Late into the night on 9 June, 2023 the United Nation’s Open-Ended Working Group on Conventional Ammunition (OEWG) concluded its development of a new global framework to address existing gaps in through-life conventional ammunition management despite the dissociation of the Russian Federation and their bedfellows Belarus.
Created through General Assembly resolution purporting to address problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus, the OEWG wasted no time in expanding their work since it began in February 2022. Under the guise of “through-life ammunition management”, universal ammunition serialization, running hand and hand with user registration, quickly became the OEWG’s end goal. This was evident when the group was established and has continued throughout all four weeks of their discussions, where even the word “stockpile” rarely got mentioned. After all, even in the specious world of the UN, no-one could argue that a global agreement telling countries to secure their national ammunition stockpiles was necessary.
It is also why the OEWG has been deliberate in leaving any attempts to define its key terms out of the final report. Similar to the dangers associated with the United Nations’ refusal to define the term “end user”, the OEWG’s purported focus, “conventional ammunition stockpiles”, remains open to interpretation. This is not a mistake, as it leaves the door open for arguments to be made that even a 25-round box of .22lr constitutes one.
This is also why the work of this group is so concerning, and why NRA-ILA has attended all of their meetings alongside a technical expert from the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute. Unfortunately, global interest in the dangerous of this group have been minimal, at best, with limited participation from industry and ammunition manufacturers outside of our borders, culminating with zero attendance from any at this final, and most critical of meetings.
Fortunately, an effective delegation from the United States was responsive to many of our recommendations throughout the meetings and was successful in their arguments to water down most of the most egregious provisions contained in each of the five draft reports the OEWG produced. This included removal of attempts to require “individual” end-user certificates, ensuring any calls to regulate the undefined term “stockpile” were limited to those held at the national level, and for language requiring the marking (serialization) every round of ammunition to be amended into simply something that should be “consider[ed]” for ammunition under national ownership.
These were small victories for the entire international firearms community; however, at the United Nations, this means little. Unlike our Constitution, the framework that was produced this week is a living document which, once adopted by the General Assembly later this year, can, and will, be modified over time. Not only will work continue on further restricting its terms during the official and perpetual future OEWG meetings, but arguments will now be made for incorporation and expansion of it and its terms into all of the other United Nations firearms initiatives, including the Programme of Action, Firearms Protocol and Arms Trade Treaty.
Rest assured that even though the global firearms community is largely absent from this fight NRA-ILA recognizes its significance and we will continue to battle to protect your rights in the international arena.