NewsWestern Balkans SALW Control Roadmap Multi-Partner Trust Fund launches new projects for a safer region

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For the fifth consecutive year, the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap Multi-Partner Trust Fund and its donors and partners remain committed to and engaged in supporting the implementation of the Roadmap for SALW Control in the Western Balkans.

Following a Call for Proposals issued in March 2023, the Fund’s Steering Committee expanded the Fund’s scope of support to the region by approving funding for eight (8) new projects in support of the Roadmap with a value of $10.7 million. The new projects were approved by the Steering Committee in October 2023 and will be rolled out across the Western Balkans jurisdictions starting from November 2023 for a two-year period.

The projects will be implemented by two eligible UN organizations – the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – in close collaboration with local authorities. These will address a broad range of matters that pave the way towards a sustainable solution to arms control and the prevention of arms-related crime. 

At the regional level, the Steering Committee approved a project that will be implemented by UNODC Global Firearms Programme, representing a comprehensive effort to strengthen the criminal justice system's response to organized crime and illicit firearms trafficking in the region. By addressing gaps in legislation, enhancing the abilities of criminal justice practitioners, and harmonizing criminal legislation approaches across the region for better operational exchange, the project aims to create a more effective and unified approach to counter the pressing issues.

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In Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo*, the newly approved projects that are to be implemented by UNDP offices in respective jurisdictions place a focus on strengthening the operational and technical capacities of relevant law enforcement institutions and reducing gaps in dealing with illicit arms detection and trafficking. The projects entail the improvement of inter-institutional collaboration as well as promoting and developing cross-border cooperation towards SALW control. The projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo have added an emphasis on raising awareness, engaging communities, civil society, women and youth in the prevention of firearms misuse. The project in Kosovo will also advance handling, security and storage related to firearms, ammunition and explosives (FAE).

The projects that are to be implemented by UNDP in Montenegro, Serbia, and North Macedonia will further improve the crime scene investigation and forensic capacities in the jurisdictions, thus advancing the investigation and criminal proceeding systems. The focus will be on upgrading and standardizing work processes in accordance with the policy and recommendations of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) and preparing for accreditation in line with international standards. The projects in Montenegro and North Macedonia will also strive to address sexual and gender-based violence linked to firearms, while the project in Serbia will further advance SALW-control capacities and handling of firearms by police in light of significantly increased workload following the tragic mass shootings from May 2023 in Serbia.

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Finally, there is another project that will be implemented by UNDP in Serbia, aimed at reducing the risk of firearms misuse for violence and suicide. This project will foster collaboration and knowledge exchange among relevant stakeholders and enhance community response to firearms-related crises and trauma. It will facilitate gender-responsive and evidence-based policy-making and improve the detection of potential firearms misuse for domestic violence and suicides, ensuring comprehensive prevention support. To this end, best practice sharing will be enabled, among professionals, media and academia on effective mechanisms for preventing firearms-related incidents.

Across projects, there is a cross-cutting effort to modernize infrastructure and resources to counter illicit trafficking and FAE misuse, both physical and digital, upgrade data analysis and management, and improve operational exchange within a jurisdiction or across borders. A strong focus on local ownership and alignment with the gaps and priorities identified by local authorities is evidenced through the applied consultative process, including through the input by SALW commission representatives from each jurisdiction in the Steering Committee decision-making on projects. All projects build upon and consolidate the progress made from the previously approved projects, and will scale up or multiply the results achieved towards a safer region.

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The Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap Multi-Partner Trust Fund was established by the UN in March 2019 to ensure a donor- and jurisdiction-coordinated approach in support to Roadmap implementation. The work of the Trust Fund is made possible thanks to the generous contributions by Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, and Norway, as well as the overall support of the European Union. By 2023, the Fund’s Steering Committee approved 16 projects with a value of $14.6 million, which support the Western Balkans jurisdictions to achieve Roadmap Goals. With the newly approved projects, the portfolio has expanded to 24 projects with a cumulative value of $25.4 million.  

Through Roadmap support, the Trust Fund contributes to the achievement of SDG 16 to promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies as illicit arms flows are amongst the factors that give rise to violence, insecurity, and injustice. It also contributes to SDG 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, specifically focusing on eliminating violence against all women and girls.

* References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of the Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

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