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United Nations Firearms Protocol Enters into Force

On 3 July, 90 days after the date of deposit of its fortieth instrument of ratification, the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Firearms Protocol), entered into force.

The Firearms Protocol was adopted in May 2001 by General Assembly resolution 55/255, as the third supplementary Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which entered into force in September 2003. The other two Protocols supplementing the Convention are: the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, in force since December 2003; and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, in force since January 2004.

The objective of the Firearms Protocol, which is the first legally binding instrument on small arms adopted at the global level, is to promote, facilitate and strengthen cooperation among States in preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.

By ratifying the Firearms Protocol, States make a commitment to adopt a series of crime control measures and implement in their domestic legislation three sets of provisions: the first set of provisions establishing criminal offences related to illegal manufacturing of or trafficking in firearms on the basis of the Protocol requirements and definitions; the second set of provisions setting up a system of government authorizations or licensing, to ensure legitimate manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms; and the third set relating to the marking and tracing of firearms.

So far, the Protocol, signed by 52 Member States, has received the following 42 ratifications: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, Estonia, Grenada, Guatemala, Jamaica, Kenya, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Panama, Peru, Poland, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda and Zambia.

The entry into force of the Firearms Protocol enables its consideration as an additional item in the agenda of the second session of the implementation mechanism of the Convention and its Protocols, the Conference of the Parties, to be held in Vienna, Austria, from 10 to 21 October 2005. It therefore offers the opportunity to further streamline the efforts of the international community to tackle the threats posed by firearms by regularly reviewing the implementation of the provisions of the Protocol, assessing related difficulties and paving the way to the provision of technical assistance necessary to overcome such difficulties.

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