The international community has repeatedly expressed its concern with the negative impact of the proliferation of illicit firearms in societies whether at peace or in times of war.  The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (COP) urged Member States to ratify and fully implement the Convention and its Protocols, and requested UNODC to assist Member States in this endeavour, inter alia through the provision of legislative advise and legal drafting support, technical assistance, training and capacity building activities aimed at strengthening the capacities of States to respond to the challenges and threats posed by transnational organized crime, as well as through the development of specialized legal and operational tools. By its decision 4/6 and resolutions 5/4 and 6/2, the COP further urged States Parties to the Protocol to strengthen their national legislation in a manner consistent with the Protocol, and requested UNODC to support States and facilitate technical assistance for the implementation of the Protocol.

To this end, the Implementation Support Section (ISS) of the Organized Crime and Trafficking Branch (OCB), created in 2011 the Global Firearms Programme (GFP).


Current projects and donors:

"Countering Transnational Illicit Arms Trafficking through the Implementation of the UNTOC and its Firearms Protocol":

Donor: EU

Beneficiary countries: selected countries in West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo) and South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela).

Duration: 2011 - 2015 (4 years);

"Strengthening criminal justice systems in the Sahel in order to effectively combat drug trafficking, illicit trafficking, organised crime, terrorism and corruption in the region" (Firearms Segment)

Donor: Japan and Denmark

Beneficiary countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal;

Duration: 2014 - 2016 (3 years);


Main Activities of the Global Firearms Programme

UNODC assists governments to address the issue of illicit firearms manufacturing and trafficking and firearms related criminality through a holistic and multi-pronged approach. Under its Global Project on Firearms UNODC supports:

1)  Legislative development

UNODC provides legislative assistance to countries wishing to harmonize their legislation with the Firearms Protocol and other relevant international or regional instruments. This involves an active participation process with  interested Member States who develop their legislative self-assessments, using questionnaires facilitated by UNODC-GFP. With this information, UNODC-GFP develops legislative assessment reports, gap analysis and recommendations for States to strengthen their national legislation on firearms including tailored legal drafting support.

Several legislative tools have been developed to facilitate the delivery of such assistance (see below). In providing legislative assistance, UNODC works closely with parliamentarians, drafting committees and civil society organizations. UNODC-GFP actively supports and promotes regional harmonization efforts through the development of regional legislative comparative analysis and the creation of dialogue platforms such as regional meetings and conferences. These exchange spaces provides the opportunity for the development of regional and sub-regional action plans which are essential to harmonization efforts. In these activities, UNODC-GFP looks into involving a wide range of stakeholders such as parliamentarians and civil society organizations.

2) Technical assistance for the implementation of the Firearms Protocol

UNODC works with national authorities on the implementation of the preventive and security measures envisaged by the Firearms Protocol.

i.  Support for marking of firearms

UNODC offers States support for the implementation of the firearms marking requirements under the Firearms Protocol by reviewing their existing legislative framework and providing recommendations for the amendment and adoption of relevant regulations on marking, whereas specific emphasis is placed on the obligation for marking firearms at the time of import. UNODC provides advice on developing a comprehensive strategy for marking which encompasses the institutional, technical and budgetary settings. In terms of technical assistance, UNODC offers support for the selection of the appropriate marking equipment, and subject to availability of funding, provides marking machines, record-keeping tools and the relevant training for their use.

ii. Increased security and effective record keeping for firearms, in particular seized ones.

UNODC is currently implementing activities aimed at enhancing the security of storage rooms for seized firearms within police services, courts and institutions involved in the investigation of firearms offences. UNODC is in the process of exploring the development of record-keeping solutions in particular for seized firearms, with interested international organisations and State parties, which will allow for better accountability and increased the capacity of national authorities to monitor and analyse information about firearms trafficking.

iii. Support for firearms collections and destruction activities

UNODC provides support in the design of comprehensive national collection and destruction activities including: assistance and technical advice on national campaigns for the voluntary surrender, collection, management and disposal of firearms,  identifying the most suitable and cost effective destruction method according to specific national contexts and possibilities, undertaking needs assessment for the development and implementation of an awareness raising work for voluntary surrender of firearms , among other activities.

3)  Capacity building

GFP's capacity building work covers a wide range of areas, with a view to enhance national capacities to effectively implementing the Firearms Protocol requirements in key areas, such as marking, record-keeping, tracing and transfer controls, and to strengthen the capacity of the criminal justice system to detect, investigate and prosecute firearms criminality, such as the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms. 

To this end, GFP is developing a comprehensive training curriculum on firearms in modular form, which serves as a guide and a reference for the delivery of standardized and up to date training  courses to States.   The  delivery of specialized training courses for criminal justice practitioners to strengthen the investigative and prosecutorial capacity to deal with complex and  transnational cases of firearms trafficking and their links to organized crime and terrorist activities is one of the main priorities of the GFP. Through this training course UNODC aims at enhancing national capacity to counter the trafficking in firearms and support law enforcement agencies in their fight against transnational organized crime. The course contains a mixture of classroom based lessons, case studies, plenary discussions and practical knowledge that facilitates learning in accordance with legislative requirements and in line with national and international standards.

For the design and delivery of the training courses, UNODC seeks to promote south-to-south cooperation among countries and to partner with relevant actors on the ground, such as International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL),  international and regional organizations, and civil society organizations. This includes inter alia the Argentinian Federal Prosecution Service, the Argentinian National Arms Registry (RENAR),  the Brazilian Federal Police, UNHCHR's Regional office in Chile, and its Offices in Bolivia and Paraguay, as well as recognized NGOS, such as Viva Rio in Brazil. The aim of these joint ventures is  to contribute to the dissemination and promotion of the active use of existing tools and cooperation channels, such as INTERPOL's new iARMS initiative, as well as to address important cross-cutting themes such as the human rights dimension of criminal investigation and prosecution of complex crimes.

4)  International Cooperation and information exchange

UNODC actively promotes international cooperation in criminal matters for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting cases of illicit trafficking in firearms and its links to organized crime.  Among the activities in this area, UNODC:

(a) supports regional cooperation through existing platforms and institutions such as MERCOSUR, ECOWAS, etc.  

(b) stimulates the ongoing dialogue and south-south cooperation and

(c) fosters the establishment of a network of firearms experts: UNODC developed a concept for the establishment of regional groups of experts, aiming at facilitating and supporting the exchange of expertise and experience with regard to the effective investigation and prosecution of firearms criminality and related forms of organized crimes cases, through exchange of information, good practices, lessons learned and capacity building. This activity targets criminal justice practitioners, based on the existing legal traditions and practices. UNODC adopted an inclusive approach and defines criminal justice practitioners as all officials engaged in fighting trafficking in firearms and related forms of crime from criminal perspective and focusing on activities such as seizure of firearms, investigation and prosecution of trafficking offences, international cooperation, exchange and coordination on relevant information to firearms trafficking and related crimes.

5) In doing so, UNODC actively promotes the use of the Organized Crime Convention as legal basis for international cooperation among States, both at judicial and law enforcement level. Awareness-raising and support of Civil Society participation:

UNODC assists States in the development of tailored knowledge, awareness raising activities and crime prevention strategies to strengthen national controls over firearms, including, where appropriate, support for the development of collection campaigns, and the subsequent destruction of firearms.

Furthermore, UNODC engages in working with civil society organizations (CSO) aiming to support and monitor the effective implementation of firearms control regimes. UNODC provides information and capacity-building to CSOs on the implementation of the Firearms Protocol provisions into the domestic legal system and their impact on the national firearms control strategies. UNODC strengthens CSOs oversight capacity through participation in capacity-building workshops and inclusion of special sessions for CSOs and parliamentarians.

6) Development of legislative and technical assistance tools UNODC has been engaged in the development of a series of  legal and technical tools in the area of firearms to raise knowledge and awareness on the firearms problematic, to facilitate the delivery of technical assistance by UNODC to States to ratify and implement the Firearms Protocol and to strengthen their national firearms control systems in a manner consistent with the international legal framework on firearms, with a view to prevent and combat the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.

i.  General tools

In addition to the Legislative Guides for the Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto (2005),  and the Traveaux Preparatoires of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto (2006). States can further refer to the revised omnibus software application (2012), developed by UNODC upon request of the Conference of the Parties to UNTOC, to help States reviewing their status of implementation  of UNTOC and its Protocols Thereto. 

ii. Firearms specific Tools

UNODC has also developed firearms specific tools, which include: a Technical Guide for the Implementation of the Firearms Protocol (2010/11), and a Model Law against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms (2010)/11). The Technical Guide supports the understanding of the technical implementation aspects of particular provisions of the Protocol, while the Model law helps translating the treaty language and obligations contained in the Firearms Protocol into domestic legal provisions, thus facilitating Member States' efforts to integrate the Firearms Protocol in their domestic legal framework. In 2013/14, the Model Law on Firearms has been reviewed by a small group of experts, in order to reflect relevant legislative developments on firearms, such as the newly adopted Arms Trade Treaty. The Model law on Firearms v.2  is currently being finalized and will soon be made available to States and practitioners in all UN languages in the course of the year.

The Model Law is further complemented by several other legal tools: A Ratification Kit (2012) aimed at assisting States in their decision to become a Party to the Firearms Protocol; a  self-assessment questionnaire (available in English, French and Spanish), and an operational checklist, aimed at facilitating the assessment of the national legal and institutional framework on firearms. Several of these tools have been utilized in the delivery of legislative and technical assistance to Member States. UNODC has also actively supported and contributed to the development of International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS), standardizedlegislative and regulatory modules developed by the United Nations inter-agency Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA) to which UNODC belongs to. The ISACS are based on the existing global framework on SALW, which includes the Firearms Protocol, the Programme of Action, the International Tracing instrument, and the Arms Trade Treaty. 

iii.  New tools under development

With a view to facilitate the implementation of the Firearms Protocol, the GFP  is developing with the valuable support from a number of recognized firearms experts from different countries and regions, a Comprehensive Training Curriculum on Firearms in modular form. The curriculum is expected to be finalized, translated and disseminated also in several other UN languages

GFP is also working on other tools, which will further help Member States strengthening their firearms control regimes.  Such include:  (a) Technical Issues Papers on Firearms related matters;  (b) Specialized Training Courses on Legislative and policy development; Investigation and prosecution of firearms trafficking and related serious crimes; Firearms transfer control; and civil society participation and oversight of firearms control matters; (c) a  registry application for seized / confiscated firearms, to  facilitate States' efforts to collect systematically and analyse data related to firearms  seizures.

In the framework of its GFP, and pursuant to a mandate from the COP, UNODC is also  developing a Global Study on Firearms  Trafficking, and has for this purpose developed and disseminated among Member States  a consolidated annual and a significant individual seizure report questionnaire reports, available in all UN languages, and a database application to collect and analyse  data on seized and confiscated firearms, to monitor illicit trafficking flows at national, regional and global level.  The first edition of the Study is expected to be finalized and published by the end of 2014 (see link). 


Global Firearms Programme Brochure