Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: July 2009

7 - Small arms and light weapons: the United Nations Program of Action


Small arms and diamonds have much in common. Both goods enjoy great popularity among criminals, rebels, and terrorists who often barter one for the other. The illicit trade in small arms, as in diamonds, emerged simultaneously on the international agenda against the backdrop of the post-Cold War rise in bloody intra-state conflicts. In contrast to negotiations aimed at curbing the trade in conflict diamonds, international attempts to impose better controls on transfers of small arms and light weapons have not yet resulted in a unified, global institution endowed with the form and substance necessary to reach the same degree of effectiveness as that of the Kimberley Process. Rather, small arms and light weapons became a matter for negotiations in a variety of regional and inter-regional policy forums, leading to the adoption of over a dozen agreements and protocols dedicated to this topic. The United Nations has been the driving agenda-setting and, to a lesser extent, norm-creating force in this process. The cornerstone of the UN's anti-SALW efforts is the legally non-binding Program of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (Program of Action or PoA, in brief), which was adopted at a special United Nations conference in July 2001.

This fourth and final case challenges the design hypotheses underlying this study more than any of the preceding empirical chapters so far. Specifically, the predicted institutional design does not match the actual design outcome.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO