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Monday, January 31, 2005

Tracking Small Arms, An Overview

The nuisance of containing and tracking illicit small arms transfers has become a pertinent and dire problem in the 21st century. Political and social conflicts constantly escalate to military confrontations involving small arms and light weapons throughout our world. These weapons are responsible for most of the deaths in the conflicts in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. According to the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) 640 million guns are currently in circulation, approximately one to every 10 people in the world. Small arms are produced by 1,249 companies in more than 90 countries. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, there are 30 million small arms and light weapons, with 79 percent in the hands of civilians. 1

Realizing and responding to the growing threat, both the efforts of the international community spearheaded by the United Nations and the regional efforts led by countries around the globe have focused on addressing the issue. Currently, the Gambia National Commission on Small Arms is examining the regional moratorium on small arms and its effectiveness in eliminating insurgent’s access to weapons and ammunition (Gambia Daily News). The Commission will also examine the effectiveness of the implementation of the Bamako Declaration, which was acceded to by the member states of the Organization of African Unity. The Declaration, signed in 2000, calls for the signatory parties to further criminalize the illicit sale and possession of small arms and light weapons and to found research bodies for the purpose of analyzing the effectiveness of current norms in curbing the illicit trafficking of small arms (US Department of State).

Also in Africa, the Small Arms Transparency and Control Regime is now in its third phase of implementation. Phase I called for the creation of a database of interstate sales of small arms in the region. The database will serve as groundwork for creating a digital, on-line register, called the Small Arms and Light Weapons Register for Africa (SALWRA), which will function much like the UN Register of Conventional Arms. Phase II and Phase III of the project have expanded participation in and contributions to this database. No taskforce has yet been charged with analyzing SALWRA’s effectiveness.

Outside of Africa, many governments have shown reluctance to instituting controls and regulations on the production of small arms. Weapons manufacturers stand firmly against marking their weapons in a way that would allow NGOs to trace the weapon to its manufacturer as opposed to its original owner. The weapons lobbies in various countries have been pushing for their governments to cease participating in small arms control treaties. As a result, there still exists no effective worldwide system to record information, even though some weapons do carry serial numbers or other identifying marks. Deadly weapons disappear without a trace on a daily basis. According to the IANSA, 8 million new weapons are manufactured every year, which fuel conflicts worldwide.

The negative response of some governments and weapons interest groups has not, fortunately, become the norm. In Paraguay, weapons destruction programs have been successfully implemented. In September of 2004, Paraguay destroyed 80 tons of ammunition, under the oversight of government officials and in cooperation with the United Nations. Now, Paraguay is trying to implement the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms and the UN 2001 Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Lights Weapons, both with the assistance of the United Nations (UN News Centre).

Surprisingly, some non-governmental organizations have also been contributing to the efforts to curb illicit trading. The Small and Medium Entrepreneurs Development Authority (SMEDA) recently recommended eight measures for safely and securely developing small arms to the weapons engineering clusters in Darra Adamkhel, Pakistan. These measures seek to address the issue from the supplier’s side, assuring that on one hand sales do not decrease, and on the other hand, these weapons do not end up in the hands of insurgents and terrorists.

Also, a unique program has been developed in Mozambique for disposing of small arms which have been stockpiled, hidden, and left uncollected from a conflict in the region which occurred over a decade ago. This program is sponsored by another non-governmental organization, the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM). People who either find weapons or possess their own weapons are urged to contact the CCM, which sends a team to secure and dispose of the weapons on the spot. Sometimes, the CCM exchanges the weapons for anything from food to sewing machines to bicycles. This program has been an immense success so far collecting 600,000 weapons and ammunition. Experts reviewing this program have pointed out that it works better than traditional buy-back programs, where weapons owners would turn in their old weapons for money and use that money to purchase new weapons. This program provides more transparency to the process by destroying the weapon on the spot.

All these programs are increasingly important and warmly welcomed by the international community. While helpful, these programs represent regional efforts and thus cannot seek to fully and completely eradicate the problem at hand. Only an international program, of the scope available to the United Nations, can seek to comprehensively address the problem. To promote peace and security, the United Nations should take the lead in addressing this problem by internationalizing these successful regional efforts.



1- Of the rest, 19 percent are in the possession of police forces and 2 percent are held by insurgents and outlaws. Bai Ousman Secka, permanent secretary. Department of State for Defense. Banjul, Gambia.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I Concur that small arms proliferation plagues humanity like its shadow; whatever you do, it always manages to creep up, empowerd by the sun of capitalism. We should therefore convert to Communism, and everything will be dandy! Then, small arms would be the government's property, and the government-ruled by good people- would dispose of the dastardly stingers God has spit into humanity!

Sherlock Holmes

:)

Keep up the good Blog! Say no to Elephants! Change is for the good, while backwards change smacks humanity into its primordial self!

8:56 PM  
Blogger Sherlock Holmes said...

:)

8:59 PM  
Blogger Sherlock Holmes said...

I Concur that small arms proliferation plagues humanity like its shadow; whatever you do, it always manages to creep up, empowerd by the sun of capitalism. We should therefore convert to Communism, and everything will be dandy! Then, small arms would be the government's property, and the government-ruled by good people- would dispose of the dastardly stingers God has spit into humanity!

Sherlock Holmes

:)

Keep up the good Blog! Say no to Elephants! Change is for the good, while backwards change smacks humanity into its primordial self!

8:59 PM  
Blogger Sherlock Holmes said...

"Dash-it-all! Is not there a anarchist state/ where we may escape? I do not want to be capitalist/ the government pummels with its spiked fiss/ My starched throat/ oh what freedom to drift away in a boat/ upon the sea of prolateriats/"
Nolan Leistungsfahig, 20th Century Marxist

Oops i think i posted my stuff twice! oopsa da daisy

9:05 PM  

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