The trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW) is part of the core business of organised crime groups and terrorist organisations. Firearms are the main tool for both criminal and armed violence, they leverage other forms of criminality and are used for intimidation, coercion and gang violence, while terrorist networks are accessing weapons and explosives through organised crime networks and the black market. The rate of firearms-related homicides in post conflict societies often outnumbers battlefield deaths. Moreover, in most of the present day conflicts the majority of deaths caused, particularly among the civilian population, are attributed to SALW, which are the weapons of choice in civil wars. Illegal armed groups also link SALW’s availability to human rights violations ranging from killings and torture to sexual violence and forced recruitment. There is also a clear link between armed violence and limited progress on development. Armed violence aggravates poverty, inhibits access to social services and diverts energy and resources away from efforts to improve human development. In addition, it also undermines investment climates, hindering economic growth.
Launched in 2018, the project “Countering Transnational Illicit Arms Trafficking through the Implementation of the UNTOC and its Firearms Protocol“ (hereafter: Countering Firearms Trafficking Project) was designed to prevent and counter illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, and their links to transnational organised and other serious crimes, and to promote the ratification and implementation of the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime.
The Countering Firearms Trafficking Project aimed to increase awareness of the firearms issue and put in place adequate policy and legislative frameworks ; to increase the capacities of countries and sub-regions to implement effective firearms control regimes and to detect, investigate and prosecute firearms trafficking; to support effective cooperation and sharing of information and good practices; and to improve capacities to monitor, analyse and identify synergies in the fight of other forms of transnational organised crime and terrorism.
It did so by providing support in four key areas through a variety of activities carried out at the national, regional and global level based on identified needs and requests from the partner countries.
- Awareness raising, as well as legislative and policy development.
- Strengthening criminal justice responses for investigation and prosecution as well as implementation support and capacity building in firearms record keeping, marking and collection campaigns, and the stockpiling of seized and confiscated weapons.
- Promotion of effective international cooperation, information exchange and south-south cooperation.
- Identification of links between firearms trafficking and other forms of transnational organised crime, and proposal of common approaches in addressing them.
Implemented by the UNODC, the project “Countering Transnational Illicit Arms Trafficking through the Implementation of the UNTOC and its Firearms Protocol” complemented the ongoing actions under the UNODC Global Firearms Programme (GFP) and was incorporated under the Global Illicit Flows Programme of the European Union.