West, Central African Countries Gather to Set Priorities for Tackling Illicit Small Arms in Preparation for Global Meeting

LOMÉ, 29 February (Office for Disarmament Affairs) — Lomé is set to host a pivotal gathering of West and Central African countries to review progress made and to set priorities for tackling illicit small arms and light weapons.  The Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Fourth Review Conference on the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UN PoA) and its International Tracing Instrument is set to take place from 29 February to 1 March.  As a mark of the importance of this gathering, the President-designate of the Fourth Review Conference, Maritza Chan Valverde of Costa Rica, as well as Adedeji Ebo, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, will be in attendance, along with delegations from over 26 countries of West and Central African regions, and regional and subregional organizations such as the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

The regional preparatory meeting will be dedicated to fostering an exchange of views on the state of implementation of the UN Programme of Action and its International Tracing Instrument.  Participating West and Central African Member States will also use it as an opportunity to take stock of progress made and the challenges they face in implementation, as well as identify a set of priorities in advance of the Fourth Review Conference, to take place in New York from 17 to 28 June.

Small arms and light weapons are the weapons of choice in initiating, sustaining and exacerbating armed conflicts, intercommunal tensions, violent extremism, the expansion of terrorism in the Sahel region and other associated forms of organized crime.  Their misuse facilitates human rights violations and gender-based violence.  According to the latest figure, in 2021 alone 260,000 people were killed by small arms amounting to 45 per cent of all violent deaths.[1]  This is more than 700 people a day, or one person dying from small arms every two minutes.

The UN PoA, adopted in 2001, is a critical, politically binding framework.  It encompasses commitments by Member States to enhance control measures over small arms, including through improved national regulations, stockpile management, import/export controls and international cooperation.  The introduction of the International Tracing Instrument in 2005 further strengthened this framework, by emphasizing the need for effective marking and record-keeping of weapons, thus aiding in their traceability.  These measures are integral to the global effort in addressing the challenges posed by the illicit arms trade and align with the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

United Nations Member States periodically review progress on these commitments, with biennial meeting of States and review conferences every six years.  A Preparatory Committee from 12 to 16 February in New York helped lay the groundwork.

The development and strengthening of national and regional instruments and action plans are key to advancing holistic approaches to small arms and light weapons control, and to address the threat posed by their diversion, illicit trafficking and misuse.

That is why, in anticipation of the Fourth Review Conference, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa is organizing a regional meeting in Lomé, Togo.  The preparatory regional meeting will provide a forum for participating States and other stakeholders, including regional organizations, to identify country and region-specific small arms and light weapons-related challenges and discuss priorities for the Fourth Review Conference, in a security context marked by the growing expansion of terrorism in West and Central African regions exacerbated by the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons.

The two-day meeting will feature thematic presentations and group discussions on various themes, such as developing effective national policies, enhancing tracing of small arms and light weapons through the International Tracing Instrument framework, and identifying and developing strategies to curb the supply and demand of small arms and light weapons.  It also offers a unique opportunity for participating States and regional organizations of West and Central Africa to engage in constructive discussions on combating terrorism, illicit trafficking and transnational crimes within the framework of the Programme of Action and contribute to countries’ national reports.  They will also explore:  synergies between UN PoA and regional instruments such as the Kinshasa Convention and the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials; their ammunition, components and other associated material; weapons and ammunition management, as well as commitments made in the area of preventing violent extremism; and integration of small arms and light weapons control into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its links to the African Union 2063 Agenda for inclusive and sustainable development.  Moreover, the regional preparatory meeting is a fundamental platform to discuss ways to strengthen international cooperation and assistance.

The regional meeting takes place in the context of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs’ global project that seeks to support full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action and its International Tracing Instrument, supported by the European Union.

For additional details on the Preparatory Regional Meeting, please reach out to Mariame Camara, Political Affairs Officer, at email:  mariame.camara@un.org.


[1] 1 Small Arms Survey, Global Violent Deaths Database, December 2023

For information media. Not an official record.