Photo: UNDP / SEESAC

31 January 2020 – High-level representatives gathered in Berlin today to review the Western Balkans’ efforts to address the misuse, possession and trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW).

Hosted by Heiko Mass, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany and H.E. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, the second high-level meeting on the implementation of the SALW Control Roadmap for the Western Balkans reviewed the progress achieved in the first year of the implementation of the Roadmap.

Ylva Johansson, EU-Commissioner for Home Affairs and Olivér Várhelyi, EU-Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement also attended the event, in addition to Ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs of the Western Balkans and key international organizations supporting the authorities in the implementation of the Roadmap and donors.

The Roadmap was developed by authorities of the Western Balkans in 2018, under the auspices of Germany, France and in cooperation with the EU and with support from UNDP’s South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC).

It aims to close the remaining gaps in small arms and light weapons control and contribute to a sustainable solution to the illegal possession, misuse and trafficking of SALW and their ammunition in the Western Balkans.

In the first half of 2019, the Roadmap led to the seizure by Western Balkans authorities of 1,886 firearms and 52,600 pieces of ammunition. Throughout 2019, 21,000 small arms and over 6 million pieces of ammunition were destroyed.

UNDP estimates that 993 people were either killed, injured or threatened with firearms in the region in 2019. Firearms were frequently used in criminal contexts, public disputes, celebratory shootings and domestic violence.

Between 2012 and 2016, women were responsible for only 1.6% of firearm incidents, but represented 16.2% of the victims as a result of domestic violence.

“More human rights abuses are committed with small arms than with any other means. They are also a widespread type of weapon used in acts of sexual violence and as a tool for terror,” said Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, the Regional Director of UNDP for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Making meaningful progress on the Sustainable Development Goals hinges on eliminating threats such as illegal firearms,” she added.

Ms. Spoljaric Egger thanked the Ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs from the Western Balkans for their strong commitment to the implementation of the Roadmap. She thanked Germany, France and the EU for partnering with UNDP through SEESAC in development, coordination and monitoring of Roadmap implementation and for their financial support.

She also commended the UK, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands for their contributions to the Roadmap Multi Partner Trust Fund, through which four new projects will be launched very soon.

SEESAC – a joint initiative of UNDP and the Regional Cooperation Council - has been working closely with local authorities to promote disarmament and arms control for more than a decade.

With the adoption of the Roadmap, UNDP has stepped up its support, developing evidence to secure stockpiles, helping destroy surpluses and confiscate weapons and ammunition, supporting authorities to detect and prevent firearms trafficking and improving forensic capacities throughout the region.

In the meeting, the Ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs of the Western Balkans reported on progress in their jurisdictions, and the key international organizations, OSCE, UNODC, NATO, EUROPOL/EMPACT, FRONTEX and key donors presented their contribution to the implementation of the Roadmap.

 

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