29 August 2012 — On August 29, the International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS) were launched in a side event of the Second Review Conference on the United Nations Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. The new standards will help to ensure that the UN provides support to Member States on putting in place effective controls over the full life-cycle of small arms and light weapons — from manufacture, marking and recordkeeping to storage, transport and international transfer to the tracing, collection and destruction of illicit weapons.
Let’s say you’re a peacekeeper, or a humanitarian worker, or contributing to reintegration of former combatants, or developing a small arms national action plan with a government. At some point in your work, you would need some guidance on how best to deal with small arms control issues. You may need information on such practical assistance as how to conduct a survey on the small arms situation, how to advise on the best ways to destroy a surplus stock of weapons, or how to design and implement community safety programming.
The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons fuels armed violence in conflict, post-conflict and other fragile settings. About 526,000 people die from armed violence every year, at an annual opportunity cost to the global economy of approximately $400 billion. Armed violence destroys lives and livelihoods, breeds insecurity, fear and terror, dissolves social cohesion and hinders achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The lives of UN staff are also being endangered by the easy availability of weapons. As Hideki Matsuno, who is responsible for the ISACS in UNODA , notes: “Last year, the Organization recorded 26 armed attacks on UN premises, including five rocket and mortar attacks, 13 attacks using improvised explosive devices, 36 ambushes of UN convoys and 31 cases of hijacking of UN vehicles.”
The 23 UN entities that make up the UN Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA) mechanism have contributed expertise, time and money over the last three-and-a-half years. They also opened the process of developing the standards to experts from governments, international and regional organizations, civil society and the private sector.
UN Member States have already negotiated three global agreements aimed at eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The UN Programme of Action, the International Tracing Instrument and the Firearms Protocol create global norms that could go a long way towards eradicating the black market trade in guns.
Following their launch, the standards will be used by CASA partners to support programmes and projects designed to assist Member States in controlling arms and reducing armed violence. The work of drafting the standards may be coming to an end, but the task of applying them is only just beginning.