2017–2020 strategy: Switzerland continues fight against illicit trade in and misuse of small arms and light weapons

Press release, 23.06.2017

Every year, more than half a million people worldwide suffer a violent death. No other weapons category causes more violent deaths than small arms. Despite international efforts – in which Switzerland plays an active role – these weapons continue to pose a threat to peace, security and development in many parts of the world. Switzerland has therefore defined the objectives and priorities for its commitment in this area for the period 2017–2020. It will continue to make a concrete contribution at the political and operational levels to protection from armed violence.

A congolese soldier counts the numerous weapons on  the floor.
A Congolese soldier compiles an inventory in an arms and ammunition storage site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. © Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

The updated strategy demonstrates Switzerland’s renewed commitment to a world in which people no longer suffer from the negative consequences of the illicit trade in and misuse of small arms and light weapons, and in which peace, security and sustainable economic and social development are possible.

The international community's willingness to tackle the problem has been clearly demonstrated: through the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty in December 2014, the ongoing implementation of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and related regional instruments, and the adoption of a specific objective to reduce illicit arms flows under the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. In concrete terms, since the year 2000 more than 670,000 small arms and more than 55,000 tonnes of conventional ammunition have been destroyed as part of the regional assistance mechanisms of the OSCE and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and safety improved at over 100 arms and ammunition storage sites. On the African continent, two-thirds of African countries have set up since 2012 a national small arms commission for policymaking, research and monitoring progress in the fight against the illegal trade in small arms.

Despite these successes, many challenges still remain. This can be mainly put down to shortfalls in capacity for effective and universal implementation of the instruments, the illegal production of small arms and technological developments, inconsistent marking of weapons and a lack of information exchange. Added to this is the misuse of these weapons by non-state actors and the fueling of conflicts, violent extremism, terrorism and organised crime through weapons obtained from illicit trade. A further challenge lies in the use of small arms’ components and ammunition for improvised explosive devices, especially in densely populated areas and cities.

With this in mind, Switzerland has set out its strategy for continued engagement in the international fight against illicit trade in and misuse of small arms for the period 2017–2020. Its objectives are the effective and comprehensive implementation and universal application of the multilateral conventions, enhanced human security through the reduction and prevention of armed violence, and full ownership by all states. To ensure a holistic and coherent approach, the following five departments will work closely together to implement the strategy: the FDFA, the FDJP, the DDPS, the FDF and the EAER. In the period 2017–2020, Switzerland will spend around CHF 5 million per year on the fight against the proliferation of small arms. In cooperation with international and regional partners, it will support concrete projects and initiatives, in particular on capacity building, it will second civilian and military experts to ensure sustainable impact on the ground and it will help to shape policy at the multilateral level.

This is the third strategy on small arms proliferation since 2008, and builds on the tried and tested approaches of previous commitments, at the same time adapting the focus and activities to new challenges and promoting synergies with related areas. The strategy is an expression of Switzerland’s conviction that the international fight against small arms proliferation remains central to its humanitarian, peace, development, human rights and security policy commitments and will be key to implementing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

Further information:

Switzerland’s strategy 2017-2020

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47
E-Mail: info@eda.admin.ch


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs