Monitoring Illicit Trafficking Flows

In order to effectively fight organized crime and trafficking in firearms, it is crucial that criminal justice systems, including the law enforcement sector, address and anticipate new trends, routes and patterns in firearms trafficking. National and international data and analysis based on reliable evidence are essential to addressing the complex nature of the problem and determining necessary law enforcement action, as well as for the creation of effective criminal justice systems. Having a better understanding of the problem is the first step to meeting the challenges of illegal firearms flows, and its connection with organized crime.

A study on firearms trafficking based on official information on seizures, collected and provided by States themselves, is the missing and essential tool to understanding the dynamics of arms flows. By developing this study, not only is the UNODC creating the structures for a systematic data analysis and collection, but also is strengthening long term national data collection capacities in those States where this is a challenge.

Mandate for the study

The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (COP-UNTOC), adopted at its 5th Session resolution 5/4 entitled "Illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition." In paragraph 7 of this resolution the Conference requested the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) "to conduct a study of the transnational nature of and routes used in trafficking in firearms, based on the analysis of information provided by States on confiscated weapons and ammunition."
The Secretariat prepared a Note on the work of the UNODC on conducting a study of the transnational nature of and routes used in trafficking in firearms, which was presented to the COP at its 6th session. The Note contained an analysis of the responses provided by 16 Member States, and reached the following conclusions: A comprehensive study on the transnational nature of firearms trafficking and the routes used needs to be global in scope in order to obtain useful data, which will allow for comparative analysis. It also requires a critical mass of participating countries, in order to be sufficiently representative and allow for identification of routes and patterns. A common, reliable and transparent methodology needs to be identified and agreed upon for the collection of the data. Such methodology should allow for standardized approaches, in terms of content, quality and duration. Only comparable and compatible data can be related to each other and superimposed on a global or regional scale. Therefore, a standardized approach using common templates and, where necessary, with adequate technical support from UNODC, would facilitate the necessary common understanding and contribute to the collection and analysis of data. The repetition of this exercise, using the same methodology and scope, would allow UNODC to produce more solid and measurable data on the transnational dimension of firearms trafficking and to identify trends and patterns over time.
At its 6th Session, the COP adopted resolution 6/2 promoting accession to and implementation of the UN Firearms Protocol. In paragraph 7 of this resolution, the COP took note of the information gathered so far by the UNODC in carrying out the study asked for by the Conference in its resolution 5/4 of 22 October 2010, and requested the UNODC "to improve methodology, in close consultation with Member States, and to complete the study in accordance with the given mandate, for consideration by the Conference at its seventh session".  Paragraph 7 of the resolution 5/4, and the Note prepared by the Secretariat thus identify the scope of the study (global study with regional components), the substantive aspects to be investigated (trafficking in firearms, their transnational nature, routes and modus operandi), and the challenges (the need to ensure comparable and compatible data on trafficked firearms based on the seized and confiscated weapons and ammunition.). Paragraph 7 of the resolution 6/2 provides room for adjustments in order to ensure meaningful outcomes. In order to achieve the mandate provided by the COP, the present Concept Note has been elaborated to facilitate the conduct of the same.

Development of the study

Pursuant to this mandate, the Secretariat, in consultations with Member States and experts, developed a concept note with a description of the proposed methodology and two questionnaires for the collection of the data on the dimension of the firearms problematic, major seizure results, consolidated annual and significant individual seizures, trafficking routes and modus operandi, as well as relevant information on firearms related criminality and links to other serious crimes.
Further details on the purpose and methodology adopted for the development of the study are described in the concept note which can be downloaded from this link: Concept Note
During December 2011, the Secretariat sent Note Verbales to the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of 197 Member States. The Note Verbales contained introductory information on the Firearms Study and provided each country with unique access credentials for downloading and uploading the Seizures Questionnaires from the UNODC dedicated portal. It additionally instructed Member States to promptly designate focal points to act as coordinating officials for the successful completion and submission of the Seizure Questionnaires, and to notify UNODC accordingly. This, with the view to establishing a continued communication between focal points and UNODC, which is deemed instrumental for the identification of the challenges that national authorities face in collecting seizure data and information, and consequently work towards the provision of tailored assistance necessary to overcome these difficulties.
As part of UNODC's regional focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, and West Africa and the Sahel region, the Secretariat more recently held regional meetings and training sessions in Senegal, Bolivia, Niger and Ecuador.

Data Collection Questionnaires

The Study on Firearms consists of one (1) Annual Seizures Questionnaire and one (1) Significant Seizures Questionnaire. The two questionnaires come in separate files, which can be accessed from the download section of the  UNODC Firearms Trafficking portal. Pursuant to the mandate received, the questionnaires have been designed for completion by Member States only.
For the purpose of identifying trends and patters, Member States were requested to provide data on seized firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition for the reference years 2010, 2011, 2012, and where possible for 2013 seizures. The Secretariat set the deadline for 2012 - 2012 seizures data to 31 March 2014, and to 30 April 2014 for 2013 seizures data.
The Seizure Questionnaires will be circulated as Conference Room Papers (CRP.1/CRP.2) during the next Working Group (WG) on Firearms to be held in Vienna from May 26 to 28, 2014.

Classifications and Definitions

UNODC is collecting data in a standardized and compatible way, so that the findings can be compared and related to each other. Definitional obstacles were addressed by resorting to international crime data collection standards, classifications, and definitions such as the one used by INTERPOL, among others. The key concepts to be used for the completion of the questionnaires were drawn upon the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its additional Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition.
A list of the key concepts used for the completion of the Seizure Questionnaires can be accessed at this link:  Classification

Firearms Trafficking Portal

During December 2013, the UNODC started developing a dedicated web portal for accessing, downloading and uploading the Annual Seizure Questionnaires and the Significant Seizures Questionnaire. The portal is intended for Member States to easily access all information relevant to the Study on Firearms, and for the UNODC to effectively keep track of country's activities with the view to provide them with prompt and high quality assistance at every step of the data collection process, while attempting to achieve the highest possible participatory rate. The portal additionally includes a link to the  concept note for Member States to consult.
Member States can access the UNODC Firearms Trafficking portal and the study related tools, at the following link:
Concurrently, UNODC made available on its portal a digital version of the Seizures Questionnaires (Excel files), respectively, in the six United Nations official languages. By logging in to the portal Member States can easily download the questionnaires on their computer machines, provide the available data on seizures and return them to UNODC by using the same procedure. The data will then automatically be incorporated into the UNODC Firearms Trafficking database for further extraction and analysis. 

Firearms Trafficking Toolkit

The Secretariat additionally designed and made available on its portal a toolkit as guidance for both focal points and completing officers on the successful completion of the Seizures Questionnaires.
The toolkit was prepared in the English, Spanish, and French language and can be accessed from the following links:
Firearms Trafficking Toolkit
Kit de Herramientas sobre las Incautaciones de Armas
Guide sur le Trafic d'Armes à Feu

Countries covered by the UNODC Global Study 2015 




UNODC Study on Firearms 2015