In light of the ongoing health crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Firearms Programme (GFP) of UNODC has been focusing its efforts in adapting to the current reality without losing sight of its mandate of working directly with Member States to fight illicit firearms trafficking. In that sense from 28 to 30 July 2020 it carried out an “Online training on the investigation and prosecution of firearms trafficking and related offenses” aimed at practitioners in Central and West African countries.
During the first few weeks of the crisis, which saw worldwide travel disruptions leading to the postponement of some in-person trainings scheduled in the first semester of 2020, GFP experts worked in adapting its training material to an online setting particularly in a context with limited internet connectivity. Thus, trying to use to the maximum existing technologies for videoconferencing with low bandwidths, as well as services such as WhatsApp and YouTube, inter alia.
More than thirty practitioners from ten different countries (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Senegal) took part in the training, which focused on subjects such as: the dimensions of the firearms problem; the legal framework of firearms control; identification, marking, registration and tracing of illicit firearms; trafficking specific investigations and international cooperation. The activity also counted with the support and expertise of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the World Customs Organization.
Trainees showed their appreciation for the training, and in a letter sent to UNODC, underlined the importance of this type of training in the current context and the needs of some Member States for further support to fight firearms trafficking.
During the opening ceremony, Simonetta Grassi, Head of the GFP, highlighted the importance of continuing efforts to fight illicit firearms trafficking in spite of the pandemic, and the need to avoid that criminals and traffickers exploit this crisis. Apart this online training, the GFP has been stepping up its work to be able to respond to its mandate during the current situation, this includes: providing key partners with equipment and improving internet connectivity so that activities can be carried out online; adaptation of its trainings to online environments and of its entire curriculum to eLearning, as well as supporting efforts towards digitalization of firearms registries.
This activity was made possible with the support of Germany and the European Union.