Small arms and light weapons

The most recent estimates indicate that there are currently 875 million small arms and light weapons in circulation throughout the world and that every year several hundred thousand people are killed by these weapons. Guns, machine guns and automatic weapons are cheap, easily transportable and easy to maintain.  Even children can use them. The illicit proliferation of small arms presents various risks:

  • It compromises human security, lasting peace and sustainable development;

  • It prolongs and exacerbates conflicts;

  • It prevents aid from reaching civilian populations;

  • It is used by organised crime;

  • It plays a major role in terrorism.

In 1999, at the initiative of Switzerland, the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (GGIIDS) launched a research programme on small arms called the Small Arms Survey. This centre of expertise is internationally regarded as the reference institution in the field of small arms and light weapons.

Finally, the Ammunition Management Advisory Team (AMAT), jointly established by UNODA and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), aims to strengthen the action of the states and regions on the safe and secure management of munitions in order to reduce the risk of explosions and diversion to illicit markets. It provides the states with technical advice and knowledge transfer and facilitates international cooperation and assistance.

Switzerland is strongly committed to preventing the proliferation of small arms.

It advocates the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, in particular by promoting the role of conventional disarmament as part of sustainable development. It is involved in the implementation of the UN action programme and the international instrument for the rapid and reliable identification and tracing of illicit small arms and light weapons through its participation in the meetings and conferences of the states parties.

Switzerland supports the actual implementation of the UN Secretary-General's disarmament agenda. As part of the action plan on the implementation of this agenda, Switzerland is championing 'action 22' which concerns the safe and secure management of munitions. It is also actively participating in the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty. It chairs the working group on the effective implementation of this treaty.

It contributes to projects concerning the destruction of superfluous small arms and light weapons and their secure storage within the framework of the OSCE and PfP.