Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us for this side event on the Firearms Protocol under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
This year, we mark a number of milestone anniversaries, notably the 75th anniversary of the UN and the signing of the UN Charter. It is the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention, and as the title of this event indicates, the 15th anniversary since the Firearms Protocol entered into force.
2020 is also the African Union’s year of “Silencing the Guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development.”
This theme recognizes the fact that in Africa, and indeed on every continent, illicit firearms enable armed conflict and violent crime, hindering efforts across the UN pillars to build peace and security, protect human rights and advance sustainable development.
The availability of illicit firearms is a cross-cutting security threat. The UN Security Council adopted two resolutions last year highlighting the threat of terrorists benefitting financially and logistically from transnational organized crime, including by profiting from the trafficking of illicit arms.
Guns aggravate other forms of crime, from drug trafficking and wildlife poaching to looting of cultural heritage and human trafficking.
Nearly half a million people were killed in homicides in 2017, 54 per cent by firearms.
Some 550,000 firearms were seized worldwide in 2016 and 2017, and we know that the real global figure for illicit firearms is certainly far higher, reflecting the difficulties faced by criminal justice systems in pursuing firearms trafficking and with collecting data.
Usually manufactured for legal markets, firearms represent durable commodities that can be diverted into illegal markets at any point, re-used and re-sold multiple times.
Reducing illicit arms flows is thus a complex challenge, requiring cross-border, integrated responses that combine preventive and control measures.
The Firearms Protocol serves as the principal global legal instrument to address the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition, and is the only international legal instrument that requires its States parties to establish these conducts as criminal offences.
The Protocol supports a comprehensive regulatory framework to prevent the theft and diversion of firearms and build criminal justice responses to combat these crimes, thereby securing legally manufactured and owned firearms.
Through its Global Firearms Programme, UNODC assists Member States in implementing the Protocol, addressing measures including the marking of firearms, effective record-keeping systems, strong transfer control regimes, end-user verifications of transferred arms, and safe stockpiles, as well as the destruction and secure disposal of obsolete and confiscated arms.
In the last two years, the Global Firearms Programme carried out over 70 technical assistance activities, supporting more than 1,300 criminal justice practitioners from 70 countries in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa region, the Western Balkans, the Americas and Central Asia.
Together with UNOCT and with the backing of CTED and UNODA, we launched a joint project this year to address the terrorism-arms-crime nexus in Central Asian countries.
UNODC also helps to secure international air and maritime transport and supply chains against illicit firearms through our global Container Control, AIRCOP and Maritime Crime programmes.
Moreover in July, our Office launched the Global Study on Firearms Trafficking. Produced with the support of the European Commission, it reflects information from more than 100 countries and territories, most of it received through the Illicit Arms Flows Questionnaire.
Up-to-date information is vital to improve understanding of how illicit firearms markets operate and to identify emerging challenges, and the study represents an important step in expanding the evidence base.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There remain considerable gaps in data collection as well as capacities between countries to address illicit firearms. Reinforced technical assistance is needed to ensure that all countries can work together to detect and disrupt illicit firearms flows.
As an important fundamental step, I invite States that have not yet done so to consider acceding to the Firearms Protocol.
With 119 States parties so far, the Protocol has served to strengthen cooperative responses to illicit firearms over the past 15 years, but the international community can do more to encourage States to accede and promote effective national-level implementation.
The 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime offers a useful opportunity to take forward joint efforts under the Firearms Protocol with the planned launch of the implementation review mechanism.
The review mechanism will take stock of efforts to implement the Convention and Protocols to date, and help to pinpoint the priority areas where increased legislative and technical assistance are needed most.
I urge participants to make use of this opportunity, with UNODC’s committed support.
Allow me to conclude by thanking the distinguished speakers for joining us at this side event. I wish you fruitful discussions.