Measures Against the Trafficking of SALWs (Small Arms and Light Weapons):
A Background Paper
By Mehendi Siraj
This papers looks at what small arms and light weapons are, why they are a source of concern, how do they affect the world and what has been done about them.
2. Description and Definition of the Issue
The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALWs) causes mayhem everywhere. Handguns, rifles, shotguns and machine guns are all considered to be a type of a small weapon while light-missiles, grenades, landmines and mortars are considered to be light weapons.
Uncontrolled SALWs are a persevering problem all over the world. The unwarranted buildup and growing accessibility of SAWLs has been a major factor in the increase in the number of conflicts, civilian casualties and a source of tension for many people and governments across all continents. SALWs allows gangs to terrorize a neighborhood, rebels to attack civilians and peacekeepers, drug lords to kill law enforces or anyone else interfering with their illegal business and bandits to hijack convoys. In fact ninety percent of civilian casualties are caused by SAWLs.
SALWs tend to have a long life, require very little to no maintenance, are a lot cheaper, lighter and easily available than their bigger counterparts. They are also highly portable which makes it easier to conceal them. These qualities make SAWLs the perfect choice of weapon for carrying out crimes like illegal trafficking and operation by the unskilled.
SALWs are proliferated through both lawful and unlawful trade. The five permanent member of the UN Security Council together account for eighty eight percent of the world’s
conventional arms export and these exports often contribute to the gross abuse of human rights as most national arm controls are riddled with loopholes or barely enforced. 3. Glossary of the Issue
UN Security Council: The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six
principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
4. History of the Issue
1998: A documentary from the Center for Defense Information suggested that one step towards peace and stability in some regions can be taken by stopping the flow of small arms. 1998: There had been an increase in pressure to discuss disarmament issues and the United Nations was trying to seek a moratorium on small arms trade. The G8 (the world’s major
economies plus Russia—also the world’s major arms suppliers) met in Birmingham, UK, 15–17 May, as part of their annual meetings. Small arms were a major topic of discussion.
1998: In Oslo, Norway, July, there was a meeting where representatives from a number of countries were present to tackle and control the spread of small arms. Although some major producers of small arms were not in attendance, this was still seen as a positive step forward. 1998: South Africa started to take a positive step forward by attempting to tackle the problem
that it has created in the past of availability of small arms in Africa and other parts of the
world. Yet, as the section below on the UN conference on the illicit arms trade shows, they were against certain moves to tackle exporting of arms to troubled areas.
1999: For the first time in the United Nation’s history, the issue of small arms was finally a
topic of conversation at a UN Security Council meeting, where Kofi Annan also noted the efforts of NGOs in this. NGOs are often doing the hard work and are in the front line. When it comes to small arms, they have been working diligently to fight the effects of small arms. This is not an easy undertaking given the amount of small arms that are traded legally and illegally. Also, the UN General Assembly voted to hold a ―Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects‖ which was to occur two years after this conference:
2001: A UN conference was set up from 9th to 20th July, 2001, to try and address issues regarding the proliferation of small arms in conflict zones. Amongst the numerous issues at hand, some major gun-producing countries such as the United States, China, Russia, South
Africa, India, and others were against effective universal criteria against arms export. The two-week Conference resulted in the adoption of the 'Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
States are required to report to the United Nations on the progress of their implementation of the UN Programme of Action, commonly known as the PoA.
5. Current Status
The illicit proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons ranks among today’s most pressing security threats. Tens of thousands of people are killed or wounded each year in conflicts that are fought primarily with these weapons and in crime-ridden areas outside of
conflict zones. They are also the weapons of choice for many terrorists. Approximately half of the international terrorist incidents documented in the 2003 Department of State report on global terrorism were perpetrated with small arms and light weapons.
Yet, there is still much more to be done. Reports of lost, stolen, and diverted small arms and light weapons are daily reminders of the continued prevalence of weak export controls, poor stockpile security practices, and inadequate or nonexistent border security. Particularly disheartening are arms shipments to war zones and dictators. Since 2001, UN investigators have documented numerous violations of arms embargoes on governments and armed groups in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia.
Reining in the illicit trade requires a global recommitment to implementing the PoA. Thus far, implementation has been very uneven. Some countries have fulfilled most of their obligations, while others have yet to satisfy even the most basic requirements. The review conference is an opportunity to systematically assess implementation of the PoA to date, identify shortcomings in national and international implementation, and develop a road map—formal or informal—for addressing these shortcomings. Taking full advantage of this opportunity requires that member states avoid the pitfalls of consensus decision-making and follow through on commitments made during the conference.
SAWLs are an underrated problem of our modern world which often gets over looked. Actions in the past regarding SAWLs have been minimal and not very successful. This leaves us with plenty of opportunity to try and find ways to curb the problems with SAWLs.
7. Work Citied
Commondreams.org. "Small Arms? Big Problem." 2004. Web. 2 Feb 2013.
Geopoliticalmonitor.com. "The Illicit Trade Of Small Arms - Geopolitical Monitor." 2011. Web. 2 Feb 2013. <http://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/the-illicit-trade-of-small-arms-4273/>.
Globalissues.org. "Global Issues : social, political, economic and environmental issues that affect us all — Global Issues." 2013. Web. 2 Feb 2013. <http://www.globalissues.org/>. Un.org. "As Review Conference Opens, Secretary-General Urges Redoubling ofEfforts to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Small Arms, Light Weapons." 2012. Web. 2 Feb 2013. <http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/dc3381.doc.htm>.
Un.org. "UNODA - Small Arms and Light Weapons." 2011. Web. 2 Feb 2013. <http://www.un.org/disarmament/convarms/SALW/>.