Bridging the gap between international and national legal frameworks

May 12 2011, 11:33 AM by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will

As part of the discussion on national frameworks and what is required
for successful implementation of the UNPoA, a thorough and pragmatic
presentation from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) offered
member states an important legal and criminal justice perspective on
controlling the illicit trafficking of SALWs. The presenter described
the Model Law against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in
Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition. The Model Law has
been developed in response to the request for legislative assistance
and legal drafting advice by member states to implement the provisions
contained in the Protocol of the Model Law, which supplements the UN
Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

Additionally, the Model Law springs forth from the mandate of the
Conference of the Parties to the Convention against Transnational
Organized Crime to develop technical assistance tools to assist Member
States in strengthening their domestic legislation to be consistent
with the Protocol. The Model Law, entirely voluntary, seeks to
facilitate the review and amendment of existing legislation as well as
the adoption of new legislation on firearms. Perhaps most useful, the
Law provides an opportunity for self-assessment that allows states to
identify their specific needs and, therefore, best formulate national
legislation that addresses their domestic issues in an international

The support available from the UNODC is an excellent example of
resources that are valuable to states that otherwise would not have
the capacity to strengthen, or in some instances formulate, national
legal frameworks within which the UNPoA can successfully and
effectively be implemented. As has been discussed over the last four
days at the MGE, the international legal framework is fundamentally in
place with the existence of the UNPoA, the ITI, and the Firearms
Protocol among others. The international commitments have largely been
achieved, but the work is far from complete. The essential purpose of
this week’s discussions among experts implementing these instruments
in their respective capitals is how to improve national mechanisms and
structures so that effective implementation is feasible in all states
towards the eradication of the illicit trade in SALWs globally.

The three pillars of implementation—marking, recordkeeping, and
tracing—are matters first and foremost of national responsibility, a
point that has been repeatedly made by many delegations throughout the
week. Some member states have called for separate national action
plans as a supplement to the internationally-agreed UNPoA on small
arms. To make good on these national responsibilities, member states
must take advantage of the resources available to bridge the gap
between the existing international legal framework and their
respective national legislation regarding small arms and light

While this week is providing a robust opportunity for a free exchange
of best practices regarding the technicalities of implementation, the
issue of national legislation is also critical to long-term success.
Bilateral and regional technical support is one excellent option for
member states that require it. For example, the DRC requested
technical assistance from the US delegation for tracing. However, the
formulation of national legal frameworks requires deep understanding
of national laws, customs, and politics. As such, the resources
provided by the UNODC provide the opportunity for states to
self-assess and identify what is needed to best implement a national
legal framework consistent with international law, but also adaptable
to the state’s national legal system. As pointed out by the
representative of the UNODC, national legislation must be consistent
with international law—meaning that it cannot contradict the law
though it does not necessarily have to replicate it.

We encourage member states to look carefully at their national legal
frameworks and seek out the support that is being offered to help
implement legislation that is consistent with the international
treaties and agreements on small arms while being sensitive to what is
best and most appropriate for the national legal system and,
ultimately, the security needs of its people.