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Never before in the history of mankind have there been so many weapons in circulation. Automatic rifles, revolvers, machine guns, grenade launchers and so on. In all, nearly 500 million small arms and light weapons (SALW) are scattered in all four corners of the planet. There are some 100 million in Africa alone. The consequences are well-known. Some 90% of the victims of war, women and children for the most part, were killed by small arms fire. The over-supply of small arms has always had a negative impact on development, encouraging ever more violent crime and often connected with drug trafficking.

Stemming the flow of SALW and destroying illicit stocks are genuine challenges for the international community. Several initiatives are currently under way to tackle the proliferation of small arms, run by the United Nations, the European Union and several regions of Africa. GRIP is closely connected with most of these initiatives. Whether in New York, Brussels or in the heart of Africa, GRIP’s SALW expertise is widely recognised and highly regarded.


UN Photo/Ky Chung
UNOCI Conducts Arms Embargo Inspections
United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) peacekeepers conduct arms embargo inspections on government forces in western Côte d'Ivoire.
Location: Toulepleu, Côte d'Ivoire
Date: 21 June 2005


UN Photo/Martine Perret
ONUB: Demobilization of Burundian Military
Weapons being burnt during the official launch of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) process in Muramvya, Burundi.
Location: Muramvya, Burundi
Date: 02 December 2004


The United Nations process on small arms: minimal but useful consensus (Cédric Poitevin)

The Fourth Biennial Meeting of States on the implementation of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms (SALW) took place in New York from 14 to 18 June 2010. Drawing on the 2008 meeting which managed to put the process back on track, the meeting reached a consensus-based outcome document focused on 3 specific topics (plus a miscellaneous point) of the Programme of Action (illicit cross-border trade, international cooperation and assistance, follow-up mechanism). However, this time again, States very little addressed the actual impact of the measures undertaken to combat the illicit traffic of small arms and light weapons. The final document will however be useful to assess the measures and initiatives to be taken by the States in the future.

Other analyses:
Managing land borders and the trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons (Jihan Seniora and Cédric Poitevin)

Border controls are an important dimension of the international efforts to combat the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition. Indeed, even if their relevance sometimes seems to be challenged by some changes (such as new technologies and globalization), borders remain the most visible sign of the sovereignty of a State on its territory. Borders management are crucial to a State’s involvement in the protection of its population.

The illicit trafficking of SALW across green borders is characterized by specific dynamics which must be taken into account in the actions to prevent it: a strong link between cross-border trafficking of SALW and other transnational crimes, the role of transborder communities and the fact that border areas can become a shelter for criminal groups, rebels or traffickers and finally the “ant trade”. Because these aspects have an impact on the demand in arms, the intensity and the direction of the traffics between neighbouring countries, they deserve particular attention in the efforts to strengthen border monitoring and control at checkpoints.

For an effective border management several challenges must be highlighted. First, the flow of illicit SALW must be considered a separate issue when conceiving and organising the management. Second, controls at checkpoints must be optimised by clarifying the role of the agencies involved in border management and their human and technical needs according to realities on the ground. Controls at checkpoints must be reinforced by a careful and coordinated monitoring along the border.

Measures also need to be taken upstream: national legislations, identification of the actors involved in trafficking by intelligence services, etc. A fourth issue is corruption which affects the very existence of border management. A stronger cooperation between agencies at intra- and inter-level as well as between populations in border areas and the political and administrative authorities can also contribute to a more effective border management. Finally, technology transfers and training, tailored to the needs of each State also prove of great importance.

Other GRIP Reports:

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Update: 23/11/2011


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