Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Project

Small arms and light weapons are defined in the United Nation’s International Tracing Instrument as any man-portable lethal weapon that expels or launches, is designed to expel or launch, or may be readily converted to expel or launch a shot, bullet or projectile by the action of an explosive, excluding antique small arms and light weapons or their replicas. Antique small arms and light weapons and their replicas will be defined in accordance with domestic law. In no case will antique small arms and light weapons include those manufactured after 1899:

  1. “Small arms” are, broadly speaking, weapons designed for individual use. They include, inter alia, revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, sub-machine guns, assault rifles and light machine guns;
  1. “Light weapons” are, broadly speaking, weapons designed for use by two or three persons serving as a crew, although some may be carried and used by a single person. They include, inter alia, general purpose or universal machine guns, medium machine guns, heavy machine guns, rifle grenades, under-barrel grenade launchers and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft guns, portable anti-tank guns, recoilless rifles, man portable launchers of anti-tank missile and rocket systems, man portable launchers of anti-aircraft missile systems, and mortars of a calibre of less than 100 millimetres

The illicit and global trade of small arms and light weapons has been an increasing cause of instability, violence and death across the world. In response to this growing threat, the WCO started the Small Arms and Light Weapons Project in March of 2015 that aims to detect and prevent illicit trafficking of these items. The SALW project is comprised of five key areas, namely:

  1. awareness raising, legal analysis and development of guidance;
  2. training and technical assistance;
  3. operational coordination;
  4. development of SALW-specific tools to support better intelligence analysis and risk management and;
  5. international cooperation

Since the start of the project, the WCO and its Members have conducted legal and technical analyses of the implications of the key international SALW instruments, including the the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the Firearms Protocol, and the Program of Action (PoA), on Customs. The WCO has also worked closely with international organizations, such as INTERPOL and the UNODA, in this area with a view to combating small arms and light weapons trafficking. In December 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with UNODA to enhance this cooperative effort.