Week of Action Against Small Arms

Tasneem Jamal

July 1-10, 2004

More than 40 countries participated in the 2004 Week of Action Against Small Arms the largest annual coordinated gun violence prevention event in the world. A wide-range of civil society events were organized to draw attention to the human suffering caused by the proliferation and misuse of small arms, and with calls on governments to enact policies that put their citizens’ security first. Launched in 2001, the Week of Action is coordinated by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), a global network of over 500 organizations working on small arms related issues.

In Canada, Project Ploughshares hosted a roundtable on July 7th, which brought together civil society groups and government officials from Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Colombia to consider common hemispheric principles to more effectively control the transfer of small arms throughout North, Latin, South America, and the Caribbean. The meeting was part of a larger project involving similar consultations in other sub-regions of the Western Hemisphere, all focused on the pursuit of common policies to further control the international arms trade.

During the week, Project Ploughshares also released two new studies:

Guns or Growth?: Assessing the impact of arms sales on sustainable development was produced by Oxfam Great Britain with research and writing support from Project Ploughshares in Canada and Saferworld in the UK. The report illustrates how governments can assess the impact of arms sales on poverty and concludes that governments must agree to stricter controls on arms transfers in order to safeguard sustainable development and human rights.

Reducing the Demand for Small Arms and Light Weapons: Priorities for the International Community (Ploughshares Working Paper 04-2) argues that both strengthened and effective controls over the supply (trade) of small arms and more focused attention on those factors – social, economic, and political – that lead to increased demand for small arms are needed if the devastating effects of these weapons are to be curbed.

Other countries taking part in the 2004 Week of Action include: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, India, Kenya, Paraguay, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, Uganda, and many others. Events so far have included: gun destruction events, public marches, policy
forums, film screenings, photo exhibitions, school visits including poster and essay competitions, and the transformation of guns into sculpture.

With 639 million small arms in the world, or one for every ten people, these weapons fuel human rights violations, underdevelopment, armed conflict and crime around the world. Despite the hundreds of thousands killed with arms each year, arms remain a largely unregulated global business. Events during the Week of Action also drew public attention to the international ‘Control Arms’ campaign. Project Ploughshares serves as the Canadian contact for the campaign, which is sponsored internationally by Amnesty International, Oxfam International and IANSA and seeks to increase controls over the international arms trade and encouraging people to show their support by signing the ‘Million Faces Petition’.

This week’s activities are part of Project Ploughshares’ long-term programme to address the problem of small arms. Working with partners in the South, as well as in Canada, we advocate for national, regional and international instruments for effective arms control, and other measures to mitigate the devastating effects of small arms.

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