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