30 May 2018

Arms trafficking / Africa prepares for the UN small arms review conference

In June, the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons will be reviewed for the third time.

From 18 – 29 June, the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNPoA) will be reviewed for the third time at the UN headquarters in New York. The UNPoA was adopted by all UN member states in 2001, and the two previous review conferences took place in 2006 and 2012. This year’s review conference (popularly referred to as RevCon3) presents a new opportunity for the fight against the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Africa to be stepped up.

Several preparatory initiatives have been taking place globally in the run-up to the conference. Although Africa has not held major consultative policy meetings in the run-up to the RevCon3, there have been two notable developments that may help drive the agenda.

In early March 2018, the Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons (an organisation that supports parliamentarians in work related to SALW) hosted a workshop at the headquarters of the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa.

The UNPoA review conference is an opportunity for Africa to step up the fight against illicit arms

The event was an important opportunity for African parliamentarians to discuss a common position ahead of the RevCon3. Although no common statement was reached, the report of the meeting, adopted by all, noted general agreement on the need to maintain momentum towards a common position.

The second development is that the continent has had three of its member states (Egypt, Kenya and Sierra Leone) elected as vice presidents of the review conference, to represent the African group. According to the rules of procedure for the conference, there are 29 vice presidents, a president and a rapporteur-general. The election of three African vice presidents is a key opportunity for the continent to voice its views and concerns at the RevCon3 negotiating table.

Africa should push for a linkage between the implementation of the UNPoA and SDG16

In addition, France’s position as the RevCon3 president means that its four priority points for the conference are likely to be given considerable attention. These points reflect the major challenges that Africa faces, namely recognising the urgency of the threat; strengthening and sustaining commitment; ensuring a comprehensive approach; and prioritising concrete achievements.

It would be desirable for Africa to push for a direct linkage between the global implementation of the UNPoA and Sustainable Development Goal 16.4.2, which relates to the proportion of seized small arms and light weapons that are recorded and traced, in accordance with international standards and legal instruments. Linking the two would also ensure that resources used to implement these benefit both the UNPoA and SDG 16.4 simultaneously.

Nelson Alusala, senior research consultant, ENACT project, ISS


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