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WCO and UNODA to collaborate to eradicate the illicit trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons

06 January 2017

The World Customs Organization (WCO), through its Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) through its Under-Secretary General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Mr. Kim Won-soo have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 23 December 2016 to formalize existing cooperation to enhance State’s implementation of cross-border arms regulation, with a view to combating small arms and light weapons (SALW) trafficking in particular.

Small arms generally refer to weapons designed for individual use and include handguns (self-loading pistols and revolvers) and shoulder arms (rifles and carbines, sub-machine guns and light machine guns, and grenade launchers). On the other hand, light weapons are designed for use by two or more people (although some may be carried and used by a single person) and include heavy machine guns, portable anti-aircraft / anti- tank guns and portable launchers of anti-tank missile and rocket systems.

The illicit trade in SALW poses a grave danger to international peace, security and stability, threatening the lives of millions around the world every year.

The international community has taken several initiatives to address this threat by developing a multilateral framework to regulate the manufacturing, possession, transfer and tracing of SALW. Notable initiatives include the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, the Firearms Protocol under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Arms Trade Treaty, several UN Security Council resolutions have addressed the implications for the global trade in SALW as well as the UN Global Counter-terrorism strategy.

With the signing of this MoU, the WCO and UNODA agree to work together to support countries with implementation of the international SALW requirements. This agreement will also further promote the sharing of expertise based on practical initiatives within the WCO Security Programme and its related operational projects, particularly the SALW programme aimed at preventing the illicit diversion and trafficking of SALW.

Following the WCO Punta Cana Resolution addressing the role and contribution of Customs in the context of border security and counter-terrorism, the WCO has developed in 2016 the WCO Counter-Terrorism Strategy. This strategy aims, among other things to enhance customs capacity to manage border security related threats, including SALW.

The other areas of cooperation of the MoU between the WCO and UNODA include: sharing of expertise in the areas of capacity building on arms management and ammunition safety; coordinating joint training activities for Customs officers on matters relating to non-proliferation and arms regulation and promoting international standards and good practices such as the International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS) and the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG).