Support to designing and implementing awareness raising campaigns on SALW control in Serbia

Project Info
OSCE Region , Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia
10 September 2019 - 22 December 2024
Gender Marker

This project is managed by a National Professional (NP1) as an in-kind contribution of the OSCE Mission to Serbia to this project. The OSCE Mission also hired a Project Assistant (G5), located in the Security Co-operation Department, Organised Crime Unit. 


All activities will be co-ordinated directly by the Mission in close co-ordination the Serbian MoI and the Expert Team. This project envisages involvement of a number of stakeholders on both national and local level, whose pro-active participation and contribution will be crucial for the successful implementation of the project. 

Efforts will be made to establish local public-private and social media platforms to ensure sustainability of the project results beyond the lifetime of the project. 


The project aims at strengthening the capacities of the Ministry of Interior and other state institutions to conduct awareness raising campaigns on SALW control, thus contributing to decreasing the amount of weapons in illegal possession, hindering the misuses of SALW, while increasing the safety of Serbia’s citizens.

Within the OSCE Mission to Serbia’s 2019 Unified Budget the project falls under the SCD programme, Objective 1. To assist the host country in achieving a sustainable and accountable security sector, able to address serious threats and crimes, ensure public safety and protect human rights of citizens; Output 1.1.3. Implementation of national strategy and action plan to prevent violent extremism and combat terrorism supported. 


The project foresees reaching the following outcome:

  1. Increasing capacity of the MoI to effectively engage in raising awareness on SALW control and reduction of weapons in illegal possession, thus, decreasing the number of abuses of legal weapons;
  2. Establishing the partnership between the MoI, Police Directorate and civil society organizations in order to increase public awareness in preventing and misuse of SALW.

The project foresees to:

  • Organise workshops on advanced practices to prevent misuse of SALW and on advocacy campaigns;
  • Establish and support the work of the Working Group for analysis, planning, design and implementation of the awareness raising campaigns on advancing SALW control;
  • Support the MoI to conduct awareness enhancement campaigns;
  • Identify and share success stories and publish on official webpages;
  • Organise Expert Meeting on building partnerships with electronic and printed media, and identifying mechanisms for preventing misuse of SALW;
  • Establish a Social Media Platform and support media campaigns on prevention of SALW proliferation and responsible gun ownership;
  • Conduct advocacy activities at national and community level.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the project implementation has been significantly delayed. With the epidemiological situation slightly stabilizing, Ministry of Interior and other state authorities expressed readiness to initiate work on the design and development of communication and awareness raising plans as of December 2021.    

The initial risk related to the project implementation deadlines was mitigated by the project extension. 

Background And Justification

The impact of illegal trafficking and possession of SALW creates a major threat to security and safety in the Republic of Serbia. SALW contribute to the proliferation of crime and serious organized crime, by acting as the enablers of violence, threatening behaviour and terrorism. They also have a similarly negative effect on confidence-building measures in the country and as a threat in the context of gender based violence. It has a negative impact on women and children.

Possession of weapons relates to the sense of security. Holding illegal weapons at home is often justified by saying that it is good to have them "just in case". Despite many efforts taken by the national authorities in reaching out to the public, the awareness activities were, so far, poorly prepared due to a lack in capabilities and missing of a proper plan of actions.

In preparing and conducting future firearms awareness campaigns, the MoI should co-operate with a broad range of stakeholders that may contribute to ensuring that these campaigns are better designed and contain clear value-oriented messages to promote awareness of the dangers of firearms.

Against this background, the OSCE Mission in co-ordination with the Secretariat’s Conflict Prevention Centre/Forum for Security Co-operation Support Section (CPC/FSC SS), has developed this project, to address the challenges that police is facing while conducting awareness activities for informing the general public on the threats posed by SALW and media campaigns for collection and legalization of illegally possessed firearms, ammunition and explosives.

At the same time, the project is addressing the key responsibilities of the Serbian MoI and provides a framework for assistance in implementation of the new SALW Control Strategy and Action Plan.


The OSCE Mission to Serbia (primarily through its Security Co-operation Department (SCD)) supports a sustainable, transparent and accountable reform and performance of police forces, able to combat transnational threats, serious and organized crime, and to foster a safe and secure environment in the communities.

The project vision is consistent with the OSCE’s multi-stakeholder approach to countering proliferation and possession of SALW and by applying a gender-oriented approach in addressing the threats posed by firearms in the context of gender based violence. The project is comprehensive and relates to addressing the behaviour of men, women, boys, girls, and the impact of misuse of SALW on the society as a whole.

National Context

The National Security Strategy of the Republic of Serbia is the most important strategic document that sets out the basics principles and defines national stakeholders in this area. It defines as one of the challenges, risks and threats that should be addressed, the uncontrolled trafficking, illegal possession and misuse of SALW, which is associated with violence and criminal activities, but also with organized crime activities and terrorism.

According to different  estimates, between 200,000 and 900,000 pieces of illicit firearms are in circulation across Serbia, and significant number of incidents, occasionally with fatal outcome, include use of both legal and illegal firearms.[1]  Although the assessment of the number of illegal firearms is always questionable, Serbian authorities agrees that there are far too many weapons in illegal possession, and that these weapons represent a security risk for all citizens.

Also, the National Serious and Organized Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) report for 2016 identified weapons smuggling as a threat to the national security. Serbia is profiled as a source and transit country of firearms, mostly originating from the armed conflicts following the dissolution of Yugoslavia and other armed conflicts in the Western Balkans (WB) region.

Overall, Serbia has an adequate legal and institutional criminal justice framework designed to respond to SALW trafficking and control measures. Nevertheless, the high mistrust into the performance and ability of the institutions to address this problem creates a significant difficulty for the institutions and the societies as a whole to address this issue.

The Serbian Criminal Code, article 348 criminalizes the unlawful manufacture, possession, carrying and sale of firearms and explosives. The new amendments that came into force on 1 June 2017 provide punishment in relation to the convertible (starting, gas and signal weapons) as well as deactivated weapons. The penal policy has been amended and increased with respect to these acts depending on the type of crime.

The Law on Weapons and Ammunition and the amendments introduced in 2015 tightened the regulations for weapons acquisition, possession, carrying, and trade. It provided precise conditions under which an individual can obtain a permit for a weapon and the law introduced a requirement that an individual must provide official medical certificate about the status of their psycho-physical health. The Law now also proscribes that a person applying for a licence needs to provide a legitimate reason for this need. In addition to these requirements, the law left a discretionary right to the police to deny issuing a license to a person requesting it, should they assess that the person in question might misuse it. Right after the Law’s entry into force, the MoI has developed and adopted a set of rulebooks, operating procedures and internal instructions. However, to establish a functional legal framework, it will be necessary to continuously monitor and evaluate the impact of laws on SALW control, periodically organize expert debates, analyse remarks by the civil society and report on its impact on the public. This task was supposed to be carried out by the previous 2010-2015 SALW Control Strategy.  

Nevertheless, according to the Mission’s Evaluation Report[2] on the previous 2010-2015 SALW Control Strategy, the following shortcomings have been identified:

  • Lack of clarity of roles, responsibilities and pro-activeness of implementing authorities;
  • Low engagement of civil sector in the drafting of by-laws and strategy planning;
  • Civil sector should be more involved in the organization of public outreach efforts, taking a stock of their knowledge and resources;
  • Most of citizens are unaware and unfamiliar with the Law on Weapons and Ammunition as well as on the rights and responsibilities it prescribes;
  • Legalization campaigns should be organized more often, better planned and widely advertised through TV, radio, print and social media;
  • Lack of awareness at community level and low engagement of local administration in the SALW control activities.

The Mission’s Situation Analysis[3] in relation to SALW in the Republic of Serbia identified the following important findings with relevance to the project context and proposed them to be considered by the MoI in the new Strategy and Action Plan:

  • To define responsibilities, competences, co-ordination, financial resources, and appoint a permanent SALW Council or Chairperson;
  • To produce on annual basis a report on implementation of the SALW Control Strategy and present it to the general public and National Security Council;
  • To establish a functional system to continuously monitor, and, in co-operation with civil society, evaluate the impact of the Firearms and Ammunition Law;
  • To organize expert debates, analyse inputs from civil society and report its impact on the public;
  • To apply the intelligence-led policing and community policing in order to expand the intelligence-led proactive methodology concerning SALW and improve evidence-based decision-making;
  • Media campaigns should expand and consider diverse topics from dangers of SALW misuse to responsible ownership;
  • To develop specific policies to address gender aspects of SALW and further analyse the impact of SALW on domestic and gender based violence (GBV).

Serbia has adopted a new SALW Control Strategy and Action Plan for 2019 - 2024. The Strategy is designed as a framework for activities to be implemented by institutions and individuals, both in the government and non-government sectors, with the aim to prevent and combat the illegal production, possession, misuse and trade in SALW. Awareness raising among the general population about the risks related to SALW features prominently in the draft Strategy pending adoption.

Regional Context

The project took into considerations the commitments Serbian authorities undertook by signing up to  the Roadmap adopted at the EU-Western Balkans Summit[4] in London where the leaders of the WB countries and like-minded European partners pledged to strengthening their security co-operation, increasing economic stability and encouraging political co-operation with the WB counterparts. This guiding and consensual document developed and owned by the regional authorities, was designed in an effort to achieve a sustainable solution to the illegal possession, misuse and trafficking of SALW/firearms, and its ammunition in the WB. Accordingly, the proposed project is drafted in line with the Roadmap Goal 4 which envisages that national authorities will “[b]y 2024, significantly reduce supply, demand and misuse of firearms, through increased awareness, education, outreach and advocacy.”

[1] This assessment was made by the Minister of the Interior during his presentation of the Draft Law on Arms and Ammunition at the Seventh Special Meeting of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia on February 18, 2015.

[2] In 2016 the Mission, in agreement with the Serbian MoI and UNDP/SEESAC, contracted an external expert to conduct a result-oriented evaluation of the Strategy’s efficacy (available upon request)

[3] In 2017 the Mission, in agreement with the Serbian MoI and UNDP/SEESAC, contracted an external expert to perform the Situation Analysis in relation to SALW in the Republic of Serbia (available upon request)

[4] On 10 July 2018 was the Governments of the Western Balkans adopted the Roadmap for a sustainable solution to the illegal possession, misuse and trafficking of SALW/firearms, and its ammunition in the Western Balkans.

sdg sdg
Creation of Situational Analysis and General Framework for awareness raising by the expert
2 day Kick-off workshop
Forming of the inter-ministerial Working Group
1st meeting of the Working Group
2nd meeting of the Working Group
3rd meeting of the Working Group
Hiring the media company to produce visual materials for one national SALW legalisation campaign
Action of voluntary surrender of weapons announced to last from 8 May to 8 June
Urgent meting with the MoI and media company to reshape ideas for the campaign after mass shootings
First informative video of the campaign broadcasted
80 billboards displayed throughout Serbia
Campaign of voluntary surrender extended till 30 June
Second informative video of the campaign broadcasted
Additional 45 billboards displayed throughout Serbia
Meeting with the MoI regarding the next step of the awareness raising campaign