Tracing small arms is key to reducing violence, says the UN General Secretary

26 April 2011 - Keeping track of small arms in conflict, post-conflict and conflict-prone areas is key to identifying where such arms and ammunition may be diverted for illicit use, and thus improve the security of stockpiles and shipments, says the UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon. He presented a report about the illicit trade of small arms during a Security Council meeting.
The Secretary-General alerts that the violence can assume "frightening proportions" in communities in which there is a broad circulation of weapons. This conclusion has been already pointed out by the UN, in 2006, in the World Report on Violence against Children, elaborated by the then Independent Specialist for the Study on Violence against Children, the Brazilian Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro.
Ban reminded that Pinheiro's report had recommended that the countries developed a wide prevention policy to reduce the demand and the access to weapons - a strategic step to "reduction of environmental factors that contribute to violence against children in the communities".
According to the Secretary-General's report, the control of conventional ammunition arsenals also continues to represent a serious problem. The inadequate control of ammunition stocks is responsible for a substantial part of the supply of the illegal markets. The easy access to ammunition is a "key-factor" to enable all forms of armed violence, including crime. Moreover, in the lasts decades, accidental explosions caused by the stocking or the inadequate management of ammunition stocking happened in more than 50 countries, leading in a high number of victims, and in the destruction of infrastructure and the environment.
"The Security Council could encourage States to strengthen their tracing capacity (of light weapons and ammunition) and to enhance international cooperation regarding tracing in these contexts, including the United Nations," he writes in a report to the Security Council on the trade of illicit small arms and light weapons.
In his recommendations to the Council, which discussed the report in a closed-door meeting today, Mr. Ban states that in weapons collection programmes during a post-conflict situation, weapons should be recorded in sufficient detail to ensure accountability and to facilitate their tracing in the event of diversion.
UN will release an international pattern of control
He says that the International Small Arms Control Standards currently being developed by the UN will provide practical guidance on the appropriate collection and record keeping of small weapons gathered in post-conflict environments.
In the biennial report, submitted to the Council in line with requirements of the implementation of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA-ISS), Mr. Ban recommends that expert groups monitoring arms embargoes could be aided in their work if they have basic information on the ammunition marking practices of States.
He recommended the Council to encourage Member States to provide to the UN, on a voluntary basis, public information on the tags applied to ammunition for small arms and light weapons by manufacturers under their jurisdiction, as well as the tags on ammunition recovered from illicit use.
Lack of Control foster Armed Conflicts
The Secretary-General notes that unsecured or poorly monitored national ammunition stockpiles account for a substantial amount of the global diversion into illicit markets, a key factor in the prolongation and escalation of armed conflict, as well as in terrorism, crime and other forms of armed violence. They are also an important source for the assembly of improvised explosive devices, he added.
"The destruction of surplus arms and ammunition is cost-effective when compared with the costs of properly securing and maintaining stockpiles, and should be pursued vigorously by States, United Nations country teams and peacekeeping missions," writes Mr. Ban, adding that the Council may wish to encourage States to apply, on a voluntary basis, the international ammunition technical guidelines once they are finalized.
To effectively combat armed violence in conflict, post-conflict and conflict-prone settings, peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities and development assistance should require planning for armed violence reduction as a priority, the Secretary-General notes.
"In such contexts, it is vital that traditional arms control measures are integrated with the interventions that target the demand for weapons and enhance the ability of security providers and governance authorities to strengthen community security, manage conflict and mitigate violence," he adds.
The Secretary-General also recommends that in line with his 2009 report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the Council may wish to further identify ways to increase compliance by non-State armed groups with international norms relating to the use and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition in times of conflict.
He also reports that coordination with the UN on the issue of small arms has improved significantly over the past three years, with the world body's Coordinating Action on Small Arms mechanism having grown from 16 participating UN entities in 2008 to 23 currently.
States are also being provided with such tools as a legislative guide, a technical guide and a model law on the UN Firearms Protocol.
The UN Secretary-General's Report, Ban Ki-moon, on Small Arms, presented this Monday (04/25/2011) in the Security Council, can be accessed clicking here. It is fully available in the six official UN languages, including Spanish and French.
The World Report on Violence against Children (UN, Geneva, 2006), of the then Independent Specialist for the Study on Violence against Children, the Brazilian Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, cited by Ban Ki-moon, can be fully accessed clicking here or by chapters on UNICEF's page clicking here.

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