NATO has two very effective mechanisms that address both the issue of SALW, as well as mine action.
The Ad Hoc Working Group on SALW and Mine Action
In 1999, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) established the Ad Hoc Working Group on SALW. Originally, the Working Group focused only on issues concerning the impact of the proliferation of SALW on Alliance joint peacekeeping operations. In April 2004, the Working Group’s mandate was broadened to include mine action issues. It is one of the few forums in the world that meets on a regular basis to address these specific issues. The objective of the Working Group is to contribute to international efforts to decrease the impact of anti-personal land mines and combat the threats caused by the illicit trade of SALW.
An annual work programme
The Working Group organises its work around a work programme that it adopts annually. In practice, it uses a four-pronged approach to accomplish its work by:
- providing a forum in which EAPC members and certain implementing organisations can share information on SALW and ammunition projects they are conducting. These organisations include the European Union, the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the South Eastern and East European Clearing House for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons and the United Nations Development Programme. This exchange of information helps to improve coordination with other donor countries and implementing organisations, with the aim of increasing cooperation and avoiding duplication. The information is then consolidated into the Project Information Matrix (PIM), which is updated on a bi-annual basis and provides a useful tool since it gives an overview of the types of projects being conducted and where. The first revision of the PIM was developed during the Structured Information Exchange (SIE) held in September 2011. Participants have since expressed an interest in holding future SIEs approximately every eighteen months.;
- inviting speakers from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), regional and international organisations, and research institutes to share their views and recent research with delegations;
- facilitating the management and creation of the Trust Fund projects. This includes updating delegations on the status of Trust Fund projects and highlighting where more effort or volunteer donations are needed;
- organising regular international workshops, seminars and conferences on topics particularly pertinent to SALW and mine action.
The Working Group’s executive agent
NATO's International Staff (IS) functions as the Working Group’s executive agent. As such, the IS implements the annual work programmes and organises its meetings, usually held every eight weeks.
Training on SALW-related issues
NATO conducts two courses related to SALW and/or mine action that are usually held at the NATO School in Oberammergau (NSO), Germany The first is entitled the SALW and Mine Action Course. It is a new course which aims to provide students with an overview of the most significant political, practical and regulatory issues that will be encountered when dealing with the topics of SALW, conventional ammunition and mine action from a national, regional or global perspective. These are cross cutting issues involving many different national ministries (justice, education, defence, trade etc.) in different aspects of these subjects. The course is open to all Allied and partner countries, as well as officials working in relevant regional and international organisations, and NGOs. The first iteration is currently scheduled for January 2013.
The second course, entitled the SALW Implementation Course, focuses on aspects related to the implementation of site assessment visits (SAVs). It focuses on the more practical and technical elements that are relevant for conducting these types of visits, such as the development of appropriate standard operating procedures and the development of SAV reports etc. The SALW Implementation Course is currently open to military and civilian personnel from EAPC member countries.
The UN Programme of Action and other global efforts
The UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (PoA) was adopted in July 2001 by nearly 150 countries, including all NATO member countries. It consists of measures at the national, regional and global levels, in the areas of legislation, destruction of weapons that were confiscated, seized, or collected, as well as international cooperation and assistance to strengthen the ability of states in identifying and tracing illicit arms and light weapons. Every two years, the UN holds the Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the PoA, otherwise known as the BMS. The activities of the Working Group have fully supported and will continue to support major global events of this nature.
On 1 August 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions became a legally binding instrument when it entered into force. The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) prohibits for its signatories all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of Cluster Munitions. Separate articles in the Convention concern assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas and the destruction of stockpiles. The Working Group is prepared to provide an additional forum for the discussion and facilitation of such assistance.
Other significant topics include the development of an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).. In July of 2012, UN member states gathered in New York to negotiate an arms trade treaty that would establish high common standards for international trade in conventional arms. Despite the efforts put forth by delegations during the four weeks of negotiations, the Conference could not reach agreement on a treaty text. Governments are now considering the next steps to conclude the negotiations in the not-so-distant future. This Treaty is intended to establish common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms. NATO stands ready to support the Arms Trade Treaty process as appropriate. The activities of the Working Group on SALW and Mine Action can help to support the preparations for this treaty and provide an additional forum for discussion and information-sharing on the issue.
NATO/Partnership for Peace Trust Fund mechanism
The end of the Cold War brought improved security overall, but it also left a dangerous legacy of ageing arms, ammunition, anti-personnel mines, missiles, rocket fuel, chemicals and unexploded ordnance. In 1999, NATO established the NATO/PfP Trust Fund mechanism to assist Partners with these legacy problems. Since then, NATO/PfP Trust Fund projects have produced tangible results and, as such, represent the operational dimension of the Working Group’s efforts.
Trust Fund projects focus on the destruction of SALW, ammunition and mines, improving their physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) and also address the consequences of defence reform.
Allies and partners fund and execute these projects through executive agents. Each project has a lead nation(s), which oversees the development of project proposals along with the NATO IS and the executive agent. This ensures a mechanism with a competitive bidding process, transparency in how funds are expended and verifiable project oversight, particularly for projects involving destruction of munitions.
Trust Funds may be initiated by a NATO member or partner country to tackle specific, practical issues linked to the demilitarisation process of a country or to the introduction of defence reform projects. They are funded by voluntary contributions from individual NATO Allies, partner countries, and most recently even NGOs. They are often implemented in cooperation with other international organizations and NGOs.
The first NATO/PfP Trust Fund project was launched in September 2000 in Albania. The project helped dispose of anti-personnel mines and excess stockpiles of arms and munitions. As of the end of 2010, Allies and partners through the Trust Fund projects had destroyed:
- 108 million rounds of small arms ammunition;
- 4.2 million landmines;
- 2 million hand grenades;
- 620,000 pieced of unexploded ordnance (UXO);
- 427,000 SALW;
- 31,000 tonnes of various munitions, including 5,000 tonnes of cluster munitions;
- 9,300 rockets and missiles;
- 2,620 tonnes of chemicals, including rocket fuel oxidiser (mélange), and;
- 1,100 man portable air defence systems (MANPADS)
In addition, some 5,000 former military personnel have received retraining assistance through Trust Fund defence reform projects.
The Trust Fund mechanism is open to countries participating in NATO’s PfP programme, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, as well as countries where NATO is leading a crisis-management operation. For instance, in 2010, NATO successfully completed a Trust Fund project in Afghanistan, achieving its aim of providing the Afghan National Army further means to manage munitions in a safe and efficient way.