From 5 to 7 December, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) participated in the West African Region Working Group of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF). The regional meeting [MC1] , supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), was held in Banjul, The Gambia. Attendees included senior officials from West African Member States and associated Sahel States, including Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic. Global Counter Terrorism Forum Member States included Algeria, Germany, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, along with UN agencies (UNOCT, IOM, UNREC, UNODC) and other partners, including the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), the Accra Initiative, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), the German cooperation (GIZ), Interpol, among others.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss good practices and regional standards [MC1] with a view to strengthening the capacities of national law enforcement, intelligence agencies and judicial actors in the detection and disruption of SALWs and associated ammunition and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) networks and supply chains, and in the investigation and prosecution of related terrorist crimes.
To that end, the regional meeting covered the illicit procurement of Small Arms and Light Weapons by Terrorist Groups in West Africa and addressed the use of UAS by terrorist groups in the region. Participants explored initiatives and measures to address the acquisition of SALW, UASand associated ammunitions by terrorist groups. Procurement methods, trafficking routes and linkages with transnational organized crime were also discussed. In addition, attendees assessed the growing trend of complex terrorist attacks carried out with the support of drones. In assessing ways to address this growing phenomenon, participants were briefed on the Berlin Memorandum on Good Practices for Countering Terrorist use of UAS. The Memorandum provides States with non-binding principles to effectively address this new threat. The United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa’s presentation, developed in coordination with UNODA/STU and UNODC, focused on the trends, supply chains, objectives and targets of the UAVs used by terrorist groups. The challenges posed by the use of UAVs were also addressed and national, regional and international initiatives identified with which to address the growing threat. Participants noted that the increased use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and UAS to commit terrorist acts represented a groundbreaking trend which needed to be monitored by UNREC given that the use of this new technology was closely linked to illicit acquisition, use and trade of SALW which fuel terrorism in the Sahel region expanding towards the coastal countries of West Africa.
Participants explored several avenues to prevent the use of UAS by terrorist groups, including the i) strengthening of regional and national legislative and institutional frameworks; ii) improved means of detecting the illicit trafficking of SALW and effective border security management; iii) sustained investigation and prosecution of the procurement and use of SALW and ammunition by terrorist armed groups; and iv) enhanced national and regional cooperation and information sharing to help eliminate terrorist procurement of illicit SALW and UAS in the region.
The meeting took place in a context of increased terrorist threats in the Sahel Region expanding towards the coastal countries of West Africa and the increased use of UAS (drones) by terrorist groups. The use of such advanced technology has altered conflict dynamics as terrorist groups are now equipped with strengthened reconnaissance capabilities, intelligence gathering and carry out more targeted and sophisticated complex [MC1] terrorist attacks which pose a threat to defense and security forces and raise serious concerns regarding the protection of civilians.
The three-day meeting adopted a set of recommendations pertaining to i) SALW, associated ammunitions and UAS legal, regulatory and policy frameworks; ii) information and intelligence sharing and data management; and iii) the strengthening of national and regional capacities. For the effective implementation of the set of recommendations, participants emphasized that strengthened national and regional cooperation and information sharing mechanisms were essential to disrupt the procurement and use of terrorist SALW, associated ammunitions and UAS.