The UN Secretary-General’s 2018 Report on Small Arms and Light Weapons tracks developments relevant to the implementation of Resolutions 2220 (2015) and highlights good practices and arrangements that could be used by the UN peacekeeping operation and other UN-mandated entities.
The UN Secretary-General reiterates the urgent need to strengthen small arms regulations in order to provide people with an opportunity to pursue sustainable development, in line with the landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its goal 16.4. The report notes that by adopting target 16.4, States have acknowledged that arms regulation contributes to mitigating the proliferation of illicit weaponry, thus creating minimum security conditions at the community level and, as a result, promoting conditions conducive to sustainable development.
In 2016, the Security Council, in resolutions regarding United Nations missions in Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur and Haiti, acknowledged the role of poor arms and ammunition management in fuelling conflict and instability. The excessive accumulation and widespread availability of these weapons have increased the lethality and duration of violence. In fact, a significant portion of direct conflict deaths are attributable to the use of small arms, and nearly half of all violent deaths between 2010 and 2015 were caused by firearms. Small arms also exacerbate poverty and lack of access to resources and facilitate a vast spectrum of acts that constitute human rights violations, including killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearance, among others.
The report notes that weapons and ammunition management has become a critical component of United Nations peacekeeping operations and in the activities of the Security Council to address conflict-affected situations more generally. For example, in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration components have established weapon registration and marking systems to ensure the traceability of all weapons and ammunition collected during the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process.
The report provides numerous examples of United Nations support for national arms and ammunition management efforts are provided in the table below. For example, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya has assisted national authorities in establishing a national arms and ammunition management committee to improve coordination and decision-making between different ministries and agencies, as well as to ensure the consistent application of standards across government agencies, adequate resource mobilisation and the development of an overarching national arms and ammunitions control framework and strategy.
The increasing shift by law enforcement towards raising community-based public awareness on illegal firearms control is noted in the report. This shift has been evident in States such as Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama. To further promote alternatives to gang recruitment and the use of firearms during conflict resolution, the United Nations has supported various local gun-free school initiatives through the use of culture, arts, sports, life skills, positive parenting, gender identity, ethnic cohesion and faith-based programmes. Currently, more than 12 schools in Costa Rica are running a gun-free school programme, and 22 municipalities with the highest firearms homicide rates in Honduras have developed community-based prevention models around firearms use.
The report also recognised and integrated gender as a factor in all cycles of small arms control that enables the creation of more targeted measures focusing on, for example, the negative impact of small arms on the rights of women or methods that address masculinity and the need for power projection of young men. “Given the highly gendered nature of the topic, mainstreaming gender into small arms control efforts ensures more effective outcomes,” says the report.
Among other recommendations, the UN Secretary-General urged the UN Security Council and Member States to:
regularly consider the issue of small arms and mainstream the issue of the illicit weapons trade, misuse and excessive accumulation into all relevant Council discussions;
underscore the indispensability of introducing measurability in all activities relating to small arms control, consistent with the indicators for measuring progress on the Sustainable Development Goals;
collect disaggregated data on gender and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, in particular for the purpose of improving corresponding national policies and assistance programmes.