UN launches International Small Arms Control Standards

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"More than a decade after Member States agreed on a comprehensive programme of action aimed at eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, the United Nations this week launched international standards to provide further impetus to that work.

The International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS) were launched during a global meeting in New York that is examining how well States are implementing the action programme they agreed in 2001, formally known as the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

About 526,000 people lose their lives every year due to armed violence, which is commonly fuelled by illicit weapons.  That is the equivalent of one person dying violently every minute.

At the launch, Hannelore Hoppe, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, noted that “UN entities that provide advice and support to Member States on effectively controlling small arms and light weapons, as well as those entities whose work has been directly impeded by the illicit trade, proliferation and misuse of such weapons, came together under the Coordinating Action on Small Arms (CASA) with the goal of strengthening the UN’s collective response to these challenges”.  She added that “ISACS is a product of collaboration between CASA and a diverse range of international partners, including Government experts, international and regional organizations, civil society and the private sector”.

“Armed conflict, often fuelled by illicit weapons, destroys communities and extinguishes any hope of eliminating poverty for millions of people,” said Stan Nkwain, Chief of Policy and Planning at the United Nations Development Programme’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery.  “It is generally accepted that there are approximately 875 million firearms in existence — one for every eight people on the planet.  When these weapons fall into the hands of criminals, combatants and terrorists, they destroy economic stability, undermine the rule of law and subvert legitimate Governments,” he added.  “Also, armed violence and violence against women are tragically interlinked, as having weapons in the hands of abusers increases the risk of domestic violence.”

The main purpose of the standards is to enable all agencies of the United Nations to work together to support States in putting effective controls in place over the full life cycle of small arms and light weapons under their jurisdiction.  They will be used by agencies working on issues as diverse as child protection, crime, development, public health, counter-terrorism and humanitarian relief.  It is also hoped that they will be of use to policymakers and practitioners outside the United Nations system, for example in Governments, regional organizations, civil society and even the private sector.

The standards provide guidance in such areas as managing weapons stockpiles, marking and keeping records of them, tracing illegal weapons back to their last legal owner, and collecting and destroying illicit and unwanted arms.

In United Nations parlance, “small arms” are firearms that can be used by one person, assault rifles, for example, and “light weapons” are larger systems that require two or three people to operate (e.g. heavy machineguns)."

UN Press Release DC/3387