French-speaking African parliamentarians convene to discuss regional security and civil-military relations during Disarmament Week

December 16th, 2022

During this year’s Disarmament Week, the United Nations Regional Center for Peace, and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) organized a workshop with parliamentarians from French-speaking African countries on their contributions to establishing effective defense and security policies in Africa.

Co-funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the event linked the parliamentarians with expert panelists from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS Africa) and the Parliamentarian Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PFSALW), with a view to discussing ways to  build inclusive and participatory civil-military relations.

In hybrid setting, parliamentarians from Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Togo, and the experts reflected on regional security issues, mechanisms for civil-military cooperation, and identified needs and opportunities for greater involvement of MPs in preparing and implementing defense and security policies.

In his introductory remarks, Mr. Ndecky  Frederick from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) noted that the workshop was timely, particularly in light of emerging security threats in the region.

UNREC’s Director, Mr. Anselme Yabouri, added that the rapidly changing of the geopolitical landscape is impacting global and regional disarmament and arms control efforts. Parliamentarians, he said, in representing their respective constituencies, have a vital role to play in ensuring that national defense and security policies are effective and include disarmament and arms control efforts, especially in the fight against the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons. He expressed his hope that the workshop would be an opportunity to establish a framework for consultation and exchange between parliamentarians and UNREC on effective small arms control.

Next, Karin Olofsson, Secretary General of the Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PFSALW) assessed the good practices, lessons learned and perspectives of parliamentarians and civil-military relations across the continent. Mr. Issaka Souaré, Regional Advisor at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS Africa) office in Dakar, followed by offering an overview of security challenges in Africa and suggested concrete recommendations for responding to these threats. Mr. Thibaud Mulier, Researcher and Lecturer at the University of Paris Nanterre (France), concluded with an in-depth exploration of how parliamentarians can enhance their role in exercising oversight both when defense and security policies are created, and in their implementation.

In the ensuing discussion segment, the participating parliamentarians highlighted several areas for the way forward, which included: building capacity of MPs on defense and security matters, conducting thematic research on regional dynamics, and convening regular meetings and networking opportunities for parliamentarians to exchange on best practices for adequate legislation and exercising effective democratic control of the defense and security sector. Their recommendations will be captured in a post-workshop report, which will be made available to all participants.

In closing, UNREC”s Deputy Director Mr. Jiaming Miao encouraged MPs to continue and strengthen their involvement in disarmament, peace and security efforts, in order to promote good governance on these vital issues.