It is widely acknowledged that proliferation, illicit trafficking, and diversion of small arms and light weapons (SALW) across the world poses a significant threat to peace and security at a national, regional, and global level. The illicit flow of SALW has a destabilising effect on societal advancement, economic growth, sustainable development, and human rights. When illicit trafficking and diversion of SALW occurs within the context of an armed conflict – whether this is during a civil war or intercommunal, interstate, or internal conflict – in which terrorist organisations operate, this further fuels the conflict and poses significant challenges to security and conflict prevention. The flow of illicit SALW can increase the intensity and duration of conflicts and has deteriorated the security situation, for example in Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo but also South Sudan.
The past decade saw 85,148 terrorist attacks involving SALW, responsible for 193,172 fatalities worldwide. What is even more worrying is that over the past decade there has been a strong upward trend in terrorist attacks involving SALW as well as in the number of fatalities resulting from such attacks. While the rise in terrorist violence in Syria and Iraq has contributed to this global increase, similar patterns have emerged on other regional scenes, including in West Africa the Horn of Africa, North Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. The UN Security Council has repeatedly recognised the need to prevent terrorists from acquiring SALW and acknowledges that terrorists can benefit from organised crime, in particular the trafficking of SALW.
Together with Project CRAAFT, ICCT has conducted this research project about Small Arms and Light Weapons. Project CRAAFT is an academic research and community-building initiative designed to build stronger, more coordinated counter-terrorist financing (CTF) capacity across the EU and in its neighbourhood. The project engages with authorities and private entities in order to promote cross-border connectivity and targeted research. More information on Project Craaft can be accessed here.
About the project
Together with Project CRAAFT, ICCT has conducted extensive research into SALW as a source of finance for terrorist organisations in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. ICCT produced numerous reports distilling its research findings, and held two interactive webinars on the main insights. As summarised in these and the "Cashing in on Guns" report, it is clear that SALW act not only as trafficked commodity, but also as tools of coercion, income-generating instruments, means of controlling a territory, and mechanisms to be used for propaganda purposes. ICCT continues to produce analytical reports on unfolding situations affected by the proliferation of SALW, and will continue to elaborate its findings.