Frequently Asked Questions


In 103 countries over the past five decades, poorly-stored ammunition stockpiles have led to grave incidents resulting in accidental explosions and humanitarian disasters. Thousands of people have been killed, injured and displaced and the livelihoods of entire communities have been disrupted.

In addition to the humanitarian and socio-economic consequences, unsecured or poorly managed national ammunition stockpiles fuel insecurity. Massive diversions of ammunition to illicit markets has been a catalyst for armed conflicts and crime in various regions. Diverted ammunition is also increasingly used to assemble improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Crucial for adequate stockpile management is the identification of surpluses - that is the portion of weapons and ammunition that do not constitute an operational need. When surpluses are not recognized, the entirety of the national weapons and ammunition stockpile may continue to be seen as of strategic and operational value. Although not used, weapons and ammunition surpluses thus continue to fill warehouses and can pose a significant - completely avoidable - risk.

Defective stockpile management has been assessed as the norm rather than the exception in many countries. Often it is not only the ineffective technical management of surplus stocks that should be the focus of attention, but the lack of appropriate policies and procedures governing ammunition management. Ineffective approaches to acquiring, maintaining and disposing of ammunition lead to the accumulation of unsafe, unserviceable and obsolete surpluses. The result is that national stockpiles become a risk to public safety; and diversion from warehouses continues to fuel crime and armed violence.

In 2008, a group of governmental experts on conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus recommended the development of technical guidelines for ammunition management. This recommendation was based on the conclusion that the problem of accumulation of surpluses is largely a result of inadequate stockpile management policies and practices In 2011, at the request of the General Assembly (A/RES/63/61), the United Nations developed the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG) to ensure that the United Nations consistently delivers high-quality advice and support in ammunition management. The guidelines were drafted with the assistance of a Technical Review Panel (TRP) consisting of technical experts from States selected based on a geographical balance - Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, Germany, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa and the United States of America. They were developed under the guidance and management of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), in close cooperation with the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS).

The UN SaferGuard Programme was established as the United Nations knowledge management platform for conventional ammunition management. It oversees the dissemination of the IATG and serves as their custodian, thus ensuring their highest technical quality and broadest promotion to interested stakeholders.

The IATG assist UN personnel and national authorities, including armed forces, police officers and border control officials, as well as industry, private security companies and operational non-governmental organizations to enhance the safety and security of ammunition stockpiles. The aim of the IATG is a reduction of the dual risks of unplanned explosions and illicit diversion.

The IATG are voluntary, practical, modular guidelines on the safe and secure management of ammunition for use by interested States and relevant stakeholders with a view to establishing standing operating procedures (SOPs). The IATG are not legally-binding nor do they represent a blueprint that States can merely adopt. Rather, they should be used as guidelines to inform the development of national and local SOPs, rules, instructions and codes of practice.

They have been developed to be compatible with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards and guides, but also with the existing and complementary International Mine Action Standards (IMAS), International Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards (IDDRS) and Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC)

The IATG have been written to be consistent with other international guidelines and to comply with relevant international regulations, conventions and treaties. Precedent and norms for workplace and site safety, as well as environmental protection, already exist at the international level. The main ones used within IATG are:

  1. the International Labour Organization (ILO) for safety in the workplace;
  2. the ISO guidance on risk management (ISO Guide 51);
  3. the ISO guidance on the application of quality management systems (ISO 9001:2008 series); and
  4. the ISO guidance on the application of environmental management systems (ISO 14001:2004).

Other international norms, such as the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Model Regulations, describe procedures for the classification and transport of conventional ammunition. These also have application to conventional ammunition stockpile management and are referred to as normative references in the appropriate IATG modules.

The IATG have been developed from a wide range of publicly available materials from other international organisations, regional organisations, national governments and individuals. This material has been key to the development of the IATG and has been duly acknowledged and referenced in the IATG.

The IATG consist of 12 volumes that provide practical guidance for "a whole of life" approach to ammunition management. These volumes are subdivided into 45 individual modules.

Taking into account the diversity in capacity of States and depending on the material, financial and technical resources available, three levels of ascending comprehensiveness are offered in the IATG. These levels are referred to as "risk-reduction process levels" (RRPLs). These are indicated within each IATG as either LEVEL1 (basic), LEVEL 2 (intermediate) or LEVEL 3 (advanced).

The UN SaferGuard Technical Review Board (TRB) was established as the governance structure to oversee the maintenance and improvement of the IATG. The IATG are reviewed on a regular basis, at a minimum every five years, to reflect developing ammunition stockpile management norms and practices, and to incorporate changes due to changing international regulations and requirements. For information, contact conventionalarms-unoda@un.org.

The IATG are available in multiple languages. The latest version of each guideline, can be found at https://www.un.org/disarmament/un-saferguard/guide-lines/.

Key IATG-compliant tools - ranging from the risk reduction checklist to the quantity-distance map and the explosive limit license generator - are available for immediate use in improving ammunition safety at https://www.un.org/disarmament/un-saferguard/toolkit/.

The UN SaferGuard Programme can identify technical expertise to provide assistance to requesting national authorities on conventional ammunition management.

Under the UN SaferGuard Quick-Response Mechanism, UNODA arranges for ammunition stockpile management assistance, including technical assessments and/or clearance activities, in accordance with the IATG.