Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) programming refers to efforts to control the proliferation of small arms and ammunition, including everything from handguns to fully automatic weapons. As there are a variety of sizes of these weapons, small weapons are broadly classified as weapons that can be carried and operated by no more than three persons without the use of a vehicle.
In the UN system, the Office of the Disarmament Affairs (ODA) has the primary mandate in supporting normative frameworks for arms control as well as organizational support, dialogue and confidence building. In Africa, ODA established a regional office called the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament (UNREC). UNREC is the primary partner with the African Union (AU) on SALW.
The UN, the AU and the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) each have several legal instruments on SALW. At the sub-regional level, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) regions have SALW Conventions, and the Eastern African region has the Nairobi Protocol with a specialized secretariat called the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA) that actively supports Member States to implement the protocol. Northern Africa does not yet have a binding instrument, although the Khartoum Declaration and its specialized agency, the Sub-Regional Arms Control Mechanism (SARCOM), is working with the Community of Sahel–Saharan States (CEN-SAD) on a Code of Conduct on SALW.
On a continental level, the AU Assembly adopted the 2013 AU Strategy on the Control of Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons, as well as a corresponding Action Plan. This plan aims to coordinate, harmonize and strengthen the sub-regional arrangements by designating national focal points and establishing a Steering Committee on SALW convened by the AUC and composed of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). This Committee meets twice a year to coordinate and support SALW initiatives on the continent.
UNOAU supports the work of the AU in SALW and ensures coordination with UNREC and ODA. Although the AU SALW program does not have a programme document as such, there are a number of initiatives ongoing which the UN is supporting. These include the convening of a Ministerial-level meeting on Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM), supported by the G7 and AU, to better coordinate efforts among the Sahel states; support to national governments to establish national small arms commissions; lobbying to ratify international instruments such as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); and support to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) which aims to prevent the movement and production of weapons of mass destruction.
UNOAU also works to create synergies between the work of the SALW program and that of the AU and UN Mine Action and Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs.