The Monitoring Illicit Arms Flows Initiative 

The identification and monitoring of the extent, dynamics and actors involved and impacted by illicit firearms trafficking and its links to other forms of crime constitute crucial conditions for coordinated and effective crime prevention and criminal justice action against this phenomenon. Meeting these conditions relies on the systematic collection and analysis of data and information that can be transformed into an evidence-base. This evidence-base can in turn inform decision making at strategic and operational levels and enrich the intelligence-base for tactical operations against firearms-related crime.

To enhance understanding about illicit firearms flows and their links to various forms of crime, the Global Firearms Programme launched the Monitoring Illicit Arms Flows initiative as an integral part of its integrated approach, along with policy and legislative development, preventive and security measures, strong criminal justice response and international cooperation.

The initiative is closely linked to a mandate of UNODC by the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto, which, in 2010 requested UNODC to “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 mandate was renewed and further refined in the course of time, taking also into account UNODC’s role as co-custodian of indicator 16.4.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The initiative thus became one of the Programme’s key vehicles in supporting Member States in attaining and monitoring target 16.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals, in which Governments committed to “by 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime”.

The publication of the UNODC Study on Firearms 2015 was an initial milestone in Programme’s work on firearms data collection an analysis. The study revealed persisting challenges in many countries to adopt evidence-based action to counter illicit firearms trafficking and related forms of crime. It showed that many countries from all regions lack consistent or adequate record-keeping systems, technical skills, and inter-agency coordination, which all impede the collection and centralisation of firearms data. The study further revealed that many countries do not routinely trace weapons to their illicit origin and point of diversion. Without this information, countries lack an accurate understanding on the national situation of illicit firearms, which also hinders efforts to share information with other countries and analyse firearms trafficking flows at regional and global levels. These findings paved the way for Member States to acknowledge the need to conduct global data collection and analysis exercises on seized and trafficked firearms and associated items on a regular basis.

As a product of this constant data collection and analysis on illicit firearms flows, the Global Firearms Programme has published the Global Study on Firearms Trafficking 2020

Based on this early experience, the Monitoring Illicit Arms Flows initiative was refined and covers three main areas of work, including:

Development of Tools

Developing and maintaining a firearms data collection methodology that is standardised at global. Click for more information and related tools

Technical Assistance

Raising awareness and strengthening the capacity of Member States in collecting and analysing firearms-related data. Click for information and related tools

Research and Analysis

Producing global datasets on seized and trafficked firearms and drafting analytical outputs at global, regional and national levels with the aim of bringing the data collected and analysed by UNODC back to its Member States. Click for more information and related publications

The Monitoring Illicit Arms Flows initiative is predominantly funded by the European Union