, quick-impact funding mechanism in partnership with civil society organizations, regional organizations and UN entities. Donors have significant ownership of the fund: they select the best proposals.
Since its inception, UNSCAR provided financial support for 80 projects, from ammunition depot improvements to bringing grass-roots NGOs to UN meetings, to training local gun smiths to manufacture agricultural tools instead of weaponry. Over 140 States have benefited directly or indirectly from the activities funded by UNSCAR.
This year, UNSCAR received 57 applications. Donors will decide in October. All applicants will be informed of the result of the selection result in November. Successful projects will be implemented from January/February 2020 for one year.
UNSCAR is a proven success. States are still welcome to contribute to it – so that even more projects can be funded.
Visit www.un.org/disarmament/unscar to find out more about the UNSCAR trust fund and how your country can benefit or contribute
Current funding partners
As highlighted in previous issues of the Bulletin, the establishment of a dedicated facility to ensure sustained financing for coordinated, integrated small-arms control measures in most-affected countries is underway. Thanks to the joint efforts of UNODA and UNDP, in close cooperation with the Peacebuilding Support Office, the Saving Lives Entity, or “SALIENT” expects to initiate pilot projects in 2020. The fund will be launched at a side event at UN Headquarters on 24 October 2019.
• 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)