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Since 1998, GRIP has been specialising in the marking and tracing of SALW. Regional instruments and the UN’s work on the traceability of SALW foresee tracing mechanisms and proper marking and registration of arms and munitions. Tracing means the systematic monitoring of the route taken by weapons between the manufacturer and the end user in order to help the competent authorities detect illicit arms manufacture and trade. Two criteria are required for a tracing mechanism to work properly – the marking of weapons and ammunition for identification purposes; and registration of sales records in appropriate national and/or regional registers by the relevant parties.
Brazil, Ministerio da Justiça – DARM – M. Dantas
Germany, G3 type, Heckler & Koch assault rifle, serial number, weapon designed for armed forces (Bundeswehr), month and year of production

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:
Post-export controls during arms transfers: proof of arrival and end-use monitoring (Ilhan Berkol and Virginie Moreau)

An arms transfer cycle consists of three stages: authorization of the transfer, physical transfer and finally use of exported weapons including a possible re-transfer. Therefore, a complete and effective control mechanism should take into account these three phases.

Currently, in most transfers, no control is carried out after an export of military material. Many European States consider that their responsibility ends with a strong assessment of arms export’s risks at time of authorization. However, risks of diversion occur essentially during the second and third stages of the transfer.

Whereas one notes a worldwide increase in conventional weapons orders and that Europe plays an important role in these transfers, the EU members States must develop post-export control mechanisms in order to check the arrival at destination and the end-use of exported items in conformity with the declared use. Carrying out physical inspections in addition to the paperwork provided at the authorization stage, and monitoring the use when deemed necessary would allow cross-checking of information in order to prevent a possible diversion and act proactively when the latter occurs.

This report draws up already existing practices on arms transfers control in Belgium and in Europe, and in particular of post-export controls. It also sets out a number of steps that States could take to reinforce the current system and gives recommendations to better regulate the different stages of the arms transfer cycle.
The traceability of the ammunition (Pierre Martinot and Ilhan Berkol)

There are several methods for tracing ammunition for small arms and light weapons but despite the range of techniques available, there are tragic failings in tracing, including a lack of registration and suitable marking.

Nevertheless, given the technological innovations that existed in 2008 and under pressure from international bodies, if they had the firm desire to do so, national governments would be able to hugely improve their small arms marking, registration and tracing practices.

Not interested in great transparency in this sensitive area, states seem to be getting round the handful of regional and international agreements that attempt, with little success, to ensure ammunition is included in the legislation.

While there has not been any notable progress in marking, one should not expect any increase in transparency or efficiency in managing the storage of munitions, as most countries refuse to publish information in this connection.

This report examines the procedures in existence in 2008, showing that effective tracing of ammunition is perfectly possible by means of appropriate legislation and innovative technology.

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Update: 23/11/2011

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