20 years of UN Firearms Protocol and Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) shed light on way forward

© UNODC

Vienna (Austria), 9 August 2021 – As 2021 marks the 20th Anniversary of the UN Firearms Protocol and the Programme of Action (PoA) on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), UNODC, jointly with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), recently held a high-level side event on the margins of the 7th Biennial Meeting of States on the PoA  (BMS7).

With a focus on the continued importance of the two instruments and their complementarity in today’s evolving scene of small arms and light weapons, the virtual event welcomed over 120 participants from around the world. A panel of experts took stock of previous successes and challenges in the area of small arms and provided key takeaways for the way forward in the framework of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly pinpointed the importance of the Firearms Protocol as “the only international instrument requiring States to criminalize the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition.” She also stressed the importance of UNODC’s Global Firearms Programme (GFP) as the custodian of the Firearms Protocol and its role to support Member States in implementing this instrument, in addition to guidance in terms of legislation, criminal justice responses, and marking, among others. Indeed, in the last decade, the Programme has seen great success, training over 2,700 criminal justice practitioners from Africa and the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

The event’s co-host, ODA Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Thomas Markram, meanwhile referred to the complementarity of the two instruments, both in nature and character, and explained how they represent the “architecture of efforts” to address the nefarious consequences of the most commonly used weapons globally. Mr. Markram shared his perspective on the progress States have made to date, mentioning the vital role played by global, regional, sub-regional actors, including civil society organizations, academia experts, UN entities, and other international organizations, flagging that “arms control is not just an affair of the military and the security institutions.” While efforts have led to progress, there remains a necessity for continued commitment by States and stakeholders to implement small arms control measures overarchingly.

Experts’ discussions focused on three areas, featuring practitioners who shared their experiences with small arms control measures within the context of the two instruments: key achievements over the past 20 years in the fight against illicit small arms trafficking; key remaining challenges in countering their illicit trafficking; and linkages with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the important role of women, youth, and civil society.

The Chair of the 8th Meeting of the Working Group on Firearms, Amb. Luis Javier Campuzano, spoke on upcoming challenges in countering the illicit trafficking of small arms, expressly the growing use of 3D printing for weapons manufacturing and how that brings about novel challenges for tracing and marking firearms. Mr. Campuzano also raised the alarm on the speedy upsurge of cryptocurrencies as a favored resource of organized criminal groups worldwide, and stressed the importance of recognizing firearms as the most significant enablers of crime. Finally, he recommended a gendered approach to all policies, analyses, and actions relating to the issue of firearms.