Background Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets covering violence against children (16.2), violence against women and girls (5.2), and homicide (16.1) have been prioritized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for translating into measurable programs and policies at local and national levels. Cross-disciplinary efforts with those addressing arms control agreements that also seek to prevent violence, such as the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms (PoA), are largely absent for a variety of reasons including lack of cooperation between security and health sectors and policy agendas.
Description of the problem According to WHO nearly 50% of the hundreds of thousands of global homicides each year are committed with firearms. Millions more are injured by guns, costing health care systems enormous sums and diverting funds from critical health needs. Although some progress has been made in establishing armed violence as a preventable public health problem, many armed violence prevention programs remain within the realm of police and security sectors. Lack of cross-collaboration among those in the health sector addressing the SDG violence prevention targets and actors involved in preventing armed violence under the aegis of agreements such as the PoA are missed opportunies to enhance both endeavors.
Methodology Public health organizations and agencies working with security experts can strengthen each other’s roles in preventing violence and achieving the SDGs including reducing violence against women, girls, children, and reducing homicides and injuries from firearms. For example, recruiting health professionals to advise on National Commissions on Small Arms established by the PoA, and security experts to work with National Focal Points on Violence Prevention established by WHO, could strengthen the abilities of each to achieve their goals.
Conclusion The PoA and other arms control agreements can be important vehicles with which to synergize efforts to achieve the SDG targets on violence prevention.