In order to regain security on our streets in Sweden, and a more peaceful world globally, it is more urgent than ever to both prevent and stop the illegal flow of weapons. This is written by Olle Thorell (S) and Magdalena Thuresson (M), members of parliament for the foreign affairs committee, as well as Karin Olofsson, secretary general of the Parliamentary Forum for light weapons issues. Photo: St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office. Source: Wikimedia commons.


Actionable action is required to counter the illegal international arms flow

The violence resulting from illegal weapons have devastating consequences worldwider – human, social and economic. For sustainable development and peace force is required to stop the illegal flow of weapons. Wednesday, December 14 special attention is paid to the issue in riksdagen when parliamentarians, civil society, experts and other representatives gather for the Parliamentarian Forum for Light Weapons-of questions (The Forum's) 20th anniversary seminar. 

Every hour 24 people die worldwide as a result of violence caused by small and light weapons, according to the Small Arms Survey's latest study. The lives lost in gun violence are a loss to loved ones, as well as for the whole society. An estimated two million people the world over today lives with physical but caused by these weapons.

The consequences of the uncontrolled and illegal flow of weapons are devastating. Armed violence and conflict, terrorism and organized crime have a common denominator: access to weapons. The last decade has peace in the world decreased; the number of conflicts has reached record levels and democracy is in decline. The situation highlights the need to take action and prioritize work against the illegal proliferation of small and light weapons in order to promote human security, sustainable development and peace - in the world and in Sweden.

The armed violence creates insecurity, and in addition to social costs, the economic costs are significant. Violence and conflict cost the world a total of US$16,5 trillion in 2021, which corresponds to just over 10 percent of the world's economic activity, the gross domestic product, or about 2110 dollars per person.

The equality perspective is important. Men are disproportionately affected by fatal gun violence, as they constitute a large part of the victims and the bulk of the perpetrators. Even women are very seriously affected by the armed violence. During the pandemic, the situation has become even more critical, as the number reported cases of domestic violence against women have increased by up to 30 percent, there the presence of firearms further endangering women's safety and rights.

The whole of society needs to stop to support human security and sustainable development. The situation requires collective action globally. The world's countries have committed to work for sustainable development, including through the adoption of Agenda 2030, including target 16.4 which emphasizes the importance of reducing illicit arms flows. With barely eight years left until the year 2030, resolute action by – and cooperation between – all actors is required to achieve the global goals. Increased efforts linked to reducing illegal arms flows are an example of what is required to achieve the agenda.

The Forum's 20-year experience shows the importance of political will; parliamentarians' commitment and action in the matter as well as global cooperation across party lines. Through legislation and awareness-raising work as well as reform initiatives, parliamentarians are vital agents of change. International instruments are already in place, such as the 2030 Agenda, the UN Arms Trade Treaty, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the UN Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate All Forms of the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. Here, parliamentarians have an important role in working for the ratification of the instruments and monitoring governments' implementation of them.

The decline of democracy in the world is worrying overall. Statistics also show that threats and harassment of parliamentarians are increasing globally, there female parliamentarians are particularly vulnerable. The situation warrants further support and cooperation between parliamentarians globally. It is also required that the international community, including Sweden, pay attention to the seriousness of this issue and provide resolute conditions, within international development cooperation and otherwise, to protect democracy and its actors, including parliamentarians.

The world is interconnected - and Sweden is part of the world. Sweden's government has an important task through its commitments to implement the aforementioned international instruments. In addition to this, the situation in Sweden is serious as a dismal record has been reached this year and so far 60 lives lost as a result of the large availability of illegal weapons. The deadly gun violence in Sweden is a direct consequence of the influx of illegal weapons into the country. Given this, powerful investments are required, both in Sweden but also in cooperation with other countries, to curb the situation and counteract the uncontrolled flow of weapons across national borders.

In this context, it is important to mention that there is a war going on in our immediate vicinity, in Ukraine. The country has a right under international law to defend itself against Russia's illegal and unprovoked war. Ukraine is fighting not only for its freedom, but for the freedom of all of Europe and its security order. It is therefore important that Sweden supports Ukraine's fight for freedom and Ukraine's right to defend itself, for example by sending military, legal weapons to Ukraine. At the same time that Sweden supports Ukraine, consistent work must be done to ensure that after the end of the war these weapons do not end up in the wrong hands and thus become part of the illegal arms flow, an issue that is continuously noticed, both by the previous and the current government.

In order to regain security on our streets in Sweden, and a more peaceful world globally, it is more urgent than ever to both prevent and stop the illegal flow of weapons. Together we can create change.

The small arms issue

Parliamentary forum on small arms issues (The forum) is unique as the only international one cross-party organization for parliamentarians with a specific focus on preventing and reducing the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons (SALW). With over 300 member parliamentarians across party lines in approximately 100 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, the Forum's overall objective is to contribute to the achievement of more peaceful and sustainably developed societies by strengthening the actions of parliamentarians for the implementation of relevant international frameworks .

Small and Light Weapons (SALW)

Small arms are the weapons that can be used by a person, such as pistols and rifles. The weapons that can be fired by two people, such as grenade launchers or robots are called light weapons. In addition, hand grenades, ammunition and landmines are counted as small and light weapons.

Previous articles on the topic

November 25, 2021: Uncontrolled proliferation of weapons is a threat to women's rights and security

September 21, 2020: Armed violence is a threat to peace and sustainable development

October 1, 2019: Sida must prioritize the work against the illegal distribution of weapons

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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