Managing Land Borders and the Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons

Border controls are an important dimension of the international efforts to combat the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition. Indeed, even if their relevance sometimes seems to be challenged by some changes (such as new technologies and globalization), borders remain the most visible sign of the sovereignty of a State on its territory. Borders management are crucial to a State’s involvement in the protection of its population. The illicit trafficking of SALW across green borders is characterized by specific dynamics which must be taken into account in the actions to prevent it: a strong link between cross-border trafficking of SALW and other transnational crimes, the role of transborder communities and the fact that border areas can become a shelter for criminal groups, rebels or traffickers and finally the “ant trade”. Because these aspects have an impact on the demand in arms, the intensity and the direction of the traffics between neighbouring countries, they deserve particular attention in the efforts to strengthen border monitoring and control at checkpoints. For an effective border management several challenges must be highlighted. First, the flow of illicit SALW must be considered a separate issue when conceiving and organising the management. Second, controls at checkpoints must be optimised by clarifying the role of the agencies involved in border management and their human and technical needs according to realities on the ground. Controls at checkpoints must be reinforced by a careful and coordinated monitoring along the border. Measures also need to be taken upstream: national legislations, identification of the actors involved in trafficking by intelligence services, etc. A fourth issue is corruption which affects the very existence of border management. A stronger cooperation between agencies at intra- and inter-level as well as between populations in border areas and the political and administrative authorities can also contribute to a more effective border management. Finally, technology transfers and training, tailored to the needs of each State also prove of great importance.

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