Croatia small-arms destruction met the target of 30.000 weapons

Oct 19, 2012

Photo: UN Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Croatia Louisa Vinton and Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Evelin Tonković are getting ready to thorw the first weapon in the fire (INIA HERENCIC)

20 years of Croatia's membership in UN commemorated with 20th weapons destruction 

With the final piece thrown in the fire at the 20th round of weapon's destruction today in the MIV factory in Varaždin, the Ministry of Interior in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) closed the EU funded regional small arms project which envisioned destruction of the total number of 30,000 pieces of small arms and light weapons to be destroyed in Croatia.

The destruction activities were a part of a larger project, the aim of which is to improve safety through collection and elimination of illegal and surplus small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Croatia, implemented jointly by South Eastern and Eastern European Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC), with support of UNDP Croatia, and the Croatian Ministry of Interior. The event was organised as part of a series of events around the UN Day to commemorate the 20th anniversary year of Croatia's membership in the UN. 

In 2007, MUP and UNDP launched a joint campaign „Less Arms, Less Tragedies", which to date resulted in the collection of 68.489 explosive devices, 7.127 pieces of small arms and light weapons, 3.085.276 rounds of ammunition, and 2.415,35 kg of explosives that citizens voluntary surrendered. On average, citizens returned 40 pieces of explosive devices and SALW, almost 1-and-a-half kilogram of explosives and 1.663 rounds of ammunition each day. 

"Development usually involves building things rather than destroying them. But in this case we are proud to celebrate the last in a series of 20 weapons destructions stretching back to an icy day in February 2011, when President Ivo Josipović threw the first rifle into a bin at the Sisak Steel Factory and the contents were melted down in a shower of sparks," said UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Croatia Louisa Vinton. "Globally, small arms kill more than half a million people each year, most of them civilians. These shocking numbers lead us to a simple quotation: every weapon we destroy is a life saved." 

In 2010, the project continued as part of a wider SEESAC project, which also included delivery of protective equipment for Police Bomb Squad, safety improvements of police storage for weapons and explosives MURAT and weapons destruction. The implementation of the EU regional project project was made possible by the financial support of the European Union.

On 11 March 2010, EU Council passed the Decision 2010/179/CFSP to support SEESAC arms control activities in the Western Balkans, within the framework of the EU Strategy to combat the illicit accumulation and trafficking of SALW and their ammunition. Led by this decision, the EU supports SEESAC in assisting government institutions to collect and destroy illegal and surplus SALW in Croatia. 

"In the long term, this action is connected with both a wish to create a safer future where misuse of weapons will be reduced to the smallest possible level, but also with an intention to establish a firmer link between the public and the police," said Deputy Minister of Interior Evelin Tonković. "At the same time, it is a clear message to the Croatian but also European public that the Ministry of Interior responsibly and thorougly complies with its national and european standards and commitments." 

Future joint Arms control activities between MUP and UNDP through 2012 and 2013 will include continuation of awareness raising campaigns "Less Weapons Less Tragedies" and support in weapons destruction, crime and violence prevention. 

Worldwide, estimates say that at least two million people—but probably many more—are living with firearm injuries sustained in non-conflict settings over the past decade. There are no accurate figures for the number of small arms and light weapons that are currently in global circulation. Sources estimate the total to be at least 875 million. The majority of small arms - generally the only category of weapons not falling under Government monopoly of possession and use - are in private hands. Small arms are responsible for almost 500 000 deaths a year, 300 000 of which occur in armed conflicts. Of the 49 major conflicts in the 1990s, 47 were conducted with small arms and light weapons as the major weapons. 

"No one can say for sure how many small arms and light weapons are currently in circulation globally, but rough estimates translate into one gun for every eight people," concluded Vinton. "As the UN Secretary-General has said, "the world is over-armed but peace is under-funded."