Small Arms

The ready availability of small arms and light weapons facilitates the use of children as combatants and results in death, injuries, and maiming of girls and boys.

Rise in child recruitment

The shift from inter-state to civil wars, the increasing number of armed groups, and the easy availability of small arms contributed to an increased number of children being recruited and used in the past 50 years. The lightweight automatic Kalashnikov (AK-47) has become the most used arm in the world, including by hundreds of thousands of children. Any strategy to counter the recruitment of children must therefore contain initiatives to better control arms that fuel conflicts.

There is a clear link between weapons and the notion of power that contributes to shaping the identity of a child soldier. When describing their experience, many child soldiers talk about the strength they felt when they carried a gun. Although some former child soldiers adjust quickly to their new life, many find it difficult to put down their weapons and become civilians.

Impact on intensity and duration of conflict

The poorly regulated and often illicit trade of small arms and light weapons has also an impact on the intensity and duration of armed conflicts and on children, undermines peace processes, and hinders the provision of humanitarian assistance. Moreover, small arms and light weapons are responsible for the majority of conflict-related deaths.

Towards an Arms Trade Treaty

Governments are responsible for controlling the transfer of arms to conflict zones. As of today, the international arms trade remains poorly regulated but the General Assembly will be convening a Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2012 to elaborate a legally binding instrument on international standards for the transfer of conventional arms – an initiative supported by the Special Representative.