Find Gun Policy Facts

Armed violence prevention, gun control laws and the small arms trade:

Armed Violence, Small Arms and the United Nations

The United Nations Charter commits nations to maintain international peace and security, and to collectively prevent and remove threats to peace.1 To limit the proliferation of illicit firearms, the nearly-200 Member States of the United Nations have agreed to implement a range of measures to 'prevent, combat and eradicate' the harmful effects of small arms and light weapons around the world. These include the UN Firearms Protocol,2 3 the UN small arms Programme of Action,4 5 the UN Register of Conventional Weapons,6 and the UN Arms Trade Treaty.7

UN Small Arms Programme of Action (UNPoA)

By consensus between states in 2001, the UN small arms Programme of Action (UNPoA), placed a politically, but not a legally binding commitment on national governments to implement the measures agreed upon, and to provide the UN with periodic national reports on their progress. These commitments have been summarised as: 'regulating small arms transfers and brokering activities; criminalising the illegal manufacture, possession, stockpiling and trade of small arms and light weapons; ensuring that weapons be marked and registered; enforcing arms embargoes; destroying surplus and confiscated weapons; raising public awareness; and implementing disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes.'8

UN Arms Trade Treaty

In 2009, 151 UN Member States voted to begin negotiations towards a legally binding Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). If it eventuates, an ATT could establish common international standards for the import, export and transfer of all types of conventional arms, including small arms.7

Your Country's Position

For the individual positions of each UN Member State on these and other small arms-related initiatives, for votes cast, agreements signed and national reports submitted to the UN, first locate the country in the left hand column, then open its International Controls section.

Short References


UNGA.1945.‘Purposes and Principles.’ Charter of the United Nations.New York, NY:United Nations General Assembly,26 June. (Q1933)Full Citation


UNGA.2001.‘United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition.’ UN General Assembly Resolution 55/255.New York, NY:UN General Assembly,31 May. (Q17)Full Citation


Buchanan, Cate, Mireille Widmer et al.2008.‘The UN Firearms Protocol.’ Missing Pieces: A Guide for Reducing Gun Violence Through Parliamentary Action.Geneva:Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue,19 November. (Q1937)Full Citation


UNGA.2001.‘Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.’ United Nations General Assembly.New York, NY:UN General Assembly,20 July. (Q18)Full Citation


Atwood, David and Owen Greene.2002.‘Reaching Consensus in New York: the 2001 UN Small Arms Conference.’ Small Arms Survey 2002: Counting the Human Cost.Oxford:Oxford University Press,1 July. (Q1938)Full Citation


UNODA.2011.‘National Reports on Small Arms Exports.’ United Nations Register of Conventional Arms - Transparency in the Global Reported Arms Trade.New York, NY:United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs,21 October. (Q14)Full Citation


UNGA.2009.‘Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: Establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.’ UN Resolution A/RES/64/48.New York, NY:United Nations General Assembly,2 June. (Q1886)Full Citation


Buchanan, Cate, Mireille Widmer et al.2007.‘The Global Response to Armed Violence.’ Missing Pieces: A Guide for Reducing Gun Violence Through Parliamentary Action.Geneva:Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the Inter-Parliamentary Union,1 January. (Q1934)Full Citation