Small Arms Monitor, Vol. 8, No. 1

Editorial: Confronting a vector of violence
6 June 2016

Ray Acheson 

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Small arms and light weapons (SALW) are a key part of the global armed violence epidemic, resulting in about half a million deaths annually. They are, as activist Daniel Mack wrote recently, “the main vector of death and injury worldwide.” The manufacture, trade, proliferation, possession, and use of small arms and light weapons facilitate gender-based violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, mass shootings, human trafficking, and armed conflict. They are also key factors in the development and perpetuation of violent masculinities and the militarisation of communities.

These challenges affect disarmament, development, human rights, and gender equality. In reviewing the implementation of the UN Programme of Action on the illicit trade in SALW (UNPoA) over the next week, states should seek to articulate cross-cutting approaches to addressing the challenges of small arms. In particular, looking at the draft outcome document, WILPF makes the following recommendations.


Draft 3 of the BMS6 outcome document includes reasonably strong language on gender. Paragraphs 55–58 commit states:

  • To ensure effective gender mainstreaming in policies and programmes designed to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
  • To promote the meaningful participation and representation of women in PoA-related policy-making, planning and implementation processes, including their participation in national small arms commissions and in programmes relating to community safety and conflict resolution, taking into account General Assembly resolution 65/69 on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control and subsequent resolutions on that question, as well as Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and follow-up resolutions, including Security Council Resolution 2242 (2015).  
  • To encourage the collection of disaggregated data on gender and small arms and light weapons.
  • To seriously consider increasing funding for gender-sensitive programming designed to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

To strengthen these commitments, states could also include women’s groups in national commissions on SALW, recalling that the UN Strategic Results Framework on Women, Peace and Security for 2011–2020 calls for inclusive and effective consultation with women leaders and groups in UN-supported disarmament activities.

Earlier versions of the draft outcome document also committed states to foster the creation of alternative livelihoods for young men. This is an important aspect to confronting SALW proliferation and use. Such a commitment would help address the challenges of violent masculinities as a contribution to small arms proliferation and use. In this regard, states could welcome the findings of the Global Study on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325, commissioned by the UN Secretary-General and published in 2015, emphasising the importance of demilitarization and measures dealing with the proliferation of small arms and violent masculinities.

Additional references could be made in relation to gender-based violence. For example, states could:

  • Welcome the inclusion of a legally-binding provision on preventing armed gender-based violence in the Arms Trade Treaty and recognise the importance of its implementation together with the implementation of the UNPoA in order to reduce the flow of conventional weapons that could be used to facilitate acts of gender-based violence.
  • Recall that General Recommendation 30 on the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recognises that the proliferation of conventional arms, especially small arms, can have a direct or indirect effect on women as victims of conflict-related gender-based violence, as victims of domestic violence and also as protestors or actors in resistance movements, and emphasizes state obligation to ensure robust and effective regulation of the arms trade, in addition to ensuring appropriate control over the circulation of existing and often illicit conventional arms, including small arms, to prevent their use to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence.

Strengthen implementation efforts

States should suggest language for the outcome document that involves action to strengthen implementation such ase ffective tracing programmes to address diversion of weapons to the illicit market and strategic approaches to monitoring and implementing UN Security Council arms embargoes.

States should suggest making obligatory the submission of biennial national reports on SALW, as these are necessary for stocktaking. Only 36.6% of UN member states submitted reports in 2014 as compared to 2012’s 43.5%.

States should also call for the establishment of an independent mechanism to systematically measure and evaluate assistance, as well as UNPoA implementation, so as to identify and fill in the gaps. Developing indicators will be a good first step to this end, including in relation to the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that are affected by the proliferation and use of SALW.

States should encourage the destruction of surplus small arms and light weapons as part of stockpile management to ensure that these weapons do not end up being resold. At the other end of the spectrum, they should encourage the reduction of the production of SALW and their ammunition, noting the challenges posed by ongoing excessive production as well as legacy issues of weapons that are still in circulation.


The draft outcome document does not adequately address ammunition concerns. States could use this opportunity to clarify that the UNPoA applies to both weapons and ammunition; encourage states to develop laws regarding criminal possession of ammunition; and propose a concrete way forward towards international controls of SALW ammunition—not only of its trade, but from production to destruction. 

Coverage of BMS6

Reaching Critical Will will provide full coverage of the BMS through this daily report. It will provide analysis and advocacy related to the plenary meetings. You can subscribe to receive this report by email by going to www.reachingcriticalwill.org. On that website, you can also find statements, documents, archived Small Arms Monitors, and more information. You can also follow the discussions on Twitter at #BMS6, @RCW_, @IANSAnetwork, @GlobalActionPW, @SALWstandards, among others. 

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