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Annan urges West Africa to make regional arms moratorium permanent

Annan urges West Africa to make regional arms moratorium permanent

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the Security Council take action to support the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) by naming violators of the regional body's arms moratorium and embargoes and by prosecuting those responsible for trafficking in human beings and natural resources.

The Security Council may wish "to produce a 'naming and shaming' list of individuals, corporations, groups and countries violating arms embargoes and the ECOWAS moratorium," he says in his latest progress report to the Council on the "mixed picture" of advances and inertia in combating sub-regional and cross-border problems in West Africa.

"Considering the close links between trafficking in small arms and light weapons and criminal activities, especially trafficking of natural resources, such as diamonds and timber, and human trafficking, including women and children, the Council may wish to assist in bringing those responsible for such crimes before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution," he says.

Controlling the weapons required the collaboration of arms producers and suppliers, he says, suggesting that the Council may wish to exhort producers and suppliers to follow the example of the 33-country Wassenaar Arrangement, which includes major arms-manufacturing nations, including Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Those countries pledge "to contribute to regional and international security and stability, by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilizing accumulations."

The Council may also wish to have all weapons used in UN peacekeeping missions marked for tracing, Mr. Annan says.

Meanwhile, he urges ECOWAS members to convert the moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms and light weapons into a legally binding instrument "at the earliest opportunity."

Such a move, in tandem with setting up a regional registry of small arms, would send a strong message that West African governments are themselves ready to address the devastating effects of small arms and light weapons proliferation, he says.

He notes that rising youth employment and the desperation that accompanies it are threatening to undermine any progress made in countries coming out of crisis, especially when added to the alarming growth of urban populations.

In a speech to a UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) workshop last August in Senegal, Mr. Annan's Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said that at a time when 43.5 per cent of the 257 million ECOWAS population was younger than 15, "one can say that today armed conflict has become the first 'employer' of youth in West Africa, and warlords are currently the most powerful 'entrepreneurs' in the sub-region."

By the end of the year, the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), which Mr. Ould-Abdallah heads, along with its West African partners, is to produce a regionally integrated programme for reform of the security sector, Mr. Annan says.

He also appeals to the region's development partners to fund regional humanitarian programmes "which could improve the security of people in dire need of protection, or those whose coping capacities are close to exhaustion because of protracted hostilities."