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22.10.2020 : 8:40 : +0200

Recent Publications

  • A Guide to the UN Small Arms Process: 2016 Update, by Sarah Parker with Marcus Wilson, June 2016. Handbook No. 2 (2014 edition available in French)

    Download (1.8 MB)
  • A New Development Agenda: Bridging the Development–Security Divide, June 2016. Research Note No. 58.

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  • Checks and Balances: Securing Small Arms during Peace Operations, February 2016. Issue Brief No. 16.

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Levels of Action

Small arms regulations and controls have been adopted at the national, regional, and international (global) levels. As reflected in the UN Programme of Action and existing practice, these different levels of action reinforce one another. While national regulation constitutes the foundation of broader control efforts, the transnational nature of the small arms problem necessitates some degree of harmonization of small arms controls, combined with inter-state cooperation in their implementation.

At the national level, small arms control measures typically take the form of laws, regulations, and administrative procedures. Multilateral measures may be legal or political in nature (such as treaties or politically binding documents), but corresponding legal rules are usually adopted (if not already present) at the national level when such commitments result in concrete action.

A wide variety of actors are involved in national, regional, and international attempts to strengthen controls over small arms. Civil society helps to build support for such efforts and to shape and implement specific policy initiatives. Yet the principal role in small arms control belongs to those entities with responsibility for the security of their citizens, namely, states. 

National Regulation

In a world of sovereign states, regulation is invariably rooted in national legislation and institutions. Multilateral small arms commitments, whether legal or political in nature, are only effective when given concrete expression at the national level, for example in the form of specific laws, regulations, or administrative procedures.

Regional Measures

Although there are considerable variations among regions in the degree of commitment to the small arms issue, many regional control measures have established important precedents for broader international action.

International Measures

International control measures, including those adopted by the United Nations and other organizations, fill gaps in regional action and bind states worldwide to essential minimum standards.


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