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ECOWAS, UNDP, EU seek way forward on challenges of small arms in west africa
  Abuja 28th April 2016

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Concerned by the increasing presence of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in the hands of non-state actors and the attendant implication for peace and security in the region, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are jointly working on a strategy to deal with the menace.

Pursuant to this, ECOWAS in conjunction with its development partners held the third Steering Committee meeting of the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project on the 28th of April 2016 to evaluate the implementation of the project in 2015 and assess the progress made so far on the approved project work plan.

The implementation of the project (a pilot weapons collection programme), is very crucial to meeting the challenges posed by the prevalence of SALW in the region and the determination of the regional group to fashion out a sustainable way forward.

Declaring the meeting open, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) who was represented by the Director, Peace keeping and Regional Security Dr. Cyriaque Agnekethom noted that the meeting which was called just before the commencement of the United Nations (UN) programme on small arms, would allow stakeholders to make a few decision on the issue of mobilizing resources. He added that the meeting came at an auspicious time as ECOWAS has entered a new circle in Indicative Programme with the EU, the major funding partner.PIC.2 DSC_9413

He said ECOWAS was worried about the continuous flow of SALW to sustain conflict “not just only Nigeria and Mali but also Burkina Faso and Niger. Now we do not know which country would be next…And this is now being compounded by piracy and urban criminality in the region”

Stressing that there was a need to review what has been done so far before heading to the last phase of the project Dr. Agnekethom also enthused that progress is being made in the fight against the menace as ECOWAS and her partners are working together in the area of coordination and exchange of information and strategies all of which is expected to lead to positive steps in the next phase of the project-arms collection and destruction.

The UNDP Country Director, Pa Lamin Beyal pledged the support of the UN’s global development agency to the work that is being done in ECOWAS member states in aid of peace and stability. He said that the people of the region need to get together as a collective to rid the area of the threats. Although he maintained that societies “cannot be totally free of fighting and conflicts” he said the use of sophisticated arms to the detriment of economic, political and social development has become very devastating.

In contributory remarks by participants, concerns were raised on the need to move from good intention to concrete action and the fact that conflicts between herdsmen and host communities were now getting out of hand particularly countries such as Nigeria. Deliberations also centered on the issue of the extra cost brought about by the extra volume of work as well as the procurement and deployment of machines for destruction of weapons since the projects are trans-boundary.PIC.6DSC_9394

The main presentation by Federeick Ampiah gave updates to the 2nd Steering Committee recommendations as well as other recommendations of the Peace and Security Committee (PSC) meetings. There were also situation reports of member states and quarterly reports from project coordinators and regional team leaders.

The 3rd Steering Committee meeting had in attendance, representatives of the National Committee on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NATCOM) of member states, Ambassador Eineje Onobu, programmes coordinator of the NATCOM Nigeria Mr. Dickson Orji and the representative of the EU Stefania Marrone.

The implementation of the ECOWAS-EU small arms project which relates to the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) component and practical disarmament in Member States was launched in 2014 in seven beneficiary countries. These are Mali, Liberia, Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

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