This module is a resource for lecturers


This Module considers the international legal frameworks set up to respond to the problems posed by the illicit trafficking and use of firearms, with a major focus on the specific instruments adopted in the field of firearms.

The international community has repeatedly expressed its concern over the negative impact that the illicit proliferation and misuse of firearms have on peace and security, human rights and development, and adopted over time a series of instruments that try to address different facets of this complex issue. Module 5 introduces students to the international legal frameworks on firearms, how they operate and where these frameworks are less effective. Highlighting the importance of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition (Firearms Protocol), the Module also introduces and discusses other relevant global and regional instruments, which form part of the current international firearms control regime. Students will learn about the different contexts and scope of these instruments and will explore their relationship and possible synergies. As highlighted throughout the UNODC Teaching Module Series on Firearms, these instruments are often interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

The Module presupposes a basic understanding of the core principles of public international law (PIL) in general, and of the recent developments in international/ transnational criminal law more specifically, and how international instruments relate to national law. For students who have not studied international law previously, a preliminary reading of a manual of international law is recommended, with specific reference to the following topics: nature and theoretical aspects of international law; sources (including domestic mechanisms to implementing international law); subjects of international law; state responsibility for internationally wrongful acts; and individual criminal responsibility for international crimes under customary international law.

Learning outcomes

  • Know the basic concepts, nature, functioning and sources of international law and in particular of transnational criminal law, as relevant for Module 5.
  • Recognize the current international sources of law that relate to firearms control at global and regional levels.
  • Critically assess the scope and limitation of the international instruments.
  • Understand the commonalities, differences and synergies between the various international instruments.
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