The control of small arms and light weapons transfers and use can only be effective when weapons are adequately marked and registered, and when these measures are accompanied by physical inspections. The term ‘tracing’ refers to the systematic tracking of weapons from their source, through the lines of supply, with a view to determining the point of diversion into the illicit market. At present, the loopholes in existing systems and the lack of harmonized legislation hamper efforts to determine responsibility for or to sanction violations. It is therefore essential to define an adequate and universal small arms and light weapons tracing system.
In accordance with the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons of July 2001, a Group of Governmental Experts studied the feasibility of an international instrument to identify and trace small arms and light weapons. The Group concluded that such an instrument is both desirable and feasible. Consequently, on 23 December 2003 the UN General Assembly decided to establish an Open-Ended Working Group in order to develop, for the benefit of States, a timely and reliable international instrument for identifying and tracing small arms and light weapons.
GRIP developed a model Convention on small arms and light weapons marking, registration and tracing in order to stimulate the debate and contribute to the reflections of the Working Group on the issue of traceability. This was distributed to the Group of Governmental Experts as well as to State delegations. The present report offers an article-by-article commentary of the GRIP model Convention and its ‘Grounds for Action’, and provides a comparative analysis with the report of the Group of Governmental Experts.
In order to arrive at a document that will lead to effective controls, an important task remains to be accomplished within the discussions of the Working Group. The work of the Group of Governmental Experts as well as our own research demonstrates that from both a technical and financial point of view, such a document is feasible. This is especially true if it is based on measures that already exist in other commercial sectors.