In 1999, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), which groups Allies and partner countries, established the Ad Hoc Working Group on SALW (AHWG SALW). Originally, this Working Group focused only on issues related to the impact of the proliferation of SALW on Alliance’s peacekeeping operations.
In April 2004, the Working Group’s mandate was broadened to include mine action issues (therefore becoming the AHWG SALW/MA). It is one of the few forums in the world that meets on a regular basis (quarterly) to address these specific issues. The objective of the Working Group is to contribute to international efforts to reduce the impact of anti-personnel landmines, as well as 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 (EU), the NATO Support Agency (NSPA), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This exchange of information helps to improve coordination with donor countries and implementing organisations, with the aim of increasing effectiveness and avoiding duplication of work. The information is consolidated into the Project Information Matrix, a web-based information-sharing platform, which is regularly updated by the members of the AHWG SALW/MA;
- inviting speakers from non-governmental organisations (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.
NATO's International Staff (IS) functions as the Working Group’s executive agent and implements the annual work programmes of the AHWG SALW/MA and organises its quarterly meetings.
NATO conducts two courses related to SALW and/or mine action that are usually held at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany. The first is the “SALW and Mine Action Orientation Course”. Aimed at mid-level management personnel, it provides students with an overview of the most significant political, practical and regulatory issues needed to deal with SALW, conventional ammunition and mine action from a national, regional or global perspective. It includes cross-cutting issues, such as gender mainstreaming that will affect the various facets of issues related to SALW and mine action. The first iteration is currently scheduled for the first half of 2014. A second, more technical course entitled “SALW Implementation Course”, focuses on the practical and technical elements relevant for conducting site assessment visits, such as the development of appropriate standard operating procedures. Both courses are open to military and civilian personnel from EAPC countries.
NATO support to UN 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 (known as the 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”. The NATO Ad Hoc Working Group supports the implementation of the PoA through its activities and will continue to support major global events of this nature.
On 1 August 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) entered into force and became a legally binding instrument. The 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 NATO Working Group provides an additional forum for the discussion and facilitation of its implementation.
On 2 April 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted the landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), regulating the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. The treaty aims to foster peace and security by interrupting the destabilising flow of arms to conflict regions. NATO supports the implementation of the ATT in particular through the activities of the Working Group on SALW and Mine Action and constitutes an additional forum for discussion and information-sharing on the issue.