UNITED NATIONS, June 18 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday asked for more efforts to address the thorny issue of regulating and controlling small arms.
"Regulating small arms is a unique challenge. It is not simply a question of addressing government stockpiles. Out of some 900 million small arms in the world, three-quarters are in civilian hands -- the majority unlicensed," Guterres said in a message to a review conference on illicit small arms and light weapons.
Controlling and regulating small arms therefore requires action that goes well beyond national security institutions, he said in the message read by his Chef de Cabinet Maria Viotti. It includes providing alternative livelihoods for former combatants, engaging with municipal governments and police, working with civil society, including grassroots organizations and community violence reduction programs, as well as local businesses.
Solutions must be integrated and holistic. Short-term, compartmentalized projects will not keep pace with the seriousness and magnitude of the problem, said the secretary-general.
Every year, over half a million people are killed violently around the world, mostly through small arms fire, he said.
Those pulling the trigger may be soldiers, border guards or police, using their weapons as a last resort, in accordance with the principles of necessity, proportionality and restraint. Some are private security guards or civilians, using a registered firearm for protection or in self-defense. But the huge majority of those who kill with small arms do not fit this description, said the UN chief.
"They may be members of armed groups who are terrorizing people of a country or a whole region with killings and sexual abuse. They could be members of national security forces who are abusing their power. They might be terrorists aiming to destroy lives and sow fear; criminals holding up a grocery store; or gang members killing those who get in the way of a drug deal."
Tragically, many of them are men using an illegally acquired weapon against the women who are their partners. In some countries, more than 60 percent of killings of women are committed with firearms, said the UN chief.
Small arms are often a factor in large-scale human rights abuses and the forced displacement of civilians, he noted.
Small arms control is a prerequisite for stability and conflict prevention, which is critical to achieve the mutually reinforcing goals of sustaining peace and sustainable development.
There are more than 1 billion firearms in the world, 85 percent of which are in civilian hands, according to the latest figures of Small Arms Survey published on Monday.