Still A Long Way to Go: Implementation of the #UN Program on #SmallArms

May 12 2011, 2:03 PM  by Øistein Thorsen
Since the adoption of the UN Program of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) in 2001, a total of 584 national reports have been submitted by 158 UN member states, providing information on how they have implemented the commitments in the instrument. 34 states have never submitted a national report on PoA implementation. By Sarah Parker, consultant and senior researcher Small Arms Survey

In my latest publication for Small Arms Survey, Analysis of National Reports: Implementation of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument in 2009–10, I analyze information provided by states on the PoA implementation themes selected for the Fourth Biannual Meeting of States (BMS4). These themes are: border controls; international cooperation and assistance; strengthening of the follow-up mechanism; and implementation of the International Tracing Instrument (ITI).

The report presents information that raises serious questions about the breadth and depth of PoA implementation. For example, it provides the results of a pilot study undertaken to verify the existence of National Points of Contact (NPC). Of the 151 NPCs listed on the PoA-ISS website, the existence and identity of NPCs could only be confirmed in 53 cases; in 30 cases, contact was made but the existence and identity of NPCs could not be confirmed; and in 69 cases, no successful contact was made.

This exercise, though small, highlights one of the weaknesses in the PoA reporting system: in the absence of a mechanism to monitor and verify states’ implementation efforts, information in national reports must be taken at face value.

In the context of the International Tracing Instrument (ITI), the report’s findings suggest that reporting on ITI implementation (and possibly ITI implementation itself) has been disappointing. Of the 107 states that reported in 2010, only 33 states (31%) submitted a separate report on the ITI; 12 states (11%) submitted a joint report on the PoA and the ITI; a further 21 states (20%); and the remaining 41 states (38%) do not even mention the ITI in their national reports.

Within the reports that do include information on ITI implementation, the number of states that appear to have implemented specific ITI commitments is low. For example, only 16 states report that they mark small arms at the time of manufacture with all three pieces of information required under the ITI: manufacturer, country of manufacture and serial number. And most of those that provide information on the length of time records on manufacture are maintained, fall short of the requirement to maintain manufacturing records for at least 30 years, if not indefinitely.

Although national reports on PoA implementation do not provide a complete or, in many instances, even a satisfactory picture of implementation, they remain the most important and, in some instances, the only source of information on states’ implementation efforts with respect to the PoA and the ITI.