The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) hosted experts from six countries of the Sahel to work on regional security and stability through preventing the diversion of, and illicit trafficking of government-held conventional arms and ammunition.
The lack of effective Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) measures in existing depots of conventional arms and ammunition in the Sahel constitutes a serious setback to peace and security in the region and beyond. Recently, government stockpiles in Libya and Mali were looted by armed non-state actors, including terrorist groups. In this regard, there is a high risk of similar occurrences in other Sahel countries where armed and terrorist groups operate and are involved in the illicit trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and their ammunition. It is therefore crucial to prevent government-held SALW and ammunition from falling into the wrong hands or getting diverted into the black market.
To this end and within the framework of the "PSSM Project in the Sahel", co-funded by the European Union, UNREC organised a Wilton Park Conference under the theme "Towards better Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) in the Sahel region", on 14 and 15 March 2016 in Lomé. The event gathered the National Focal Points and National Commissions on Small Arms and Light Weapons from six States of the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Chad), as well as experts from international organizations (African Union, ECOWAS, and the European Union), relevant UN agencies (UNODC, UNMAS, UNIDIR, UNOWA, etc.), specialized agencies such as INTERPOL, BICC, MAG, Conflict Armament Research (CAR), and the Sahel G5.
The opening session was chaired by the Togolese Minister for Security and Civil Protection, Col. Damehane Yark, in the presence of H.E. Ambassador Mr. Nicolas Berlanga Martinez (Head of the European Union Delegation in Togo), Mr. Mark Smith representing Wilton Park, and Ms. Olatokunbo Ige, UNREC Director.
In her speech, Ms. Ige stated that "the current precarious situation demands that we address arms control issues through proper management of stockpiles by States and raising public awareness concerning the issues of illicit circulation of SALW. Among the important aspects of this meeting is to help these six Sahel States to modernise their weapons storage systems and create their own arms control monitoring mechanisms."
Today, more than ever, the security situation in our sub-region requires much more rigor in the implementation of policies linked to SALW. Collective awareness is required to effectively fight against terrorism and we must act together with the help of our partners," said Col. Yark. In a similar vein, the Head of the EU Delegation in Togo invited all States to unite against terrorism, which in his view, currently threatens national, regional and international borders. The 2-day conference offered an opportunity to exchange experiences, obtain the necessary political buy-in to conduct project activities, as well as a platform to discuss regional cooperation. The meeting was conducted through presentations, sharing of successful arms storage and control experiences, discussions and group work.
It is important to note that the 36-month PSSM Project in the Sahel was initiated within the framework of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in SALW in All Its Aspects and the 2005 EU Strategy to combat illicit accumulation and trafficking of SALW and their ammunition, through EU Council decision 2014/912/CFSP, with its implementation entrusted to the UNODA through UNREC.
The project aims at contributing to security and stability in the Sahel region by preventing the diversion of and illicit trafficking in government-held SALW and ammunition through providing assistance to the six countries mentioned above, in improving physical security and stockpile management.
The project is based on four components, the first of which was the holding of the Wilton Park Conference on 14 - 15 March 2016, the other three being the review of PSSM legislations, administrative procedures and national consultations, field activities, as well as the establishment of national standards in accordance with IATGs and ISACS.
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