West, Central and North Africa: Supporting the Arms Trade Treaty Process

02 May 2009

IANSA woman Justine KWACHU, Executive Director of WAA Cameroon participated in a meeting for civil society from West, Central and Northern Africa on 'Supporting an Arms Trade Treaty' in Lome, Togo from 15-16 April 2009.

Hosted by The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNIREC), the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and the West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA), participants came from Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tunisia and Togo. A special guest came from France, Argentina, Latin America with resource persons from IANSA and UNREC.

The purpose and objectives of the workshop were to prepare civil society input to the Regional Governmental workshop on an ATT to be held in Dakar, Senegal from the 28-29 April 2009. At the ATT workshop, participants had the opportunity to share best practices and skills in lobbying and campaigning. In addition, the UN Charter was critically analysed as well as the submission and comments made by some ECOWAS Member States, Algeria, Cameroon, Chad, DRC, and Tunisia to the UN Secretary-General. Participants identified gaps and made suggestions as to how what the governments said at the UN meetings could be further strengthened.

Civil society organizations present committed themselves to challenge Governments to input effectively into the ATT process at the United Nations so that the world can develop peacefully without the threat posed by the lack of international regulations to effectively control conventional weapons.

The major outcomes of the workshop were:

  1. The set of activities civil society groups have done in support of the ATT process.
  2. Participants were exposed to the reasons why the world needs an ATT and the benefits thereof to Africa.
  3. Participants were informed about the UN and the ATT process and the role of civil society in the scheme of things.
  4. Participants were taught how international law applies to international arms transfers: including the UN Charter, human rights law, international humanitarian law and socio-economic development.
  5. Participants discussed the views of states on an ATT and analysed governments’ statements so far and identified gaps in the views exposed by the States and submitted proposals.
  6. Arms campaigning in Africa used the WAANSA experience in terms of successes, challenges and vision for the future. This was followed by a presentation of the Latin America experience.
  7. The workshop ended with participants drawing up their own action plans from now till October 2009 when the UN first Committee meets in New York.

Participants were encouraged to actively participate in the Global Week of Action from 15 – 21 June 2009 and to give visibility to civil society. In this regard, Governments of Central Africa are encouraged to give support to civil society endeavours accordingly.

The workshop endorsed the delegation that will represent Civil Society Organisations at the UNIDIR/EU meeting in Dakar from the 28th to 29th of April 2009.

Participants call on the Government of Togo:

  • To play a leading role in support of civil society at the UNIDIR/EU workshop in Dakar as the CSO workshop took place in Lome.
  • To encourage other governments to speak in more details on the Feasibility Parameters and Scope of an ATT.
  • To request all ECOWAS Member States to ratify the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

The entry into force of the ECOWAS Convention will impact positively the ATT process. This is because the 12 Golden Principles underlying the ATT are already adopted and articulated in the ECOWAS Convention. It is therefore important that all West African States ratify the said Convention before the second session of the Open-Ended Working Group meeting in July 2009.

National Networks and Coalitions of WAANSA should increase their lobbying and campaigning toward the ratification of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and continue to lobby for Governmental support to the Arms Trade Treaty currently being discussed by the UN Open-Ended Working Group.

Participants appeal to the International Community to continue to support the efforts of Civil Society in the fight against the proliferation of small arms.

Participants take this opportunity to thank His Excellency Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, the President of the Republic of Togo, his Government, the people of Togo and UNREC for the support received during the workshop.

Women in Alternative Action Cameroon