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Small arms and light weapons - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2021/839) [EN/AR/RU/ZH]

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Summary

The present report is submitted pursuant to resolution 2220 (2015) and the request to the Secretary-General to continue to submit biennial reports on the issue of small arms and light weapons.

Since the previous report (S/2019/1011), small arms and light weapons have continued to play a central role in initiating, exacerbating and sustaining armed conflict, pervasive violence and acts of crime and terrorism.

The humanitarian impact of illicit small arms and light weapons flows, as well as the negative implications for sustainable development and sustaining peace, remained fully apparent.

In line with past practice, concluding observations and recommendations are offered with a view to supporting Member States in their efforts to effectively tackle threats arising from the misuse, illicit transfer and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weapons. Various recommendations are also offered throughout the thematic sections.

I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to resolution 2220 (2015) and the request to the Secretary-General to continue to submit reports on the issue of small arms and light weapons on a biennial basis.

2. Since the previous report (S/2019/1011), threats related to the misuse, illicit transfer and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition have remained a defining factor in undermining peace and security at the national, regional and global levels. From the Central African Republic to Libya,
South Sudan, the Sudan and Yemen, the proliferation of and illicit trafficking in those weapons have deeply aggravated situations for vulnerable populations already suffering from conflict.

3. At least 176,095 civilian deaths were recorded in 12 of the world’s deadliest armed conflicts between 2015 and 2020. In 2020, five civilians per 100,000 people were killed in armed conflict, and one in seven of those was a woman or a child. Most civilian deaths were caused by small arms and light weapons (27 per cent) or by heavy weapons and explosive munitions (24 per cent). The death toll of armed violence occurring outside of conflict is even higher. Globally, more than half of all victims of homicide are killed with a firearm.

4. A continued rise in global military spending has fed into cycles of insecurity and mistrust. In 2020, total global military expenditure rose to almost 2 trillion United States dollars, despite the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

5. In the light of the urgency to rein in conflict in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary-General called for an immediate, global ceasefire in March 2020. While several regional organizations, 200 civil society groups and more than a dozen non-State armed groups, including several parties to ongoing armed conflict, have publicly endorsed that call, that rhetorical commitment has not yielded sufficient, tangible results.

6. While conflict continued unabated amidst the pandemic, some actors also used the worldwide shift in focus to step up their covert, irregular or unchecked supply of weapons and ammunition in theatres of conflict, leading to massive increases in new supplies that are at risk of diversion in conflict and post-conflict situations. Illegal markets, including the market for illicit small arms and light weapons, continued to operate and adapt to the circumstances.

7. The cross-cutting security, humanitarian and socioeconomic impact of the misuse, illicit transfer and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and ligh t weapons continued to make itself known at the national, regional and global levels and to affect vulnerable groups, including children, disproportionately.

8. Regional efforts still remain critical. States continued to recognize the distinct regional dimension of the small arms scourge, including by elaborating and further developing regional road maps for combating the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons in the Caribbean, the Western Balkans and West Africa.