Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Saferworld


  The proliferation of small arms in the former Yugoslavian republics, and in the province of Kosovo in particular, continues to act as a barrier to internal and regional peace and security, fuelling protracted ethnic tensions and violence and heightening tensions on the borders between states.

The United Nations peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, has seized some 2,000 illegally held weapons since it entered the province in March 1999. However, discoveries of large caches of illegally held small arms and light weapons continue, as do the violence and instability that they fuel. For example, in November 2000 KFOR a truckload of weapons was discovered being smuggled into Serbia by ethnic Albanians. The weapons were bound for the mainly Albanian enclave of Presevo valley where attacks by Albanian rebels has lead to the deaths of four Serb policemen.

  The purpose of this memorandum is to inform members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of action which Saferworld has been involved in, to tackle small arms diffusion in the region in the context of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.


  The Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe was adopted on 10 June 1999 in an effort to jumpstart Balkan reconstruction after the war in Kosovo, and includes provision for increasing security in the region. Its task is to match donors with projects in three main Working Tables:

    I. Democratisation and human rights;

    II. Economic reconstruction, development and co-operation; and

    III. Security Issues.

  Clearly, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons is an intergral part of wider security concerns, and this position has been duly recognised by participating states.

  Small arms proliferation has been described by the Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe as, "one of the greatest challenges" faced by those pursuing peace and stability in the region.

  At an initial meeting in October 1999 of the sub-table on defence and security affairs (within Working Table III) one of the priority areas chosen was "Fighting the Illicit Transfer of Small Arms". In November 1999 a joint declaration on the collection, destruction and safe storage of small arms and light weapons was made by 10 countries in the region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey. These nations declared their readiness to secure stockpiles and to destroy light weapons in excess of legitimate needs or seized as a result of illicit trafficking.

  There have also been other small arms workshops organised by governments in the region under the auspices of the Stability Pact, which have sought to build regional consensus and co-operation around core issues of concern. A number of specific small arms projects and initiatives have been proposed by governments, and these were discussed (with other proposals under the three Working Tables) at a Regional Funding Conference in Brussels in March 2000. So far, only one small arms project—a team of experts assembled by the Norwegian/US Joint Working Group to provide technical assessments and recommendations on storage and destruction of small arms—has been fast-tracked in the Quick-Start Package although a number of other proposals were shortlisted for future financing.

  Thus, although governments in South Eastern Eurpoe have begun to address the problems caused by the proliferation and misuse of light weapons directly, progress has been patchy and unco-ordinated and much remains to be done. Moreover, although the Stability Pact encourages the involvement of NGOs and the private sector in all its activities, meetings and initiatives within the small arms sub-table have so far almost exclusively involved government to government relations. Concerns remain that governments will continue to take a piecemeal approach, not least because many remain significant producers and exporters of small arms.

  The challenge of tackling the spread of small arms can only be met through building coalitions of actors who can work together for change. A co-ordinated independent effort—both to support and challenge governmental action—is essential in order to promote effective regional action to curb the proliferation and misuse of small arms.


  On 17 and 18 November Saferworld, the Szeged Centre for Security Policy and the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a seminar on tackling small arms diffusion in South Eastern Europe which was attended by over 50 representatives and experts from governments, international organisations and civil society.

  The opening statements were made by H E Janos Herman Deputy State Secretary of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and H E Bozidar Prelevic Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia.

  A large number of proposals and ideas for addressing the problem of wide availability and diffusion of small arms in the region were discussed.

  The participants welcomed the fact that governments have already expressed on several occasions their willingness and commitment to take appropriate steps to tackle the diffusion of small arms in the region. However, participants considered that it is important now to develop a comprehensive and coherent programme of measures to address this problem. Important measures highlighted at the seminar include:

Strengthening legal controls on the accumulation and transfer of small arms

    —  Promote and develop agreement among governments in the region to apply appropriate restraint in relation to arms transfers in and through the region;

    —  Take measures to reduce the risk that transfers of arms in and through the region find their way into the possession of unauthorised users;

    —  Strengthen national import and export controls and identify common standards and "best practice";

    —  Build on the Sofia Declaration on end-use/end-user certificates to curb arms diversion;

    —  Ensure adequate stockpile management of weapons held by national police, paragraphgraphmilitary and military forces and develop inventories of state-held small arms;

    —  Enhance transparency and paragraphgraphmilitary scrutiny of the legal trade and production of small arms.

    —  Develop mechanisms for regular information exchange between governments on matters such as: arms transfer and production regulations, lists of authorised manufacturers and dealers; and

    —  Ensure adequate regulation and control of civilian possession, ownership, sale and use of small arms.

Enhancing the operational capacity of governments to prevent and combat illicit arms trafficking.

    —  Establish systems to ensure adequate marking and record keeping for all small arms and develop mechanisms for co-operation in tracing lines of supply of weapons of concern;

    —  Undertake capacity-building programmes to enable border guards, customs, police and judiciary to detect and prosecute criminals engaged in illicit trafficking;

    —  Take appropriate measures to ensure adequate security of official and authorised stocks of small arms and ammunition;

    —  Develop mechanisms for information exchange between governments to help prevent diversion of legal transfers to unauthorised destinations.

Promoting the removal of weapons from society and destruction of surplus and confiscated weapons

    —  Promote and support national and local weapons collection programmes. However, participants stressed the need to review existing and past weapon collection programmes and develop future programmes on the basis of lessons learned;

    —  Identify and use existing facilities in the region to destroy surplus and confiscated weapons and ammunition;

    —  Develop information exchange mechanisms on confiscated, collected and destroyed small arms;

    —  Launch and develop further public awareness raising campaigns.


  Participants agreed that the next step is the development of a comprehensive and coherent "Action Programme", and initiated a process to be known as the "Szeged Small Arms Process".

  Initially, this process will involve the development of a consultation document on the elements of the "Action Programme", for discussion at a further meeting in Szeged. This consultation document will draw on: the proposals discussed during this roundtable; and the recommendations contained in the documents agreed on small arms by the international community, including the declaration, principles and initiatives agreed within the Stability Pact. In this context, the participants welcomed the invitation by H E Bozidar Prelevic Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia, for a visit by an expert group to Serbia in early 2001. Saferworld will be a member of this group which will assess the extent of the small arms programme in Serbia and identify priorities for action.


    —  Saferworld urges the Committee to address the need to assess the proliferation and illicit trafficking of small arms as part of efforts to build stability in Yugoslavia and Kosovo. The development of an effective regional action programme is vital. Action to tackle small arms requires urgent support from the donor community as part of the Stability Pact.

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