In order to increase security and reduce the threat of illicit trafficking of SALW and their ammunition SEESAC implemented four collection and awareness raising campaigns in South East Europe from 2013 - 2016. The goal of the campaigns was to facilitate the collection of illegal and unwanted weapons, explosive devices, ordinances and associated ammunition held by the population and to raise awareness about the dangers posed by SALW as well to inform the public about the ways to legalize and surrender illegal weapons.
These activities built on the knowledge and experience gained from the previous collection and awareness raising campaigns SEESAC supported, and which led to the collection of 589 pieces of illicit automatic weapons, 16,368 pieces of illicit fragmentation weapons, 1,164 pieces of legal weapons, 818,153 pieces of ammunition and 620kg of explosive in Croatia and establishment of an online platform for the assessment of public perceptions in Serbia. (See SEESAC's previous work on SALW Collection and Awareness Raising)
The “Don’t Shoot but Love – Stop the Illicit use of Weapons before is too Late” campaign was launched on November 15 2016 to assist Albanian government in raising awareness on the danger of illegal possession and illegal use of firearms. It lasted until mid-December 2016. It was funded by the European Union and was implemented by the Ministry of Interior of Albania in partnership with SEESAC.
The campaign was informed by a public opinion survey conducted for SEESAC by IPSOS polling agency which showed that over 60% of Albanian citizens are opposed to firearms possession under any circumstance, and 78% believe that the police is the main contributor of security in the country.
The main objective of the campaign “Don’t Shoot but Love” was to increase public safety by raising awareness among citizens on the dangers of illegal possession and misuse of firearms. A specific focus was placed on raising awareness about firearms misuse in the context of domestic violence. The campaign will target both the public and law enforcement institutions.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The project supported the “Be on the Right Side – Choose Life without Weapons” campaign conducted during the one-year-long amnesty period which was in force through the country between 01/01/2014 and 31/12/2014, and which provided an opportunity for citizens to surrender weapons held illegally, without legal repercussions, as well as to register those weapons whose types are admissible by law.
The campaign is designed to interact with, as many citizens as possible throughout the country, via radio and television interviews, public space advocacy events, and one-on-one interaction.
The Ministry of the Interior of Montenegro, together with SEESAC, UNDP Montenegro, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Montenegro, and the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT), launched an awareness raising campaign “Respect Life, Surrender Weapons” (Poštuj život, vrati oružje) on 24 June 2015.
The year-long campaign aimed to promote the ongoing SALW legalization and surrender of illicit weapons effort, as well as to inform the public of the risk associated with firearms in society. The campaign was supported by the European Union (EU), with funds secured through the EU Council Decision 2013/730/CFSP in support of SEESAC disarmament and arms control activities in South East Europe.
While the legalization period will end in March 2017, the amnesty for the surrender of illegally held weapons will last for the duration of the law.
From the beginning of the campaign to the end of 2015, 756 pcs of SALW, 138 pcs of mines and explosive devices, and 10,658 pieces of ammunition have been surrendered.
THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA
The “Let’s Make Moldova Safer” campaign took place from 2 November until middle of December 2016, with funding from the European Union and implemented by Moldova’s General Police Inspectorate, together with UNDP SEESAC.
The aim of the campaign was to assist Moldovan law enforcement authorities in raising awareness on registration of firearms, surrender of illegal firearms and to reduce the demand and misuse of weapons by citizens.
The campaign used leaflets and posters, TV spot and social media. Print material was distributed at police stations, in adequate government buildings where possible, commercial venues and other public places. Channels for dissemination of information material included the General Police Inspectorate website and social media channels, UNDP Moldova and UNDP SEESAC websites and social media channels, as well as traditional media (TV, press, radio) and their online outlets and social media channels where applicable and possible.
The Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, supported by the European Union (EU) through SEESAC, organized a country-wide campaign "Iskoristi priliku" aimed at informing the citizens about the ongoing legalization, and calling on them to register or surrender any weapons that they might be holding illegally. The EU is supporting the implementation of the legalization campaign with the funds secured through the EU Council Decision 2013/730/CFSP in support of SEESAC disarmament and arms control activities in South East Europe.
Serbia passed the new Law on Weapons on 20 February 2015, which stipulates that the Minister of Interior can declare legalization at any time. Legalization means that citizens can surrender or register weapons which they have held illegally, without being asked about the origin of the weapons and without suffering legal consequences.
The three-month long legalization campaign began as soon as the law came into effect, on 4 March 2015 and lasted until 4 June 2015, with awarness raising activities taking place in some 30 Serbian towns and cities.
By the end of the campaign, on 4 June 2015, a total of 2,138 pcs of SALW, 1,107 pcs of explosive ordinances, and 160,434 pcs of ammunition were surrendered, while registration requests were submitted for 4,300 pcs of SALW. In total, 7,545 pieces of SALW and explosive devices were extracted from illegal flows in this short period.
In addition, the “Before it’s too late” campaign was launched, which was funded by the European Union and implemented by the Coordination Body for Gender Equality of the Government of Republic of Serbia, together with UNDP SEESAC, took place from 16 November until the middle of December 2016.
The campaign “Before it is too late” was aimed at increasing public and women’s safety by raising awareness of the dangers of misuse of firearms, especially in the context of domestic and intimate partner violence. “Women are five times more likely to be victims of firearms incidents than perpetrators and death was more prevalent among female victims – 44% as opposed to 34% for male victims”, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Irena Vojackova Sollorano highlighted during the launch “It requires a long-term commitment and a strong, synchronized social and institutional response”.
REGIONAL SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN ON DANGERS OF CELEBRATORY SHOOTING
SEESAC organized a regional social media campaign about the dangers of celebratory shooting "Don't ruin the Party - Celebrate with your heart, not your gun", on Facebook, Instagram and via Google ads, from 20 December 2015 to 20 January 2015, using cartoons and animation, as well as newspaper articles and YouTube clips about serious incidents to raise awareness about the consequences of celebratory shooting in the region. All posts were shared in Albanian, BCMS, Macedonian, as well as English to keep SEESAC's international audience informed.
The campaign reached a total of 5.087.367 people in the region, while the number of times people viewed SEESAC's ads is 26.799.551. Reactions to the campaign were 60% in favor and 40 % were against celebratory shooting and people in Croatia and Montenegro had more positive reactions to the campaign than others. On Facebook, SEESAC's campaign reached the total of 1.647.909 people and had 219.274 video views, while on Instagram, posts in Albanian of Trumpet/Gun and Wedding had over 9000 and 3000 likes.
Posts targeting pet owners reached 219.712 people, while our video clip was viewed 65.999 times. The Albanian version of the clip had 22.110 views, Macedonian 14.785, while the BCMS version had 59.127 views, 370 shares and 650 likes. Posts about wedding day and guns had the total reach of 351.371, while animation of the building where neighbors are firing guns during the New Years Eve celebration had total reach of 248,639 people and total video views of 41,574.
The campaign also gathered attention from traditional media. Regional Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – BIRN ran an article the day before the New Year’s Eve titled Campaign Launched to Curb Fatal Party Gunfire, reporting about “a new campaign called 'Don't Ruin the Party' launched on social networks to reduce the sometimes fatal custom of celebratory shooting, which is still common in the Balkans”. BBC picked up the story, explaining to its readers “that cartoon videos and posters show residents and pets cowering as bullets fly, and even the image of an apparently dead Santa Claus's boots alongside the hashtag #whokilledSanta”. Finally, on Christmas Eve, the French speaking media outlet covering the Balkans, Courrier Des Balkans, ran a story about the campaign, Qui a tué le Père Noël : une campagne contre les coups de feu « festifs » dans les Balkans.
*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).