Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Stability pact for South Eastern Europe to end proliferation of small arms weapons

Small arms and light weapons (SALW) kill more than half a million people around the world every year, and millions more see their homes, livelihoods and hopes destroyed. There is an abundance of small arms in the world — one count puts it at over 550 million. It is estimated that small arms and light weapons were responsible for 90% of the victims (mostly civilian) of today's conflicts, that they were used systematically in 43 of the 47 most recent armed conflicts and that they claimed between 200,000 to 300,000 lives per year. Stemming the flow of illicit small arms, which work to ignite or prolong conflict and bring human suffering, is a key step forward to recovery.

The uncontrolled proliferation and illicit trafficking of SALW is a serious problem in South East Europe (SEE). SALW proliferation has undermined the rule of law, fuelled crime and insecurity, and exacerbated conflict and post conflict peace building in the region. Problems related to SALW are likely to pose a serious constraint to economic and social development in the region.

In order to address these problems the Stability Pact Regional Implementation Programme for combating the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in SEE envisages a framework of tightly focused advice and direction on formulating and carrying out SALW reduction programmes. The consultations and advice along with donor contacts would be conducted under the auspices of the proposed South East Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons which will be located with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Belgrade and officially declared opened on 8 May 2002. Funding for the Clearinghouse is provided by UNDP's Trust Fund for Support to Prevention and Reduction of the Proliferation of Small Arms with support from the Governments of UK, Norway, Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands

In SEE, UNDP is already addressing the SALW issues in Albania and Kosovo, while preliminary discussions are underway in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. UNDP is currently helping to establish the regional Clearinghouse in the Capital of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia — Belgrade in order to:

Provide technical assistance to Governments and civil society in SEE to effectively implement the Regional Implementation Plan on Combating the Proliferation of Illicit SALW;

Share information on and enhance coordination in the establishment and implementation of SALW control and reduction programmes and approaches among regional countries such as weapons for development and otherwise;

Monitor and track progress on implementation of the Regional Implementation Plan;

Assist in mobilization of donor resources and presentation of requests to international donors, and

Provide linkages and coordination with the other relevant regional initiatives.