End armed violence – a development challenge for a violence-free future

June 19, 2024

SALIENT scoping mission team visits the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra, Ghana.

Photo: UNDP Ghana

New York – The Saving-Lives Entity (SALIENT) showcased its achievements at the Fourth Review Conference of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (RevCon4) that started in New York on 18 June. SALIENT is a joint initiative of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and UNDP aimed to improve arms control and reduce the human cost of weapons.

Armed violence destroys communities, undermines security, impedes rule of law and hinders peacebuilding. Civilians, particularly women and children, feel the harshest impact. Communities that are experiencing or are emerging from armed conflict are most vulnerable to armed violence. 

When guns speak too often and too loudly, societies lose their development gains, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is at risk. 

To stop the proliferation of firearms and to control weapons means to disrupt their illicit supply and to address demand by helping communities find peaceful ways to resolve conflicts. This holistic approach requires joint efforts. 

Through SALIENT, the United Nations can act as one to support Member States to combat armed violence. More than 20 partners implement SALIENT initiatives in the field under the oversight of the UN Resident Coordinators.

“‘Developmentalizing’ arms control is not only about recognizing links between sustainable development and violence reduction. It is about making resources available to support this partnership though sustained financial contributions. SALIENT work on the ground demonstrated that investing in arms control and violence reduction is a critical part of development efforts”,  said Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representaive for Disarmament Affairs. 

SALIENT achievements have proven the effectiveness of its multi-sectoral and programmatic approach. From voluntary civilian disarmament in South Sudan to catalyzing a national strategy on gender, Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration in Cameroon, to peer mediation and firearms protocols in schools in Jamaica. 

“We are seeing the changes. The behaviours were modified in a positive way. We do not have the police coming in as often as they used to come. We do not have  students taken to the police station. Students are more settled, they are happier”,said Christine Hewes-Johnson, Dean of Discipline at Denham Town High School in Kingston. 

By implementing SALIENT, UNDP and UNODA champion innovative approaches to armed violence reduction. All projects on the ground are nationally led, people-centred, anticipatory and responsive, be it legislative or policy support, capacity building, education or advocacy. 

Since the proliferation of weapons fuels violence against women, over 30 percent (US$1.7 million) of SALIENT funds has been committed to tackle gender-based violence, promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“In South Sudan, for example, SALIENT worked with local authorities and communities to launch programmes and to engage women at all stages. [...] Ten new female police networks were established to empower women police officers and women in the community”, said Mr. Haoliang Xu, Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator, UNDP.

As of 2024, SALIENT is active in eight countries: Cameroon, Jamaica, Ghana, Honduras, Kyrgyz Republic, Panama, Papua New Guinea and South Sudan. Its donors include Finland, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. 

“I extend my appreciation to the development partners who trusted us by investing. We need financial and political support to continue this important work and sustain the gains made by our country-level colleagues and national partners so far”, said Mr. Haoliang Xu.   

At RevCon4, SALIENT partners and beneficiaries called for increased and sustained financing to ensure greater impact of arms control and armed violence prevention. For peace, development and a brighter, safer future for all.