From 5 to 7 December, the United Nations Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) co-organized a “Regional seminar on the prevention of violent extremism and the management of conventional weapons in West Africa” in Lomé, Togo.
The seminar brought together more than 60 participants from some fifteen countries, including senior officials in public administrations responsible for the management of conventional weapons or the prevention of violent extremism (PVE), members of national human rights commissions, national and local members of parliament the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), civil society, research institutions and think tanks, and individual experts.
The seminar was opened by H.E. Hoadabalo Awate, Minister of Territorial Administration, Decentralisation and Development of Territories, Togo, Ms. Simone Haeberli, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Switzerland to Ghana, Togo and Benin, Mr. Nahmtante Anselme Yabouri, Director of UNREC, and Ms. Cécile Aptel, Deputy Director of UNIDIR.
Participants underlined the urgent need for a fresh mode of approach in responding to armed violence which would involve both a more holistic approach in the management of conventional weapons and also would focus on prevention and human security. To this end, participants indicated that it was essential that all relevant actors, at all levels, take steps to address the root causes of such violence. The demand for weapons should, many felt, be met by a control of their supply.
Recommendations on PVE and weapons management were issued at the seminar. These included: increasing information on the supply of and demand for weapons; creating fora for multi-stakeholder dialogue and the exchange of good practices; fostering cooperation between national weapons management and PVE institutions; reflecting on the linkages between PVE and weapons management in national strategic documents as well as in regional, continental and international frameworks; ensuring or re-establishing the State’s regalian role as guarantor of the people’s, ensuring adequate means and capacities for effective weapons and ammunition management and pursuing the participation of citizens and local communities, in particular women and youth, in the pursuit of human security.
Finally, participants recommended that the seminar should kick start a broader regional process aimed at sharing best practices in both conventional weapons management and PVE. It was proposed that this process could also entail regular meetings between national PEV and weapons management institutions, an assessment of existing national and regional frameworks for conventional weapons management and PVE and their interconnection, and the elaboration of regional guidelines by ECOWAS on both weapons management and PVE.
The final conclusions and recommendations of the regional seminar are contained in the summary of conclusions (available in English and French). In addition, a summary report of the seminar will be published and disseminated in early 2024.