Thousands of illegal arms surrendered in UNDP-backed weapons collection programme in FYR Macedonia

Report
from UN Development Programme
Published on 18 Dec 2003
Skopje, FYR Macedonia, 18 December 2003 -- Nearly 8,000 illegal weapons ranging from rocket launchers to assault rifles were turned over to authorities under a 45-day voluntary disarmament programme supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), officials here announced.
The weapons collection programme was carried out in conjunction with a temporary amnesty for the people of FYR Macedonia who surrendered illegal arms between 1 November and 15 December. Authorities received 7,751 weapons in the 45-day amnesty period, including 55 rocket launchers, 247 land mines, 348 AK-47s and similar assault rifles, nearly 800 hand grenades, and more than a 1,000 detonators for lethal explosives.

In all, the arms collection effort netted 3,590 rifles and 2,794 handguns, along with more than 100,000 rounds of ammunition, representing a significant reduction in the cache of illegal weapons in the former Yugoslavian republic. Most of the surrendered mines and nearly half of the hand grenades were collected in areas of recent armed conflict, officials said.

"The citizens of the country have taken another step forward on the path towards a future of peaceful co-existence, rule of law and international integration, said Frode Mauring, the UNDP Resident Representative in FYR Macedonia. This path leaves no room for illegal weapons."

UNDP assisted the authorities in FYR Macedonia in raising public awareness and developing the legal and operational framework for the disarmament programme. UNDP also coordinated international observation of the weapons collections.

Among the innovative approaches used to publicize the programme was a televised drawing for prizes to randomly selected participants in the disarmament programme. The nationally televised drawings and widespread media debate about the programme proved to be a highly effective means of spreading the news about the weapons amnesty.

Public opinion surveys in FYR Macedonia showed widespread support for efforts to collect illicit small arms, including the lottery initiative. The nationwide collection programme was carried out with the full cooperation of central government and local authorities, as well as civil society organizations and representatives of the international community.

"UNDP will continue to work at the community level in FYR Macedonia, helping to strengthen people's confidence in peace, village by village," said Mauring.

For further information, please contact: Frode Mauring, UNDP Resident Representative in FYR Macedonia, tel: +389 2 311 8085, or in New York: Trygve Olfarnes, Communications Specialist, tel: 1- 212 906-6606.

UNDP is the UN's global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners.