The illicit trade in firearms and small arms poses a grave threat to peace and development of the society as well as human security. Given that weapons, which diverted from legitimate channels, were used by criminal organisations and terrorist groups, and such illicit small arms destabilise social well-being, the issue has been increasingly drawing political concerns. In particular, under the current security environment, in which terrorism is a major threat, arms control has to be promoted at every level, as stated in the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1373 of the year 2001 and 1456 of the year 2003.
Since 1995, when the United Nations put the issue of controlling small arms and light weapons on the international political agenda, it has frequently highlighted the problems caused by the uncontrolled spread of these arms, and proposed the ways of tackling these problems.
Subsequently, the international community, under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded 2 agreements in 2001, namely the "Firearms Protocol supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime", which established standards and procedures to assure due control on the legitimate trade in firearms, and the "Program of Action (PoA)", which urges States to put in place or strengthen laws and regulations to exercise effective control over the production, trade, possession and so forth of small arms. It also urges sub-regional and regional cooperation and information-sharing among police, Customs and other border control agencies.
Regional bodies have also developed their regional cooperative instruments and initiatives. These include agreements and initiatives by the EU (European Union), the OAU (Organization of African Unity), the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community), the OAS (Organization of American States), the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), the Pacific Islands Forum, the League of Arab States, and so forth.
In support to the UN Protocol, in June 2002, WCO adopted 2 Recommendations concerning this Protocol. The first one is "WCO Recommendation on the Insertion in National Statistical Nomenclatures of Subheadings to Facilitate the Monitoring and Control of Products Specified in the Protocol Concerning Firearms covered by the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (29 June 2002)." The second one is "WCO Recommendation concerning the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their parts and components and ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (29 June 2002)", which recommends a number of basic Customs requirements for its import, export and transit. In the wake of the adoption of the Recommendation on the Customs requirements, the Permanent Technical Committee worked to develop an explanatory note to the Recommendation to facilitate the acceptance and implementation of the Recommendation.
In seeking the WCO’s possible contribution to the international community, the Secretariat is going to keep the eyes on the progress of the discussions and, as needed, explore the ways to further enhance cooperative relationship with other international and regional organizations. At the same time, we would like to encourage all Member administrations to tackle these global and regional challenges, especially through the acceptance of the WCO Recommendations. The Recommendation on the Insertion to National Nomenclature has been accepted by 9 Members - , Canada, Egypt, Madagascar, Cuba, the Republic of Korea, Lebanon, Peru, South Africa, and Ukraine as of 15 December 2009. The WCO Recommendation concerning the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their parts and components and ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime has been accepted by 7 Members - Argentina, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Latvia, Romania, and Slovenia as of 16 January 2009.