States gather to tackle illicit trade in small arms and light weapons

Arms Trade Bulletin May – June 2022

Here are some of the highlights from the Eighth Biennial Meeting of States to consider the implementation of the programme of action (PoA) to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects (BMS8), which was held in New York City, between 27 June and 1 July 2022. The draft outcome document is available here.

States expressed their concern over recent developments in small arms and light weapons manufacturing, technology and design, in particular polymer and modular weapons, firearms produced by 3D printing, and developments in the ability of users to evade marking and tracing mechanisms. These new technologies have implications for the full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI). All States should address these recent technological developments, taking into account opportunities, challenges, the role of industry, as well as financial and technical support, technological gaps between States and the need of fostering international cooperation.

On the topic of diversion, Algeria remarked that the illicit international transfer of small arms and light weapons to unauthorized recipients is an issue of paramount importance. Algeria stressed that any transfer of SALW to a group, entity or person without prior permission from the receiving State should be considered illegal. The outcome document is less explicit. It is noted “that preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, including preventing and combating the diversion and the illicit international transfer of small arms and light weapons to unauthorized recipients was a global challenge, requiring concerted efforts at the national, regional and global levels”.

The United Nations for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) delivered a presentation on good practices on marking modular and polymer weapons. Key challenges, current practices, and good practices were identified. Markings on polymer weapons are easier to remove. UNODA recommends that the marking should be applied on a metal plate that is permanently embedded into a polymer frame or receiver. The BMS8 outcome document calls for cooperation with the private sector and industry “for the development of technologies that improve the marking, record-keeping, tracing and safe, secure and effective storage of small arms and light weapons”.

The importance of international cooperation with respect to information-sharing at the international, regional and sub-regional level was stressed by many States. More specifically States are urged to share information, experiences, guidelines and good practices between law enforcement agencies, customs, and export and import licensing authorities, in line with national laws and regulations. At the national level the BMS8 calls for enhanced “national inter-agency information exchange systems, where applicable, feasible and in compliance with national law, but not limited to national small arms and light weapons registries and licensing authorities, customs, border control, law enforcement and criminal justice services which enhance operational efficiency”.

Belgium’s contribution was endorsed by many States. The proposal put forth by Belgium is the establishment of an Open-Ended Technical Expert Group on the implementation of the PoA and ITI in the light of developments in SALW manufacturing, technology and design, focussing on modular and polymer frame firearms. The EU has remarked that if the PoA does not work on the adoption of a global standard on how and where to mark modular firearms, then this kind of firearms risks becoming untraceable as a result of diverging marking practices. The draft outcome document recommends that the Fourth Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons In All Its Aspects discusses the establishment of such an open- ended technical expert group.

The United States congratulated Belgium for advancing this discussion and called for the inclusion of industry experts. France stressed that these experts ought to include governmental authorities such as police and control experts. Finally, Australia agreed that experts from both government and civil society should be included in the working group proposed by Belgium.

Several States called, in vain, for the inclusion of small arms and light weapons ammunition in the PoA and ITI, with some States (Egypt, Group of Arab States, Honduras, Mauritania, Russia, Syria and the United States) opposing this idea, and calling for further dialogue among States at other venues. The International Action Network on Small Arms reported that Cuba, Algeria, and Syria, urged the delegates to avoid “controversial, nonconsensual issues like ammunition.”

It is noted that the outcome document calls for responsible disposal, preferably through destruction, of SALW surplus.

Credit Photo: UN photo/Abel Kavanagh

Further reading

In the news


How Did Guns Get So Powerful? | 11 June 2022 | The New Yorker

Samuel Walker and fifteen other Texas Rangers rode into the countryside to hunt for Comanches in June of 1844. The Lords of the South Plains, as the Comanches were known, had ruled the American Southwest for a century; by displacing other Native American nations, raiding colonial outposts, enslaving people, and extracting tribute, they enacted what the historian Pekka Hämäläinen, in his book “The Comanche Empire,” called a story of role reversal, “in which Indians expand, dictate, and prosper, and European colonists resist, retreat, and struggle to survive.” About a week into Walker’s expedition, dozens of Comanche horsemen appeared behind the Rangers, armed and shouting taunts in Spanish. More were almost certainly hidden nearby.

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against Women in the Russia-Ukraine Conflict | 8 June 2022 | EJIL:Talk!

In April 2022, it was reported that Ukrainian law enforcement intercepted a phone call between a Russian soldier and his wife. In the phone call, they joked about the soldier raping Ukrainian women. His wife told him, “Yes, I allow it. Just wear protection”. The shockingly cavalier attitude of these two young Russian people towards rape emanates from the traditionally gendered nature of war and a history of Russian soldiers carrying out the rape of women with impunity.

UN Gun Control Program Runs Amok Again | 16 May 2022 | The Heritage Foundation

More than two decades ago, the United Nations created a program to curb the trafficking of small arms. It’s done nothing but fire blanks. So now, the U.N. wants to control bullets.


Commerce des armes lourdes : Vers le renforcement de la législation nationale | 13 June 2022 |

Qu’il s’agisse du transit, du contrôle, de l’achat ou de l’importation des armes lourdes, le Mali se prépare à respecter les mesures inclues dans le TCA qu’il a ratifié en 2013. Le pays s’apprête pour la mise en œuvre de ce traité international. C’est du moins l’annonce faire ce 10 juin 2022, à la faveur d’une conférence de presse, par le Secrétariat permanent de lutte contre la prolifération des armes légères et de petit calibre, en compagnie du Grip.

Weapons Losses Fueling Africa’s Militant Groups | 2 June 2022 | Eric Berman | International Center for Investigative Reporting

Loss of munitions and other lethal materiel from African armed forces and peace operations is a key factor sustaining militant groups driving instability on the continent.

Ghana commends ECOWAS’ efforts to regulate arms brokering in Sub-region | 29 May 2022 | GhanaWeb

Mrs Afi Azaratu Yakubu, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons has commended ECOWAS and its partners for producing a report, which provides an excellent basis for an in-depth discussion on arms brokering within West Africa.

Fabryka Broni sells Grot rifles to African customer | 24 May 2022 | Janes

Polish Armaments Group (Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa: PGZ) announced in a press release on 19 May that it had been awarded a contract by an East African country for Grot rifles chambered in 7.62×39 mm. The company would not disclose the customer‘s name and the contract value.

Ethiopia arrests Al-Shabaab militants smuggling weapons from Somalia | 3 May 2022 | Garowe Online

The federal government of Ethiopia has arrested Al-shabaab militants smuggling sophisticated weapons to the country, from the neighboring Somalia, police said, amid escalating insecurity in the Horn of Africa nation, which is struggling with instability.


The Present and Potential Future of Federal and State Gun Regulations in the United States | 27 June 2022 | Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP | JD Supra

The mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York sparked renewed interest in gun control reform in the United States. On June 12, 2022, a bipartisan group of United States Senators announced an agreement on principle for gun control legislation. The deal includes provisions designed to prevent people experiencing crises from obtaining guns, additional protections for victims of domestic violence, and enhanced mental health services for children.

Ukraine asked for more weapons to fight Russia, so Miami police are hosting a gun buyback scheme | 20 June 2022 | ABC

As Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls on the West for more weapons, one US city has answered the call in an unexpected way. Miami residents lined up to hand over their guns in exchange for vouchers. The guns will be donated to the Ukraine war effort.

Third defendant sentenced for trafficking guns to Barbados | 6 June 2022 | U.S. Department of Justice

Rashad Sargeant has been sentenced for his role in trafficking firearms to Barbados. Together with his co-defendant, David Johnson, Sargeant shipped at least 30 firearms to Barbados after obliterating the serial numbers from the firearms and packing them inside false compartments in boxes.

US Guns Fuel Arms Trafficking in the Dominican Republic | 3 June 2022 | Insight Crime

Seizures of military-style assault weapons in the Dominican Republic are raising concerns that criminal groups are accessing powerful firearms smuggled from the United States and elsewhere.

Homicides, Gun Trafficking, and Gangs: Prioritizing U.S. Security Assistance to the English-speaking Caribbean | 31 May 2022 | Global Americans

On April 29, 2022, United States Vice President Kamala Harris held a virtual meeting with fifteen Caribbean leaders to reiterate the U.S.’ commitment to the region. Vice President Harris announced that the U.S. will convene annual meetings to continue high-level discussions and will “advance cooperation on economic recovery, the climate crisis, and security, among other areas of mutual concern.” Many Caribbean officials welcomed the announcement that the United States will be expanding assistance through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) with new funding “to combat firearms trafficking, enhanced maritime security, and support training for police and others.”


Could South Korea’s gun control offer any lessons? | 23 June 2022 | Asia News Network

Most South Korean men are trained shooters, having gone through mandatory military duty. But due to a strict gun control policy, there have been no deadly shooting rampages here, as seen in the US.

One Surprising Theory Why the Philippines Has Very Few Mass Shootings—Despite Easy Access to Lots of Guns | 15 June 2022 | Time

Mass shootings are a result of a confluence of factors, but at the heart of the problem are guns—of which the Philippines has plenty. Firearms are sold openly in malls, and almost anyone can carry them, even priests and accountants.

Illicit Trade Of Chinese Shoulder-Fired Surface-To-Air Missiles Increasing | 13 June 2022 | The Warzone

Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the illicit trade of advanced Chinese-designed shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS, according to a new report from the independent monitoring group Small Arms Survey.


Germany unveils list of military equipment and weapons supplied to Ukraine | 22 June 2022 | ArmyRecognition

After several months of discussions on the military aid brought to Ukraine, Germany finally unveils a list of military equipment and weapons delivered to Ukraine, as well as the combat vehicles that will be delivered to the Ukrainian armed forces in the next few weeks.

Sweden to provide Ukraine with AG 90 anti-materiel sniper rifles and AT4 anti-tank weapons | 5 June 2022 | ArmyRecognition

According to a statement published by the Swedish Ministry of Defense on June 2, 2022, Sweden has adopted a new amendment to provide Ukraine with financial support and equipment in response to Russia’s invasion. Sweden will provide Ukraine with AG 90 anti-materiel sniper rifles and ammunition, and an additional 5,000 Swedish AT4 recoilless anti-tank weapons.

Germany delivers 2,420 RGW 90 anti-tank weapons and anti-tank mines to Ukraine | 17 May 2022 | ArmyRecognition

According to information published by the German newspaper website “SPIEGEL”, in the past two weeks, Germany would have already delivered to Ukraine 2,450 RGW 90 man-portable anti-tank weapons, 1,600 DM22 and 3,000 DM31 anti-tank mines.

M4A1 5.56mm assault rifles donated by US are now in service with Ukraine army | 16 May 2022 | ArmyRecognition

According to a Tweet published by the “Ukraine Weapon Tracker” on May 14, 2022, approximately 7,000 small arms, including M4A1 5.56mm caliber assault rifles, were recently donated by the United States as military aid for Ukraine and now the M4A1 is in service with the Ukrainian army.

Canada announces additional military aid for Ukraine | 9 May 2022 | Army-Technology

The package will include drone cameras, ammunition for M777 howitzers, and small arms and related ammunition, among others.

All articles and other news items referenced in this briefing come from third party media sources. Being not the author, IPIS is not responsible for the content of the news items or articles contained or referred to in this briefing.

This briefing was produced with the financial assistance of the Belgian Development Cooperation (DGD). The editorial is the sole responsibility of IPIS and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid.