20 years of UN Firearms Protocol and Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) shed light on way forward
20 years of UN Firearms Protocol and Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) shed light on way forward

Vienna (Austria), 9 August 2021 – As 2021 marks the 20th Anniversary of the UN Firearms Protocol and the Programme of Action (PoA) on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), UNODC, jointly with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), recently held a high-level side event on the margins of the 7th Biennial Meeting of States on the PoA  (BMS7).

With a focus on the continued importance of the two instruments and their complementarity in today’s evolving scene of small arms and light weapons, the virtual event welcomed over 120 participants from around the world. A panel of experts took stock of previous successes and challenges in the area of small arms and provided key takeaways for the way forward in the framework of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly pinpointed the importance of the Firearms Protocol as “the only international instrument requiring States to criminalize the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition.” She also stressed the importance of UNODC’s Global Firearms Programme (GFP) as the custodian of the Firearms Protocol and its role to support Member States in implementing this instrument, in addition to guidance in terms of legislation, criminal justice responses, and marking, among others. Indeed, in the last decade, the Programme has seen great success, training over 2,700 criminal justice practitioners from Africa and the Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

The event’s co-host, ODA Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Thomas Markram, meanwhile referred to the complementarity of the two instruments, both in nature and character, and explained how they represent the “architecture of efforts” to address the nefarious consequences of the most commonly used weapons globally. Mr. Markram shared his perspective on the progress States have made to date, mentioning the vital role played by global, regional, sub-regional actors, including civil society organizations, academia experts, UN entities, and other international organizations, flagging that “arms control is not just an affair of the military and the security institutions.” While efforts have led to progress, there remains a necessity for continued commitment by States and stakeholders to implement small arms control measures overarchingly.

Experts’ discussions focused on three areas, featuring practitioners who shared their experiences with small arms control measures within the context of the two instruments: key achievements over the past 20 years in the fight against illicit small arms trafficking; key remaining challenges in countering their illicit trafficking; and linkages with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the important role of women, youth, and civil society.

The Chair of the 8th Meeting of the Working Group on Firearms, Amb. Luis Javier Campuzano, spoke on upcoming challenges in countering the illicit trafficking of small arms, expressly the growing use of 3D printing for weapons manufacturing and how that brings about novel challenges for tracing and marking firearms. Mr. Campuzano also raised the alarm on the speedy upsurge of cryptocurrencies as a favored resource of organized criminal groups worldwide, and stressed the importance of recognizing firearms as the most significant enablers of crime. Finally, he recommended a gendered approach to all policies, analyses, and actions relating to the issue of firearms.

Munich condemned by Bavarian Admin Court for discriminating a member of Scientology
Munich condemned by Bavarian Admin Court for discriminating a member of Scientology
The City is now obliged to grant an eBike to a member of this Church.

The written judgment of the Bavarian State Administrative Court of Appeal (file no.  4 B 20.3008) in the case of a Munich Scientologist against the city of Munich is now available. The case dealt with the city E-Mobile Funding Directive, issued for the purpose of environmental protection, and the city´s refusal to provide a grant for the purchase of an E-Bike to the plaintiff, solely by reason of her adherence to Scientology.

The Bavarian State Admin Court condemned the city practice with unmistakable words as an unjustified interference in the religious freedom guarantee of Art. 4 of the German Constitution and as a violation of Art. 3 of the Constitution which prohibits unequal treatment before the law. The court stated:

The exclusion of applicants, who feel bound by the Scientology teachings, from the circle of recipients of grants [for an E-Bike] also constitutes a violation of fundamental rights in a multiple way. It is incompatible with the freedom of religion or philosophy and does not satisfy the equal rights requirements of the Constitution.“

Bavarian State Administrative Court, 2021

As the Federal Supreme Admin Court had judged already in 2005, also the Bavarian State Admin Court confirmed that the plaintiff and generally all members of the Church of Scientology can „in any case claim the fundamental right of Art. 4 sect. (1) of the Constitution.“ Art. 4 sect. (1) of the German Constitution guarantees the inviolability of the freedom of belief or the religious and philosophic denomination. By denial of the requested grant, the City of Munich had violated this in a multiple way.  

The city was not allowed to generally require the revelation of the religious or philosophical conviction and blanketly exclude Scientologists from its funding program for E-Bikes. The court found Measures from public authorities that are aimfully directed against the practice of a freedom right protected by Art. 4 sect. (1) of the Constitution, at any rate constitute indirect interferences with a fundamental right. These prerequisites are fulfilled in the case of the exclusion of Scientology adherents from the funding program of the defendant when connected to their personal belief.“

On the prohibition of unequal treatment practices, the court found that the city´s exclusion practice violates the fundamental equal rights principles of the Constitution. The court stated:Also for reasons of equal treatment, the exclusion of Scientology-members and -adherents from the funding program of the defendant must be considered as illegal. It violates Art. 3 sect. (1) and (3) of the Constitution“, that is to say, it violates the fundamental principle that all people are equal before the law and that they must not be subjected to disadvantages by reason of their belief or religious or philosophical conviction.

The spokesperson of the Church of Scientology of Germany was happy to comment on the judgment:

With the above a German Court for the first time called a spade a spade. We are happy that this discriminatory city practice towards Scientologists was finally „red-carded“ which it had deserved since long. This is a victory for religious freedom for all people who are subject to disadvantages in Germany by reason of their religious belief.“

Last september 2020, Scientology had requested the UN to launch an investigation on Germany for violating religious freedom, and in fact the Special Rapporteur on FORB Ahmed Shaheed, had previously written a letter to the German government inquiring them for such discriminatory practices. While the Scientologists still have some work to do to get their rights respected by German officials, it seems that international exposure and above all, proper abidance to the law and justice system, is paying off.

Photo: Steffen Flor, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

UNODC and Siemens AG strengthen partnership for business integrity
UNODC and Siemens AG strengthen partnership for business integrity

Vienna (Austria), 2 August 2021 – The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Siemens AG signed a funding agreement worth US$ 4 million to strengthen business integrity.

The sum represents the largest single contribution by the private sector to UNODC’s anti-corruption work. It will be dedicated to funding a new UNODC project, called Global Action for Business Integrity, which aims to prevent and fight corruption by strengthening legal frameworks, helping small businesses identify corruption risks, and involving youth, civil society, and academia in developing anti-corruption responses. The scope of the project is global with a focus on seven countries: Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

The Executive Director of UNODC, Ms. Ghada Waly, said: “To recover better from the COVID-19 crisis, businesses will need to recover with integrity. Thanks to the support of Siemens AG, UNODC will be able to help private sector companies build their capacity to play a bigger role in preventing and countering corruption, in line with the political declaration adopted in June by the UN General Assembly at its special session against corruption. I commend Siemens AG for its dedication to collective anti-corruption action, and I urge more companies to follow their lead.”

Sabine Zindera, Vice President, Siemens Legal and Compliance and head of Siemens’ global Collective Action activities and the Siemens Integrity Initiative added: “The fight against corruption is a clear business case for companies. What is more, Siemens has been constantly driving Collective Action over the past decade and has with a commitment of around 120 million US-dollars and 85 projects around the world strongly supported practical implementation on the ground. This is in our view indispensable for achieving lasting change and transforming the everyday into a true level playing field. We are very much looking forward to continuing our long-standing international cooperation with UNODC who is especially through the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) ideally positioned to engage and inspire many partners for practical implementation on the ground.”

The project Global Action for Business Integrity will mobilize stakeholders from the public sector, the private sector, civil society and academia to develop common responses:
• In Brazil, the project will conduct a youth hackathon to identify solutions to improve the dialogue between public sector, private sector and civil society on business integrity.
• In Colombia, the project will target civil society and academia and build their capacity to participate in collective action against corruption.
• In Egypt, the project will implement “On the Job Training” modules on business ethics for senior university students to build a culture of integrity among young professionals.
• In Ethiopia and in Saudi Arabia, the focus of the project is on training small- and medium-sized enterprises on corruption risk assessment.
• In Malaysia, UNODC will assist national authorities in the development and implementation of regulations on the liability of legal persons and beneficial ownership transparency.
• In Uzbekistan, the project will build the capacity of the public sector and civil society organizations in the area of strengthening anti-corruption components in legislation.

The project’s implementation is guided by the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument to prevent corruption and criminalize conducts such as bribery, trading in influence, abuse of functions and various acts of corruption in the private sector. In addition to the initiatives led in the seven focus countries, the project includes a global outreach component designed to identify good practices on business integrity and share them widely through publications and a global webinar series.

The project Global Action for Business Integrity is funded by Siemens AG under the Golden Stretch Funding Round, which builds upon the earlier three funding rounds. Siemens AG will now contribute US$ 4 million to UNODC over the next three years. Since the launch of the Siemens Integrity Initiative in 2009, Siemens AG has contributed over US$ 13.5 million to UNODC, enabling the Office to deliver nine projects in 17 countries.

“Victims´ Voices Lead the Way”: Karly Church
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Karly had just arrived in a new city, she was homeless. She had no family or social support system and battled a serious drug addiction. This is when she met her traffickers. “They took the time to get to know me and my needs in a way no one had before,” explains Karly.

Her traffickers started to take care of her and “made it feel as if this was the best my life had ever been”. “They also told me that they would keep me safe and would never let anyone hurt me again.”

Once the traffickers had Karly’s trust, they forced her to work in the sex trade. “I hated every minute of it,” Karly says, “but as crazy as it sounds, my life still felt better than before.”

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The traffickers targeted her up at a time when she had completely given up on herself and on life.

Karly now works as a crisis intervention counsellor at a regional support service for victims of human trafficking. She also works closely with the anti-human trafficking unit of the local police department and accompanies them to meet with potential victims. “I ensure that the individual gets the power of choice to choose whether to talk to the police or meet with me confidentially without any pressure to make a report to the police.”

Since this approach has been taken, there has been a 93 per cent increase in victims choosing to speak to the police and a 30 per cent increase in formal statements, Karly says.

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Karly supports victims in cooperation with other agencies and organizations to ensure that their basic needs are met once they have left their traffickers. “If you cannot do this, they will go back and when they go back it may become much worse.” Karly says she listens to the unique needs of each survivor.

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Karly is convinced that survivors can share unique knowledge and expertise to assist with developing appropriate programmes and best practices. “I have dedicated my life to bringing awareness to domestic sex trafficking and continue to share my story globally to help educate and support our youth as well as service providers, law enforcement, health care authorities and the broader community,” concludes Karly.

Further Information

endht.org – Campaign website

Farmers the ‘lifeblood of our food systems’, deputy UN chief highlights, ahead of key summit
Farmers the ‘lifeblood of our food systems’, deputy UN chief highlights, ahead of key summit
Farmers, especially women and indigenous people, work tirelessly to put food on our tables. UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed met on Saturday women producers at a farmers’ market in Circo Massimo, Rome, ahead of the Food Systems Pre-Summit taking place next week.
Dozens of stalls were set up in the vicinity of the UN event’s venue, where heads of state and delegates will gather from Monday to discuss ways to transform food systems to tackle hunger, poverty, climate change and inequality.

UN and government officials toured the market to meet with farmers before paying tribute to producers, particularly women, for their central role in food systems.

Farmers are the lifeblood of our food systems”, said Ms. Mohammed. “Understanding their needs and the challenges they face helps ensure that emerging solutions are fit for purpose”, she added.

Unnoticed contributions

The Deputy Secretary General, joined by Agnes Kalibata, the Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit, visited the stalls of women producers. They also addressed the market and welcomed two Food Systems Heroes on stage to share their stories.

The visit aimed to raise awareness of the essential, yet often unnoticed, contribution that women producers make and to highlight the urgent need to support greater resilience against shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Women farmers and ‘agripreneurs’ are often held back through a lack of resources and access to information. Supporting women with the same skills, tools and training is a failsafe way to improve food systems”, said Elizabeth Nsimadala, President of the Pan-African Farmers Organizations (PAFO).

The Food Systems Pre-Summit

The three-day Pre-Summit will begin on Monday, bringing together delegates from more than 100 countries in a hybrid event to deliver the latest evidence-based and scientific approaches from around the world, launch a set of new commitments through coalitions of action and mobilize new financing and partnerships.

The event will bring together youth, farmers, Indigenous Peoples, civil society, researchers, the private sector, policy leaders and ministers of agriculture, environment, health, nutrition and finance, among other key players.

The meeting will set the stage for the culminating global event in September by bringing together diverse actors from around the world to leverage the power of food systems to deliver progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UN Women/Lianne Milton

A mother and her two daughters use logbooks to record what they consume, sell, donate or exchange from their farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Key facts to be addressed at the meeting


  • As many as 811 million people went hungry in 2020, with an estimated 118 million joining the food insecure
  • Around 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030 – 30 million more than had the pandemic not occurred
  • In 2020, around one in five children under five were affected by stunting caused by malnutrition
  • Around three billion people are unable to afford healthy diets

Climate change and biodiversity loss

  • Food systems contribute an estimated one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • Deforestation and climate change means the Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon than it stores
  • Food systems are the greatest driver of biodiversity loss, responsible for up to 80% of losses and around 25% of species under threat of extinction


  • Almost 100 million people found themselves in poverty as a result of the pandemic
  • Global unemployment is expected to reach 205 million in 2022, from 187 million in 2019
  • Shortcomings in food systems account for an estimated $12 trillion in hidden costs

Food loss and waste

  • Around a third of all food produced is lost or wasted every year
  • If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third most emitting nation in the world
  • Reducing food waste would cost an estimated $30 billion but the potential return could be as much as $455 billion
A truck full of coffee instead of opium – UNODC helps farmers in Lao PDR with alternative livelihoods
A truck full of coffee instead of opium – UNODC helps farmers in Lao PDR with alternative livelihoods

23 July 2021 – A man dressed in a purple silk shirt is inspecting a truck about to leave Huapanh, a North Eastern province of Lao PDR. The truck is departing an area infamous for the cultivation of opium poppies, where this illegal crop has been a dominant source of income for generations. For years, UNODC has been working with farmers in the region on finding alternative livelihoods for them.

After a couple of days, the above truck crossed the Friendship Bridge between Lao PDR and Thailand before continuing its journey onto a container ship towards Europe, its final destination. According to the World Drug Report 2021, the truck perfectly fits the description of many illicit shipments. Large consignments of illegal goods are increasingly transported by land or water, also in response to COVID-19 related travel restrictions in place in many countries.

Mr. Savaythong Khounsavanh, however, is not worried about what the customs officers might find at the border. He represents the Vanmai Cooperative, a group of 383 farmers who started a journey four years ago that is now represented by a container truck loaded with coffee, the first of many to come. “This is our first-ever coffee export,” he adds, “after all the hard work, it feels really good to come to this stage.”

Customs and police authorities at the Friendship Bridge usually have their hands full to assess which shipments should be allowed to cross. The bridge is a preferred spot for organized crime groups moving drugs from or through Lao PDR into neighbouring Thailand. Located at the centre of one of the biggest drug economies in the world, Lao PDR is not just a major producer of opium but also an important transit country for synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals.

As a result of border closures and increasingly difficult market access for legal products due to COVID-19, “opium-cultivating areas and farmers have become even more vulnerable as the pandemic affected their livelihoods,” said Erlend Audunson Falch from the UNODC office in Lao PDR. Illegal trade channels, however, are less impacted, which could lead to opium becoming the only option for many communities. “That is why successes like this one are so important,” Mr. Erlend continued, “The Vanmai farmers are really leading by example.”

“This is a big day for us,” Mr. Savaythong explained. “We have been working for this since we planted our first coffee seedlings four years ago.” “When we started, we were very worried that we would have no buyer for our coffee,” continues Mr. Savahtyong continued, “but now I am starting to believe that this is a real future for us.”

With the support of UNODC, the Vanmai farmers have been working hard since 2016 to establish coffee as a real income alternative to opium. In 2020, they established their own cooperative and earlier this year, they signed a long-term commercial partnership agreement with the French coffee roaster Malongo. Over the last few months, the farmers have worked relentlessly to prepare the coffee for their first-ever export.