2022 – Year in Review
2022 was a year marking 20 years of SEESAC’s unwavering commitment to a safer South-East Europe, demonstrated through our work towards strengthening the capacities of stakeholders in the region to control and reduce the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons, and to advance gender equality.
For two decades SEESAC has been an integral part of a closely knit network of institutions from across South East and East Europe, donors, regional, international and civil society organizations, and experts all working towards the joint goal. This year as well, the EU, Germany, France, the US, Norway and Slovakia as well as the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands made this collective endeavor possible with their significant contributions. We are proud to share with you some of the highlights from this milestone year.
SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS CONTROL
Under SEESAC’s helm, regional cooperation on SALW control deepened on both strategic and operational levels across South East and East Europe. With the organization of 15th and 16th meetings of SALW Commissions, exchange of know-how, information and experiences continued to inform strategic planning of participating jurisdictions. At the 16th and 17th gatherings of the South East Europe Firearms Experts Network (SEEFEN), cooperation on a more operational level in the realm of combating illicit arms trafficking was again achieved. These platforms bring together the Western Balkans jurisdictions, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
Advancing legislative and policy framework
Support for the harmonization of arms control legislation with the EU Acquis and related international obligations continued through several veins of work such as on-demand advisory services bolstering the processes of drafting relevant legislation in the area of SALW and civil use of explosives control, and organization of workshops including the Regional Workshop on Harmonization of Legislation in the Field of SALW Control with the EU Acquis.
Combatting arms trafficking
Capacity development of key institutions for combatting arms trafficking was facilitated through region-wide platforms such as that at the Regional Meeting of Border Police Services, the Regional Meeting of the Criminal Police Services, the Annual Workshop for Firearms Focal Points from the Western Balkans, Moldova, and the European Union, and the Regional Workshop on Crime Scene Investigations.
With the same aim, the operationalization of the Firearms Focal Points (FFPs) throughout the region enjoyed continued support through the provision of expert advice, technical equipment, and organization of tailor-made trainings, study visits, and regional trainings and workshops such as the Regional Training on Critical Thinking Skills and Analytical Capacities (ANACAPA), the Regional Training on Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT), the Regional Workshops on Weapons Serial Number Restoration. In order to advance and standardize process of FFPs across the region, in five jurisdictions workshops dedicated to the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the FFPs were held.
To ensure that future comprehensive assistance efforts are precisely targeted and respond to actual and current needs of Border Police, Criminal Police and Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Units, SEESAC has been conducting detailed needs assessments of these institutions in the Western Balkans for countering illicit arms trafficking and possession and acting upon their conclusions.
Based on the previously assessed needs of Border Police services in the Western Balkans to combat arms trafficking, sets of Standard Operating Procedures for the Border Police Services of Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia have been finalized and endorsed by the authorities, and significant advances were achieved in procurement of equipment needed by the Border Police services of Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. With the aim of standardizing and strengthening the work and procedures of Border Police and Custom Services in the region, working hand in hand with FRONTEX and SEESAC finalized the Handbook for Border Guards and Customs – regional Western Balkans version’.
Reports, rooted in the needs assessments of the Criminal Police services in six (6) Western Balkans jurisdictions to combat illicit possession, misuse and trafficking of SALW and ammunition, have been drafted and are pending endorsements. Based on the recommendations in the reports, the Standard Operating Procedures for the Criminal Police are already being drafted in Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia. Using the same methodology, a team of experts conducted a needs assessment of the capacities of the criminal police in Moldova to counter illicit arms trafficking
A methodology for the assessment of the capacities of Crime Scene Investigation units in the Western Balkans to counter illicit possession and trafficking of firearms was developed, based on which assessments in four (4) jurisdictions were conducted.
Physical Security and Stockpile Management
Risks of proliferation of SALW and their ammunition were diminished in several ways including through the disposal of 1,304 pieces of SALW and 1,189 pieces of their parts and components at the Ilijaš smelter in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 21 November.
In Albania, SALW laser marking machine room at the Albanian State Police technical supply center ‘Mullet’ was constructed and security upgrades introduced at the SALW/safekeeping rooms of two local Police Directorates. In Serbia, a select group of Serbian MoI experts underwent a targeted Proficient Level National Course on Physical Security and Stockpile Management of SALW and their Ammunition and progress has been made towards introducing security infrastructure improvements of a MoI storage location “Duvaniste.”
Great strides have been made towards enhancing the security of one SALW storage location and twelve (12) evidence rooms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, North Macedonia and Moldova through infrastructure upgrades. Finally, good practices and challenges were shared among authorities in the Western Balkan and Moldova at the workshop on ammunition surveillance organized jointly with RACVIAC in June 2022.
Gender and SALW
Working towards mainstreaming of gender in SALW legal and policy frameworks, SEESAC finalized the Gender Screening of the SALW Control Legislation Framework of Kosovo* thus concluding the last of five (5) gender screenings in the region. Drawing on this invaluable experience, the Guidelines for the Gender Analysis of Legislation and Policies Relevant for Small Arms Control were developed and launched and the scope of their utilization was expanded through their translation into Spanish, French and Ukrainian. Gender coaching program with the Deputy Minister of Interior of Albania was conducted to help inform perceptions at the leadership level.
To help enable strengthening of institutional capacities for effective prevention and combatting the use of firearms in domestic violence, this year SEESAC organized the 1st meeting of the Regional Working Group for the Prevention of the Use of Firearms in Domestic Violence through Risk Assessment and the 1st meeting of the Regional Working Group for the Development of a Tools for Gender Sensitive Firearms License Approval.
Building the knowledge base
To respond to the SALW-related problems more precisely and effectively, SEESAC continued to deepen and widen its understanding of SALW-related trends, causes and effects. Under this effort, in 2022 six issues of In-Focus reports were published delving into specific issues ranging from firearms incidents in the context of domestic violence, firearms incidents in criminal context, firearm-related suicides, weapon seizures, use of firearms in public disputes and incidents of celebratory shooting.
SEESAC continued to respond to factors fueling demand and missuses of firearms in the Western Balkans through awareness activities, as well as through development of operational capacities of key beneficiaries to execute awareness raising activities. Within the scope of this work in June 2022, the Western Balkans Regional Awareness Raising Task Force was established and it held two meetings thus far. Its work will contribute directly to the ongoing, region-wide efforts to advance SALW control through more diverse and advanced use of awareness tools.
An online, regional awareness raising campaign ‘Celebrate with your heart, not your gun - #DontBeLikeJoe’ was executed during the holidays’ season in 2021/2022 drawing significant attention to the risks of celebratory shooting and misuse of pyrotechnics. The campaign gained over 18 million impressions, with some 1.3 million individuals viewing its featured videos alone. On the tails of this success, SEESAC is launching a new, follow up campaign during the holidays’ season 2022/2023 – Celebrate with your heart, not your gun - #BetheStaroftheParty.
Monitoring and coordination of the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap
In close cooperation with the EU, Germany, France and the Regional Cooperation Council, the monitoring and coordination of the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap implementation has continued and is currently undergoing a mi-term review.
The 7th and 8th Regional Roadmap Coordination meetings were held in July and December and, as customary, were each preceded by a round of six local coordination meetings in June and November supported by SEESAC. These meetings, coupled with the 7th and 8th biannual regional reports that are based on the Key Performance Indicators and Roadmap goals, facilitate regional review of progress, challenges and plans among national counterparts, donors and international organizations.
Coordination of resources provided for the Roadmap implementation is ensured through the Western Balkans SALW Control Multi-Partner Trust Fund, which SEESAC serves in a role of a Secretariat responsible for its programmatic coordination and monitoring. The fund is closing the year with the portfolio of US$ 24,162,531 and fourteen (14) ongoing projects implemented by the UNDP and UNODC.
Coordinated approach continued to be ensured through the implementation of the UNDP’s Funding Windows regional project established to support the Roadmap implementation and implemented by UNDP Country Offices.
As we successfully draw to a close the implementation of the initial EU Council Decision 2018/1788, SEESAC team is proud to again be entrusted to support the implementation of the Regional Roadmap on combating illicit trafficking of SALW in the Western Balkans as well as disarmament and arms control activities in the South-East and East Europe with a new EU Council Decision 2022/2321.
In September 2022, SEESAC was also awarded additional funds by the US Department of State to continue its work on the project 'Enhancement of SALW Control Security Measures in Albania.'
GENDER EQUALITY IN SECURITY SECTOR
With funding from Norway and Slovakia we have been supporting the Ministries of Defence and Armed Forces from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia in advancing gender equality through a regional approach.
Our efforts this year were largely concluded with a promotion of the Regional Baseline Study on Integrating a Gender Perspective in Military Education and Training, the regional knowledge tool developed jointly by Ministries of Defence with SEESAC support.
The Study represents a unique regional knowledge resource that contains the baseline data on the attained level of integration of gender perspective in military education and training, as well as examples of good practice that already exist in all four systems of defence and maps the way on how to integrate gender in military education and training.
The regional baseline study is intended primarily for those involved in training and education in the defence systems of the four countries. It is also intended for all who work in the defence system and deal with human security issues. Based on the findings of the Regional Baseline Study, the Ministries agreed on recommendations for improved integration of the gender perspective in military education and training in the areas important for establishing and maintaining gender-responsive policies and practices in the defence system. Information on the systematic integration of gender perspective in military education and training in other countries is not easily accessible. No "recipes" exist; hence regional cooperation in this area represents a pioneering endeavor.
Additionally, in 2022, the MoDs and the Armed Forces met through the regional platform of gender equality mechanisms, decisionmakers and commanders to facilitate the information exchange, knowledge sharing and planning of joint activities. We also provided support to the Regional Network of Gender Trainers. The Regional Network of gender military trainers in the Armed Forces in the Western Balkans was strengthened with 17 new certified trainers who completed the regional gender training of trainers course organized in close cooperation with the Nordic Center for Gender in Military Operations.
Furthermore, four Gender Coach Programme with three high-level military officers from Montenegro and the State Secretary from North Macedonia were successfully organized in 2022. Also, the MoDs were supported in standardization of gender training in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia. We also supported strengthening the institutional response for combating based violence, sexual harassment, and abuse in MoD and AFs of Montenegro followed by seminar for the newly established gender equality mechanism in AFs of Montenegro. MoD in North Macedonia increased the knowledge on prevention and protection from misuse of small arms and light weapons with a gender perspective and as well as the awareness of Military Academy teaching staff on mainstreaming a gender perspective in military education.
For almost two decades, SEESAC has been facilitating regional cooperation and supporting the authorities in South East and East Europe to strengthen their SALW control measures, advance gender equality, and thus contribute to citizen security, and we look forward to continuing this work in the new year.
*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of the Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).