Preventing illegal flow of guns is key to reducing poverty

Sep 7, 2012

UNDP echoes the call for tougher measures to curb illicit small arms, reduce violence and give affected countries a better chance to overcome poverty.

New York—As talks on curbing the illicit trade in small arms ended here Friday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mexico, Switzerland and other countries urged a stronger international commitment to reducing armed violence around the world.

“Gun violence fuelled by illicit weapons destroys communities, economic stability and the rule of law; it destabilizes legitimate governments and extinguishes any hope of eliminating poverty for people living in conflict zones,” said Jordan Ryan, UNDP Assistant Administrator, at the conference of UN Member States.

“More than half a million people die every year as a result of armed violence. There is, on average, one victim worldwide every minute, Ryan said in a statement at the Review Conference of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, which met here 27August-7 September.

Mexico, which co-hosted an event alongside the conference with UNDP and the Government of Switzerland, is deeply affected by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, as are the Central American and Caribbean regions.

“It fuels organized crime with serious humanitarian consequences,” said Ambassador Yanerit Morgan, Chargée d'Affaires   and Deputy Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations. “To address this challenge, Mexico is promoting a comprehensive approach that includes the link between demand for weapons and poverty, insecurity and injustice.”

Approaches aimed at promoting development can reduce the availability and misuse of weapons, “and ultimately promote human security,” he said.

The control of small arms and light weapons is a small but vital part of the broader development agenda, Ryan said. “Increasing controls on weapons is not the only piece to the puzzle. UNDP’s armed violence reduction approach brings together police, local government, communities of development practitioners and public service providers to build peace.”

“There is no doubt that the supply side for Small Arms and Light Weapons needs to be regulated and controlled,” said Paul Seger, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations. “However, what is often forgotten is the demand side. Both supply of and demand for small arms and light weapons need to be taken into account when vectors of armed violence have to be addressed.”

In the nearly 25 crisis-affected countries, where UNDP works to promote justice and security, interventions can include measures such as making the criminal justice sector more effective, helping people resolve disputes in their communities, creating opportunities to work and generate income and making governments more accountable and responsive to their citizens.

In El Salvador , a UNDP-supported scheme helped reduce murder rates by an average of 12 percent across 20 municipalities. In Guatemala , UNDP worked with the government to help ban firearms from public places.

UNDP contributed to a set of small arms control standards released during the conference to guide UN agencies and Member States on managing stockpiles of weapons, marking and keeping records of them, tracing guns back to their last legal owners and collecting and destroying illicit and unwanted arms.

UNDP has long-supported the development and implementation of similar international instruments including the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Mine Ban Treaty, and most recently the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development—a joint initiative by Switzerland and UNDP aimed at addressing the link between armed violence and development and signed by 112 Member States.

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