Magazine article UN Chronicle

The Chronicle Interview

Magazine article UN Chronicle

The Chronicle Interview

Article excerpt

IBRAHIMA E. SALL is the Director of the Programme of Assistance and Coordination for Security and Development (PCASED), a UN Development Programme (UNDP) Africa regional programme designed to combat the proliferation of small arms and to be the implementing instrument of the Moratorium on importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms, signed by the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Mr. Sail, a graduate of HEC Business School (France), the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania (United States) and the University Paris La Sorbonne, was formerly Minister of Planning Economic Development and International Cooperation of Senegal and a staff member of the International Finance Corporation. He has also worked as a consultant for international organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

On the proliferation of small arms and light arms

Since the end of the Second World War, tens of millions of people have been killed by conventional weapons, mostly small arms and light weapons, such as rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Easy to buy, easy to transport and easy to use, these military-style weapons are the weapons of choice in low-intensity conflicts and have become the tools of the trade of drug smugglers, terrorists, rebels and criminals, corroding the fabric of civil society.

There are more than half a million small arms and light weapons currently in circulation. More than 50 per cent of the weapons that proliferate in Africa--an estimated 8 million in West Africa alone--have been used to fuel bloody conflicts in that subregion, as well as in the Mano River Basin, Guinea Bissau and the Cassamance region, and more recently in Cote d'lvoire. Recurring cycles of violence, erosion of political legitimacy and loss of economic viability--all of these deprive affected Governments of their authority and ability to cope with the accumulation, proliferation and use of small arms. The resulting "weaponization' of society fuels further cycles of violence, despair and, ultimately, State collapse.

The first step in breaking this vicious cycle is to recognize and understand a problem that until recently received little attention from diplomats and disarmament experts. One important development is the first United Nations International Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons In All Its Aspects, held in July 2001. No doubt, the Security Council's meeting on 18 March 2003 on the question of "proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and the phenomenon of mercenaries: threats to peace and security in West Africa" was another timely opportunity to raise awareness and understanding of the excessive and destabilizing accumulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons in West Africa, and to promote international efforts to address this problem.

On the ECOWAS Moratorium on light weapons

Recognizing the threats to national and regional security posed by the proliferation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons, and convinced that the collective security of West Africa can be best coordinated by a subregional mechanism, the 15 members of ECOWAS signed a Moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacturer of light weapons in West Africa. The Moratorium's "security-first" approach is derived from the broad UNDP goals of poverty eradication and sustainable human development in Africa, a fundamental pre-requisite of which is enhanced human security within and between States. This new vision of response to crisis and postcrisis situations, articulated by UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown in January 2001, is now practised as a valid proposition for societies that have been shattered by civil strife and armed conflicts, and where humanitarian and development imperatives cannot be dissociated from the rule of law and good governance. …

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