4th Regional Meeting of SALW Awareness Raising Task Force Focuses on Advancing Communication with the Media and the Public

The Regional Awareness-raising Task Force (RAR TF) met for the 4th time in Tirana on 3-5 October 2023. In the aftermath of the heart-breaking incidents that have struck the region during the first half of 2023 and the subsequent intensification of awareness-raising activities across the Western Balkans, this meeting served as a timely opportunity for all jurisdictions to reflect on their most recent activities and plans while focusing on concrete challenges and lessons learned.

In Serbia, where two mass-shootings occurred in 48h triggering an almost instantaneous declaration of a SALW amnesty, accompanied campaign calling for surrender of SALW resulted in an unprecedent number of firearms being turned over to the police. Results of campaigns in other jurisdictions were also impacted by these events.

Given the important role media has in delivering and presenting to the public any information that originates from the relevant ministries, improved collaboration with this ‘forth pillar of democracy’ was the centrepiece of the meeting.

On the first day participants were presented with the results of UNDP SEESAC’s most recent Analysis of Media Reporting of Firearm Misuse in Male Gender-Based Violence Against Women in the Western Balkans.  With the aim of directly utilizing the results of the Analysis, participants were also presented and discussed in detail a Draft Guidelines for MOIs/Police Services on How to Better Communicate with the Media Regarding Incidents of Gender-based Violence with SALW. The discussion inputs and latter collected feedback from jurisdictions will help finalize the Guidelines. Given their key role in supporting awareness raising efforts in the region, representatives of UNDP and OSCE country offices took part in the first day discussions in person and online.

The second and third days were reserved for practical training on Crisis Communication – an area that was identified by the participants at the initial meeting of the group in June 2022 as needing special attention and capacity building assistance.

The RAR Task Force aims to contribute to the diversification of ways in which awareness-raising is used and to a strengthening of institutional capacities for conducting effective awareness-raising efforts in all their segments, including design, management, monitoring, and evaluation - in each of the six participating jurisdictions. The RAR Task Force aims to achieve this through networking, exchange of information, sharing of best practices and lessons learned, as well as through coordination of and collaboration on awareness-raising activities.

The meeting was organised in the scope of SEESAC’s more extensive work of increasing response to factors fuelling demand and misuse of firearms in the Western Balkans as part of the Support for Enhancing the Fight Against the Illegal Possession, Misuse, and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in the Western Balkans project, funded by the European Union through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II).