• As the UN’s small arms review conference ends, what is needed to reduce violence? | Jordan Ryan

    10 Sep 2012

    A child holds up bullets collected from the ground in Rounyn, North Darfur. (Photo: UNAMID / Albert Gonzalez Farran)
    A child holds up bullets collected from the ground in Rounyn, North Darfur. (Photo: UNAMID / Albert Gonzalez Farran)

    You don’t have to look far to see the impact of armed violence. Just turn on the news.

    In New York two weeks ago, shots rang out at the Empire State Building as police were trying to stop someone with an illegal gun in a crowded area. Two people were killed and nine injured.

    Last year, Mexico saw more than 12,000 drug related murders. There is, on average, one death caused by guns every minute worldwide, and 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict or high levels of violent crime.  

    This is not only happening in conflict countries; higher death-rates from criminal gun use are recorded in “peaceful” countries. Gun violence destabilizes legitimate governments and exacerbates poverty. For UNDP, armed violence is a development issue. 

    An international conference to curb the illicit trade in small arms wrapped up in New York on Friday September 7. States attending reviewed the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, a political commitment among UN Member States.  The conference ended with Mexico, and other affected countries, urging the international community to make a stronger commitment to reducing the worldwide flow of illicit weapons. There remains, however, significant resistance from some countries that maintain large arms production industries.

    Tougher measures to curb illicit weapons such as tightly controlling exports and collecting illicit arms are important - but must be seen as only part of the solution.
    We should also address the reasons why guns end up in the hands of civilians. Experience demonstrates that national measures to control arms need to be twinned with local action to address the demand for weapons.

    UNDP’s successes in promoting peace take hold at the local level, when police, local governments and civil society work together. Measures that improve the criminal justice sector; enhance peaceful dispute resolution; generate livelihoods; and make government services more accountable - all improve security.

    When national governments and communities join  together to control small arms and address the link between armed violence and development, and when they are backed by international support, then we will begin to see a reduction in the numbers killed.

    Talk to us: How can the reduction of armed violence contribute to development?