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More than €10 million pledged to strengthen control of small arms and light weapons and conventional ammunition in South-Eastern Europe

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VIENNA, 24 March 2021 – More than 10 million in contributions and resources have been pledged to strengthen action against the illicit proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and Stockpiles of Conventional Ammunition (SCA) in South-Eastern Europe. These pledges and the impact of OSCE assistance in this area were the focus today of a donor meeting hosted by the current OSCE Forum for Security Co-Operation (FSC) Chairpersonship, the United States, in collaboration with the previous FSC Chair, Germany.

“If unchecked, SALW and SCA misuse and trafficking can spread fast and leave deep wounds in the social fabric across our region,” said OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid. “They make gender-based violence more deadly, exacerbate organized crime and terrorism, and in crisis situations, can help trigger larger-scale armed conflict.” She underscored that SALW and SCA “cannot be dealt with through national policies alone. That’s why at the OSCE we perceive this threat as a shared burden and responsibility.”

The donor meeting brought together more than 100 representatives from over 30 participating States and international organizations, including the OSCE and its six field operations in South-Eastern Europe. Participants discussed SALW and SCA in the South-Eastern Europe region, the OSCE’s assistance projects combatting illicit proliferation of SALW and SCA, including those related to the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap, as well as the role donors play in the OSCE’s efforts.

While South-Eastern Europe has seen steady economic and political progress, risks related to SALW and SCA remain, said Demitra Pappas, Counselor and Chief Arms Control Delegate of the United States, during her opening remarks on behalf of the US FSC Chairpersonship. “That is why it is of utmost importance for us to join efforts and provide financial, expert and other types of support to strengthen national capacities in South-Eastern Europe.”

Albrecht von Wittke, Head of the Division for Conventional Disarmament, Arms Control and Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs) Worldwide at Germany's Federal Foreign Office, said, “We see this project work, especially in the context of the OSCE, as an excellent way of underpinning policy with concrete action and measurable outcomes on the ground.” He noted that remaining “technical and de-politicized” has been key to the OSCE’s success in SALW and SCA and reaffirmed Germany’s support of the OSCE’s work in South-Eastern Europe and beyond as well as its commitment to the success of the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap.

The session closed with statements by donor States and pledges for additional assistance, including a €300,000 commitment announced by France and the United States’ announced commitment totaling €4 million to the OSCE extra-budgetary assistance projects on combatting illicit trafficking of SALW and Conventional Ammunition in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in North Macedonia.

In addition to these announced contributions, 19 OSCE participating States and the European Union have provided more than €6.2 million in funds and resources, bringing total donor contributions to date to €10.2 million for the current portfolio of projects in the field of SALW and SCA in South-Eastern Europe. Further contributions to close the funding gap towards a total budget of €16.2 million are also under consideration.