The trafficking of firearms and their use in criminal violence in Europe has received significant attention from researchers and policymakers. Less is known, however, about the illicit proliferation of firearm ammunition and other explosive munitions. Currently, detailed data on illicit munitions in Europe can only be accessed through specialized law enforcement agencies. National seizure statistics often lack the necessary detail for policy-relevant analysis, as do the media reports, which often include incomplete or inaccurate information on the types and calibres of ammunition.
Ammunition diverted from legal to illicit markets is a central concern in small arms control, but its impact is understudied. A new Briefing Paper from the Small Arms Survey and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs explores how authorities can go about better monitoring the role it plays in violent crime.
'The conflict in Ukraine is raising concerns about arms proliferation risks in the country and broader region, present and future. Our previous research on Ukraine provides insight into how these dynamics played out following the 2014–15 conflict in eastern Ukraine...'
'Ukraine has a grenade problem. In recent years, thousands of the inexpensive, easy-to-use weapons have found their way into the hands of criminals and other unauthorized end-users throughout the country. The wayward grenades are part of a broader problem of illicit proliferation of small arms, light weapons, and their ammunition that has plagued Ukraine since Russian-backed separatists launched their uprising in 2014.
As has frequently been observed, ammunition and weapons are inextricably linked; without the former the latter cannot function. The effective regulation and control of the production, transfer, storage and destruction of ammunition is therefore vital to broader efforts to prevent, reduce and combat uncontrolled or illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) holdings and flows.
Co-published with BICC, FAS, GRIP, and SEESAC with support from the German Federal Foreign Office
The Ammunition Tracing Kit is designed to enable rapid, reliable, and responsible reporting of small-calibre ammunition in a variety of circumstances. It provides instructions for reporting on ammunition recovered at crime scenes and on cartridges collected during disarmament or weapons collection programmes; it also supplies guidelines for investigating parties to armed conflict or crime.
The Regional Approach to Stockpile Reduction (RASR) initiative encourages nine affected South-east European governments to develop a pro-active, coordinated, regional approach to secure and destroy excess stockpiles. The RASR initiative's aim is to prevent disastrous explosions and misuse of conventional weapons and munitions.
Making the Rounds: Illicit Ammunition in Ukraine finds that thousands of hand grenades, rockets, mortar rounds, landmines, and tins of firearms cartridges have proliferated throughout Ukraine, including to areas located far from the conflict zone in the east.
Even though states may not intentionally supply materiel to armed groups, a lack of stringent risk assessments on weapons and ammunition exports destined for areas prone to diversion can hamper efforts to curtail the broader illicit arms trade.