The fight against the illicit dissemination of small arms and light weapons and ammunition [fr]
Small arms and light weapons (SALW), whose definition may vary depending on the text, are firearms of less than 100mm calibre that can be carried by one person (including mortars, portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems).
There are an estimated 800 million SALW currently in circulation, which are thought to cause about 500,000 deaths per year and account for more than 90% of victims in armed conflict. Most of the victims are women and children.
The illicit dissemination of SALW can fuel and prolong regional conflicts and support organized crimes and terrorism. Beyond its negative effects, it represents a major threat to the stability and the development of fragile States. The illicit trade in SALW presents numerous challenges that require specific actions, especially regarding stockpiles and their security, transfer regulation and control, border management, illicit reactivation, marking and tracing, and conflict resolution.
Taking into account the urgency of the threat, the international community has come together. The illicit trade in SALW is a cross-regional threat, impacting all regions of the world, while still raising specific challenges and diverse preoccupations. To deal with this threat, international cooperation, as well as a cross-cutting approach, are essential.
Determined to combat the illicit dissemination of small arms and light weapons, France has joined the following instruments:
The Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA), adopted in 2001, is a solid and universal framework for the international action in the fight against the illicit trade in SALW. France assumed the presidency of the Third Review Conference in 2018 and was fully committed to organizing a transparent and inclusive preparatory process. This commitment reflects the will of France to implement the PoA concretely and efficiently.
The International Tracing Instrument (ITI), adopted in 2006 following a Franco-Swiss initiative, enables States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons.
The Protocol Against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, adopted in 2001, is the first international and legally binding instrument on small arms and light weapons.
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adopted in 2013, is the first global and legally binding instrument that aims to regulate the trade in conventional arms and eradicate their illicit trade. As the treaty was considered a priority, France was substantively involved in the negotiation phase and was one of the first countries to ratify the treaty on the 2 April 2014. France provides active support for efforts to promote the universalization and effective implementation of the treaty.
The Register of Conventional Arms, was created in 1992 by the UN General Assembly to insure a more transparent trade in conventional weapons, build confidence among States and help prevent conflict. Member states are asked to submit annual reports on their imports and exports on seven categories of conventional weapons, and small arms and light weapons since 2006.
Moreover, France has contributed to the negotiations of the EU Strategy to Combat Illicit Accumulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons and Their Ammunition, adopted by the European Council in 2005. This document emphasizes the importance of the fight against the illicit dissemination of small arms and light weapons and ammunition to prevent conflicts. The strategy includes the European instruments already implemented and contains an action plan.
Finally, France is a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement, established in 1996 to control the exports of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies.
France is also part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
France, through its diplomatic network, is committed to work towards the universalization of these instruments by advocating them to the non-signatory States.
France reports every year on its exports, imports, military expenditures and procurements linked to major armaments in the framework of these instruments. The data are also available in the annual report on arms export transmitted to the Parliament.