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 General Assembly endorsed the outcome of the 2018 Third Review Conference under the UN Programme of Action on small arms, which includes solid progress on national reporting, international assistance and information sharing. The outcome document also includes progressive language on gender-related topics, both mainstreamed throughout the document and in a specific section on the impacts of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons on women, men, girls and boys. The document also welcomes the establishment by the Secretary-General of a dedicated trust fund for improved small arms control, the Saving Lives Entity (“SALIENT”).
States decided to convene the next Biennial Meeting of States in 2020 for a one-week period. The Meeting will consider key challenges and opportunities related to the implementation of the Programme of Action and International Tracing Instrument with a view to preventing and combating diversion and illicit international transfers to unauthorized recipients.
The Biennial Meeting is tentatively scheduled to be held 15-19 June 2020 in New York.
Other resolutions adopted on conventional arms included those dedicated to the Arms Trade Treaty (A/RES/73/36), the Convention on Cluster Munitions (A/RES/73/54), the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention (A/RES/73/61) and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (A/RES/73/84). The Assembly also adopted a fourth resolution on combatting the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (A/RES/73/67) as well as texts on confidence-building measures (A/RES/73/51) and illicit arms brokering activities (A/RES/73/63).
Report to UNROCA and contribute to the implementation of the SG Disarmament Agenda.
Confidence-building measures are a key theme in the Disarmament Agenda of the Secretary-General. The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) is an important UN tool to help States build trust and confidence. All countries are expected annually to report to UNROCA. The UN makes the reported information public; all data can be found on www.un.org/disarmament/unroca.
When governments are open about their weapons imports and exports – including on small arms – they signal: we have nothing to hide. All our weapons transfers are undertaken in conformity with the UN Charter. We stand ready to have a dialogue on our choices with anyone interested.
By reporting to UNROCA, your Government contributes to more transparency in armaments and trust-building among States. This makes UNROCA an important instrument for conflict prevention.
The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs stands ready to assist Member States with their submission. Member States may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In her recent articles Let’s not forget: Gender must be at the heart of arms control, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations, Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, reiterated the importance gender considerations have in arms control discussions.
While the increasing international recognition of the issue is encouraging, real change on the ground must follow. This is why the United Nations has launched a multi-year programme in support of gender mainstreamed policies, programmes, and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse. The programme, funded by the European Union, supports the translation of the commitments States have made at recent Programme of Action on small arms meetings into national action. Such commitments include a call for the full participation and representation of women, a request to ensure coordination between national authorities responsible for the implementation of the Programme of Action and relevant ministries or other national authorities responsible for women’s affairs or gender. Moreover, States agreed to collect sex-disaggregated data and to report regularly on the implementation of those as part of their national reports under the Programme of Action.
Over the next three years, UNODA and its regional centres will collaborate with national small arms commissions and local communities around the world to promote a systematic, gendered approach to small arms control and to empower women to take their seats at the decision-making tables. UNODA will also provide training for staff from regional and sub-regional organizations who deal with small arms control policies and programmes. And it will bring together officials working on small arms with those working on the Women, Peace and Security agenda to take forward issues of common interest.
UNODA will partner with other UN agencies, such as UNDP/SEESAC and UN Women, as well as the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) as civil society partner.
The Secretary-General’s agenda for disarmament “Securing Our Common Future” outlines 40 actions across the entire range of disarmament issues, including weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms, and future weapon technologies. To put the agenda into practice, the United Nations developed an implementation plan which details how various entities in and beyond the United Nations system carry out these 40 actions. Each action has its own page with its main objective, a description of specific steps and activities being carried out, and other relevant information. The implementation plan website is a dynamic platform for monitoring and tracking progress towards achieving the agenda’s actions, as well as for staying abreast of relevant outputs.
The historic 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development places disarmament, arms regulation, peace, and security squarely within the scope of development policies. Goal 16—focusing on promoting peaceful societies, providing access to justice, and building effective institutions—underlines the need to significantly reduce illicit arms flows. The advancement of disarmament and arms control objectives also supports the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from health and quality education to gender equality, from economic growth to safe and sustainable cities.
The Secretary-General’s disarmament agenda offers new perspectives on better integrating disarmament and arms control into the United Nation’s work on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) convened by the UN’s Economic and Social Council is the main platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It provides for the full and effective participation of all UN Member States and specialized agencies. The 2019 HLPF will take place from 9 to 18 July (the last 3 days – 16-18 – will be at ministerial level attendance). The theme of the 2019 HLPF will be: “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. The following goals will be reviewed:
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
The review mechanism follows a thematic approach allowing participants to examine progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, including cross-cutting issues and interlinkages. Of particular interest for the “Saving Lives” Bulletin readers is the review of Goal 16 and its Target 16.4 which calls for the reduction of illicit flows of arms. In preparation for the review of Goal 16, an International Conference entitled: “Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies: SDG 16 implementation and the path towards leaving no one behind”, will be organized from 27 to 29 May 2019 in Rome, Italy, by the HLPF Preparatory Committee.
For more information visit: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/hlpf/2019/SDG16Conference2019.
For target 16.4 and its Indicator 16.4.2, there is high expectation that the HLPF would boost Member States’ efforts in setting up or strengthening national institutions and measures for effective data collection.
While progress has been made over the past two decades to address the scourge of small arms and light weapons, much remains to be done. The United Nations Secretary-General has recognized in his Agenda for Disarmament that the lack of implementation of arms control measures is resulting in disastrous consequences. He stresses the need for country-level approaches to the small-arms-and-light-weapons issue. And States themselves have stressed that the Programme of Action (PoA) to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects is very much a nationally-driven process by recognizing that governments bear the primary responsibility for solving the problems associated with the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
With a view to promoting new ideas on how to revitalize the PoA process and its national implementation. Member States held open-ended, informal consultations in February and March in New York and Geneva. They discussed new multilateral approaches for the PoA process which would shift the focus of UN PoA meetings to better support national efforts and to a multilateral process designed around those national actions. One additional benefit would be that assistance and capacity-building can be provided much better in situations where affected States have clearly identified their national target(s).
During the consultations, many States showed interest and support to further explore such a new angle. Going forward, once the Chair for the Seventh Biennial Meeting of States has been designated (expected in the second half of 2019), further discussions on this issue may take up under her or his leadership.
New Resource: Aide-Memoire on mainstreaming weapons and ammunition management issues into the work of the Security Council
In zones of instability around the world, the negative consequences of the illicit circulation and misuse of conventional weapons and ammunition include outbreaks of renewed conflict, sustained human rights violations and obstacles to sustainable development. Adequate weapons and ammunition management has become a crucial part of the United Nations response to conflict and insecurity.
The Security Council – the organ of the United Nations responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security – has increasingly addressed weapons and ammunition management in recent decades.
Recently, the United Nations produced an Aide-Memoire to assist Member States in accurately and comprehensively reflecting state-of-the-art weapons and ammunition management practices in relevant drafts of the Council’s decisions. The publication also supports the recommendation of the Secretary-General, in his report to the Security Council on small arms from 2015, that the arms situation be consistently considered when addressing both geographic and thematic issues on its agenda (S/2015/289).
SDG Target 16.4: On significantly reducing arms flows (including prevention of diversion), and data collection
In November 2018, a UN Inter-Agency Expert Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (IAEG-SDG) discussed SDG Indicator 16.4.2 “Proportion of seized, found or surrendered arms whose illicit origin or context has been traced or established by a competent authority in line with international instruments”. The Group decided that the data collected under this indicator is mature enough in order to measure satisfactorily SDG Target 16.4 on the reduction of illicit flows of arms.
A lot of work still needs to be carried out to ensure effectiveness and predictability in the data collection. The two avenues for national officials to provide data are: national reports on the implementation of the UN Programme of Action and its International Tracing Instrument (once every two years), and Illicit Arms Flows Questionnaire (IAFQ). If attaining the SDGs, also in the field of security, is important in your country’s policies, do make sure that your authorities report to both instruments.
Return to top
A lot of attention is being paid to the development and operationalization of global indicators for measuring the SDG’s targets. Well over 200 such indicators exist. States and regional organizations, as well as other entities, are encouraged to develop additional national and regional indicators that can capture other dimensions that would help them to attain each of the goals.
For target 16.4, arms-regulation related national and regional indicators can certainly complement global action. In its SDGs implementation strategy, UNODA has expressed its availability, especially through its Regional Centres, to assist States and regional organizations that are interested in the development of indicators that reflect their particular realities.
MOSAIC consists of 24 modules, providing practical guidance on the full range of small arms control measures. In the previous issue of the Bulletin, we highlighted the modules on setting up national coordinating mechanisms; stockpile management; and conducting small arms surveys. In this issue, we will look at the modules on improving national manufacturing controls; designing and implementing a national action plan; and tracing illicit small arms.
Effective national control over small arms and light weapons requires effective domestic regulation of their manufacture.
Such regulations serve to prevent the illicit manufacture not only of small arms and light weapons themselves, but also their essential parts and components, as well as their ammunition. In order to be effective, regulations must also ensure that all small arms and light weapons are adequately marked and recorded at the time of manufacture. This allows for tracing to their point of diversion, should they be recovered under illicit circumstances. In addition, the need for adequate security and record-keeping at the point of manufacture helps to prevent theft and loss of weapons from the manufacturers’ stocks.
This MOSAIC module provides specific guidance and advice for regulatory authorities who are seeking to draft legislation and regulations to combat illicit manufacturing, in accordance with international norms and obligations. It also advises licensing authorities on proper licensing and monitoring procedures.
For guidance on national controls over the manufacture of small arms and light weapons, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/salw.
While focused small arms control initiatives are valuable, they are most effective as part of a broader, coherent and sustainable national action plan – one that addresses the full life cycle of these weapons. A national action plan should identify clear goals and objectives to reduce the impact of the misuse of small arms and light weapons. In so doing, it will benefit from involving all key actors – in a number of countries that includes, civil society.
While developed primarily to guide UN entities that are supporting governments to develop national action plans, this module can also be used by governments to guide the process of developing their own plan. In addition, the module can even serve as useful guidance for the development of locally-focused small arms and light weapons control programmes.
For guidance on national action plans, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/salw.
As the MOSAIC module on improving national manufacturing controls also emphasizes, most illicit small arms were legally manufactured and only subsequently diverted to the illicit realm. Accordingly, the importance of an effective tracing capability – the ability to track illicit small arms or light weapons from their point of manufacture or most recent import, through their lines of supply and back to their last legal title-holder – is of critical importance. This identifies the point of diversion, a crucial component in preventing future diversions. Tracing the origin of illicit small arms and light weapons recovered from a crime may also help to identify a suspect, arms traffickers or may even reflect patterns of arms trafficking.
The module on tracing illicit small arms and light weapons provides practical guidance on how best to ensure timely and reliable tracing. It covers the unique identification of small arms and light weapons, as well as how to establish an effective national infrastructure, not only for tracing but for generating and responding to international tracing requests. Just as importantly, it identifies sources for international cooperation and assistance.
For guidance on tracing illicit small arms and light weapons, go to MOSAIC on www.un.org/disarmament/salw.
Saving lives by combating illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons is a necessary step to strengthening universal peace in larger freedom, the purpose of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. SDG target 16.4 aims to “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows,” in unison with INTERPOL’s Global Policing Goal 1.4 to “trace and disrupt financial streams and weapons sourcing.”
To assist its 194 Member States, INTERPOL offers several policing capabilities to assist them in their investigations of firearms trafficking and firearms-related crime.
One such tool, the Illicit Arms Records and tracing Management System (iARMS) facilitates the tracing of recovered illicit/criminal firearms. iARMS is a centralized database containing more than 1.3 million records of lost and stolen firearms from around world, which can be queried to identify when and where a recovered firearm was diverted from legal possession. Should the query not generate a positive result, the user can submit a request to the country of manufacture or country of last legal import to ask for further information about the firearm. INTERPOL provides trainings on the use of the iARMS database and technical assistance to support countries in their tracing activities. At the request of its member States, INTERPOL also communicates with recipient countries of the trace requests in order to encourage them to respond in a prompt manner.
- The number of iARMS records increased by 555,709 records (69% increase)
- 23,468 new trace requests were submitted (117% increase)
- 477,787 queries (398% increase) were performed. The conducted searches resulted in 288 new international iARMS hits (211% increase)
It is expected that INTERPOL will endeavor to collect from national authorities photos and references of marking practices applied by firearms manufacturers on their territory, firearms import authorities and firearms proof houses. An INTERPOL database on national marking practices will assist professional users in more easily identifying the markings found on recovered weapons.
Assistance in Asia and the Pacific: A Note from the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament (UNRCPD)
In 2018, UNRCPD trained female representatives of NGOs and members of national parliaments from 12 States in Asia on gender and arms-control issues.
Only months following the workshops, many of the NGOs, as intended, began initiating their own activities on the issues on SALW and gender or on women, peace, and security in their home countries. A similar workshop will also be held for the Pacific as well as a regional seminar for the Asia-Pacific region.
Ammunition: The Centre has so far organized three events as part of its region-wide initiative to support Member States in Asia and the Pacific with the safe and secure management of conventional ammunition. It held two training courses for officials from South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Mongolia, The Centre will carry out a follow-up training workshop on the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG) in the fall of 2019. With these efforts, the Centre is actively involved in realizing the “Saving Lives” pillar of the Secretary General’s Agenda for Disarmament.
The 2019 Call will be open for 2 months from June to July. Applications should be sent to UNSCAR in accordance with instructions in a 2019 Call document, to be posted on the website at the beginning of June. Eligible applicants are UN entities, regional organizations and civil society organizations.
Member States should have a partnership with an eligible applicant, who submits an application on behalf of a State.
UNSCAR will announce its 2019 Call for Proposals via the UNSCAR website: www.un.org/disarmament/unscar.
United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR) was established in 2013, 64 projects on an aggregated budget of $9 million have been implemented. Some 140 States have benefited directly or indirectly from the activities funded by UNSCAR. In 2018, an additional 16 proposals were selected: three within the UN system, one regional organization, ten NGOs and two research institutes. Funding of these projects is subject to the conclusion of a financial agreement.
Current funding partners
Illicit small arms are a problem that infiltrates nearly every aspect of a society, including public health, security, development, and human rights. They impact gender, border controls, inner-city youth, and maritime safety, to name but a few. The challenge is multi-faceted, and a multi-faceted response is required.
As highlighted in the first issue of the Bulletin, the Secretary-General is establishing a dedicated facility to ensure sustained financing for coordinated, integrated small-arms control measures in most-affected countries. This Saving Lives Entity, or “SALIENT”, recognizes that a dedicated funding window to address these challenges is required and that any programmatic solutions must be both multi-dimensional and integrated into wider development plans.
SALIENT is expected to dedicate a minimum of 50% of its programming to gender-relevant projects.
Initial financial and political support to SALIENT has already been provided by Japan and New Zealand. Other countries have announced that they see the urgency of this kind of work and will contribute. Support is growing, but more is needed. Together with the Peacebuilding Support Office and UNDP, concrete country-level actions are being prepared, with the aim of providing a long-term, sustainable vehicle for action to mitigate the scourge of illicit small arms.
• 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
• UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
• UNODC regional centres / offices
• SEESAC (South-Eastern & Eastern Europe)