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Introduction and Overview


Importance of Regional Organizations

Countering the illicit trade in small arms requires regional action. In many countries small arms circulate in plentiful supply outside of state control. They are easy to conceal and their light weight facilitates their being transported across international borders. Cross-border demand for these weapons, attractive anticipated profits, and non-existent or ineffective national laws regulating arms brokering and the trafficking of small arms across porous state lines all call for regional cooperation.

Regional organizations have been addressing the problem of the illicit trade in small arms since the 1990s. Early regional measures included legally binding controls on imports, marking, and ownership; confidence-building measures such as information sharing on small arms imports and exports; and political commitments regarding the development of national legislation, agenda setting, and support for research. Organizations from all regions of the world were engaged in such early undertakings (see Table 1).

Table 1. Selected regional measures to address illicit small arms prior to June 2001

Year Regional organization Political instrument/measure taken
1997 Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Convention Against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA)
1997 Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) ASEAN Declaration on Transnational Crime
1998 Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) Southern Cone Presidential Declaration on Combating the Illicit Manufacture and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition and Related Materials
1998 European Union (EU) Code of Conduct on Arms Exports
1998 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Declaration of a Moratorium on Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Light Weapons in West Africa
1999 Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Trans national Crime
2000 Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Towards a Common Approach to Weapons Control (‘Nadi Framework’)
2000 Nairobi Secretariat (now known as RECSA) Nairobi Declaration on the Problem of Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region
2000 N/A Antigua Declaration on the Proliferation of Light Weapons in the Central American Region
2000 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) OSCE Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons
2000 Organization of African Unity (OAU, now known as the AU) Bamako Declaration on an African Common Position on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons

It was in this context that UN member states met in 2001 to address small arms trafficking. They recognized the regional dimension to the problem and called on regional organizations to be part of the solution. The UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA), adopted in July 2001, called for states to take action at the national, regional, and global levels and additionally highlighted the positive role that regional organizations could play in implementing—and providing support to their members to implement—the agreement.

The number of regional organizations and the scope and scale of their activities has grown since the PoA was established, as has international interest in them. In January 2004 the Geneva Forum brought together 12 regional organizations (and three other entities) to meet for the first time to discuss cross-regional issues on small arms. Another clear manifestation of this interest was the May 2008 Synergy Conference for Regional Organizations on the Implementation of the UN Programme of Action on SALW, which assembled 16 regional organizations or their affiliated programmes (and a similar number of international organizations and their bodies and agencies) to present their activities and discuss ways forward. And in 2009 and 2010 the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) convened a series of regionallevel meetings, with the active participation of regional organizations. Altogether, these various events engaged 19 different regional organizations on small arms at one point or another (see Table 2).

Table 2. International meetings promoting regional organizations’ roles in PoA implementation, 2004–10

Dates (mm.yy) Event Location Regional organizations attending/represented*
01.04 Geneva Forum Seminar Geneva 12: ASEAN, CAN, CARICOM, ECOWAS, LAS, MERCOSUR, Nairobi Secretariat, OAS, OSCE, PIF, RCC, SARPCCO
05.08 ‘Synergy’ Conference Brussels 16: ASEAN, AU, CAN, CARICOM, CIS, EAC, ECOWAS, EU, LAS, NATO, OAS, OSCE, RCC, RECSA, SARPCCO, SICA
06.09 UNODA Regional Meeting Sydney 1: PIF
07.09 UNODA Regional Meeting Kigali 5: AU, ICGLR, RECSA, SADC, SARPCCO
03.10 UNODA Regional Meeting Lima 3: CAN, MERCOSUR, OAS
03.10 UNODA Regional Meeting Bali 1: ASEAN
04.10 UNODA Regional Meeting Kinshasa 0

Sources: Geneva Forum (2004); NATO & OSCE (2008); PoA-ISS (n.d.a; n.d.b; n.d.c; n.d.d; n.d.e)

* We consider an official from a regional organization’s programme or project as representing the larger entity. For the sake of simplicity we have listed the organization in question and not the affiliated body in this table.

Regional organizations have much to offer in countering the illicit trade in small arms. They usually possess important expertise and a good understanding of cultural contexts, and political priorities and sensitivities. This knowledge, combined with regional preferences for local solutions, allows them to detect early warning signs of burgeoning and escalating conflict, help build confidence, and be credible and effective mediators to help resolve or reduce tensions. Regional organizations enable external donors to assist many states through a single project. And governments may choose to work with a regional organization to provide assistance to a recipient that might be difficult to undertake on a bilateral basis.

It is against this backdrop and with this appreciation that the Small Arms Survey decided to undertake the present study. The Survey took note of the international community’s lack of sustained meaningful dialogue with regional organizations as part of the PoA framework and the largely uncritical nature of the debate when engagement was discussed. The Survey grew concerned that the rhetoric often did not reflect reality. Not every activity represented ‘progress’, nor did every joint undertaking represent a ‘synergy’. Some initiatives seemed especially worthy of support; others less so. How to distinguish them? And how to expand the dialogue to engage regional organizations that did not see themselves as relevant in implementing the PoA, but nevertheless had much to contribute to making it more effective?


Regional organizations: moving beyond the ‘usual suspects’

This Handbook adopts an inclusive approach to regional organizations. For the purposes of this study, a regional organization comprises governments that join together formally to support common economic, political, or security concerns in a geographically defined area and whose members are expected to contribute regularly towards the body’s operating costs and towards implementing its mandates. The study makes no distinction between regional and sub-regional organizations, treating them equally.

A functioning permanent secretariat is not a defining characteristic. Indeed, many regional police organizations featured in this study rely on external support (e.g. administration or office space) from INTERPOL’s regional bureaus or are affiliated bodies of another regional organization. They nevertheless have their own profiles, since they are autonomous in making decisions and setting their own agendas (and sometimes have different memberships than those with which they are associated).

The Survey recognizes that even this inclusive definition precludes some organizations and bodies that undertake relevant work at the regional level.1 Nor does this study examine regionallevel initiatives outside of regional organizations.2 These are certainly worthy of examination—especially the roles of the three UN regional disarmament centres that undertake considerable work with regional organizations with very little international support (see Box 1), but are beyond the scope of this study.

Box 1. UN regional centres for peace and disarmament

Between 1985 and 1987 the UN General Assembly (UNGA) decided to establish three regional centres for peace and disarmament.5 The first, the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), is based in Togo. Peru serves as the headquarters for the Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament, and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC).6 The third, the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD),7 has its office in Nepal, although it was based at UN headquarters until 2008.8 Of the 193 UN member states, 130 are eligible to receive assistance from these three centres.9 Broadly speaking, each centre has a similar mandate: to provide, upon request, support for efforts by member states from the particular region to implement measures to promote peace and security.
The financial resources that UNGA made available for these centres’ operations were not commensurate with the tasks given to them. The centres receive administrative and managerial guidance and thematic input from UNODA, but very little in the way of financial assistance.10 For the first 20 years of the centres’ existence, support from the UN regular budget (i.e. assessed contributions from UN member states) covered only the salary and benefits of each centre’s director. All other staff, operational, and programme costs had to be covered with voluntary contributions.
This supplementary support has tended to be very modest. For example, voluntary contributions to the UNRCPD during the period July 2007–June 2008 totalled less than USD 200,000—a significant increase from previous anaemic levels of engagement.11 UNREC fared somewhat worse. UNLIREC, although not well funded, has done comparatively well, recording on average around USD 1.5 million a year in voluntary contributions for the period 2006–11.
These regional centres have nevertheless undertaken and supported many projects and initiatives that facilitate PoA implementation on small arms—including assistance to regional organizations.12 For example, UNREC developed a Code of Conduct for state security forces in Central Africa that was adopted in 2009. It supported CEEAC and Rwanda13 to develop a legally binding instrument to address the proliferation of small arms in the region, which was adopted in 2010. UNREC has assisted ECOWAS in helping to develop guidelines for national legislation among its members, and has given ECOWAS software for a database it has developed on arms flows, production, and holdings to serve as a regional confidence-building measure. It has entered into an agreement with RECSA to provide expertise in addressing illicit small arms brokering, to develop the capacities of civil society organizations, and to work on an information management database. UNREC is also on the AU’s steering committee that is developing a continental strategy on small arms.
UNLIREC regularly works with many of the region’s multilateral organizations. It has assisted the OAS in an extensive comparative study on national firearms legislation, law enforcement training, and a 2007 national workshop on best practices in stockpile management and weapons destruction. This was followed over the ensuing months by the destruction of tens of thousands of surplus and seized weapons. UNLIREC has also collaborated with CARICOM, MERCOSUR, and SICA in the organization and implementation of law enforcement capacity-building initiatives aimed at combating illicit firearms trafficking. Awareness-raising and advocacy events are held on a periodic basis through the hosting of seminars to promote small arms control instruments in which sub-regional organizations play a substantive role. More recently, UNLIREC has assisted member states in Latin America and the Caribbean in the management and security of their national small arms stockpiles and the identification and destruction of surplus, obsolete, and seized weapons and ammunition, among other initiatives.
The UNRCPD’s engagement with regional organizations on PoA-related matters has been relatively modest compared to that of UNREC and UNLIREC. The lack of enthusiasm among many of the region’s states for empowering the region’s few regional bodies to address small arms issues largely explains why this is so. PIF is a notable exception. But it has not collaborated extensively with the UNRCPD because it receives financial support directly from Canberra and Wellington and because until recently it was located outside the region. The UNRCPD held a workshop in 2009 on small arms brokering controls for Central and South Asian states at which a SAARC official participated along with representatives of ten countries from the sub-region. Nepal has been a special focus of the UNRCPD. Since 2010 the centre has been supporting a small arms working group in Nepal, which meets regularly. The UNRCPD organized a five-day training course for Nepalese state security officials in 2011 on small arms counter-proliferation issues such as stockpile management, marking, and tracing.
Recent UNGA decisions suggest that these centres could play a greater role in supporting the PoA in the coming years. In 2007 UNGA decided to fund three additional full-time posts at UNREC from the UN regular budget and to similarly cover some of the centre’s operating expenses. As of the end of 2009, for example, UNREC had 17 staff14 and had concluded terms or reference or memoranda of understanding with three regional organizations and was close to similar arrangements with three others. In 2009 UNGA decided to create two additional full-time posts for the two other regional centres and cover some of their operating expenses, just as it had with UNREC. While not every initiative that these centres have undertaken has met expectations, the provision of additional staff and the infusion of greater funding make them well placed to facilitate strengthened PoA implementation.

Source: Berman (2012)

This Handbook identifies 52 regional organizations as being active in implementing the PoA (see Table 3). This is considerably more than the ten or so regional organizations* that are routinely invited to participate in the Preparatory Committees, Biennial Meetings of States (BMSs), Review Conferences (RevCons), or Meetings of Governmental Experts (MGEs) under the PoA framework.3 And more than the 12 regional organizations have attended the seven regional meetings that UNODA has convened since BMS34 or the 19 regional organizations profiled on the PoA Implementation Support Service web site that UNODA runs. The figure ‘52’ is indicative of the wide range of actors that undertake PoA-related work to some degree. A handful of the organizations profiled have had limited recent engagement on small arms issues. We chose to include them if they have PoArelated instruments and structures or if they have stated their intention to work towards countering the illicit trafficking of small arms. All of the organizations in this book are well positioned to engage in efforts to address the implementation of PoA-related commitments and activities. The Small Arms Survey does not suggest that only those regional organizations included in this study are ‘PoA relevant’.

* It is important to compare ‘apples with apples’, so these calculations use our working definition of ‘regional organization’ and what we chose to cover in this study. The UN (and others) may find some of our ‘regional’ organizations to be ‘oranges’. These differences of opinion can likely be counted on one hand. Disagreements of this nature do not alter the thrust of the observation and point being made here.

Table 3. This Handbook’s 52 profiled regional organizations

Region Abbreviation Full Name of Regional Organization
Africa (19) AU African Union
  CCPAC Central African Police Chiefs Committee
  CEEAC Economic Community of Central African States
  CEMAC Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa
  CEN-SAD Community of Sahel Saharan States
  CEPGL Indian Ocean Commission
  COMESA Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
  EAC East African Community
  EAPCCO Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization
  ECOWAS Economic Community of West African States
  ICGLR International Conference on the Great Lakes Region
  IGAD Intergovernmental Authority on Development
  MRU Mano River Union
  RECSA Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States
  SADC Southern African Development Community
  SARPCCO Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation
  UMA Arab Maghreb Union
  WAPCCO West African Police Chiefs Committee
The Americas (7) AMERIPOL Police Community of the Americas
  CAN Andean Community
  CARICOM Caribbean Community
  MERCOSUR Southern Common Market
  OAS Organization of American States
  SICA Central American Integration System
  UNASUR Union of South American Nations
Asia (13) APEC Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
  ASEAN Association of South-east Asian Nations
  ASEANAPOL ASEAN Chiefs of Police
  BIMSTEC Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
  CICA Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia
  CIS Commonwealth of Independent States
  CSTO Collective Security Treaty Organization
  EurAsEC Eurasian Economic Community
  GCC Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
  GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development—GUAM
  LAS League of Arab States
  SAARC South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
  SCO Shanghai Cooperation Organization
Europe (10) BSEC Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation
  CU Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation
  EU European Union
  EUROCONTROL European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation
  Europol European Law Enforcement Agency
  NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  OSCE Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
  RACVIAC RACVIAC – Centre for Security Cooperation
  RCC Regional Cooperation Council
  SELEC Southeast European Law Enforcement Cen
Oceania (3) OCO Oceania Customs Organization
  PICP Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police
  PIF Pacific Islands Forum

These 52 regional organizations have diverse mandates. Some are primarily concerned with facilitating trade and raising revenues; others promote law and order; some concentrate on regional security. This very incomplete list succeeds in highlighting the breadth of issue areas covered. Any attempt to bundle the profiled organizations under descriptive categories is likely to cause more disagreement than elucidation and will not be attempted in this Handbook. Moreover, most regional organizations reviewed here have multiple mandates and agendas.

They also have diverse memberships. The number of members among the 52 organizations profiled range from 3 to 56. By ‘members’ we refer to ‘full members’ and not other categories (e.g. ‘associate members’ or ‘observers’), of which there are often many. Every UN member state except North Korea is a member of at least one regional organization identified in this study. At the other end of the spectrum, several countries from Central and South-eastern Europe and neighbouring the Great Lakes Region of Africa are members of seven or eight of the featured regional organizations. This can create a dizzying array of overlapping and complementary—as well as sometimes-competing—commitments (see, for example, Figure 1).

Figure 1. ‘Spaghetti bowl’ of African organizations’ memberships*

* This figure focuses on economic organizations, some of which are not included in this study. Acronyms, country names, and memberships of organizations that are presented in this Handbook may differ.
Source: Wilson Center (2008, p. 34)

Moreover, ten of these regional organizations include members that are not UN member states (see Table 4). As above, this refers to ‘full members’. Many more organizations include states, territories, organizations, and other entities that are not UN member states as ‘associate members’, ‘observers’, and the like.

Table 4. Members of profiled regional organizations that are not UN member states

Regional organization Members of profiled regional organizations that are not UN member states
AMERIPOL 1: Puerto Rico
APEC 2: Hong Kong, Taiwan
AU 1: Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
CARICOM 1: Montserrat
LAS 1: Palestinian Territories
OCO 9: American Samoa, CNMI, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Niue, Norfolk Island, Wallis and Futuna
OSCE 1: Holy See
PICP 7: American Samoa, CNMI, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Niue
PIF 2: Cook Islands, Niue
RCC 15: Council of Europe, CEDB, EBRD, EIB, EU, IOM, NATO, OECD, OSCE, SELEC, UN, UNDP, UNECE, UNMIK, World Bank

These organizations’ financial wherewithal also differs dramatically. Some have large offices and bureaucracies and can rely on their members’ assessed contributions to carry out their work and implement their mandates. Others rely on in-kind contributions from their members (such as seconded staff) or rotating chairmanships without permanent secretariats, and must rely ‘hat-in-hand’ for support from external providers. When that support is not forthcoming or is delayed, projects stall or are derailed.


PoA commitments selected for review

The PoA does not limit the actions that regional organizations may undertake to meet UN member states’ commitments. It speaks of actions its members might or should undertake at the national, regional, and global levels. The Survey recognizes that regional organizations may support all activities, but an effort to document every activity was beyond what we believed was reasonable or useful for this exercise.

The study examines 19 PoA activities that refer to regional organizations by name or refer to regional-level action. Nine of these undertakings are outlined in section II of the PoA. We assume that regional organizations have, at a minimum, an important role to play in helping member states meet their regional-level commitments. These commitments (covered in UN, 2001, sec. II, paras. 24–31) do not mention regional organizations by name except as concerns a point of contact (POC) (para. 24). We also include one global-level commitment (sec. II, para. 40)—cooperation with civil society—because the PoA explicitly mentions regional organizations by name in this regard. We also review ten additional activities, broadly speaking, covered as part of the PoA’s calls for international cooperation and assistance in section III of the PoA. We include any support outlined for which regional organizations are mentioned by name as having a potential role (UN, 2001, sec. III, paras. 3–6, 8, 11, 14–16, 18). Some of this cooperation and assistance covers regional-level commitments covered in our treatment of PoA section II activities.

Selecting what elements of the PoA to examine was easier than determining which of their activities qualified as worthy of mention. Words in the PoA such as ‘encourage’, ‘support’, and ‘facilitate’ make it hard to pin down appropriate or expected actions and activities. To set parameters too strictly would reduce the activities covered and leave out important initiatives. To be too permissive would not be helpful either, suggesting actions and engagement on issues that were misleading or stretched the truth in terms of their impact or motivations.

We tried to strike a balance with an emphasis on supporting implementation and providing a useful service. For example, if as a result of compiling the book we succeeded in having the regional organization provide a POC, we considered the organization to have fulfilled its commitment and gave it an icon (depicted left). We did not concern ourselves with whether this person had officially been ‘designated’ or ‘appointed’ (UN, 2001, II, para. 24). In contrast, we believe it is unhelpful to set the bar too low when reviewing most other commitments. In general, we seek habitual and sustained action. Sending an official to attend a seminar, conference, or training session on, say, stockpile management or brokering controls does not on its own qualify as ‘implementing’ this objective. In such a case we might note the activity in the ‘PoA activity’ narrative, but alone it would not earn an icon.

The full text of the PoA is provided in Annexe 4, but relevant paragraphs noted above are listed in Table 5. This table also includes the icons associated with the selected activity. The icons are not meant to portray every possible activity covered in the paragraph, but to identify visually, in a helpful manner, the main activity covered. The table also includes some examples of what we considered to be relevant and appropriate, and deserving of receiving ‘credit’.


How to use this Handbook

Part II of this Handbook includes a series of two-page profiles for each regional organization chosen for inclusion in this study. To make the most of the limited space provided we have not used in-text citations or footnotes. Abbreviations and acronyms are not always spelled out the first time they appear for things that are referred to frequently; however, they are listed exhaustively in the list of abbreviations and acronyms. We also use symbols and abbreviations. The PoA commitment icons, described in Table 5, are included in a fold-out ‘Key’ that can be viewed and consulted when reading an entry for ease of reference. This key also contains information on the language codes. Figure 2 provides additional explanatory text regarding the layout.

Table 5. Regional organizations’ support for PoA commitments and icons used in this Handbook

The profiles are organized by five geographic regions: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Many of the profiled regional organizations include memberships from more than one region. In these instances, we chose to place the organization in the region in which most of its original members ‘reside’.15 We deemed the contrivance of labelling the League of Arab States as ‘Asian’ or NATO as ‘European’ as worthwhile. It facilitates the review of states’ multiple affiliations in Annexe 3.

Each entry might be described as having three parts. The first section (in white) contains background information of a general nature on the organization. The second (shaded) provides an account of PoA-related activities and commitments. The third section (within the shaded area) includes a map that reflects the organization’s (changing) membership, along with a list of the members.

The first section (see Figure 2) includes the location of the headquarters; relevant web sites (where applicable); a short description of the regional organization’s overall mandate and objectives; information on its members, history, and funding; and examples of its members’ overlapping affiliations with other regional organizations. We highlight if the organization contains members that are not UN member states. The organization’s previous names and changes in membership are touched upon. When space permitted, we added details on the organization’s associated members and observers. Effort is made to include some information on the organization’s finances and major funders, with attention paid to PoA-related activities when possible.

The second section (see Figure 2) provides the name and contact details of the organization’s PoA POC (when applicable), PoA-related activities and cooperation with other regional organizations, and official documents of note. The contact details include the organization’s official and working languages and (some of) the languages the POC speaks. Legally binding instruments are listed separately. Information on the status of the instrument is noted in the narrative. The web version of this study includes links to documents when they are online.

The third section (see Figure 2) includes the organization’s membership. It lists current members, former members, and countries with memberships pending. Distinction is made between founding members (that relate to the organization’s predecessor, when applicable) and those that joined subsequently. Members that are suspended are also noted. If a member suspends itself (as Eritrea has done in the case of IGAD) or on its own decides to downgrade its status (as Turkmenistan has done in the CIS), we note this in the narrative. But to be ‘suspended’, the action must come from the organization itself and not from a disgruntled member. The map captures this information (except for the distinction between founding and subsequent members) and notes the organization’s headquarters. (The PoC may be located outside of the headquarters, because many organizations and their programmes have offices in more than one country.)

The Handbook also contains four Annexes. Annexe 1 lists the members of the profiled organizations, including 193 UN member states; 16 other states, territories, and economies; and 15 organizations, banks, and institutions. Observers and other affiliations besides full members of these regional organizations are not included. Annexe 2 provides the regional organizations’ UN member states and the 16 other states, territories, and economies by region. Annexe 3 records each UN member states’ membership in the profiled regional organizations. And Annexe 4 provides a full text in English of the PoA for reference purposes. (The electronic version of this study has links to the PoA in the five other UN official languages.) There is also a fold-out key to the PoA commitment icons and the letters used to denote regional organizations’ official and working languages used in the profiles.

Figure 2. Information regarding the regional organization


Observations and aspirations

This Handbook is meant as a guide to provide useful information in a user-friendly format and to encourage discussion. Indeed, this study is more interested in moving the agenda forward and helping to implement the PoA than in highlighting shortcomings.

This report is not an evaluation of regional organizations’ activities or effectiveness. A regional organization ‘awarded’ more activity icons does not mean it is more effective than another sporting fewer. Nor does an icon mean that the regional organization in question is necessarily credited with having successfully supported that particular commitment. As noted above, words such as ‘encourage’, ‘cooperate’, and ‘strengthen’ make it challenging to determine what activities qualify for inclusion. And constructions such as ‘where applicable’ and ‘should consider’ create additional challenges when addressing regional organizations with very different mandates, memberships, and resources. Intelligent, supportive, committed, and well-meaning people armed with the same facts may come to different conclusions regarding their assessments. Additionally, the lack of an activity may reflect an organization’s adherence to its mandate and objectives, a clear-sighted unilateral decision, or an agreement to have a peer institution take the lead in certain areas, given overlapping memberships, burden sharing, or comparative advantages. Non-action can thus sometimes be viewed positively as an indicator of cost-effectiveness, avoidance of duplication of effort, or battles over ‘turf’. Certainly there are concrete examples of such cooperation and engagement, which have grown and strengthened in the past few years.16

That said, despite progress towards greater transparency and rationality in seeking and utilizing scarce resources, more can be done—and done better. As UN member states, regional organizations, and members of civil society move forward to work together to implement the PoA, take stock of accomplishments and challenges over the past decade, and plan for the future, it would be useful when consulting this Handbook to keep in mind the following questions and situations:

Regional organization–member relations: Members furnish their organizations with mandates and resources, and the organizations and their secretariats provide services and expertise to their members. However, most regional organizations have a limited amount of resources at their disposal for addressing small arms issues. This can affect the level at which a regional organization can cooperate in other regional initiatives or implement large donor projects.

  • Are member states’ dues sufficient to fulfil the expectations placed on the regional organization for implementing the PoA?
  • Do the activities of the regional organization sometimes inadvertently replace or diminish a state’s national-level action?
  • Do states provide the regional organization with enough clout or independence to undertake supportive regional actions in the area of small arms?

Donor–regional organization relations: Numerous PoA-related initiatives benefit from the support that regional organizations receive from external donors. Examples range from the procurement of marking machines, to underwriting workshops, to imparting expertise on matters ranging from brokering controls to stockpile management. However, frequent dependency on external funding makes it difficult for regional organizations to plan regional action. Rather than be proactive in their support to member states, they are instead often reactive to donor funding. The following questions should therefore be asked:

  • Will the assistance that is being offered address what is most pressing or appropriate for the regional organization and its members?
  • Does the support, whether proposed or requested, correspond to or follow up on established action plans?
  • Do receiving regional organizations have the capacity to absorb the assistance?
  • What expectations can be placed on regional organization members to reduce regional organizations’ dependency on external funding?

UN–regional organization relations: The PoA remains the only framework for regional organizations to engage globally and crossregionally on small arms. UNODA has also organized regional meetings in collaboration with donors and regional organizations. However, these meetings are not guaranteed within the PoA framework. Through UNODA’s regional centres, the UN also provides significant support to regional organizations and their member states. Although the Handbook has not focused on UN regional activities, the relationships involved in such activities influence much of the activity covered between the book’s covers:

  • How can PoA meetings better engage regional organizations, including those focusing on counter-terrorism, customs, and narcotics?
  • How can UN regional meetings more constructively engage regional organizations?
  • How can UNODA’s three regional centres be used more effectively to assist regional organizations to implement the PoA?

Regional organization–civil society relations: Many regional organizations work closely with representatives from civil society. Examples include regional organizations routinely inviting civil society to participate in their meetings and commissioning regional organizations to carry out action-oriented research. Given the often small human and financial resources allotted to regional organizations to focus on small arms issues, civil society organizations can be a useful resource to support and implement regional-level activities.

  • How can regional organizations that do not yet benefit from civil society participation be encouraged to do so?
  • How can members of civil society better take advantage of the unique role of regional organizations and more ably build on the latter’s accomplishments?

If this study’s overview, questions, and profiles contribute to an enhanced appreciation for these regional actors’ activities and potential, and new information contained herein encourages greater cooperation and more effective assistance, then the Handbook will have achieved its goal.



  1. We did not include regional bodies in the UN system or other international organizations such as INTERPOL. Nor did we include organizations such as The Commonwealth, the International Organization of La Francophonie, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or the Wassenaar Arrangement, because their common concerns are not limited by geography.
  2. Noteworthy undertakings include the RASR Initiative (see <>)
    and the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre (PTCCC). The RASR Initiative involves nine South-east European states sharing information on their surpluses and demilitarization capacities to build confidence and encourage best practice and economic savings. The PTCCC provides a framework for PIF members to share information on transnational crime in the Pacific to counter illicit arms trafficking, among other illegal activities.
  3. For example, for the first RevCon (2006) the UN sent official invitations to nine regional organizations, for BMS3 (2008) ten, and for the MGE (2011) seven. Nine regional organizations were invited to two or more of these three events (see UNGA, 2006; 2008c; 2011).
  4. Besides the ten mentioned as having attended the five regional meetings listed in Table 2, ASEANAPOL and CARICOM participated in two additional UNODA-convened regional meetings in 2012: in Bali and Kingston in March and April, respectively.
  5. See UNGA (1985; 1986; 1987), dealing with the centres for Africa, Latin America, and Asia, respectively. The centres for Latin America and Asia were subsequently expanded to include the Caribbean and the Pacific, respectively. See below.
  6. The initial mandate for UNLIREC (abbreviated as ‘UN-LiREC’ until very recently) focused on Latin America. Two years later UNGA decided to expand the centre’s mandate to include countries in the Caribbean. See UNGA (1988).
  7. The UNRCPD’s initial mandate focused on Asia. Two years later UNGA decided to expand the centre’s mandate to include countries in the Pacific region. See UNGA (1987).
  8. The office’s move in August 2008 to Kathmandu from UN headquarters in New York followed the Host Country Agreement concluded in July 2007 (UNDPI, 2008). The first Kathmandu-based director assumed his duties in October 2008 (author interview with and correspondence from Marcaillou, 2009).
  9. UNREC supports 54 UN member states, UNLIREC 33, and the UNRCPD 43. Countries not benefiting directly from one of these three centres include 43 UN member states from Europe (UNSD, 2011), 17 from Western Asia (UNSD, 2011), and Canada, Iran, and the United States. Of course, UNODA, which oversees the work of the three centres, also assists countries from other regions and works with their regional organizations. For example, UNODA has organized meetings with the League of Arab States on small arms issues.
  10. UNODA does not have much discretionary funding to draw on to support the centres. The head of UNODA’s RDB had the following to say about the financial situation in her brief to the UNGA First Committee in October 2009: ‘Today we may acknowledge that the Regional Disarmament Branch was taken [out] of the Intensive Care Unit ... last year, and that the patient is now stabilized. We are not in a position to declare “full recovery” yet, but we have clear signs that the “treatment/protocols” which we applied are being effective. Overall, this year, emphasis has been shifted from “survival” to “sustainability and impact” of RDB’s action’ (UNODA, 2009). At times, UNODA has helped offset some administrative and logistical expenses the centres incur when they host or otherwise support meetings in their regions.
  11. During 2006 UN member states’ contributions totalled less than USD 40,000 (UNGA, 2008b).
  12. The three centres also use their limited funds to support the implementation and establishment of various treaties and conventions concerning weapons of mass destruction (such as the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and region-specific agreements) and conventional weapons (e.g. banning cluster munitions). Public education and awareness campaigns as well as coordination efforts within the UN system also consume much of the centres’ limited financial and human resources.
  13. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali established the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa in 1992 in response to a UNGA resolution supporting a CEEAC proposal for such assistance. Rwanda, a CEEAC member at the time, unilaterally withdrew from the regional organization in 2007. But UNREC through UNODA continues to support all 11 original CEEAC member states through the framework of the Standing Advisory Committee (author interview with and correspondence from Marcaillou, 2009).
  14. By contrast, the UNRCPD in 2009 had a director, a special coordinator, an associate expert, an administrative assistant, and a driver/messenger (UNRCPD, n.d.). At the time, the special coordinator was seconded by Switzerland and the associate expert was a junior political officer from the Netherlands.
  15. For this purpose, the Survey used the classification and categorization of the UN Statistical Division (revised 20 September 2011).
  16. The 2008 informal agreement of NATO/NAMSA, the OSCE, UNDP, and the RCC/ SEESAC to meet at least once a year to brief one another on their PoA-related projects is one such example.

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