Illicit Small Arms in the Pacific: Cause for Concern?
In 2014, ACMC commissioned research through R.J.Networking Pty Ltd on ‘Illicit Small Arms in the Pacific: Cause for Concern?’.
The objective of this project was to undertake research into small arms and light weapons in the Pacific with a particular focus on illicit weapons. The research focused on Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji, as examples of three different small arms dynamics: criminality, post-conflict and post-coup.
The project was based around five themes:
a. the dynamics of illicit small arms movements;
b. weapons numbers;
c. weapons types;
d. the main drivers of demand, and
e. what might be the most effective ways of returning loose and illicit weapons to state control.
The research identified that, with the exception of Papua New Guinea, the number of illicit small arms likely to be in circulation in the western Pacific island countries is not particularly large or widespread. The project conducted a strategic assessment, rather than a stocktake, of the illicit small arms in the western Pacific island region with a focus on Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea (excluding Bougainville). Many illicit small arms – firearms essentially – are sourced from inside the country they are used in, and recycled within it. There are also trends with new weapons entering the region, but these are mostly imported by, or with the knowledge or approval of, the national governments. That makes illicit small arms in the western Pacific island countries less of a transnational problem, and more one for national governments.
Conclusions that can be drawn from the research are that the hallmarks of the region are overt demand and supply in Papua New Guinea, reduced and low demand in Solomon Islands and Fiji, and internal supply, including the skills to build home-made firearms.
While this report is essentially a good news story, with the exception of Papua New Guinea, there are trends in the western Pacific that should be monitored and where possible influenced. These are in exploiting legislative weaknesses allowing loopholes for brokering, in new technologies, in new money and activities that could develop a firearms component, and the increase in crime, private security and extraction companies, again, especially in Papua New Guinea.