Research Report

Small Arms in the Pacific

Philip Alpers
Conor Twyford
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2003
Published by: Small Arms Survey
Pages: 169
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep10756
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)

    Pacific nations are no strangers to small arms. During World War II, island states in the region were home to thousands of armed troops, and suffered many bloody conflicts. More recently, small arms have reappeared as vectors of civil conflict and violent crime.

    The region is not afflicted with large-scale arms trafficking, and in that respect is more fortunate than neighbouring countries in Southeast and South Asia. Yet the Pacific experience does demonstrate how deeply even a small number of small arms can damage small communities. Armed conflict and violent crime cause profound social and economic impacts in the region,...

  2. (pp. 3-28)

    The Pacific has yet to be affected by large-scale arms trafficking to the extent experienced by many of its Southeast Asian neighbours. Still, Pacific communities are by no means immune to the effects of small arms-related violence. Small populations, developing economies, and fragile systems of governance make many Pacific states extremely vulnerable to the shock waves generated by armed conflict. Cultures of violence develop quickly and prove hard to unravel. Large and permeable borders, with millions of square kilometres of unpatrolled ocean, can only be partially secured.

    Demand for legal arms in Pacific states varies widely, depending on factors such...

  3. (pp. 29-56)

    In many of the smaller Pacific countries, development processes are fragile. States such as the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, which rank alongside Cambodia and Zimbabwe as two of the ‘least developed’ countries in the world, lack the resources or capacity to deliver basic services such as health and education adequately to their citizens (UNDP, 2003). In contexts such as these, perceived or real levels of inequality, lack of economic opportunity, and long-standing conflicts over resources become intensified, adding to existing social pressures. Factors such as these have contributed to the emergence of armed conflict in each of the...

  4. (pp. 57-80)

    Well-structured, comprehensive firearm legislation, though not sufficient in itself, forms the foundation of effective small arms control, both domestically and regionally. Stringent rules on small arms ownership and use, limits on access to ammunition, careful background checks of licence applicants, and regularly updated firearm registers are just some of the components of such legislation, underpinning national security and sustaining effective law enforcement.

    Like most transnational crime, illicit small arms trafficking thrives on the ability to exploit differences between and inefficiencies in jurisdictions. Countries seeking to combat small arms proliferation thus need to focus not only on improving local and national...

  5. (pp. 81-107)

    Disarmament in Bougainville and the Solomon Islands is critical if peace in either community is to be sustained. Without comprehensive small arms disposal, law and order problems remain difficult to resolve, and the potential for breaches of respective peace agreements lingers.

    No two conflicts are alike; nor are they resolved in exactly the same way. In Bougainville, the conflict was long and its resolution has been complex, involving a wide range of actors. Various earlier attempts at peace, while not successful in themselves, set the stage for a sustainable peace process, characterized by the full engagement of most actors and...

  6. (pp. 108-115)

    Concern about the increasing trade in illegal small arms has sparked a flurry of activity at all levels in recent years, culminating in the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UN Small Arms Conference), held in New York from 9–20 July 2001. While the Conference was beset with contentious debates among states and left a range of issues unaddressed, it produced the first international framework for efforts to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. More than 150 countries reached consensus on a politically binding...

  7. (pp. 117-119)

    The Pacific remains free of large-scale trafficking in small arms, yet has proven most sensitive to their effects. Conflicts in Fiji and the Solomon Islands have shown how even a small number of firearms can facilitate the downfall of a democratically elected government. In Bougainville, an influx of small arms enabled bands of men to terrorise an entire province for nearly a decade.

    Armed conflict has had profound long-term consequences for several communities studied in this report. Disarmament processes in Bougainville and the Solomon Islands deserve to be treated as ‘make-or-break’ measures, with thousands of livelihoods—and lives—potentially in...