Free «Scratching the Surface of a Global Scourge» Essay Sample

The UN members adopted an action plan on small arms on the Millennium Summit in 2000. Consequently, a Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (henceforth referred to as the PoA) was ratified in 2001. In Scratching the Surface of a Global Scourge: the First Five Years of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms, Mc Carthy summarized on the main political outcomes of the PoA and difficulties of its implementation. The author claimed that, though the political support of the act was strong, the PoA was not largely implemented. Besides, the program’s impact on the issue was arguable.

At first, the political success of the act resulted in involving of a number of “NGOs, international organizations, and research institutes” (6) into the action plan. However, a number of the UN member states did not report on its implementation or did not succeed in the program’s goals. Therefore, the UN agencies took active steps in order to help the states implementing the program’s provisions (8). The Transfer Controls Initiative concluded that the taken efforts were insufficient and “the need of action … with a commitment to undertake further work” should be recognized so that to “improve the effectiveness of transfer controls.”  The Control Arms campaign recognized the necessity of pressure “on governments to implement strict controls on possession and transfer of all arms.” (9)

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Besides, the main findings on the program results helped to find efficient ways of the issue solution. Thus, as the majority of illicit weapons once was legal, the states that better control the legal weapons might decrease the number of illicit weapons considerably (10). However, only 50 states succeeded in implementing the appropriate provisions into their legislation. Consequently, the UN General Assembly adopted a “draft instrument on tracing illicit small arms trade”. Though the document provided feasible measures, its non-obligatory regime and non-inclusion of “ammunition … curtailed the effectiveness.” Moreover, the majority of states did not implement the anti-brokering of illicit weapons measures which would suppress the illegal arms market substantially (11).

Finally, the factual range of impact of the program implementation remained unknown in 2006. For example, the Red Book stated that “the PoA had … a marginal impact on curbing the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons” (12). The Red Cross reported that it remained unclear whether the PoA “saved lives on the ground or led to an overall reduction in the availability of illicit arms”. Therefore, Mc Carthy concluded that within five years from adoption of the PoA, it “only scratched … the illicit small arms trade.”


Though the PoA initiative gained a broad political support of the member states, it was not clear whether it had any substantial impact on the illicit trade of small arms issue. On the one hand, many states did not implement efficient measures to cope with the problem. On the other hand, the program monitoring did not reveal considerable achievements.


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