Integrating the Control of Small Arms with Development Programming: A Joint Project of Project Ploughshares and CIDA

Kenneth Epps

Kenneth Epps

The Ploughshares Monitor Winter 2006 Volume 27 Issue 4

Project Ploughshares has undertaken a joint project with the Policy Branch of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) on the links that connect the control and elimination of small arms and light weapons (SALW) with the creation of safe communities in which development processes can root and flourish. The project draws on a growing body of knowledge and experience on limiting SALW to promote practical, applied CIDA policy and programming that integrates small arms control with sustainable development.

Although armed violence is a global phenomenon, the poor bear the greatest burden. Almost half the countries ranked as “low human development” states by the UN Human Development Index were affected by armed conflict in the past decade (Project Ploughshares 2005). In the favelas and barrios of urban centres, escalating gun violence associated with drug-running and gang warfare kills primarily young, disadvantaged men. Poor women bear the brunt of domestic violence.

The ready availability of small arms and light weapons exacerbates the level, intensity, and duration of conflict and violence. In post-conflict societies, inadequate attention to disarmament too often feeds weapons to neighbouring conflicts or destabilizes a fragile peace by arming criminals. Years after a conflict has ended, weapons still in circulation continue to be misused, with devastating results. Even in states not affected by political conflict, high levels of urban violence sustained by illicit firearms can create casualty figures equivalent to those from war zones.

A circular linkage has emerged between stalled or declining development and armed violence fed by small arms proliferation. In many situations of poverty or limited economic prospects, especially where insecurity or lawlessness also exists, the demand for and use of small arms grow. As weapons become more prevalent, development is violently eroded, leading to a further demand for guns. A vicious cycle develops and the communities, cities, and entire nations that become more insecure from armed conflict and gun violence also become less capable of meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

The international community has begun to respond to the humanitarian crisis generated by the widespread presence of small arms and light weapons, most notably through the UN Programme of Action on small arms adopted in 2001. The Programme of Action recognizes, as do other regional and international processes, the mutually supportive relationship between the control and reduction of SALW and the advancement of development goals. The Declaration of the 2005 World Summit noted the negative impacts of illicit small arms and light weapons on development, peace, security, and human rights. The Millennium Declaration of 2000 called for concerted action to end the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons, as did a recent UN General Assembly resolution on its negative humanitarian and development impact.1

Perhaps most significantly for CIDA, in 2005 the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) agreed that “technical cooperation to control, prevent and/or reduce the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons” should be recognized as Official Development Assistance (ODA).

In pursuing its mandate to “support sustainable development, to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world,” CIDA is challenged by the prevalence and misuse of SALW in many regions where it supports programs. To meet this challenge, CIDA must put in place the policies, tools, and methods needed to reverse the deleterious impact of SALW on sustainable development. It must also seek development initiatives that address root causes of violence and that support conflict prevention and resolution, sustainable post-conflict reconstruction, and crime prevention. In light of Canada’s commitment to a “whole of government” approach to foreign policy – an approach that promotes coherent and coordinated policy across all relevant government departments – CIDA must define its role alongside the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defence and any others that are undertaking SALW initiatives. In sum, CIDA needs to translate the global accumulation of experience and knowledge regarding the control of SALW into practical, applied policy and programming directives.

Project Ploughshares is working with the Policy Branch of CIDA to engage CIDA program staff, as well as other Canadian government department officials and civil society representatives, in a process to develop and implement innovative program ideas. Following research and analysis of relevant policy and practice in Canada and elsewhere, Project Ploughshares has produced briefing materials and hosted information sessions and workshops for CIDA officials. The workshops heard from representatives of Project Ploughshares partners in Trinidad and Tobago and Kenya familiar with the local and subregional realities of small arms and development dynamics.

Surveys of CIDA program staff and of parallel officials in other government departments in Canada and elsewhere (especially in the UK) have informed a discussion of program needs. The project also was the subject of a presentation to a November international workshop of civil society experts in Oslo on “Integrating Small Arms Measures into Development Programmes.”

The widespread damage and suffering arising from small arms availability and misuse require innovative and multi-dimensional responses involving many actors. By addressing the nexus between small arms control and development and working with other agencies, CIDA can help to build safer and stronger communities around the world.



  1. General Assembly Resolution A/RES/60/68, “Addressing the negative humanitarian and development impact of the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation,” expresses concern for “the implications that poverty and underdevelopment may have for the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” and “calls upon States, when considering the issue of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, to explore ways, as appropriate, to more effectively address the humanitarian and development impact of the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation, in particular in conflict or post-conflict situations.”



Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2005. ODA Coverage of Certain Conflict, Peace Building and Security Expenditures (Annex 5 of the DAC directives).

Project Ploughshares. 2005. Armed Conflicts Report.

United Nations General Assembly. 2006. Resolution A/RES/60/68.

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