Mineral square replace schools in eastern DR Congo

Mines_enfants3Ottawa, June 20 2016In DR Congo, war war has transformed lifestyle of the population. The legacy of conflict are enormous in communities.
The illegal exploitation of minerals has fueled these conflicts,  leaving poverty, looting, rape, violence and destruction of all social structures (schools, hospitals…)
Children were used as soldiers in their own communities, thus abandoning school, women were kidnapped, raped and made very vulnerable to the point of not being useful. After the illegal exploitation by armed group since 1996, Congolese businessmen, civil and military, in turn exploited the natural resources as a source on income.
Taken hostage by poverty and lack of support, they are forced to work in the mining squares to support themselves. At their risk, children spend days in search of minerals to carry and sell at low prices to pay school fees. They don’t want to go school. When the reintegration of former children associated with armed forces and groups is not successful, some young  men who have been demobilized and reintegrated into their communities are found in the mining squares. They are then exposed to the re-enrollment by militias and armed groups that are very active in the mining territories.
10834940_1037676312917527_5848400697362569547_oWoman spend whole days to pound, sort minerals to provide to their families beside the operators but they don’t have access to exercise or to set up a small income-generating businesses, for lack of financial  support.
At Shabunda, women are called in different names: “Twangeuses” (In swahili), “Pilluses” (in french) “Haty stones”. They are exposed to sexual exploitation and prostitution. With low income, they are unable to support themselves and provide for the family.
Mineral exploitation is a matter of men, while there are several initiatives to empower them. But the tradition, culture and poverty are sometimes an obstacle to their development.
                                                                     Vision GRAM-International


Vision GRAM-International at the Sixth Biennial Meeting of the States (BMS6)

BMS6 Day 2: United Nations, New York

June 7, 2016

IMG_3526On the second day of BMS6, country representatives continued to discuss the Program of Action and gave their input on what should be done to combat Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Togo mentioned that they were able to strengthen their border control in the past few years, but they would like to call for international assistance. They have established a public awareness project with neighboring countries, and are currently working towards educating the public and emphasizing the need not to resort to violence. Namibia mentioned the point that weapons cannot be fired without a powder and therefore, it is important that the two aren’t separated from each other when considering the PoA. The United States brought up the point that markings will only be useful if successful records are also kept. Israel brought up their concern that new technologies are being used by terrorist groups and mentioned the need to continuously reassess and update the PoA in accordance with advancements.

Gary Fleetwood from the National Crime Commission in Australia mentioned several key points regarding the marking of small arms and light weapons in Australia. Some issues involving the marking of weapons include taking clear pictures of firearms, the complications involved with DNA tracing, a lack of training in identifying firearms, incorrect/generic designations submitted and incorrect manufacturer names. Firearms must be correctly identified before being destroyed. The strongest tool we have today is digital imagery (images which are clear and include the serial number and model of firearm). Some emerging trends include 3D technology, modularity in firearm design, and liquid molding of firearm receivers. Even with adequate resources, it is difficult for Australia to trace small arms and light weapons in a timely manner.

Interpol presented 3 tools which can be used strategically to implement the PoA. These include the Illicit Arms Records and Tracing Management Systems (iARMS), the Interpol Ballistics Information Network (BIN), which allows intelligence and law enforcement agencies to find connections between crimes, and Interpol Firearms Reference Table (FRT), which contains more than 250,000 firearms references. Interpol recommends that these tools be used globally in order to successfully combat small arms and light weapons.

                                                                                                                                                     Mahvish, Assistant Vision GRAM-International


Vision GRAM-International at the Sixth Biennial Meeting of the States (BMS6)

June 6, 2016:United Nations, New York

BMS6 Day 1

13435390_1129695680402444_285101032115898739_nThe Sixth Biennial Meeting of the States (BMS6) to consider the implementation of the programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the illicit trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its aspects began from 6-10 june 2016 at the United Nations. Many representatives from countries taking part in the event to review the progress of the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and Light weapons (UNPoA) adopted in 2001.

The PoA is a politically binding set of global commitments that provides UN member states with a mandate to develop and implement practical measures to curb the illicit trade in small and light weapons at the global, regional, and national levels. They are working on the international Tracing Instrument (ITI), which adopted in 205. It’s a politically binding instrument, which grew out the efforts to promote the development of international marking, record keeping, and tracing measures.

Vision GRAM-International, members of International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and other civil society organizations are part of the meeting. They played in important role in bringing the small arms problem to the international agenda. The conference was opened by the chair, which made several points regarding the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its aspects.

This event is the first meeting after the entry into force in December 2014 of Arms Trade Treaty. The chair mentioned that national reporting is an integral part of the implementation of the PoA and regional and sub-regional methods must be adopted for the successful eradication of small arms and light weapons. The security of stockpiles should lie with well-trained individuals that have knowledge of the guidelines.

The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (adopted in September 2015) was also discussed during the conference. They put in centre stage the direct link between disarmament and development and small arms and light weapons undermine development. Therefore, the PoA can facilitate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Many delegations highlighted this goal to frame their approach to this BMS and to small arms control more broadly, articulating a vision of a world in which the production, sale, and use of weapons is no longer permitted to drive humankind towards violence and mayhem.

Many other points was focused in the discussion, such the provision of international cooperation and assistance for the implementation of the UN Programme of Action (PoA), international Tracing Instrument (ITI), and the Arms trade treaty (ATT). A statement delivered by the delegation of Ghana on behalf of African delegates, recalls that many discussions, proposals and effort to have ammunition for small arms and light weapons explicitly must be included within the scope of the PoA. He called upon states to commit to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in the ammunition for small arms. Ammunition proliferation and misuses is a fundamental component of the wider problem of arms proliferation and misuse.

It is also crucial to reduce military funding, as trillions of dollars of expenditure ($17 trillion globally) are spent on weapons, and only $260 billion on overseas support and development. About 50 million people are displaced by violence associated with Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Members of Vision GRAM International also attended a side event on relationship between small arms and light weapon, the Arms Trade Treaty and the PoA, on the Weapons and Gender. Gender and Small Arms Control, presented by the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom. It is very often invisible violence, which doesn’t get reported and is also a reminder of the UN’s mainstreaming of gender. Across all cultures, young men are the majority of perpetrators of gun violence and are also the majority of victims. However, women are the majority of victims in gender-based violence, including domestic violence and rapes.

According to the World Health Organization, about 1/3 of women around the world have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. In addition, about 50% of women killed by a partner are killed by a firearm. In the Central African Republic, women and girls have been systematically targeted. There is not a single mention of gender in the entire document of the PoA, but the June 2014 BMS5 outcome document makes some references to women, which is a good first step.

The Arms Trade Treaty contains a provision on gender-based violence due to the hard work of many organizations. Under Article 7.4, states must take into account the risk of gender-based violence. They insisted that legislation between violence and domestic violence should be linked with legislation on arms control. Funding needs to be directed in that area and more data needs to be collected in order to address the problem. Education and other rights for women should also be accessible so they can make informed decisions and be encouraged to report incidents of gender-based violence.

13336091_1126692724036073_8018613780036828860_nBefore the conference, IANSA organized a pre-BMS6 workshop for productive and meaningful BMS6 participation where members and civil society worked together on some key issues and challenges. During the conference, civil society took the floor to talk about the impact of proliferation of small arms in many countries and the role of women, civil society and states to prevent and reduce armed violence.

According to IANSA, in recognition of the value of human life, in awareness of the countless people who have lost their lives or suffered injuries from gun violence, and in determination to put an end to senseless losses and human suffering caused by small arms, its organized a Wear Orange campaign today at the United Nations. Both civil society members and government representatives joined in the event, which was timed to coincide with the sixth Biennial Meeting of States (BMS6). The BMS is convened every two years at the UN to consider the national, regional and global implementation of the UN Program of Action on small arms.

TIMG_5867he Wear Orange campaign began in the United States after Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year old with a bright future ahead of her, was randomly shot and killed as she stood talking to her friends after finishing her final exams in 2013. As a symbol of the value of human life and the need to protect it, the color orange was chosen for the campaign. Since 2015, IANSA has been bringing the Wear Orange campaign to the UN, because as government officials hold debates, make statements and draft documents related to various aspect of small arms, we aim to remind them of the human lives at the heart of the issue.

                                                                                                                                                 Mahvish, Assistant, Vision GRAM-International


Meeting of Governmental Experts 2 (MGE2) June 1-5, 2015

Day 5

By: Joseph Hartley Cavallaro, Vision GRAM-International

IMG_0287The fifth and final day of the MGE2 began with the European Union setting the topic to the ITI and the PoA. The EU suggested that new technologies should be utilized in order to strengthen the ITI, and offered support to developing countries with its implementation. Mexico also stressed the need for the full implementation of the PoA, and also called on states to cooperate together to end SALW smuggling between neighboring countries. Russia also spoke extensively about the PoA and its dire need to be fully implemented on the global and regional level. They proposed several ideas to control the SALW trade such as banning the transfer of SALW without approval from both the sending and receiving state. Another idea was to ensure that SALW can’t be manufactured without a license.

The Syrian Arab Republic briefly changed the subject to the war within its country. They spoke of how many large arms shipments have been sent to Syria from neighboring countries without the Syrian governments approval. There still is no written language in any agreement so far that condemns the sending of weapons to terrorists groups, and there is often no way to track weapons shipments into the country. CARICOM spoke next on the related issue of the transfer of ammunition, which is not included in the ITI. The Chair agreed that ammunition is something that still needs to be discussed at later time, because SALW cannot be used without ammunition. Brazil described their experience with ammunition controls by saying how they require all police ammunition to be marked. They also added that states must be patient when enacting SALW laws because results take time.

Sweden offered some very constructive opinions and ideas. They emphasized that the SALWs are not the problem; rather the problems arise when SALW get into the wrong hands. Sweden called for strict tracking mechanisms using the latest technologies on newly manufactured SALW, and the need for a global cleanup of illicit arms. China also added to this suggestion that there needs to be control at the origin of the SALW manufacturing as well the utilization of the latest tracing technologies. Nigeria also spoke of their problems tracing SALW and ammunition.

The Chair reminded them of existing framework that they should utilize. Switzerland offered its input on stockpile management and the lack of international action around this issue. Stockpile management will be discussed more at a meeting on the 16th and 17th of November 2015 in their country. Egypt then noted that ammunition management is outside the jurisdiction of the PoA and the ITI and it should be discussed outside of MGE2.

Venezuela turned the conversation to the issue of how easily armed groups are able to acquire SALW, especially in the Middle East. There is the issue that weapons manufacturers are not doing anything to stop this. India added to this by calling for the use of the PoA to combat terrorism. Iraq continued on the topic to terrorism by calling on all states to make sure their political climate at home does not contribute to the growth of armed groups. The next six speakers from Spain, Belgium, New Zealand, Sweden, Guatemala, and Ghana, all spoke about the need to control SALW ammunition, which was the final topic of the MGE2.

The MGE2 then concluded with the chair thanking all participating member states and civil society members for their contributions. The international SALW trade remains largely unregulated, and the regulations that are in place contain numerous loopholes. While SAWL trade regulations remain a work in progress, the MGE2 brought the world a step closer to regulating the weapons that have plagued the world for almost a century.

Meeting of Governmental Experts 2 (MGE2), June 1-5, 2015

New York/ United Nations- Day 3, june 3, 2015

By: Joseph Hartley Cavallaro- Vision GRAM-International

On the third day of the MGE2, a representa11304343_10152820903666227_473859068_ntive and former member of the German Armed Forces opened the discussions with a presentation about the ways in which the German military tracks is weapons. The speaker described how in the past, each branch of the military used different means of tracking is weapons, with a combination of paper and electronic being utilized.

In order to streamline and simplify the stockpile management system, the military was ordered to place all their weapons information onto on electronic database for the entire military.

This transition to electronic record keeping began in 2013 has a deadline of 2016. To convince the plenary of the usefulness of such a system, the representative gave an example of a German military weapon that went missing during a training exercise, and then was found twenty years later in Belgium once it was entered into the electronic registry.

After the presentation by the representative from the United States of America, expressed his concern that while we can put weapons on a registry, tracing missing weapons is another challenge. Iraq spoke after the USA and criticized the fact that only eleven countries have submitted relevant reports to the UN Register of Conventional Arms. The representative stressed that in order for UN mechanisms to function properly, countries must fulfill their reporting obligations. He also expressed continued support for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and pushed for continued and effective implementation.

Argentina took the floor next and gave an extensive report on crime within their country. It was noted that only one in four deaths in Argentina in which SALW are involved, is from a violent crime such as robbery or gang related shooting. The reality that three out of four guns related deaths are from domestic disputes and suicides in the home serves as proof that more guns in the home equals more deaths. SALW must be taken out of circulation completely, and that countries should allow gun holders to voluntarily surrender weapons. Sweden also spoke about how they recognize that guns inside the home contribute to more domestic violence and suicides. In order to mitigate this issue, Sweden’s gun owners must comply with strict gun storage laws and all gun safes must have burglar alarms.

Delegates from the countries of Germany, Botswana, Sierra Leone, Australia and several others spoke of their concerns, and offered ideas on SALW control. Germany emphasized the need for the modernization of stockpile management, and that available technologies must be assessed. Sierra Leone took a very strong position on the ownership of SALW amongst the civilian population. After experiencing an eleven yearlong war, they have very strict requirements on the ownership of firearms. Botswana also agreed that the average citizen, especially in those cities, does not need a to own a firearm. African countries were reminded of the African Unions calls for all its members to create national firearms registries.

The conversations throughout the final two hours of the meeting switched from regulating gun ownership, and the compliance with the PoA, ITI and the ATT, to stockpile management and the transfer of technology and information between states. An expert from CARICOM spoke of how the region has the highest firearm murder rate in the world due to illegal SALW. CARICOM lacks the resources it needs to combat smuggling and manage its stockpiles, therefore is asks for assistance from other states. Switzerland was one of the final speakers in the meeting in which they shared their experience in providing Bosnia and Herzegovina with stockpile management assistance.


Vision GRAM-International intern team and IANSA intern @MGE2

They emphasized that it took about three years for the country’s armed forces to be able to manage their stockpiles effectively. This provided informative timetable that helped the attending countries and civil society members in their understanding of how long the transfer of technology and information could take. The final speakers all stressed the importance of the transfer of technology and information between countries, as well as the need for donors and recipients to coordinate effectively.

More updates on the MGE2 will be posted soon.

Meeting of Governmental Experts 2 (MGE2), June 1-5, 2015

Day 2 June 2, 2015

By: Joseph Hartley Cavallaro, Vision GRAM-International

IMG_0287On the second day of the MGE2 on small arms and light weapons, country delegates and weapons experts continued to exchange their questions and ideas concerning the international regulation of light weapons. The majority of the debate today was dominated by the reality that 3D weapons are going to become more widely available in coming years. One expert claimed that 3D printers would be available at the consumer level within the next twenty years. Many of the concerns over 3D weapons stem from their lack of detectability in metal detectors and their availability to criminals who may be able to print weapons at home.

Delegates also discussed the importance of finding an effective way to mark weapons so that they can be tracked when the need arises, because modern weapons are being manufactured with new materials, some of which are hard to mark. There were also brief mentions towards the end of the day about the need to secure shipments and stockpiles of firearms and ammunition in order to reduce the risk of diversion. It was emphasized by one NGO that regulating ammunition globally is impossible and that it would be like trying to track grains of rice. Another NGO stressed that weapons should be only marked on the receiver of a weapon because it is the hardest part of the weapon to illegally reproduce, yet the easiest to mark.

The Canadian Arms Association briefly expressed their concerns about governmental confiscation of weapons. In Addition, IANSA representatives spoke about gun violence in Philadelphia. One of these representatives, a woman from Nigeria, also spoke about the plight of gun violence on her country and the cost of treating victims of gun violence. Another woman from Kenya spoke about the Westgate shopping mall attack, during which she lost an uncle in the mall. Her cousin was also shot in the head last week in the same town. In total, about 147 people had been killed in Garissa, Kenya. These representatives expressed their strong support for the implementation of the PoA.

WP_20150602_068Victor AMISI, executive director of Vision GRAM- International, discussed how he fled his country due to gun violence, as weapon companies flooded Africa with weapons after the Cold War. He stresses that all member states should regulate new weapons, mark and trace all weapons. States should meet all commitments to the PoA as well as to the ITI in order to combat arms trafficking and the diversion of small arms to non-state actors. “States should apply new technologies to improve information exchange et the national, regional and international levels to combat arms trafficking and prevent diversion to unauthorized recipients”, he added11327860_10152816546056227_2086986436_o.

June 2nd was also the first National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Many UN staff wore orange in support. The event commemorated the death of Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot dead in 2013. The Hashtag #WearingOrange was used in order to publicize the event. Many celebrities also showed their support.

Vision GRAM-International at the UN Meeting of Governmental Experts 2  (MGE2)        

image2June 1-5, 2015

Day 1

By Joseph Hartley Cavallaro

New York-June 1, 2015- The Second Open-ended Meeting of Governmental Experts under the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its aspects (MGE2) began today at the UN with many countries and non-governmental organizations partaking in the event. The discussions were focused on the already established Program of Action to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and all its aspects. Following a briefing on the latest developments in small arms and light weapons technology, countries were given the opportunity to address their questions and concerns.

The High Representative on the MGE2 was the first to speak on the issue and he expressed his concern over the widespread use of illicit firearms around the world. He emphasized that the majority of the victims of atrocities committed with illicit firearms are women and children. The countries of Iraq, Kenya, Venezuela, Colombia, Kuwait, Nigeria, and the USA, along with several others, all expressed their desire for international cooperation with the regulation of small arms, and for unity in the fight against illegal arms trafficking. The main issue that was debated throughout the day was not whether small arms should be regulated, but rather how they should be regulated. In the age of 3D printed firearms and polymer firearm materials, regulation has proved to be difficult. The debate as to how exactly countries and manufacturers should mark weapons in a way that makes them identifiable will continue on June 2.

June 2 also happens to be National Gun Violence Awareness Day. The NGOs, member of IANSA and Vision GRAM- International are campaigning for MGE2 participants to be wearing orange on this day. They Wearing Orange campaign can be followed via #WearingOrange on Twitter and WearingOrange.org. More updates on the MGE2 will be posted.