Choose Life Without Weapons: Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina meet both on and off the pitch

16 Jun 2014

imageOn the occasion of the Football World Cup match between Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina, a coalition of organisations launches a dialogue between both nations on reducing gun violence
Yesterday marked the start of Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s campaigns to win football’s biggest trophy as both countries faced each other in their opening FIFA World Cup match at Rio de Janeiro's legendary Maracanã stadium. Less widely publicised, yesterday also saw the start of a season of collaboration between the two nations off the pitch.

The World Future Council (WFC) and the UNDP ‘Choose Life Without Weapons’ coalition will partner up throughout 2014 to share community disarmament experiences from both countries.

In the spirit of #GoalsNotGuns, the football match was screened at Art kino Kriterion in Sarajevo. For Bosnia and Herzegovina, the event had particular resonance, as their first World Cup tournament since gaining independence in 1992.

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter congratulated the partners on “their joint project in Bosnia and Herzegovina aimed at reducing the dangers of firearms - thus protecting youth and developing a culture of peace - which football will help to promote. I’m glad that, like us, you believe in the power of football to foster positive social change.”

“The world cup presents a time to join in collective celebration and bring nations together for peaceful rivalry. Argentina and BiH share more than a pitch; our mission and efforts to promote a culture free from the harm of illicit weapons is one we gladly share. The world cup is a global experience that tonight Argentina and BiH closely share. Argentina and BiH are more than pitch-mates but share similar campaigns to combat illicit arms and inform communities on their dangers. To influence the attitudes and social constructs of weapon possession both nations join over an ideal for a safer global community and their fondness for football.” said Jasmin Porobić, UNDP’s Human Security Programme Manager.

Coordinator of the WFC Disarmament Programme, Rob van Riet, expressed the hope that “an information exchange between BiH and Argentina on best practices and policies for tackling the dangers of guns will yield some real benefits to the people of both countries and assist the development of more peaceful and secure communities.”

Both Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina are aware of the risks caused by the availability of guns and a lack of effective policy solutions tackling gun violence. There are 750,000 illicit weapons and 16,000 tonnes of ammunition currently circulating within the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Easy access to weapons left over from former conflicts has led to remnants of war being involved in over 10 violent incidents each week.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, an availability of firearms began to see their increased use in crime and conflict. In 2004, a 15 year-old student opened fire at school, killing three classmates and injuring five. A subsequent public awakening towards the effects of gun violence meant this grave risk to public health could no longer be ignored.

Last year, a partnership between civil society and the government agency RENAR to address the use and proliferation of firearms was recognised by a Silver Future Policy Award from the World Future Council in collaboration with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Their 2006 National Programme for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms was highlighted for its success in reducing the number of firearms in circulation while promoting a culture of non-violence and peaceful conflict resolution.

Matías Molle, Director of the Argentine disarmament agency RENAR, welcomed the prospect of sharing experiences with their counterparts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and noted that their disarmament measures are “implemented in the context of social inclusion policies, more equal opportunities, job creation and investment in education” and that their “main goal is to work on raising awareness of the dangers of firearms among children and youth.”

The encouragement of nonviolent solutions to conflict, public discourse, and youth education are all crucial to the disarmament initiatives in these two countries. Brought together over their shared visions for future generations, Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina will now work together off the football pitch to discuss their experiences of tackling gun violence.

The partner organisations are currently planning a series of events for 2014, including a conference at UN House Sarajevo to facilitate this exchange, to ensure that people from both countries are winners beyond Brazil 2014.