This report is an overview of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) proliferation in West Africa, focusing on the implementation of sub-regional control instruments. In this regard, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa (ECOWAS Moratorium) stands out as the main platform on which arms control in the sub-region is based.
The study found that the implementation of the Moratorium has been more evolutionary than revolutionary, though the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UN Small Arms Conference) has given added impetus to the campaign against small arms proliferation. However, implementation has been uneven, with some states demonstrating genuine will, while others routinely disregard the provisions of the control instruments that they have signed.
Both the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA) and the ECOWAS Moratorium are little known among the population of West Africa, which weakens their potential impact. Therefore, civil society has become a major actor in the fight against SALW proliferation, increasingly raising awareness of these instruments. This is evidenced by the creation of the West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA) in May 2002, and the evolution of the Dakar Process, which has seen civil society push for the adoption of a Draft Supplementary Protocol.
The study makes the following recommendations, as detailed in the report:
• A Small Arms Unit should be established within the ECOWAS Secretariat to enhance effective sub-regional interface with and between governments and civil society;
• The Mandate and Terms of Reference of the proposed Small Arms Unit should be articulated by ECOWAS. This would also involve rethinking the current SALW control institutional framework, and looking at how such a Unit would relate to other agencies or programmes like the Programme for Coordination and Assistance on Security and Development;
• International actors, such as donors, working on SALW issues, should ensure the coordination of their activities and interventions in West Africa;
• Civil society organisations’ methods and skills of advocacy and lobbying could be enhanced in order to fully achieve their potential. Research and advocacy work and capacities could be strengthened, in particular through the provision of material assistance.
• A small but functional WAANSA secretariat should be supported for at least the first five years;
• The capacity of National Commissions could be enhanced through additional workshops and training of trainers in project proposal drafting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and resource mobilisation strategies;
• The ECOWAS Moratorium should become a legally-binding instrument;
• The draft Supplementary Protocol to the ECOWAS Moratorium should be refined and supported through a Conference on ‘The Role of Non-State Actors in Illicit Small Arms Proliferation’, which could potentially be co-organised by ECOWAS and WAANSA;
• There is a need to develop the capacity of the ECOWAS Zonal Observation Bureaux and civil society to monitor small arms flows in West Africa;
• Existing capacities for border control structures and personnel should be strengthened;
• Effective and sustained advocacy campaigns to raise awareness about ECOWAS Moratorium and UNPoA should be pursued, not only by civil society organisations, but also by governmental authorities; and
• A process of review and revision is required in most countries in order to bring legislation up to date with requirements contained in international and regional agreements.