The term Small Arms and Light Weapons, or SALW, covers a wide range of weapons, including revolvers, rifles, assault rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and missile launchers, and mortars of less than 100mm calibre. These tend to be relatively cheap, and easy to obtain, use and maintain.
SALW represent a major and widespread threat to the security of states, communities and individuals. They are the main weapons used in the vast majority of recent conflicts and armed violence. It is estimated that SALW kill 500.000 people a year, 300.000 of whom in armed conflicts.
In addition, the illicit spread of SALW is feeding internal conflicts which typically seek the collapse of states, access to natural resources for certain groups, or control over drugs trafficking. These conflicts blur the distinction between armed conflict and criminal activity, being fought by armed factions with no military discipline, often responsible for serious abuse of human rights affecting civilian populations, particularly women and children.
To fight these threats we support various actions to disrupt illegal trafficking flows, reduce the numbers of weapons in circulation, dissuade individuals from keeping weapons for self-defense by strengthening the rule of law, and to tackle the root causes of illegal demand for SALW – political conflict, poverty, weak economies, and lack of respect for human rights.