Taking stock of action on the illicit small arms trade: Measures to address the diversion of small arms

What are we talking about?

Eighty per cent of respondents to a poll taken during the session think that there is no universally accepted definition nor shared common understanding of diversion. This critical issue will be tackled by a new research project being undertaken by the four organizations represented during the session —Conflict Armament Research, the Small Arms Survey, Stimson Center, and UNIDIR — in the lead up to next year’s seventh conference of states parties to the ATT (CSP7).

When does diversion happen?

Over half of participants in another poll conducted during the session think that conventional arms are at most risk of being diverted ‘from the storage site in a national stockpile.’ Panelists provided diversion cases to show that weapons and ammunition are at risk of diversion at any point in their life cycle — from production to transfer, from storage to destruction. For example, Type 56–2 assault rifles documented in Nigeria had been diverted from a neighboring national stockpile, likely from a shipment originally imported to Cote d’Ivoire prior to 2004. Another example revealed that it can take a mere two months between the export of an anti-tank guided weapon to one state and its seizure from an armed group in a different state.

Poll during Panel 2

Where do we go from here?

Awareness of the different points of possible diversion in the life cycle of arms and ammunition helps inform measures to prevent and mitigate the risk of diversion. Comprehensive risk assessments that link pre-authorization risk export assessment to the physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) of the recipient is one such measure.

  • Chair: Paul Holtom, Small Arms Survey
  • Einas Mohammed, UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) (panel presentation available here)
  • Rob Perkins, Conflict Armament Research (panel presentation available here)
  • Rachel Stohl, Stimson Center (panel presentation available here)



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small arms survey

Providing expertise on all aspects of small arms and armed violence.