Summaries There is a growing awareness across many sectors that small arms represent a serious risk to human and global security. Partly as a result of the growing awareness of the problem, the analytical appraisal of their effects has diversified. But the field is undergoing a process of self?definition. This article attempts to trace the broadening contours of the debate and highlight the need for a multidisciplinary and integrated approach to disarmament. It recognises that small arms constitute a challenge, both in terms of demand and supply. The article demonstrates that small arms diffusion takes place at the interface of the global and local arenas, in situations of underdevelopment and insecurity, posing intricate challenges to national, regional and international actors. Relief and development actors, including donors and governments, have only now started to acknowledge that armed violence, perpetrated with small arms and light weapons, are a serious impediment to population health and criminality, as well as social and economic development.