The efforts of Central African nations to consolidate peace and further development are being thwarted by weapons trafficking, top United Nations officials warned today, calling on Member States to do all they can to eradicate this scourge.
“Central Africa is awash with illicit weapons – exacerbating inter-communal violence, increasing cross-border crime and threatening ongoing peace and national reconciliation processes,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said in her remarks to a debate in the Security Council.
“Peace and security in Central Africa require a strong commitment by States in the sub-region together with State suppliers of weapons to expand their individual and collective efforts to eradicate weapons trafficking,” she stated.
Such efforts, Ms. Migiro added, must include greater commitment by the States of the sub-region to implement global instruments and to strengthen their capacity to identify and combat those involved in illicit brokering activities.
These instruments include the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects; the UN Firearms Protocol; and the International Tracing Instrument.
In addition, Central African States should make the best possible use of tools and expertise made available by the world body, including from the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, she said.
The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) noted that today’s conflicts take place within rather than between nations, and are fought with light rather than heavy weapons. The global illicit arms trade is estimated to be worth $200-$300 million annually, and Africa, the most profitable market for smugglers, suffers the largest number of casualties because of it.
“Even small amounts of arms can undermine the socio-economic progress of a nation, break the State’s monopoly on the use of force, or create a tipping point in political in political (or military) stalemates,” said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.
“In short, illicit arms fuel the violence that undermines security, development and justice,” he added, stressing the need to tackle both the demand and supply of illicit arms.
“Arms trafficking is another pandemic. The therapy is known, the surgical instruments available. I hope this meeting will spur Member States to use these tools to cut the arms flows that fuel conflicts, undermine States and enrich criminals.”
The Council, in a presidential statement, encouraged Member States to “undertake vigorous actions aimed at restricting the supply of SALW [small arms and light weapons] and ammunitions to areas of instability in Central Africa.”
Among other things, the 15-member body also called on international partners to assist countries in the region to strengthen their capacities to prevent the illicit proliferation of such weapons, and to take measures related to the security and management of stockpiles of arms.