The need for better management of weapons and ammunition is becoming more acute. Small arms and light weapons (SALW) are proliferating. The trafficking and trading of illicit weapons is also growing, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.
In many developing or fragile states, political instability and armed violence are aided by the diversion of poorly secured and ill-managed government armouries. Fragile states have limited capacity to regulate and account for their firearm stockpiles. This weakness is easily exploited by criminal networks and militias. There is also grave concern that MANPADs (man-portable air-defense systems) pose a significant threat to aviation security when in the wrong hands.
The HALO Trust is leading the field in combatting weapons proliferation through its work with national authorities recovering from conflict or seeking to strengthen human security. This requires comprehensive weapons and ammunition management systems. It also needs a robust approach to managing physical security and stockpiles of weapons, through safe and secure storage sites.
In addition to the threats presented by MANPADS and unsecured weapons, there have been over 500 serious unplanned explosions at munitions sites (UEMS) in more than 100 countries since 1979. The frequency of UEMS has increased dramatically in recent years, along with associated casualties. Indeed, in 2012 the number of casualties exceeded the number of formally recorded casualties caused by mines and bombs.
As long as states continue to keep ageing stockpiles of Cold War era ammunition without the training and infrastructure required to manage the associated risks, the threat of unplanned explosions at munition sites will continue to grow. Our weapons and ammunition disposal programmes in Central African Republic and Ivory Coast, delivered in partnership with UNMAS, have destroyed tens of thousands of items of unexploded ordnance while building national capacity.