On 23 November 2022, the National Commissions on Small Arms and Light Weapons from the fifteen Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), led by the Small Arms Division of the ECOWAS Commission, visited the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC).
The visit, which was covered by local media, was aimed at discussing ways to strengthen efforts to counter the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons in West Africa.
After UNREC presented its mandate, strategic plan, and work in line with the Office for Disarmament Affairs’ Strategic Plan, the delegations joined in a roundtable discussion about the challenges and priorities for promoting peace and disarmament in the region.
The representatives from the National Commissions highlighted the pressing need for international cooperation and assistance to strengthen the physical security and stockpile management of government-held arms and ammunitions. Furthermore, delegates urged for support to improve cross border security and management to deter the illicit proliferation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons, particularly in the Lake Chad basin and the Liptako-Gourma and neighboring regions.
The officials also pointed out the need to ensure women and young people participate in efforts to promote peace, tolerance and disarmament, including through the arts and sports – which offer powerful ways to raise awareness. In this regard, they encouraged UNREC to conduct “Arts and Sports for Peace and Disarmament” activities throughout west Africa, with a view to engaging communities. Lastly, they suggested that the United Nations system and ECOWAS explore further interagency cooperation, including through joint initiatives and projects with a view to advancing disarmament efforts and building resilient societies for sustaining peace.
Following the visit, the Director of ECOWAS’ Small Arms Division, Mr Ahoba Piex Joseph signed a statement and urged UNREC to continue its engagement with international and regional partners for resource mobilization to support related practical actions.