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’.
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UN SaferGuard Quick Response Mechanism provides ammunition technical support to Equatorial Guinea after explosions
On 7 March 2021, a series of explosions occurred at a military camp located in Bata, the economic capital city of Equatorial Guinea. More than 100 people died and over 600 people were injured, according to the most recent media reports. Following these tragic events, the UN Secretary-General expressed his deep condolences to the people and Government of Equatorial Guinea.
Shortly after the incident, the Government requested the assistance of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC). The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), which oversees the Regional Centre, responded by promptly initiating an assistance mission under the UN SaferGuard Quick Response Mechanism. The UN SaferGuard Programme, managed by UNODA, is the UN system-wide knowledge management platform for conventional ammunition matters, providing ad hoc technical support to States in line with the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG).
The mission team was composed of the Director of UNREC and technical experts from the Ammunition Management Advisory Team (AMAT). AMAT was established in 2019 as a joint initiative of UNODA and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) to provide a standing, technical advisory capacity for States.
With the logistical support of the UN Development Programme, the mission promptly deployed to Bata and initiated its work under the overall guidance of the UN Resident Coordinator in Equatorial Guinea. The team visited the explosion site and assisted the Government in assessing the cause of the incident, as well as identifying and reducing risks of further explosions and potential environmental impacts. The team also provided immediate technical advice on ammunition management and explosives safety and security risks based on the internationally accepted good practice contained in the IATG.
The mission shared its initial findings with the national authorities and the Resident Coordinator and made recommendations on how ammunition management practices can be improved, based on the IATG, to help prevent further incidents from occurring.
The UN SaferGuard Quick-response Mechanism – welcomed by the General Assembly through resolution 68/52 – was established to allow ammunition experts to rapidly deploy to assist States, upon request, in the urgent management of ammunition stockpiles, including in the aftermath of unintended explosions of ammunition.
Pursuant to the request of the General Assembly contained in resolution 72/55 “Problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus”, adopted by consensus in 2017, the Secretary-General established a group of governmental experts (GGE) in 2020.
Following delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the GGE convened for its second formal session in a hybrid format from 17 to 21 May 2021 with limited physical presence in Geneva and most experts participating virtually.
Building on its discussions at the first session in January 2021, and in line with its mandate, the GGE considered matters relevant to problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus, taking into account the exchanges in the open, informal consultations held in 2018 and 2019.
Germany, as main sponsor of the respective General Assembly resolution, convened a series of open, informal consultations exploring the challenges posed by the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus, with particular focus on the dual challenges of unplanned explosions at munition sites and the diversion of ammunition to unauthorized recipients. Six informal consultations were convened at United Nations Headquarters in February, March and October 2018, as well as February, May and September 2019.
At its second session, the GGE continued to address the dual risks posed by ineffective management of ammunition—both safety and security. It has noted two major issues of international concern– 1) the stockpiling of unserviceable ammunition, types of which can pose an explosive risk to civilian populations, national infrastructure, and the environment and 2) inadequately secured ammunition, which may be diverted to unauthorised users, including criminal and terrorist groups.
The GGE will convene for its third and final session to complete its work in September 2021 at UN Headquarters in New York.
The Office for Disarmament Affairs, under the UN SaferGuard Programme, released Version 3 of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG) following a comprehensive technical review by the UN SaferGuard Technical Review Board. The new version comprises of 12 thematic series (or volumes), sub-divided into 41 individual modules. In addition to technical updates to existing modules, Version 3 includes two newly developed modules, namely on organizational capabilities (module 01.35) and on airfields (module 8.20).
The IATG are voluntary, practical and technical guidelines that serve as a foundation and reference framework for national authorities. First developed in 2011 pursuant to General Assembly resolution 63/61, the IATG respond to a growing concern at the international level over explosive events at munition sites, resulting in grave humanitarian consequences. Another serious concern was the diversion of ammunition from poorly managed and unsecured stockpiles to the illicit market, fueling crime and armed conflict.
The IATG are meant to assist States in improving the safety, security and effectiveness of their ammunition management policies and practices. They adopt a ‘whole of life management’ approach to ammunition management. At the centre of this approach is risk management, with a particular focus on improving stockpile management practices as a means of reducing the probability of surplus accumulation, accidental explosions, and diversion.
The UN SaferGuard Programme, managed by the Office for Disarmament Affairs, functions as the caretaker of the IATG, allowing for holistic oversight and dissemination of the IATG and its supporting toolkits. In doing so it is supported by the IATG Technical Review Board (TRB) and the IATG Strategic Coordination Group (SCG). The TRB conducted a thorough review of the IATG over the past two years, resulting in its endorsement of Version 3 of the IATG as current, comprehensive and of the highest standards.
The newly released Version 3 of the IATG are currently only available in English. Translations of Version 3 into Arabic, French and Spanish will become available in due course. The Office for Disarmament Affairs will continue to strive to make the IATG available in additional languages.
On 6 December 2020, at its Fourteenth Extraordinary Session of Heads of States, Member States of the African Union decided to extend the “Silencing the Guns” flagship initiative and the September Africa Amnesty Month for another ten years to 2030. It was also decided to extend the implementation period of the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns to 2030, with periodic reviews every two years.
The summit represented an important opportunity for AU Member States to take stock of past achievements and remaining challenges in the implementation of the flagship initiative as one of the fifteen AU flagship projects to achieve “the Africa We Want”, known as Agenda 2063. In the Johannesburg Declaration on “Silencing the Guns”, adopted at the summit, AU Member States agreed to strong political commitment for the coming ten years and active engagement to strengthen common institutions and relevant normative frameworks. The declaration also points to key remaining challenges for sustainable development on the continent, including gaps in governance, corruption, terrorism, transnational organized crime, and illicit trafficking of small arms, drugs, other commodities, but also humans, the impact of climate change, epidemics and pandemics as well as foreign interference through, for example, foreign terrorist fighters.
For the coming ten years, key elements such as the linkage between peace, human security, and development will be crucial for the success of “Silencing the Guns”. To build “a robust culture of preventing crises while fostering peace and tolerance”, according to AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns, Ramtane Lamamra, in times when many countries on the continent remain trapped in cycles of violence, will require a whole-of-society approach. The linkage between sustainable development, conflict prevention, and disarmament – a central component of the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament – will require inclusive approaches to small arms control, focusing on good governance, the respect of human rights, and the inclusion of civil society, women, and youth.
African States have made significant progress in the fight against illicit trafficking of small arms, including adhering to international legally and politically binding instruments, such as the Firearms Protocol, the UN Programme of Action on small arms (PoA), the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) but also regional frameworks, such as the ECOWAS Convention, Kinshasa Convention, the Nairobi Protocol, the Bamako Declaration and the SADC Protocol. Many States have further strengthened institutional and human capacities establishing National Focal Points on Small Arms Control and enhancing expertise in Physical Security and Stockpile Management, Weapons and Ammunition Management, Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration, and voluntary weapon hand-over initiatives. However, States and communities still suffer from the scourge of illicit small arms through illegal imports, diversion to the illicit market, local craft production, and ever more complex conflict settings, including the more prevalent nexus between terrorism, arms, and organized crime.
The Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) and the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) released the 2nd edition of the UN Handbook for DDR practitioners on “Effective Weapons and Ammunition Management in a Changing Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Context”. First published in 2018 and developed as part of a joint initiative between ODA and DPO, the Handbook provides DDR practitioners with practical guidance to design and implement state-of-the-art disarmament and weapons and ammunition management (WAM) initiatives as part of integrated disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes, including through the use of DDR-related tools such as Community Violence Reduction (CVR). The Handbook draws upon good practices and innovative approaches developed in the field, as well as relevant international standards and guidelines. This second edition reflects relevant developments at the policy level, including the launch of the revised Integrated DDR Standards and the new MOSAIC module on SALW control in the context of DDR, and ensures consistent gender mainstreaming as well as systematic integration of youth considerations.
To support operationalization of the expert resources and guidance developed in the framework of the joint initiative, ODA and DPO also established a Technical Assistance Mechanism to provide DDR-related WAM assistance at the strategic, policy and technical level. Under this mechanism, technical assessment missions can be deployed to provide recommendations on WAM and to identify potential WAM activities as part of DDR processes. DPO and ODA also provide remote support, including through studies on weapons and ammunition dynamics to identify lessons learned from past WAM initiatives and priority areas of intervention. Potential support also includes the development and delivery of tailored training programmes for UN staff and national authorities. For any requests for assistance, please contact email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) hosted five live webinars for staff members and experts from regional and sub-regional organizations to explore the linkage between gender equality and small arms control.
From 17 May until 8 June 2021, the series provided a forum of exchange on work and activities regarding gender-mainstreamed policies, programmes, and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, in accordance with the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The webinar series also shared good practices from all regions in each webinar.
A broad range of themes were covered during the webinars. Experts presented on policy frameworks that inform gender-responsive approaches to arms control, while also addressing the relevance of arms control in gender equality frameworks and looked at the operationalization of global policy commitments and the importance of multi-stakeholder involvement, in particular regional organizations, parliamentarians and civil society. The webinars also examined the converging issues of arms control, conflict-related sexual violence and gender-based violence, and the response to COVID-19 and looked at key issues such as women’s participation in arms control and the need for positive masculinities for lasting transformative impacts in tackling the misuse and the proliferation of small arms. Integrating gender perspectives in ammunition management was also highlighted.
Over 80 participants worldwide participated in the webinar series which is part of a global UNODA’s flagship project on Gender and Small Arms Control, funded by the European Union.
20 years ago, States adopted the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA), agreeing to improve national small arms regulations, to strengthen stockpile management, to ensure that weapons are properly and reliably marked, to improve cooperation in weapons tracing, and to engage in regional and international cooperation and assistance.
Over the years, States have regularly come together to review the implementation of the PoA. Following the postponement of the Seventh Biennial Meeting of States 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 (BMS7) last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, States have begun preparations for the meeting which will be convened from 26 to 30 July 2021 in New York.
Under the chairmanship of Ambassador Martin Kimani of Kenya, States have held a series of virtual informal consultations since the start of this year on both organizational and substantive matters.
BMS7 will focus on the consideration of key challenges and opportunities relating to the implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument at the national, regional and global levels for the purposes of preventing and combating the diversion and the illicit international transfer of small arms and light weapons to unauthorized recipients. Other themes States are currently discussing are the possibility of national voluntary target setting, ways of addressing the impact of new technologies in weapon designs on the implementation of the PoA and its International Tracing Instrument and the possibility of a dedicated fellowship to build technical capacity related to small arms and light weapons control.
All information about BMS7 is available on the dedicated webpage, which is frequently updated: https://meetings.unoda.org/meeting/poa-bms7-2021.
Events ahead of BMS7
In light of the upcoming BMS7, several events have been organized by civil society and States. On 2 June, the Stimson Center and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations organized a joint webinar on “Renewing Commitments on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Issues”. During the webinar, high-level representatives from Japan, Kenya, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Small Arms Survey took stock of the progress made over the past 20 years and reviewed current small arms and light weapons related issues which continue to face the international community.
From 31 May to 4 June 2021, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) organized the 2021 Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence under the theme “Make your voice heard – Unite against gun violence”. Leading up to BMS7 civil society actors around the world were encouraged to advocate for more effective regulations of weapons and ammunition management, the prevention of domestic violence through arms control, and more diversity in small arms control discussions. Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs delivered a video message to launch the Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence in which she stressed the relevance of arms control and disarmament to the COVID-19 response.
As of May 2021, PoA/ITI national reports (covering the implementation period 2018 and 2019) have been received from 87 States. Since national reports are past due, States that have not yet done so are strongly encouraged to submit them as soon as possible before BMS7. Permanent Missions and relevant national authorities are advised to request country-specific passwords for the online reporting website from email@example.com. Data and information from PoA/ITI national reports are processed and made available through the POA national reporting database.
Pursuant to the RevCon3 outcome document, international and regional organizations are encouraged to share information on their focal points and implementation of PoA and ITI. Reports have been received only from INTERPOL, NATO, OSCE, RECSA, SEESAC and WCO. Other interested organizations are encouraged to submit their reports.
Please visit the BMS7 website for further information on reporting.
In 2020, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), together with the African Union Commission (AUC), initiated a joint project to support the implementation of the Africa Amnesty Month in interested African States. The project was carried out in seven African States, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire, funded by the Governments of Japan and of the Federal Government of Germany. Jointly undertaken by UNODA and the AUC, the project also included the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa, and Bordering States (RECSA) as implementing partner.
Supported by the project partners, National Commissions and National Focal Points for small arms control of the participating countries organized public launch and sensitization events of the Africa Amnesty Month that received high levels of visibility. Nation-wide slogan campaigns helped to increase public awareness and engagement, particularly of youth, who participated in a contest to develop a campaign slogan and key messages for the Africa Amnesty Month in their respective countries.Public knowledge of the effects of illicit accumulation, misuse, and trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) among the broader public was further enhanced by media campaigns conducted through TV and radio broadcasts, but also the dissemination of posters, flyers, and t-shirts. Moreover, Community-Based Policing (CBP) workshopshelped build law enforcement’s capacity to provide security at the local level and enhance trust with communities. Last but not least, all countries built their national law enforcement forces’ capacities through workshops on Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM), record-keeping and tracing, but also the community-based policing concepts.
Countries have further pushed for a strong inclusion of gender-responsive activities in their project planning through the inclusion of women and youth.
Overall, almost 3,500 small arms have been collected during the campaign in 2020.
In 2021, Madagascar, Niger, The Gambia, and Uganda have also expressed interest and will join the project. National partners are planning wide-range sensitization and outreach in various geographical zones in the countries, capacity-building in community-based policing and secure stockpile management techniques as well as broad inclusion of civil society actors to ensure inclusive engagement of communities in the run-up of the campaign.
Ever since its founding, the United Nations has sought to reduce global military spending. This objective is enshrined in article 26 of the UN Charter, which calls for the “least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources.” Nevertheless, global military spending further increased in 2020 to $1981 billion and is at its highest since the end of the cold war, according to recent data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Military expenditures as a share of global gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 0.2% to 2.4%, which translates to approximately 252 USD per person in one year. Regionally, military spending rose in Africa (5.1%), followed by Europe (4%), the Americas (3.9%) and Asia and Oceania (2.5%). Military spending fell by 6.5% in the 11 Middle Eastern countries on which data is available.
The continued increase in military spending comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need to allocate adequate sustainable resources to health, social and economic infrastructure and services worldwide. Despite the overall economic downturn in 2020 due to the pandemic, only a few countries explicitly reallocated part of their planned military spending to their pandemic response or spent considerably less than their military budgets had foreseen. In a recent Op Ed, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, and Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, drew attention to the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women. An estimated 47 million more women and girls are pushed into extreme poverty during the pandemic, accompanied by a dramatic increase in domestic violence. Meanwhile, women make up 70 per cent of the global health care workforce and were on the frontlines of the response. The Op-Ed also draws attention to the militarized notion of security, which leads to high levels of investment and trade in weapons arsenals and, rather than improving security, fuels cycles of mistrust between States and global tensions and instability. The Op-Ed puts forward a “human-centered approach” to security, focused on the pursuit of disarmament and arms control measures and the prevention of needless human suffering.
As highlighted in previous issues of the Bulletin, the establishment of the Saving Lives Entity (SALIENT), a dedicated facility to ensure sustained financing for coordinated, integrated small-arms control measures in most-affected countries was completed and has been opened as a window within the Peacebuilding Fund. A joint undertaking of UNODA and UNDP, SALIENT officially began operations in December 2020, supported by contributions from France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland.
Despite the impact of COVID-19, two scoping missions have been carried out thus far – in Jamaica and in Cameroon. Following the results of consultations with the respective host governments, UN agencies, civil society and other relevant stakeholders, proposals for activities to be carried out are currently being put together by UN agencies on the ground, jointly with the host governments, and in coordination with the Resident Coordinator’s Office. In addition, further pilot activities are being explored in Africa, in the Asia-Pacific and in Latin America.
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). Fourteen of these modules were highlighted in the three 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
- 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
This issue will focus on the remaining modules in the Operational Series (Series 3): National controls over the end-user and end-use of internationally transferred SALW; and National regulation of civilian access to SALW.
In order to help prevent diversion to the illicit market, it is essential to have in place national controls over the end-user and end-use of internationally transferred small arms and light weapons. Such controls are an integral part of a comprehensive transfer control system for ensuring that legally transferred SALW reach the authorized end-user, and in keeping with their authorized end-use. (Comprehensive transfer controls are set out in MOSAIC 03.20).
Such efforts go beyond the simple identification and evaluation of an authorized end-user and end-use but extend beyond the time of export to encompass both delivery verification and post-delivery controls. Success in this regard requires a robust legislative and regulatory system, but when implemented correctly, constitute a powerful tool in combating the illicit trade in SALW.
This MOSAIC module provides practical guidance on developing and implementing effective and accountable national controls over the end-user and end-use of internationally transferred small arms and light weapons. To access the module, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/mosaic.
Small arms, an estimated three-quarters of which are in civilian hands, are primarily used for legal purposes such as self-protection, hunting and sport-shooting. In addition, small arms can be everyday working tools for civilians involved in activities such as subsistence or professional hunting, agriculture, forestry and species management. However, some civilians hold small arms illegally, whether through possessing a type of firearm prohibited by law, or possessing more small arms than the law allows, or not holding a license that may be required by law for the weapon(s) they hold. Of these, a proportion of civilian misuse small arms.
Inadequate national regulation of civilian access to small arms and light weapons is a factor in their global, illicit trade – demonstrating that their aspect goes beyond national borders, as loose or inadequately enforced regulation in one State can affect neighbouring States. Effective manufacturing ,import, export, stockpiling and border controls are essential to preventing illicit trade, and guidance in this regard can be found in MOSAIC 03.20, 03.21 and 05.60). However, these controls must also be accompanied by regulatory mechanisms that should be in place to ensure that privately held small arms are legally owned and used and that civilians are held accountable for their illegal possession, misuse and trafficking.
This MOSAIC module provides guidance on regulating, at the national level, civilian access to small arms, light weapons and their ammunition. It is intended for regulatory and licensing authorities of governments that are voluntarily seeking advice and support from the United Nations on regulating civilian access to small arms and light weapons. To access the module, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/mosaic.
The United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Conventional Arms Regulation (UNSCAR) has funded 94 short-term, small-scale, quick-impact projects in the area of conventional arms control since 2013. UNSCAR has been strategically and financially supported by Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
In February 2021, 14 project proposals were selected for UNSCAR funding, to be implemented in 2021. The funding process is ongoing. The list of selected applications is posted on the UNSCAR website.
Regarding 2021 Call for Proposals (projects to be implemented in 2022), please also refer to the UNSCAR website for updates and announcements.
UNODA and UNODC: joint virtual high-level event in the margins of BMS7
2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the Programme of Action on small arms and the Firearms Protocol. The adoption of both instruments marked a turning point in international efforts to counter the problem of illicit manufacturing, trafficking, uncontrolled proliferation, and misuse of small arms and light weapons (SALW). For this double anniversary, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will host a joint virtual high-level event taking place in the margins of the Seventh Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action on small arms (PoA) on 26 July 2021 at 13:15 (EDT).
The event will serve as an opportunity to take stock of past achievements and challenges in 20 years of implementation of the two instruments, to discuss their continued importance and recommendations for the way forward in the framework of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
To give practitioners from various backgrounds as well as members of civil society the opportunity to share their views, thoughts, and ideas, the organizers called for the submission of 30-seconds video contributions on three key themes:
- Key achievements over the past 20 years in the fight against illicit small arms trafficking
- Key remaining challenges in countering the illicit trafficking in small arms
- Small arms control and the linkage to the Sustainable Development Goals, including the important role of women, youth, and civil society
Submissions will be used for a “Voices from the Ground” video that will be displayed and guide the discussion at the high-level side event on 26 July.
To register for the event and submit questions to the panelists click here.
• 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)