UN Biennial Meeting of States on Small Arms and the Programme of Action
7-11 July 2003
New York, USA

The UN Biennial Meeting of States on Small Arms and the Programme of Action was the first major follow-up to the 2001 UN Small Arms Conference. It took place at the UN headquarters in New York; USA, from 7-11 July 2003 and considered national, regional and global implementation of the Programme of Action (PoA) agreed at the 2001 UN Conference. Even though the meeting was primarily intended for States to report on their progress in this field, NGO's played an important role as an alternative source of information and as representing direct victims of Small Arms. They were represented by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), a coalition of over 500 civil society groups and peace activists from which the WCC is a founding member. In addition to a session on Thursday 10 July, devoted to NGO statements, a number of side events where organized by civil society, including a meeting of faith based organizations.

The conference showed that small arms proliferation and misuse is now firmly on the agendas of national and international governments. Nevertheless, most countries gave the impression of being still at the stage of developing ownership of the Programme.

Although states are still far from achieving global legal standards, which would help keep small arms away from human rights abusers, the UN Biennial Meeting of States on small arms produced a number of significant outcomes, including:

  • A report from the UN Group of Experts on Marking and Tracing indicating that it is feasible to have an instrument on weapons tracing. A recommendation for such an implementation will be submitted to the General Assembly.
  • An EU statement on brokering, which calls for a registry of arms brokers, exchange of information between states and adequate sanctions to ensure effective enforcement of brokering controls.
  • Strong statements from a number of UN agencies, including UNDP, WHO, UNIFEM and UNIDIR, about the human costs of small arms proliferation, and a clear recognition that this process must be focussed on reducing the damage and destruction on individuals caused by small arms.
  • Reports submitted by about 80 countries participating in the conference. While this represents half of all governments, it is more than what had been done previously
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    The Biennial Meeting of States has shown clearly that such gatherings serve to engage governmental action by prompting discussion and reporting in the weeks and months prior to the meeting. There is a need to work towards keeping the attention of states on these issues once the meeting is over.

    For more information on the conference please visit and (where you can find the progress reports submitted by states).