World news story

The UK and West Africa partners for a strong Arms Trade Treaty

UK supports Abuja seminar to help ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) member states’ preparedness for the Arms Trade Treaty ((ATT) negotiations in New York.

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From 18-28 March, the final rounds of negotiations on a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) are taking place at the United Nations in New York. The UK is a strong supporter of the need for such a Treaty which would save lives, promote development, combat terrorism and crime, and reduce human suffering, while protecting the legitimate arms trade.

As part of the UK Government’s global diplomatic effort, the British High Commission in Nigeria co-funded a two day seminar last month to contribute to ECOWAS member states’ preparedness for the ATT negotiations in New York. The seminar was held on 21 and 22 February at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja and was funded from the UK Government’s Africa Conflict Prevention Pool, which is active in West Africa.

For the opening ceremony, Mr. Giles Lever, British Deputy High Commissioner, joined senior figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria, ECOWAS Commission, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA) and disarmament experts from across the Member States. Mr. Lever used his speech to note that “The ECOWAS states are a credible voice on the grounds for agreeing an ATT, as they can speak powerfully of the ravages of uncontrolled arms exports and illicit trade. We believe that a robust, comprehensive and properly implemented ATT will contribute to reducing the transfer and proliferation of small arms and light weapons in West Africa. In turn, this will reduce one of the fundamental drivers of conflict in West Africa and increase the likelihood of peace and stability in the region.”

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, expressed her gratitude to the ICRC and British High Commission for providing technical support and funding, respectively, for the seminar and made recommendations to delegates on how the ATT text could be improved.

The seminar also attracted attendees from the Nigerian and Cote d’Ivoire Permanent Missions to the UN in New York, as well as the World Council of Churches, Oxfam International, and the West African Action Network on Small Arms who helped facilitate the sessions.

The feedback showed that the seminar helped participants to:

  • consolidate the ECOWAS Common Position ahead of the ATT negotiations in New York;
  • gain a deeper understanding of the draft ATT text;
  • finalize their negotiation strategy and tactics on how to seek specific language improvements in order that the final text best reflects ECOWAS interests;
  • and issue a communiqué, which can be read here

Background on the Arms Trade Treaty and the UK Government Position

In December 2006, the UK introduced the initial Resolution calling for UN member states to agree a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The UK remains firmly committed to securing a robust and effective, legally binding ATT to regulate the international trade in conventional arms, as the current situation is unacceptable. For instance, a man, woman or child dies every minute as a result of armed violence. And in Africa alone, over 2 billion handguns and rifles are in circulation.

Read the opening statement to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty Final Conference by the UK Head of Delegation, Ambassador Joanne Adamson.

Background on the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool

The Conflict Pool is a UK Government funding mechanism for conflict prevention, stabilization and discretionary peacekeeping activities. It is managed jointly by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD). It emerged from a joint funding mechanism created in 2001 to bring together the three departments’ expertise in defence, diplomacy and development and to encourage common approaches to addressing conflict around the world.

The 2011 “Building Stability Overseas Strategy”, provides an overarching policy framework to tackle threats at source in high-risk and fragile and conflict-affected countries where UK interests are most at stake and where the UK can have an impact. It sets out how the Conflict Pool in one of a number of tools to support the three overall objectives of:

  • early warning;
  • rapid crisis response;
  • investing in upstream prevention

The Africa Conflict Pool Programme forms part of the wider Conflict Pool and had funding of around £40m in 2012/13. Within West Africa, the programme supports a variety of activities, such as support to the Sierra Leonean security sector reform, advice to the Nigerian armed forces, support to the Ghanaian criminal justice sector, or crisis response in Mali and the Sahel. The Conflict Pool combines both Official Development Assistance (ODA) and other funds (non-ODA).

Further information:

UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Published 27 March 2013