Report on Preventing and Reducing Armed Violence: Addressing the supply and demand of Small Arms and Light Weapons
By Shauna Kelley and Christian Ciobanu
On Friday, June 18, 2010, the UN Armed Violence Prevention Programme (AVPP), a joint initiative by UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, UN-HABITAT, UNODC, and UNODA presented a discussion entitled, Preventing and Reducing Armed Violence: Addressing the supply and demand of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). Mr. Alex Butchart, a representative of WHO; and Mrs. Judy Grayson, a representative of UNICEF, were the moderators of this program. H.E. Francis T. Kimmemia, Permanent Security of the Ministry of State Internal Security and Provincial Administration in Kenya, Africa; Samuel Blake, Director of the Organized Crime Branch, a division of the Jamaica Security; and Denis Mize, Executive Director of Sou de Paz, served as the speakers for the event.
Mr. Butchart noted that the AVPP program is focused on reducing armed violence by creating; policy strategies, and monitoring the implementation of these practices in crisis areas. The AVPP also follows a multi-sectoral approach to ensure that it can significantly improve an area. This approach means that different UN agencies contribute to the program.
After presenting information about the AVPP program, Mr. Butchart presented a documentary entitled, Faces of Violence. This documentary juxtaposed the urban armed violence in Rio, Brazil with the situation in the Sudan. The documentary also demonstrated how two men were able to overcome gang violence to become strong role models for children and adolescents.
Following Mr. Butchart, H.E. Francis Kimemia gave his presentation, which focused on reducing armed violence in Kenya. He informed the audience that his presentation would touch upon the following: the situation in Kenya, regional problems in Africa, drivers of gun ownership, Kenya’s national framework, addressing the demand and supply for SALW, and lessons that can be learned from Kenya’s experience with SALWs.
In terms of the situation in Kenya, he explained that illicit SALWs are a serious threat for agrarian communities. They are a serious threat because over 80 percent of illicit SALWs can be found in Kenya’s pastoral communities. However, there has been a recent escalation of SALWs in urban centers, especially in Mombasa, Kenya.
Noting the regional problems in Africa, Kimemia informed the audience that, due to the state of anarchy in Somalia, illicit arms dealers have been supplying SALWs to civilians for years. Moreover, in South Sudan illicit arms dealers have supplied arms to religious leaders and civilians who have been trying to secure their resources in the area. In Uganda, there has been an influx of organized crime gangs, who have engaged in cattle rustling and stealing supplies from civilians.
Regarding the drivers of gun ownership among Africans, Kimemia stated that tensions between ethnic groups and competition for limited resources are the primary reasons why Africans obtain SALWs. Moreover, he mentioned that poverty, unemployment, and an inadequate security from various governments are forcing Africans to purchase weapons.
Given that most Africans are either obtaining weapons or engaging in the illicit trade of SALW, Kenya implemented its National Framework on SALW. This national framework required the government to work with local NGOs to educate civilians about the problems of SALW, establish weapons collection and disarmament centres, and create youth program and implement gender mainstreaming programs. It further mandated the Kenyan police to be stationed at several border points. The programme further stipulated that Kenya must establish and enforce a culture of peace in conflict regions of the country. Finally, the program encourages Kenyans to find new sources of income other than selling SALWs.
To address the demand of SALWs, Kenya assessed the number of Kenyans who have guns. Kenya used the information to create detailed maps to determine the areas with the highest concentration of SALWs. In addition, Kenya ordered its police to monitor situations in underserved communities. Finally, it committed its resources to targeting SALW hotspots throughout the area.
Concerning the supply side of SALWs, Kenya has been engaging in joint border control initiatives with its neighbors. It further created programs to prevent younger Kenyans from participating in the transfer of SALWs.
Lastly, Kimemia implied that, based on Kenya’s experience with SALWs, Kenya has learned several lessons. These lessons include: the need for states to form partnerships to provide safety and security to their communities, regulate the flow of SALW into the countries, help their citizens to abandon their culture of violence by adopting a culture of peace. The other lessons focus on the importance for states to engage in systematic cross-border programs and establish early warning systems to detect illicit traffickers near their borders.
After Kimemia’s presentation, Samuel Blake, the Director of the Organized Crime Branch of the Ministry of National Security addressed how the Jamaica is trying to quell gun related violence in its country. He specified also that forty percent of health care spending in Jamaica is a result of gun violence.
He further mentioned that Jamaica uses Global Information Systems (GIS) technology for plotting violent crimes in problematic communities. The Crime Prevention and Community Safety Strategies (CPCSS) were created under the auspices of UNDP and will be implemented by the government of Jamaica as a means of combating gun violence. CPCSS emphasizes the importance of the government and local communities sharing the responsibility of preventing armed violence.
As the last speaker, Denis Mizne, the Executive Director of Sou da Paz in Brazil, touched upon the most concentrated areas of armed violence in Brazil. Because there are multiple factors contributing to violence, the issue requires complex strategies by individuals, communities and States.
During his presentation, he posed two rhetorical questions, which were: “what do we offer as replacement of violence,” and “what are other forms of dealing with conflict?”
In response to these questions, he explained that police are the first to respond to violence, making law enforcement the initial actors of the State’s function in dealing with violence.
Then Mizne called attention to these initial interactions and their significance to crime prevention. How are the police relating to civil society? Ridicule and criticism of police performance have proven to be less constructive than giving rewards for good policing in San Paolo as a means of reforming and strengthening logic of law enforcement practices with the goal of empowering police to partner with civil society and to be a leader of change.
He also informed the audience that infrastructure plays a role in violence in Brazil and elsewhere. He claimed that prevention is partly derived in an examination of a community’s infrastructure including details like the absence of streetlights or a baseball field. Minze also described the misperceptions among the public that any social program is a violence prevention program and that all human rights programs are addressing violence.
As part of his concluding remarks, he announced that every gun seized or collected in a buy back program, should be destroyed.