United Nations General Assembly 78th First Committee Side Event Strengthening weapons and ammunition management in Africa

November 10th, 2023

The United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) hosted a side event on strengthening weapons and ammunition management (WAM) in Africa. Panelists took stock of international, regional and national efforts on WAM policy and practice in Africa, sharing insights on cooperation and assistance opportunities, challenges and examples of progress across Africa for preventing the trafficking and diversion of conventional weapons and ammunition, and mitigating the risk of unplanned explosions of ammunition.

Ivor Fung, Chief of UNODA’s Conventional Arms Branch moderated the event, highlighting relevant international policy developments, including the recent conclusion of the open-ended working group on conventional ammunition and the launch of the Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on A New Agenda for Peace, which identifies arms control as a critical tool for preventing conflict and violence and sustaining peace and calls for action to reduce the human cost of weapons.

Ambassador Lauri Voionmaa, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations, delivered opening remarks, expressing strong appreciation for UNIDIR’s approach to strengthening weapons and ammunition management in support of broader peace and security agendas, including Finland’s priorities on Women Security and the Peace and youth. He emphasized Finland’s continuing support for the implementation of international arms control instruments, such as the Arms Trade Treaty, the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the forthcoming Global Framework for Through-life Conventional Ammunition Management.

Panelists provide their insights on Weapons and Ammunition Management in Africa

The panel of speakers included Mr. Paul Holtom, Head of the Conventional Arms and Ammunition Programme, UNIDIR, Ms. Nora Allgaier, Political Affairs Officer, Conventional Arms Branch, UNODA,  Mr. Peter Otim, Expert, African Union Commission, and Ms. Linda Kesse Antwi, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Ghana to the United Nations.

Mr. Paul Holtom provided an overview of the use of UNIDIR’s Reference Methodology for National Weapons and Ammunition Management Baseline Assessments and presented key findings from UNIDIR’s 2023 “WAM in Africa Insights” publication which will be released later this year.  He also highlighted some of the key persisting challenges which continue to impede effective weapon and ammunition management in Africa, including lack of resources or lack of knowledge within national coordination mechanism. Critical enabling factors for progress and priority actions for WAM were also presented.

Ms. Nora Allgaier briefed on UNODA’s cooperation and assistance mechanisms and opportunities for strengthening WAM including in Africa, which include two funding mechanisms, the United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR), and the Saving Lives Entity (SALIENT), as well as dedicated WAM-related programmes and projects. The latter include UNODA’s multi-year project to support the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the International Tracing Instrument, and the UN SaferGuard Programme dedicated to promoting safe and secure through-life conventional ammunition management. Ms. Allgaier provided concrete examples of UNODA’s assistance activities in African countries, including through its joint initiative with the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) on effective WAM in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration context and the joint ODA – African Union project to support the September Africa Amnesty Month for the collection and surrender of illicit weapons.

Mr. Peter Otim from the African Union Commission provided insights on WAM from a regional perspective. He stressed some of the key security challenges that African States are facing, such as poor WAM practices, high levels of communal violence and criminality and increasing terrorist threat. Mr. Otim remarked that the key issue lies in the implementation of effective response mechanisms to these challenges. As such, he welcomed the UN funding and assistance mechanisms related to WAM and advocated for the stronger awareness-raising and outreach of these opportunities towards African States. Mr. Otim closed his remarks by informing about the AU’s support to States in elaborating a common African position for next year’s Fourth Review Conference on the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons to bring forth the specific issues African States are facing.

Ms. Linda Kesse Antwi from the Permanent Mission of Ghana to the United Nations offered a national perspective, presenting Ghana’s actions in enhancing its national WAM practice and policies. These have included the conduct of a WAM baseline assessment resulting in the identification of 16 priorities areas; on-going efforts in establishing a national policy framework on SALW, a review and strengthening of its National Commission on SALW, which have all led to more responsive WAM efforts in the country.  She also echoed the Fourth Review Conference of the Programme of Action will offer a crucial opportunity for African States to address WAM.