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 2020 report of the Secretary-General on “The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects and assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them” is now available in all official UN languages.
The report includes an overview of challenges related to the diversion of small arms and light weapons at the national, regional and international levels. It also provides an overview of good practices, lessons learned and recommendations on preventing and combating the diversion and illicit international transfer of small arms and light weapons to unauthorized recipients. The views of Member States, the United Nations system, the International Criminal Police Organization and the World Customs Organization are reflected therein.
In February 2020, Belgium, non-permanent member of the UN Security Council holding the monthly presidency, organized an open briefing on the thematic issue of small arms and light weapons. The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, briefed on the latest report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on small arms and light weapons issued on 30 December 2019 (S/2019/1011).
In the 2019 report, the Secretary-General provides an overview of significant trends and developments over the last two years in the area of small arms and light weapons. The Secretary-General laments the continued rise in global military expenditure and the role that small arms and light weapons continue to play in hindering peace, security and sustainable development.
The High Representative’s briefing to the Security Council centred on two fundamental themes reflected in the report—the role of illicit small arms, light weapons and associated ammunition in conflict and pervasive crime; and the deeply cross-cutting and wide-ranging impact of illicit small arms and light weapons flows.
Following the High Representative’s briefing, the 15 members of the Security Council made statements. Most members emphasized the important role of the Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Several interventions highlighted the role of illicit arms in facilitating acts of terrorism and organized crime and in impeding sustainable development. Gender-sensitive small arms and light weapons control was also underscored as crucial to effective responses.
In light of the situation concerning the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the United Nations General Assembly postponed 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) until 2021.
In line with decision A/74/L.62, new dates for BMS7 will be decided by the General Assembly at its seventy-fifth session.
Please note that although BMS7 has been postponed, States are still encouraged to submit their national reports on the implementation of the Programme of Action in 2020.
With the aim to promote a systematic, gendered approach to small arms control and to strengthen women participation, the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) successfully concluded a workshop series on “Gun Violence and Illicit Small-Arms Trafficking from a Gender Perspective”. The series included three sub-regional workshops for South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and a conclusive regional Seminar for Asia and the Pacific, over the period of July 2018 – March 2020. A video montage of the conclusive event is available here.
The series brought together parliamentarians and women leaders from civil society from Asia and the Pacific. Participants developed actions integrating gender-responsive measures to effectively address armed violence and joint initiatives to take forward gender mainstreaming small arms control in their national setting.
The workshops further raised awareness on the practical application of key international arms control instruments, such as the Arms Trade Treaty and the United Nations Programme of Action on SALW, and their linkage with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.
UNRCPD consolidated discussions, findings and lessons-learned from all the four events in a Compendium, which will also serve as a guide for further activities on Gender & SALW at the national and regional level.
The workshops were conducted in partnership with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), UN Women, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), the Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the Centre for Arms Violence Reduction, with funds from UNSCAR and the European Union.
All Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC) modules are now available in French, as well as English. In addition, the modules covering cross-cutting issues on women, men and the gendered nature of SALW, as well as on children, adolescents and youth and SALW, are also available in Arabic, Portuguese and Spanish. These authoritative international guidelines are designed to assist Member States and organizations around the world to strengthen their small arms control measures and capacities. The translation of the MOSAIC modules into French is part of a broader effort to ensure the wider accessibility of these modules, including through translation into other languages.
The translation of modules was funded by the Government of France and the EU contributions to a multi-year programme in support of gender and small arms issues.
Adedeji Ebo has assumed duties as Chief, Conventional Arms Branch, effective March 2020. He was until then the pioneer Chief of the Security Sector Reform (SSR) Unit, Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI), Department of Peace Operations, New York, since August 2008, with intermittent assignments as the Director of Political Affairs at the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, UNOWAS (2017–2019), UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (2015–2016), and the UN Office in Mali (2013).
Prior to the UN, he was a Senior Fellow and founding Head of the Africa Programme at the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF). He was an Associate Professor and the Head of the Department of Political Science and Defence Studies at the Nigerian Defence Academy. He is an alumnus of the University of Keele, England (BA, International Relations), the London School of Economics and Political Science (MSc, Politics of the World Economy), and Bayero University, Nigeria (PhD, International Relations). His latest publication is: The United Nations and Security Sector Reform: Policy and Practice (co-edited with Prof Heiner Hanggi), published by LIT VERLAG, 2020.
States are committed to submitting national reports biennially on their implementation of the Programme of Action (PoA) and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI). At the third Review Conference in 2018, utilization of national reports is reaffirmed to provide a baseline for measuring progress in their implementation; and needs and opportunities for international assistance and cooperation. States also agreed to share information on, among others: national action plans; national points of contact; incidents and risks of SALW diversion; SDG-related data collection; gender- and age-disaggregated data; and opportunities and challenges associated with recent developments in SALW manufacturing, technology and design. In accordance with these requirements, the online reporting website has been updated to better assess progress made in the implementation of the PoA and the ITI, as well as the SDGs (i.e. target 16.4). The PoA/ITI online reporting website enables States to submit their reports in 6 UN official languages, and to compile and visually present relevant information in the PoA reporting website (country profiles, international assistance, SDGs and statistics). As of 27 May, 45 national reports have been submitted, which are listed on the PoA reporting website.
The deadline for 2020 reports (covering 2018 and 2019) was 31 May 2020. ODA will continue to receive late submissions. If necessary, Permanent Missions or NPCs should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a country-specific username and password for online reporting. Please see ODA’s Notes Verbales for more details. Once a 2020 report is submitted online, it can be updated and resubmitted anytime throughout the year and in time for BMS7, whenever new data and information become available or any change to National Points of Contact is made. A previous online repot can be quickly revised for a new submission in the next reporting cycle.
Reports from Organizations
Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 74/60, relevant international and regional organizations are encouraged to provide States with assistance in the preparation of PoA/ITI national reports. ODA issued a Note Verbale dated 6 April and requested such organizations to liaise with relevant States, and if possible to share a list of their contact information with ODA.
The Note Verbale also reminded that relevant international and regional organizations submit their own reports. In the RevCon3 outcome document, they are encouraged to report on actions taken at the regional and subregional levels that support the implementation of PoA. A simple template is made available to enhance relevance and consistency of information in the reports.
Reports from organizations are posted on the BMS7 website.
The United Nations Charter reflects an explicit understanding of the link between disarmament and development. Article 26 recognizes the need to ensure “the maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s economic and human resources”. Despite this clear, global commitment, military spending has seen its largest annual increase in a decade, reaching $1917 billion in 2019—a level not seen since the height of the cold war.
Rethinking unconstrained military spending constitutes an important component of the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, Securing Our Common Future. In a deteriorating international security environment, reducing military budgets becomes ever-more essential.
By creating opportunities to redirect funds from the military to economic and social development, a reduction in military expenditure can also make a key contribution to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In support of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda for Disarmament, the Office for Disarmament Affairs has published a two-part series of Occasional Papers on rethinking unconstrained military spending intended to promote renewed research on the relationship between military expenditure and economic and social development.
Released in October 2019, the first volume, UNODA Occasional Papers No. 33 by Michael Spies from the Office for Disarmament Affairs, provides a historical overview of United Nations efforts to reduce military expenditures.
Coinciding with the Global Days of Action on Military Spending and complementary to the recent release of the annual military spending data by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Office for Disarmament Affairs published the second volume, UNODA Occasional Papers 35, on rethinking unconstrained military spending in April 2020. The papers written by the expert community address the issue of military spending from various angles by examining the impact of military expenditures on international security; the relationship between military spending and the Sustainable Development Goals; the importance of gender perspectives in rethinking military spending; and lessons learned from economic conversion movements.
This research and analysis aim to support the development of new initiatives to reduce military spending with a view to prioritizing investment in peace and sustainable development.
While the Global North’s governments are struggling to respond to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, countries in the Global South are still in an early stage of the pandemic lacking basic health care infrastructure and medical services in regions ravaged by conflict and armed violence. Thus, societies living in fragile contexts encounter tremendous challenges when facing yet another crisis, the spread of COVID-19. Socio-economic structures, population density, impacts of climate change, related food shortages, and armed conflict are hindrances when it comes to the implementation of COVID-19 preventive measures on a large scale.
While challenges are manifold already, several countries have seen a severe lack in the respect of human rights in their responses to the outbreak of the virus causing large scale riots and violence amongst the population. Adopting authoritarian measures in the response to the crisis is seen to foster mistrust and fear of governmental forces, further weakening the social contract and increasing the potential for self-arming for purposes of self-defense by civilians.
Restrictive measures in the response to the COVID-19 outbreak have also severely impacted humanitarian work and support to broader peacebuilding initiatives, where response vacuums allow for conflict dynamics and risks of community violence to exacerbate. While crucial peacebuilding initiatives, peace processes, and dialogues have been put on hold, long-term gains may be lost and build back from scratch necessary. Security voids lead to increased activity of armed groups and with that a potential increase in the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons and ammunition that needs to be tackled.
That said, the crisis has also seen a dramatic increase in domestic and gender-based violence, as well as an overall increase in crime rates where the use of small arms plays a major role as well.
Moving forward, recommendations request for conflict-sensitive approaches, support to community-led responses, including support for youth and women-led efforts, a strict monitoring of human rights abuses, and initiation of state to citizen dialogues to gain and foster trust instead of spreading fear and hatred. Lastly, while funding for the COVID-19 response is vital, ongoing peacebuilding and with that arms control initiatives should be integrated into the response instead of being stalled, or worse, cancelled.
MOSAIC is a set of voluntary practical guidance notes on the full range of small arms control measures, organized into 24 modules (18 completed and 6 under development). We have highlighted nine of these modules 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; and
- Marking and record-keeping
In this issue, we will focus on the modules on cross-cutting issues: one on women, men and the gendered nature of SALW and the other on children, adolescents, youth and SALW.
Small arms and light weapons neither involve nor affect men and women in the same way. Moreover, women are traditionally underrepresented in initiatives to control these weapons. Looking at the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons through a gender lens recognizes these two factors, as well as the need to undertake gender mainstreaming in order to ensure that the impact of SALW control initiatives is considered at every stage of assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Gender mainstreaming allows for a better understanding of the roles that men and women play in relation to small arms and light weapons, in times of conflict, post-conflict reconstruction and peace. Promoting gender-balanced participation in small arms and light weapons control protects men’s and women’s rights to participate in decision-making on an issue that affects everyone’s security. Ensuring equal participation by women requires a strong focus on the inclusion of women, especially from affected communities and civil society, and a commitment to gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation.
The integration of gender perspectives into small arms and light weapons control process is, of course, mandated by international instruments, and this itself is a reflection of a better understanding of the factors driving the demand for and misuse of small arms and light weapons, as well as their impact on everyone’s human rights, development and security. Gender perspectives in the context of SALW initiatives are a critical component in developing responses that are better able to increase the level of welfare provision, reinforce security and strengthen the political legitimacy of the peacebuilding process – in other words, responses that are more holistic, better targeted and more effective.
This MOSAIC module draws together the gender-related threads of other MOSAIC modules, establishes principles and provides guidance on implementing gender-responsive small arms and light weapons control programming. By offering advice on gender-sensitive interventions and actions, It is intended to add to the toolbox for practitioners in the overall effectiveness of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of small arms and light weapons control initiatives, whether they be at the level of legislation, policy, programming or projects.
For guidance on national controls over international transfers of small arms and light weapons, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/salw.
Armed violence perpetrated with small arms and light weapons puts children, adolescents and youth at risk by threatening their security, health, education, wellbeing and development, both during and after conflict, as well as in times of peace. The negative impacts of armed violence on children, adolescents and youth are varied and far-reaching. They include death, physical injury, psychosocial distress and trauma, disrupted access to nutrition, education and healthcare, displacement, loss of opportunities, gender-based violence (including sexual violence), intimidation, exploitation and abuse. Such impacts are preventable. The death, injury and mistreatment of children, adolescents and youth can be avoided or at least significantly reduced through responsible action by adults to protect them and also through action by children, adolescents and youth themselves, as agents of change.
It is important to note that the use of small arms by children, adolescents and youth is not always associated with inter-personal or inter-group violence. In many countries, young people use small arms for recreational purposes (e.g. hunting and sport shooting) in secure, regulated and organized settings. In some countries, young people use small arms to engage in subsistence hunting in order to supplement the livelihoods of their families or to mark their coming of age in societal rites of passage. Even in well-regulated contexts, and even in otherwise peaceful societies, small arms can be misused, either intentionally or unintentionally, with devastating consequences for children, adolescents and youth. While acknowledging the diversity of contexts in which young people may interact with small arms, it is important to focus on minimizing the risks that such weapons pose to this age-group. In addition, the active and meaningful participation of children, adolescents and youth in efforts to control small arms and light weapons can foster sustainability and can bring much-needed creativity and energy to bear on this issue.
While aspects of the illicit trade, uncontrolled proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons as they relate to children, adolescents and youth have been incorporated where appropriate into all MOSAIC modules, this focused module pulls together those threads as they relate to children, adolescents and youth, It seeks to provide practical guidance on designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating initiatives to control small arms and light weapons— whether they be at the level of legislation, policy, programming or projects — that are sensitive and responsive to the specific rights, needs and capacities of children, adolescents and youth.
For guidance on designing and implementing community safety programming, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/salw.
Ageing, unstable and excess conventional ammunition stockpiles pose the dual risks of accidental explosions at munition sites and diversion to the illicit market. The humanitarian impact of ammunition-storage-area explosions has resulted in death, injury, environmental damage, displacement and disruption of livelihoods. Moreover, diversion from ammunition stockpiles has fueled armed conflict and violence and contributed to the manufacture of improvised explosive devices.
In response to these challenges, and in line with the Secretary-General’s agenda for disarmament Securing Our Common Future, the Ammunition Management Advisory Team (AMAT) was established as an international technical advisory and assistance mechanism on ammunition management. A joint initiative of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), under the umbrella of the UN SaferGuard Programme, and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), AMAT works to enhance State and regional action on the safe and secure management of ammunition and to facilitate sustainable and effective international cooperation and assistance.
Operational since January 2019, AMAT provides expert technical assistance to interested States and other partners, in accordance with the highest existing international standards, namely the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG).
By doing so, AMAT contributes directly to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.
National authorities interested in requesting technical assistance in conventional ammunition management under the UN SaferGuard Programme can contact email@example.com.
2020 marks the target year of the African Union initiative “Silencing the Guns by 2020”, a flagship initiative accompanied by its Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silencing the Guns adopted in 2017. Therefore, “Silencing the Guns: Creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development” has been declared theme of the year by the African Union. Resuming the initiative’s progress so far, the AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns, Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, pointed out important advances made regarding the creation of peace on the continent with significant fewer active conflicts and the development of a “robust blueprint for promoting peace, security, and stability (…) advancing of good governance and respect for human rights”.
While important improvements have been made, many challenges remain. In an encompassing analysis, IANSA elaborates on gains and challenges of the Silencing the Guns initiative. It has put forward strong recommendations, such as the focus on further aligning regional and national level actions to ensure more effective coordination and synergies, as well as strengthening civil society and government partnerships to foster the link between communities and the state in the response to the proliferation of illicit small arms.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic further causes backlashes in gains and advances already made in the provision of peace and security and arms control. In that regard, a recently released UN Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Africa highlights the “Silencing the Guns” initiative as a priority for maintaining peace, security, and stability in the face of the global pandemic. The United Nations fully supports the African Union in its initiative to silence the guns in various ways. The strong partnership between the two organizations, especially in this time of a global crisis, can be seen in the call for a global ceasefire launched by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, supported by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Generally, representatives of both organizations have called for global solidarity, stronger partnerships, and people-centered responses to tackle the crisis and build-back for future peace and security on an aspired gun-free continent.
The implementation of the 2020 projects has been initiated after delays in administrative matters. In June, UNSCAR will make an announcement regarding the 2020 Call for Proposals via the UNSCAR website.
Current funding partners
• 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)