Curbing Arms Flows from a Field Perspective: The Case of Africa

October 31st, 2017

     On 18 October 2017, the Permanent Mission to the United Nations of Germany hosted a Meeting of the Group of Interested States in Practical Disarmament Measures titled “Curbing Arms Flows from a Field Perspective: The Case of Africa”. Seven expert panellists discussed current best practices and research outcomes in the field of conventional weapons control. The panelists were from the Permanent Mission of Germany, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), the Small Arms Survey, the International Action Network on Small Arms, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC).

     Simonetta Grassi of UNODC discussed efforts to counter transnational illicit arms trafficking in the Sahel and Maghreb subregions, as well as the activities of the UNODC Global Firearms Programme. Grassi focused on her organization’s efforts to address firearms trafficking from a criminal justice perspective, where UNODC aims to reach beyond prevention to account for factors that enable illicit trafficking to persist. She noted the importance of Member States cutting off trafficking routes and institute regulatory and security measures to control weapons and their movements, as well as a need for affected communities to see enforcement action against participants in illegal markets.

     Anselme N. Yabouri, the Director of UNREC, spoke about practical disarmament measures in Africa and UNREC’s role in promoting peace and security across the continent with the aim of reducing violent crime. Yabouri noted contributions by several Member States to projects aimed at supporting compliance with international instruments, and he expressed UNREC’s continued commitment to working across the continent to improve the control of small arms and light weapons, as well as the physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) of weapons and ammunition.

     Baffour Amoa, Chair of the International Advisory Council of the International Action Network on Small Arms, offered a civil society perspective. He noted the importance of cooperation on disarmament efforts between all state and civil society actors, including those in political roles and those who work in the field. Amoa’s comments were complimented by the Director of Small Arms Survey, Eric Berman, who briefly discussed the role of peacekeepers in the recovery of small arms and light weapons from armed actors, as well as the opportunity to improve guidelines and regulations for the confiscation of arms by peacekeepers to prevent weapons loss or misuse.

     Lastly, Joseph Ahoba of ECOWAS and Karl Wagner of BICC discussed the practical aspects and applications of arms control in the context of a recent case study in Gambia. The panelists reviewed an ECOWAS-led PSSM assessment of Gambia’s storage facilities, and they offered numerous recommendations to improve its storage practices and facilities. Suggestions included additional training of authorities managing the storage and destruction of munitions; utilization of surplus munitions; and elimination of all obsolete munitions.
Text by Emily Addison