Western Balkan SALW Control Roadmap Multi-Partner Trust Fund completes the fifth year of its functioning with tangible results towards a safer region

The Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap Multi-Partner Trust Fund ended the year 2023 with tangible achievements towards the goals set by the regional Roadmap for SALW Control. Since its establishment in March 2019, the Trust Fund has remained with unwavering support from its principal contributors and partners – Germany, France, the European Union, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Norway.

New funding contributions reached the Trust Fund in the course of 2023 in the cumulative amount of US$3.3 million, thus ensuring continued support to projects and initiatives that aim to enhance arms control and prevent misuse and proliferation of firearms and ammunition in the Western Balkans region, and beyond. With the latest contributions in 2023 - from the Netherlands ($1.6 million), Germany ($533,618), Norway ($464,704), Sweden ($459,686) and France ($275,441) - the Trust Fund received more than $27.5 million since its establishment.

The pooled resources continue to be allocated to projects supporting the SALW Control Roadmap, which are implemented by two UN agencies, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The projects address priority needs and gaps towards Roadmap implementation identified jointly with the Western Balkans authorities. A coordinated approach to the Roadmap implementation is ensured through the overall guidance of the Fund’s Steering Committee and with the technical support and coordination provided by SEESAC.

Out of 24 projects approved for funding over the past five years with a value of US$ 25.4 million, 12 completed their operations by December 2023, while four more will end in the first half of 2024. The remaining eight were approved by the Steering Committee in October 2023 and will be implemented over the course of the next two years. The projects that ended by December 2023 brought significant achievements towards the Roadmap goals across all jurisdictions. These encompass improvement of legislative, operational and institutional frameworks, advancement of human, technical and digital resources towards SALW control, upgrade of investigative and data collection methods, as well as gender-sensitive approaches to tackling arms-related threats and risks and engaging a diverse set of actors and communities to this end. More specifically, the achievements entail the following:

To further harmonize the legislative and operational practice across the region in line with international standards and recommendations, the Trust Fund projects brought the criminal legislation in jurisdictions closer to the UN Firearms Protocol. Criminal codes in Montenegro and North Macedonia were amended to incorporate firearm-related provisions in line with the UN Firearms Protocol, while other jurisdictions continue to make efforts in this respect.


The Trust Fund projects produced more than 20 gap and needs analyses across the jurisdictions, 34 Standard Operating Procedures, 3 guidelines and 4 manuals, more than 4 research reports, 4 video modules, 6 case law collections and 100 analyzed court cases. These advance the knowledge and ensure that arms control policies and practices in the Western Balkans are evidence-based and intelligence-led. Overall, more than 180 knowledge products were developed and used to this end, and these will continue to serve as a resource.


The capacities and skills of more than 2,700 women and men law enforcement and criminal justice officers were enhanced through training, workshops and mentoring on preventing, detecting and investigating firearms / ammunition / explosives (FAE)-related incidents and crime.



Inter-institutional cooperation and information exchange was strengthened both within jurisdictions and among peers across the region through deployed joint in-country or cross-border operations and exchanges. Partnerships towards detecting firearms in postal parcels were successfully launched in BiH, and the good results were replicated across the Western Balkans jurisdictions, as well as formalized through signed or developed MoUs between Customs and designated postal operators in all jurisdictions.


Data collection, analysis and management were advanced through the developed software and database connections, including the establishment of new connections in five jurisdictions to the INTERPOL’s Illicit Arms Records and tracing Management System (iARMS), improvement and deployment of SALW Identification Tool across the law enforcement agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, linking of relevant cross-institutional databases in Kosovo*, and strengthened information management systems in North Macedonia and Serbia.


General awareness-raising campaigns were rolled out in Albania, BiH, Kosovo and North Macedonia, coupled with six targeted campaigns in the latter three jurisdictions. The outreach to high schools in BiH encompassed approximately 29,500 students, while the efforts to enhance gender-responsive policies and prevention of FAE-related crime in Serbia mobilized more than 250 representatives of state institutions, private entities, civil society organizations, communities, media and independent experts.


Specialized equipment was provided across jurisdictions as per assessed needs, ensuring that FAE-related crime is detected and prosecuted more effectively and efficiently through advanced methods. This entailed upgraded weapons registry systems (Albania, Serbia), improved illicit FAE countering (BiH, Kosovo), and modernized forensic examination and investigation capabilities (Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia).


In addition to providing equal opportunities and engaging both women and men in its arms-control activities, a sharper focus on gender-sensitive policies and methods and improving women’s engagement in SALW control was pursued in four jurisdictions. In BiH this entailed strengthened operations and tailored training and funding support to two women police officers’ associations and a series of workshops aimed at the affirmation of women’s role in BiH customs. In Montenegro and North Macedonia, crime scene investigation was facilitated in gender-based/domestic violence cases by providing training and special kits. In Serbia, comprehensive knowledge products, data and guidelines solidified the foundation for strengthened gender-responsive approaches in preventing FAE-related incidents and crime.


Advanced forensics methods in investigating FAE-related incidents and crime were comprehensively supported in Serbia and Montenegro in accordance with the policy and recommendations of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) and prepared for accreditation in line with international standards ISO 17020 and ISO 17025. One of these methods already received its accreditation in November 2023 in Serbia.


Progress was marked in Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia towards safe and secure SALW/firearms and ammunition storage facilities and better administrative capacities of state institutions for safe handling of firearms and ammunitions. In this respect, 13 weapons storage facilities in Albania and one in North Macedonia are being upgraded. In addition, police structures across Albania and Serbia received weapons safety equipment.


Finally, in 2023, an independent mid-term evaluation of the Trust Fund acknowledged the Fund’s good overall strategic performance and found it essential to sustaining the momentum of both political and technical commitment to SALW control in the region, providing recommendations for its further advancement. The partners and contributors remain committed to sustaining and consolidating the progress made.


The Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap Multi-Partner Trust Fund was established by the UN in March 2019 to ensure a donor- and jurisdiction-coordinated approach in support to Roadmap implementation. The work of the Trust Fund is made possible thanks to the generous contributions of Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, and Norway, as well as the overall support of the European Union.

Through the Roadmap support, the Trust Fund contributes to the achievement of SDG 16 to promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies, noting that illicit arms flows are among the factors that give rise to violence, insecurity, and injustice. It also contributes to SDG 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls to take part in relevant decision-making, specifically focusing on eliminating violence against all women and girls.