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Small Arms Survey: Annual Report 2019

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Small Arms Survey
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Director's note

The year 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Small Arms Survey, a milestone that underscores the importance of the service provided by the Survey to stakeholders in the arms control community and beyond. The impact of the Survey’s work on international policy debates, expert circles, and the public at large through the extensive use of our data by the media has only grown in these two decades. This Annual Report, though not exhaustive, provides some highlights of our work in 2019.

The year saw the departure of director Eric Berman; we wish him the best for his future endeavours. In November, I took over the director’s chair, joining the Survey with the deepest respect for its history and reputation, and firmly committed to lead the organization into a successful third decade. It is my intention to build on the Survey’s standing, institutional experience, expertise, and extensive networks to continue providing the reliable information and trusted support that characterize our work.

In 2019, the Survey released updates to some of its most well-renowned outputs to provide policymakers, academics, nongovernmental and multilateral organizations, the media, and the public with information on which to base their decisions. Among them, the Trade Update 2019 report, with its Small Arms Trade Transparency Barometer, provided new data on authorized global small arms exports, while the database on Global Violent Deaths, incorporating the latest data available, continued to be an important tool for monitoring Sustainable Development Goal 16.1, which aims to reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere. Similarly, we continued our assistance to state partners worldwide on topics such as compliance with the Arms Trade Treaty and sanctions regimes.

In addition, the Survey tackled emerging topics in 2019 in response to the expressed needs of our stakeholders. Among these emerging areas of work, the integration of gender perspectives in small arms control received increased attention, with the recruitment of a dedicated gender expert and the production of Gender-responsive Arms Control: A Practical Guide. Another area of increased interest is the trafficking of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and their precursor materials. In Mali, for example, United Nations Mine Action Service data suggests that IEDs are responsible for approximately 60 per cent of peacekeeper and civilian deaths caused by malicious acts, and yet our research shows that there is a dearth of reliable, publicly available information about the origins and smuggling routes of such devices.

The Survey continues its work with journalists to provide contextual information and background for media reports— whether through our databases or tailored responses to requests. We complement this traditional media presence with a push for a richer multimedia presence, including through blogs, podcasts, and social media.

On the institutional side, at the end of 2019 I introduced a series of reforms to reinforce the Survey’s governance. The most salient measure was to replace the International Programme Council with a Strategic Council that has a redefined mandate and membership. The Strategic Council met for the first time in February 2020. Additionally, the Survey reinforced its partnerships with important international and regional organizations, most prominently the UN system, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the League of Arab States.

In sum, in 2019, the Survey celebrated its 20 years of existence by doing what it does best: collecting reliable findings on small arms and their ammunition and making this information available to those who need it to make informed policy and programming choices. With this contribution to small arms control, the Survey continues to work towards its vision of a world without illicit arms and armed violence.

Daniel de Torres

I. Twenty years of work in small arms

What started as a small outfit of dedicated researchers working out of a modest office space in an otherwise pristine city now has more than 40 staff and consultants on three continents covering issues on small arms across the globe. While our premises have changed, the original curiosity for uncovering the hidden has remained. The vision of the Small Arms Survey is a world without illicit arms and armed violence— something we work towards by providing evidence for well-informed policies and support to those who implement them.

The Survey had 27 projects active in 2019, in addition to several consultancies (see Table 1 and Box 1). Some of these projects focused on generating data and analysis (see highlights in Section II), and some used our expertise to help strengthen capacities (see highlights in Section III). The projects cover topics such as:

  • weapons and ammunition management (WAM);
  • illicit small arms proliferation;
  • armed violence;
  • and work within existing and emerging multilateral frameworks to address the above topics.

We are very grateful to our core donors for supporting our overall work as well as our databases. The continued commitments from the Governments of Australia, Finland, Sweden, and our host country Switzerland are invaluable for ensuring sustainability—enabling us to provide evidence-based data and policy advice for the next 20 years and beyond.

Read the full report here