The production and trafficking of small arms and light weapons heightens tensions, undermines peace processes and fuels armed violence. Policies which create a culture of peace will support sustainable development and highlight human security.
Every day, lives around the world come to an abrupt and tragic end through the use of guns, legal or illegal, both in situations of conflict or by accident. Many more are maimed or wounded by small arms and light weapons (SALW) or threatened with their use. The prosperity and safety of communities suffers critically when SALW proliferate and are used as a currency of security and power.
It is clear that although arms in themselves do not cause conflicts or harm, they exacerbate conflicts, increase security risks for civilian populations and incur large financial costs. Away from public spaces, firearms can feature in instances of domestic violence, in which cases women are primarily targeted. SALW violence manifests itself across a kaleidoscope of issues and is heavily influenced by cultural and socio-economic circumstances.
Some countries have initiated policies and programmes to curb the widespread availability of guns and their use in conflicts and accidents. Policies that stand out for their positive effects are those that have gone beyond achieving a mere reduction of guns in circulation by emphasising how such reductions will need to be part of a broader process of promoting a culture of non-violence and peaceful conflict resolution. We want to build a culture of peace.
Successful policies in non-warfare situations recognise widespread gun ownership as a threat to public health, include measures on the education on the dangers of gun ownership, take a community-based approach to tacking gun violence, tailor incentives for renouncing individually-owned arms to social, developmental and cultural circumstances and explore alternative non-violent conflict resolution mechanisms.