Arms destruction campaign in Campana (Argentina) supervised by UNODC, 12 August 2016
Vienna (Austria), 9 July 2020 – This date marks the International Small Arms Destruction Day, a date initiated by the United Nations in 2001 to remind the threat that the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of and illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons pose to peace and security, and highlights the importance of destroying surplus weapons as a key measure to reduce illicit arms flows and build safer societies where citizens can develop their full potential.
Illicit firearms are often catalysts and elements that aggravate the impact and harm produced by other crimes, including violent crimes, organised crime, drug trafficking or terrorism, among others, posing a major threat to human security and social stability, whilst standing as a serious obstacle to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, the international community has recognised the need to reduce illicit arms flows as a key target (Target 16.4) in pursuit to achieve peace, justice and strong institutions, as Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Agenda.
Over the past decade, arsenals have proliferated at global level. According to Small Arms Survey, it is estimated that there are approximately 1,13 billion firearms in circulation, among which 857 million are held by civilians; 133 million by military; and 22,7 million by law enforcement.
The larger the number of uncontrolled arms in circulation, the more difficult it is to ensure effective control over them throughout their entire lifecycle. Stockpiles become potential targets of thefts and attacks, and diversion points of firearms to the hands of criminals, non-state armed groups, terrorists, etc., contributing to fuel crime, conflict, gender-based violence, forced migration and innumerable indirect consequences.
Against that context, voluntary surrender and arms destruction campaigns are important crime prevention measures to reduce the risk of uncontrolled proliferation of firearms in civilian hands or in stockpiles, and hence strengthening the national capacities to effectively implement their arms control regimes. The destruction of small arms also contributes to preventing illicit trafficking in firearms, and thus combatting other forms of crime.
The UN Firearms Protocol requires state parties to adopt the measures to prevent illicitly manufactured and trafficked firearms, parts and components and ammunition from falling into the hands of unauthorized persons by seizing and destroying them, unless other methods of disposal have been officially authorized. Through its integrated five-pillar approach, UNODC’s Global Firearms Programme supports Member States in conducting collection and destruction campaigns and in implementing other preventive and security measures in line with the Firearms Protocol, along with assistance for policy and legislative development; capacity building and institutional support to enhance criminal justice responses; promotion of broad and inclusive international cooperation; and evidence-based research and analysis.