Tag Archives: SALW Control

Small Arms Control – Jonathan Bradbeer

One of the great challenges facing the world today is the widespread availability of small arms. Deaths related to Small Arms account for large proportion of the average of 52,000 battle deaths per year, along with the average of 500,000 non combat violent deaths per year (Krause 2010 p.4).

The destruction of Small Arms often occurs during a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process at the end of conflict, a process that aims to ensure that combatants return to civilian life and do not return to armed conflict. Whilst human combatants can have alternate occupations, weapons do not, as they are designed and built to kill people. Destruction of weapons guarantees they will not kill again.

Whilst the production of Small Arms is unlikely to cease, the destruction of exisiting surplus firearms should remain a priority for the international community, for the simple reason that it is a way to reduce violence: it is more difficult to raise and arm a violent group if there are no guns available.

Vast stockpiles of weapons exist in the world today, often insecurely stored and vulnerable to theft. A large majority of these weapons are still potentially lethal, but are outmoded in terms of design or calibre, and are thus unlikely to be carried by frontline troops in modern armies. Many of these weapons are Soviet designs from the 1950’s and 1960’s, and are of extremely robust construction, meaning that once they find their way into a conflict zone, they are liable to remain in circulation for at least half a century. These weapons, typically assault rifles and sometimes smaller calibre sub-machine guns, have a high rate of fire and a very high destructive capability, but are relatively cheap, owing to their obselescence and large numbers (Collier 2009).

Many armed groups today consist of ill-trained recruits under the age of eighteen who cannot expect to be paid a wage, but instead rely on rentseeking activities from populations that live in areas that have seen a breakdown in state authority (Kaldor 2012). Africa, and the Great Lakes Region in particular, have suffered from the curse of a surplus of small arms in widespread circulation, exacerbating conflict and adding to civilian deaths. Ownership or use of an automatic weapon itself often holds appeal, as it can be used endow the owner with a sense of power and threat (Munkler 2006).

Central to any policy in reducing Small arms needs to be the tracing of the movements of small arms and tighter regulation of all small arms transfers internationally. Progress has been made at the international level in reaching agreements for the creation of linked databases to aid in the tracing of weapons, along with innovations in the marking of weapons to assist in tracing (McDonald 2015). Some progress has also been made in reducing government stockpiles in Eastern Europe, a positive development as surpluses such as these can end up being sold to third world governments.

However, the pysical destruction of weapons must remain a central focus, and it is worth considering whether this process could be streamlined and be made more efficient. On the ground, methods of disposal of weapons often remain very basic, with ritualised burnings of weapons in ceremonies, crushing of weapons with heavy vehicles and the manual destruction of weapons on lathes. This destruction process is lengthy and difficult and time consuming, as is the procedure of collecting weapons and storing them until actual destruction occurs.

One proposed solution to this could be the creation of mobile crushing units, consisting of a crushing machine that can shred steel, set on the back of a middle-weight truck, with the shredded material being conveyed on a slide to a neighbouring dump-truck type vehicle. Systems such as this could speed up one aspect of the DDR process and thus contribute to a peacebuilding process, for example meaning that once the details of a weapon are recorded, it can be destroyed immediately, without the need to collect, store and guard weapons until such time as the destruction process is begun. This does not mean that a ceremony cannot be held with select weapons at a given time, only that immediate disposal options are available. Although there are no easy ways to dispose of ammunition other than traditional demolition methods, the instantaneous destruction of small arms could already be a first step in speeding up a disarmament process.

The case for an accelerated pace in the collection and destruction of Small Arms has notably been made by events in Libya in recent years, where rebels captured huge stockpiles of weapons amassed by the Qaddafi regime and these weapons have begun to be disperesed accross Africa. These weapons have already been shown to have helped fuel the ongoing conflict in Mali (Anders 2015), and will no doubt continue to be found in Africa and beyond for years to come.

Postscript

The UN has made slow but steady progress in helping to coordinate international policies regarding Small Arms and the latest Biennial Meeting of States produced a document in the form of BMS5, which features important recommendations on stockpile management, weapons marking, record keeping as well as tracing, with the progress in the latter category being a useful step forward (McDonald 2015).

However, little discussion was devoted to  weapons disposal, and possible ways forward here needs to be discussed more widely, to see what can be done to raise awareness and thus funding for projects that involve DDR. The physical destruction of weapons component of the DDR is perhaps the easiest to address and is easy to enact, and makes a simple platform to appeal from during fundraising activities, either at the regional or international level. Until this time, it seems that insufficient press has been given to DDR activities, and weapons disposal in particular, a situation which should be remedied as soon as possible since raising awareness of DDR can also raise awareness of conflict and the political choices wich can affect conflict.

References

Anders, H. (2015) ‘Expanding Arsenal: Insurgent Arms in Northern Mali’ in Small Arms Survey 2015, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Collier, P. (2009) Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places. Vintage:London

Kaldor, M.(2012) New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era (3rd Ed.). Polity Press: Stanford

Krause,K.(ed.)(2010) Armed Groups and Contemporary Conflict: Challenging the Weberian State. Oxford: Routledge

McDonald, G. (2015) ‘One Meeting After Another: UN process Update’ in Small Arms Survey 2015, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Munkler, H.(2005) The New Wars. Polity Press:Cambridge.

Position Paper on the Proliferation and Misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa – Claude Kondor

It has become increasingly clear that as complex security challenges emerge and evolve, old ones still persist. The end of the cold war witnessed the significant proliferation of intrastate conflicts, including guerrilla warfare wherein Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) became the preferred choice of warlords to pursue their brutal aspirations (Peace Building Initiatives, 2011a). Saferworld (2011) argues that SALW are desirable because they are highly portable, deadly, easy to conceal and manipulated to kill millions of people.  Therefore, the fundamental issue that requires increased international attention is “The Proliferation and Misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa”, which according to the Department of Criminology (2015) is the most tangible threat that undermines international peace and security. The Department of Criminology (2013) further highlights that the availability of SALW especially in post-conflict environment undermines security and the rule of law, and has adverse effects on the promotion of democracy and good governance, national reconciliation, the protection of human rights, and socio-economic development.

Frey (2004) notes that the global estimated figure of firearms is 640 million which are utilised to kill thousands of people every year. The Small Arms Survey (2003; 2004),  cited in the report of the UN Secretary-General (2008), states that over 1,000 companies in about 100 countries are involved in the manufacture of nearly 8 million small arms annually. It further estimates that at least 300,000 people are killed annually as a result of the misuse of these weapons. For instance, SALW account for between 60 and 90 percent of loss of lives during conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Cote d’ Ivoire and Mali.  Therefore it is not shocking that they have been described by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as “weapons of mass destruction in slow motion” (Krause, 2007a:1).

It is against this backdrop that Campaign for Security Everywhere (CASE), a non-governmental organisation working in the areas of security, human rights and justice in Sierra Leone, makes its position very clear in terms of combating the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of SALW, which is in accordance with the 1999 ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and other related Materials (Aning, 2008).    This was well-intentioned by the Authority of Heads of State in order to achieve sustainable peace, stability and development in West Africa. However, ECOWAS has been confronted with numerous challenges, including violent conflicts, in its bid to achieve its initial objective of regional economic integration since its establishment in 1975. It is nevertheless glaring that all these conflicts have been underpinned by the proliferation and misuse of SALW.

To this end, CASE seeks to assist ECOWAS member states in combating the illicit proliferation, circulation and misuse of SALW through advocacy and sensitisation, lobbying of authorities, and also strengthen relevant institutions and civil society actors through capacity building to put an end to this complex and multidimensional phenomenon. The Peace Building Initiative (2011b) suggests tangible ways of regulating the flow and use of illicit SALW including their production and control of movement, regulating civilian possession and use of weapons, and the collection and destruction of weapons as means of getting out of this security conundrum at the national, regional and global levels. Overall, the effective and efficient coordination and collaboration among relevant actors are also quite significant in yielding the synergistic effect of combating the proliferation and misuse of SALW.

Experience has shown that security vacuum frequently follows the end of armed conflict. During this period, people trust SALW for self-protection especially in situations where the security forces are part of the conflict. In addition, some regard their weapons as means of livelihood and are therefore confident in keeping them. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2003) notes that while it is indeed acceptable that licit arms are quite essential in the maintenance of law and order, the uncontrolled proliferation and misuse of such items grossly undermines stability. Consequently, the effective and efficient control of SALW is without doubt a prerequisite for sustainable peace, security and stability in any post-conflict environment.

In a nutshell, the complete eradication of SALW is a significant step in restoring justice and security in post-conflict environments, and therefore should be the utmost priority of the relevant actors including the international community. Arms do not distinguish between sexes, age, tribe, rich, poor, disabled, educated, illiterate, or religious denomination. So let us all join hands together in harmony to completely eradicate this complex reality for the sake of ourselves and posterity.

Postscript

The issue of SALW is transnational in nature which further complicates the matter especially due to cultural and legislative disparities, and lack of political will on the part of member states to end the menace (OECD, 2007). Moreover, Krause (2007b) argues that contextual differences on the issue of SALW pose a major challenge especially in post-conflict situations where the proliferation of SALW undermines peace, security and development.

Additionally, despite clear international standards that have been well articulated, members of the security forces including the police, military, intelligence forces, and other state agents, are in most cases found guilty of committing serious human rights violations using SALW. A typical example of this occurred in Guinea where pro-democracy demonstrators were shot and killed at the stadium on 28th September 2011.   Another fundamental problem in the control of SALW is that actors involved in the sales and trafficking of SALW including terrorist groups, drug barons, and other organised criminal groups are politically and economically powerful, and have the resources to bulldoze their ways to achieve their selfish interests.

In conclusion, the issue of SALW is highly political involving numerous gladiators especially at the strategic level, and the complexities involved make it very difficult to address. However, these are likely surmountable if national accountability, transparency and control mechanisms are strengthened, coupled with strong political will at all levels of implementing the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (IPI, 2009).

References

Aning, K. (2008) ‘From ‘voluntary’ to a ‘binding’ process: towards the securitisation of small arms’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 26 (2):169-181.

Department of Criminology (2013) Security and Rule of Law in Post-Conflict States, Leicester: Department of Criminology, University of Leicester.

Department of Criminology (updated 2015) Conflict and Global Risks, Leicester: Department of Criminology, University of Leicester.

Frey, B. (2004) ‘Small Arms and Light Weapons: The Tools Used to Violate Human Rights’, Human Rights, Human Security, and Disarmament 3: 37-46.

IPI (2009) ‘Small Arms and Light Weapons: Task Forces on Strengthening Multilateral Security Capacity’, IPI Blue Paper No. 5, New York: IPI, available at http://www.ipacademy.org/media/pdf/publications/salw_epub.pdf.

Krause, K. (2007) ‘Small Arms and Light Weapons: Towards Global Public Policy’, Coping with Crisis Working Paper Series, New York: IPA.

OECD (2007) OECD DAC Handbook of Security System Reform: Supporting Security and Justice, Paris: OECD, available at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/43/25/38406485.pdf.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2003) Handbook of Best Practices on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Vienna: OSCE, available at http://www.osce.org/fsc/13616.

Peace Building Initiative (2011) Small Arms and Light Weapons, Peace Building Initiative website, accessed on 11 January 2016, available at http://www.peacebuildinginitiative.org/index.cfm?pageId=1732.

Saferworld (2011) Small arms and light weapons, Saferworld website, accessed on 12 January 2016, available at http://www.saferworld.org.uk/what/small-arms-and-light-weapons.

UNSG (2008) ‘Small Arms’, S/2008/258, New York: UN, available at http://www.un.org/disarmament/convarms/SALW/Docs/SGReportonSmallArms2008.pdf.