4720th Meeting (AM & PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR STRENGTHENED COOPERATION IN WEST AFRICA
TO COUNTER SMALL ARMS TRAFFICKING
Resolution 1467 (2003) Adopted Unanimously
Expressing profound concern at the impact of the proliferation of small arms and mercenary activities, on peace and security in West Africa, the Security Council today emphasized the need for the States of the subregion to strengthen cooperation to identify those illegally engaged in small arms trafficking, and to consider other steps, including recommendations from today’s workshop-style meeting on threats to peace and security in West Africa.
Following the public meeting, presided over by the Foreign Minister of Guinea, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1467 (2003), which contains a declaration on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and mercenary activities in West Africa. By that text, the Council recommended that the West African States consider broadening the small arms moratorium of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to include an information exchange mechanism for all types of arms procured by ECOWAS member States, as well as for arms transfers by supplier countries. Also recommended was the creation of an ECOWAS national register that would record national holdings of those weapons.
Opening the day-long meeting this morning, Secretary-General Kofi Annan thanked the Council for focusing its attention on a subject of great importance to the well-being of millions of people in West Africa, even when “all our minds are on Iraq”. In West Africa, the conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Côte d’Ivoire had been fuelled by an unregulated small arms trade, often funded by the illicit exploitation of natural resources. The flood of arms had been accompanied by a rise in mercenaries’ activities.
He urged countries to focus more intently on that “very real and very present threat” to peace. The problem was easily diagnosed; the more complex challenge was to mount an effective response, he said. Fortunately, the international community and the countries concerned had the tools to fight back. The programme of action on small arms adopted by the international community in 2001 offered a blueprint for action at all levels, and the United Nations was taking many steps. Nevertheless, spillover effects of the proliferation of small arms and mercenaries from one country to the next had underscored the need for regional cooperation and a comprehensive approach.
Opening remarks were also made by: Said Djinnit, Interim Commissioner for Peace, Security and Political Affairs of the African Union; Nana Effah-Apenteng, a representative of the Chairman of the ECOWAS; Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive
Secretary of ECOWAS; and Ibrahima Sall, Regional Director, Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED). All stressed that the small arms proliferation and the dangerous phenomenon of mercenaries were at the centre of African leaders’ concerns and were intricately linked to political destabilization, stalled development efforts, and massive human rights violations.
Worried that those scourges still ravaged the continent, despite much national legislation, Mr. Djinnit of the African Union said that the best programmes were of no use without the necessary political will to implement them. He called for sanctions against non-complying parties, provided for in the Union’s charter, and encouraged continued efforts to set up an African peer review mechanism. Underlying the plethora of weapons and the use of mercenaries, which made war even more atrocious, was poor governance and discrimination against minorities. Indeed, at the core of the quest for peace and security in Africa was good governance, he said.
Mr. Chambas, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, pointed out that West African leaders had initiated the “security first” approach to ending conflicts. That had led to the adoption of the Moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of light weapons in 1998, which was a bold and ambitious step in the management of licit and illicit small arms flows. The ECOWAS had remained engaged with the international community over the twin devils of small arms and mercenaries. He called on the international community to implement the 2001 programme of action on small arms and to provide necessary resources to enable the Community’s secretariat to implement the Moratorium.
Among the participants, including at the ministerial-level from West Africa, the Foreign Minister of Senegal, Cheick Tidiane Gadio, expressed grave concern over the eruption of mercenary movements, the increased appetite for certain natural resources, domestic social and political chasms, and transborder conflicts. Small arms had always lured criminal gangs with the “hook of easy money”. Now, the mercenaries, or “war dogs”, from distant or neighbouring lands had emerged. The “law of silence” -- the hallmark of certain political regimes there -- must be overturned and the regimes “neutralized”. Among his proposals was the creation of a special inquiry commission, whose conclusions would be submitted to the International Criminal Court.
The Foreign Minister of Liberia, Monie Captan, said the preponderance of mercenaries was due largely to the failure of the reintegration of former combatants, combined with a lack of adequate resources for such programmes. Mercenaries in West Africa often were “recycled” ex-combatants. That situation had been seen in Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Côte d’Ivoire. The recent arrest and disarming by French forces of more than 100 Liberian mercenaries fighting for the Côte d’Ivoire Government was an indication of the seriousness of the problem.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire said that the Liberian Minister had referred to the existence of so-called Liberian fighters in the Côte d’Ivoire army, without providing a shred of evidence and in spite of the denial of the Ivorian Government. The truth was that Liberian mercenaries had been part of the aggressors against Côte d’Ivoire since last September. In the west of the country, Liberian mercenaries were recruited and on the payroll of the aggressors
against Côte d’Ivoire. It was highly regrettable that the Liberian Minister had turned today’s workshop into a trial against his country.
Speaking in his national capacity, François Lonseny Fall, the Foreign Minister of Guinea, whose delegation holds the Council presidency for the month, said the international community seemed somewhat impotent when dealing with ongoing flashpoints of tension in the world. The causes of instability in West Africa had been diagnosed on many occasions, but the cure had been slow in coming. There was no doubt that domestic conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and now in Côte d’Ivoire had had a negative effect on the neighbouring countries and the region on the whole. The Council needed to proceed to in-depth consideration of the phenomenon and identify the means of terminating it, he said.
All 15 members of the Council participated in today’s discussion –- Angola, Cameroon, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Mexico, Chile, France, Syria, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Guinea. Also speaking were the representatives of the Gambia, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
The meeting began at 10:36 a.m. and was suspended at 1:05 p.m. It resumed at 3:16 p.m. and was adjourned at 6:17 p.m.
Following is the complete text of Council resolution 1467 (2003):
“The Security Council,
“Decides to adopt the attached declaration on the item entitled ‘Proliferation of small arms and light weapons and mercenary activities: threats to peace and security in West Africa’.
“The Security Council expresses its profound concern at the impact of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, as well as mercenary activities, on peace and security in West Africa. These contribute to serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, which the Council condemns. The Council requests States of the subregion to ensure that relevant measures adopted at the national, regional and international levels to combat these problems are put into effect.
“The Security Council calls on the States of the subregion to strengthen the adopted measures and to consider other appropriate steps, taking into account the recommendations emanating from this workshop. The Council also emphasizes the need for the States of the subregion to strengthen their cooperation in order to identify individuals and entities that engage illegally in trafficking in small arms and light weapons and provide support for mercenary activities in West Africa.
“The Security Council acknowledges the need to involve national Commissions/national Committees and other relevant local structures (including civil society) more fully in the practical implementation of the moratorium on
small arms and light weapons adopted by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 31 October 1998 and of the Programme of Action adopted on
20 July 2001 by the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, held in New York.
“The Security Council calls on the States of West Africa to consider the following recommendations that might contribute to the more effective implementation of the ECOWAS Moratorium on Small Arms:
(a)Broadening of the Moratorium to include an information exchange mechanism for all types of small arms procured by ECOWAS member States as well as for arms transfers by supplier countries;
(b)Enhancement of transparency in armaments, including through the establishment of an ECOWAS register that would record national inventories of small arms and light weapons;
(c)Strengthening national Commissions set up to oversee implementation of the Moratorium, in terms of staffing and equipment, and developing national plans of action;
(d)Taking necessary measures to build the capacity of the ECOWAS secretariat;
(e)Computerization of aircraft registration lists to ensure better monitoring of airspace, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, signed at Chicago on 7 December 1944;
(f) Introduction of a standardized end-user certificate for imported weapons.
“The Security Council expresses concern at the serious violations of the arms embargoes in West Africa and calls on Member States to comply fully with the relevant resolutions of the Council.
“The Security Council expresses its concern at links between mercenary activities, illicit arms trafficking and the violation of arms embargoes that help to foster and prolong conflicts in West Africa.
“The Security Council emphasizes the need to make peoples and entities of the subregion aware of the danger and consequences of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and of mercenary activities.
“The Security Council encourages all ECOWAS States, especially those most affected by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, to submit, as did other States, national reports on actions undertaken to implement the United Nations programme of action for small arms and light weapons to the Secretary-General in advance of the 2003 biennial review meeting.
“The Security Council appeals to the donor community to assist States of the subregion in implementing and strengthening measures relating to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and mercenary activities.
“The Security Council calls on relevant parties to conflicts in West Africa to recognize the importance of activities related to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in post-conflict situations, and of including such measures in the text of negotiated agreements, as well as specific measures for the collection and disposal of illicit and/or surplus small arms.
“The Security Council calls on all States in the subregion to cease military support for armed groups in neighbouring countries, and to take action to prevent armed individuals and groups from using their territory to prepare and launch attacks on neighbouring countries.
“The Security Council calls on arms-producing and exporting countries that have not yet done so to enact stringent laws, regulations and administrative procedures in order to ensure, through their implementation, more effective control over the transfer to West Africa of small arms by manufacturers, suppliers, brokers, and shipping and transit agents, including a mechanism that would facilitate the identification of illicit arms transfers, as well as careful scrutiny of end-user certificates.
“The Security Council reiterates its call to regional and subregional organizations to develop policies, activities and advocacy for the benefit of war-affected children in their regions. In this regard, the Council welcomes the Accra Declaration and Programme of Action on war-affected children and the subsequent establishment of a Child Protection Unit at the ECOWAS secretariat.”
The Security Council met this morning to hold an open debate on the question of “proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and the phenomenon of mercenaries: threats to peace and security in West Africa”. Chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guinea, the meeting will take the form of a workshop with the intention of giving it an interactive character.
In addition to the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, speakers at the meeting will include the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of West African States or their representatives, members of the Security Council, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
According to a background non-paper prepared by the Security Council President, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the phenomenon of mercenaries pose complex challenges to West Africa, involving security, humanitarian and development dimensions. The upsurge in intra-State conflicts and violence have created a staggering demand for small arms, and have contributed to the continued proliferation of bandits, rebel groups, mercenaries, uncontrolled police and militia in the entire subregion.
Half of the world’s trade in small arms is by illicit trafficking. It is estimated that West Africa has about 8 million illicit small arms in circulation. An area of concern is that more than half of those 8 million illicit arms are being used to fuel insurgency and the destabilization of West Africa. Another area of concern is the lack of a standardized, universally recognizable end-user certificate, which makes it easy for illicit arms dealers and brokers to forge them and apply for arms export licences in producer countries.
The objectives of the meeting include: the identification of the characteristics of the proliferation of small arms in West Africa; a focus on the practice and consequences of the use of mercenaries in West Africa; an evaluation of the implementation of the ECOWAS Moratorium on Small Arms at national and subregional levels; and recommendations for measures to build the capacity of West African States to eliminate the proliferation of small arms and the phenomenon of mercenaries.
Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN thanked the Council for focusing its attention –- “even at this critical moment when all our minds are on Iraq” -– on a subject of great importance to the welfare and well-being of millions of people in another region of the world, namely, West Africa. The uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the use of mercenaries sustained conflict, exacerbated violence, fuelled crime and terrorism, promoted violence, violated international humanitarian law and impeded development. The easy availability of small arms and light weapons was also strongly linked with the dramatic rise in the victimization of women and children, as well as the phenomenon of child soldiers, for light weapons could be carried and fired by children as young as nine or 10.
That link was particularly evident in West Africa, where the conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Côte d’Ivoire, had been fuelled by an unregulated trade in small arms –- often paid for with the proceeds from the illicit exploitation of natural resources, he continued. The flood of arms had been accompanied by a rise in the activities of mercenaries. Armed men moved across borders -– unemployed, but armed and willing to fight for whoever would pay them most. That supply side of the mercenary problem was closely linked, in turn, to the failure to adequately fund and implement disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and the failure to provide enough assistance to countries in restructuring their armed forces as part of post-conflict peace-building. The result in Liberia, for example, was that tens of thousands of former combatants faced little or no prospect of gainful employment, leaving them more susceptible to recruitment once again. Also worth mentioning were the actions of unscrupulous and predatory arms merchants.
The problem was easily diagnosed, he said. The more complex challenge was to mount an effective response. Fortunately, the international community and the countries concerned were not without tools with which to fight back. The programme of action on small arms adopted by the international community in 2001 offered a blueprint for action at all levels, including such steps as increased cooperation with Interpol and the World Customs Organization. The International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries had come into force in October 2001, and he urged all West African countries to join Mauritania, Mali, Senegal and Togo in ratifying that instrument.
Continuing, he recalled that the Council had demanded that countries in the Mano River Union cease military support for armed groups in neighbouring countries and refrain from any action that might contribute to destabilization of the situation on their borders. As another essential step, the Council had also imposed arms embargoes. The ECOWAS heads of State, for their part, had agreed to work more intensively towards making the region a child-soldier-free zone and had put in place a moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of small arms in the region. The UNDP had been helping the countries involved to implement the moratorium.
The United Nations was taking many steps at the operational level and on the ground, he said. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and the United Nations peace-building office in Liberia were helping those countries address not only questions of small arms, but the full range of post-conflict reconstruction and development tasks. The Organization was also leading peace-building efforts in Guinea-Bissau. And of course, the economic and social development efforts carried out by the entire United Nations system would necessarily have a supportive impact on efforts to demilitarize the societies involved.
In conclusion, he said that unless adequately addressed, the proliferation of small arms and mercenaries would continue to pose a severe threat to the region’s hopes of attaining durable peace and security. Spillover effects from one country to the next had been all too common, underscoring the need for regional cooperation and a comprehensive approach. The Council’s own panels of experts on Sierra Leone and Liberia had reported as much and offered a range of valuable recommendations. He urged all the States to do their utmost to help the countries of the region to build up the capacity to address the issue. And he urged the countries involved, and in particular their leaders, to focus more intently on that “very real and very present threat to peace”.
SAID DJINNIT, Interim Commissioner for Peace, Security and Political Affairs of the African Union, said that, for many years, the dangerous phenomenon of mercenaries, as well as the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, had been at the centre of concerns of African leaders. Those were intricately linked with all types of political destabilization, banditry and transborder crime and had ushered in massive violations of human rights and impeded the development efforts of governments. The massive proliferation of small arms had coincided with the emergence of non-State actors as the main stakeholders in African conflicts. Naturally, the leaders had spearheaded the effort to combat the proliferation of those weapons.
Citing numerous initiatives, including the 1998 Moratorium on the Import, Export and Manufacture of Small Arms and the 1999 code of conduct for its implementation, he said that those demonstrated a determination to promote lasting solutions to the conflicts, which had ravaged the area. Other regions would follow that lead. Indeed, such initiatives had inspired the adoption in 2001 of the United Nations programme of action on small arms. Addressing the problem of mercenaries, the Organization of African Unity in 1997 had pioneered legislation in the form of the Convention on the Elimination of Mercenaries in Africa. That phenomenon had ravaged Africa in the 1970s and 1980s and had reappeared in West Africa, as a result of trouble spots and the easy availability of small arms.
Recently, that situation had been further aggravated by groups providing security to multinational corporations in high-risk areas, he said. The proliferation of light weapons, combined with mercenary activities, had impeded political stability and economic development. So, despite the significant amount of legislation, those scourges still ravaged the continent. The best programmes would be of no use without the necessary political will to implement them. States must endow themselves with the required mechanisms to implement their collective decisions. A moratorium could only operate if it had a follow-up and monitoring mechanism, which was truly independent and had the necessary means to identify those who violated the regime.
He said that sanctions were also necessary for non-complying parties, and the charter of the African Union contained such a provision. Efforts were under way to set up an African peer review mechanism, which should help to implement the relevant commitments. The plethora of weapons and the use of mercenaries exacerbated conflicts, increased the risk of an explosion in tense inter-State relations, and rendered war even more atrocious. Underlying that was the weakness of the democratic culture and discrimination against minorities. Indeed, good governance was at the core of the quest for peace and security in Africa, he said.
NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana), representative of the current Chairman of
the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), read out the remarks of the Foreign Minister of Ghana, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang. He said that, of the
500 million light weapons believed to be in circulation worldwide, as many as
30 million were projected to be in use in Africa, with as many as 8 million in West Africa alone. Africa also accounted for about 300,000 child soldiers and 10,000 mercenaries, with dire implications for the entire continent, especially for West Africa with its rising number of conflict situations. It was in recognition of the enormity of that problem, that the Moratorium on the Import, Export and Manufacture of Light Weapons was adopted by the ECOWAS heads of State and government in 1998.
Recent allegations of cross-border attacks by non-State actors, the spate of organized crime and other transborder criminality in the subregion underscored the timeliness of today’s workshop, he said. In discussing the problems posed by the proliferation of small and light weapons, it was important to take into account the activities of individual weapons retailers and recommend sanctions, where they violated the Moratorium and related international legal instruments. It was also necessary to ensure the increased participation of civil society groups and non-governmental organizations in that effort. Also, it might be worth examining whether there were any potential advantages to be derived from revising the Moratorium and making it a permanent instrument.
Like the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, mercenaries or private armies posed grave dangers to the stability of the subregion, he said. The rate at which armed West African civilians were being recruited from one conflict area to another to fight for whoever was ready to engage their services had assumed alarming proportions in recent years. No single country in the subregion could escape the consequences of the proliferation of weapons and the increased resort to the use of mercenaries and private armies.
Each country in West Africa must come to terms with the problems of refugee flows, the militarization of borders and refugee camps, as well as cross-border crimes, including arms trafficking, all of which had dire implications for political stability and socio-economic development, he said. It was only through concerted efforts and the support of the international community that those problems could be overcome.
MOHAMED IBN CHAMBAS, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, said that there were two reasons why it was not surprising that Guinean presidency had decided to include today’s meeting on its agenda. First, Guinea was the West African country that had carried the biggest burden of the consequences of internal conflicts of its neighbours, and the issue of refugees was but one aspect of that phenomenon. Second, it was also the West African country that had suffered a bloody mercenary attack as far back as 1970. Other West African States were later to suffer a similar fate.
As a result of the numerous conflicts, death and destruction, West African leaders had initiated the “security first” approach to ending conflicts, he said. That had led to the adoption of a moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of light weapons in 1998. That was a bold and ambitious step in the management of licit and illicit small arms. The Moratorium was a confidence-building mechanism. Its imposition was a voluntary act backed by the joint political will of West African heads of State and government to deal with small arms proliferation.
The Moratorium required member States to put in place effective measures to: control the import, export and manufacture of light weapons; register and control the movement and use of legitimate arms stocks; detect and destroy all illicit and surplus weapons; and permit exemptions to the Moratorium only in accordance with strict criteria. There was a strong indication that the Moratorium would eventually become a permanent strategy for the control of the movement of small arms within the subregion.
The ECOWAS remained engaged with the international community over the twin devils of small arms and mercenary activities, he said. He called on the international community to implement the letter and spirit of the programme of action on small arms and provide necessary resources to enable the Community’s secretariat to implement the Moratorium. The ECOWAS heads of State meeting in Dakar in January had recommended the establishment of a small arms unit within the ECOWAS secretariat to strengthen its capacity to reduce, manage and eliminate small arms and to enhance human security as a means of facilitating harmonious development. He appealed to the Council and to the international community to support effective implementation of the Moratorium and facilitate the establishment of a well resourced small arms unit.
Presenting a slide show on the UNDP’s efforts in West Africa, IBRAHIMA SALL, Regional Director of the Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED), said that the Programme played an important role in combating the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The situation in West Africa was of serious concern, with a large number of coup d’état attempts, increasing mercenary activities and a tremendous amount of weapons. Many of the victims of violence were women, children and old people. The intensity of the conflict was also disturbing. The easy availability of small arms and light weapons exacerbated the problem.
The PCASED was basing its efforts for improving the situation in the region on the premise of human security, he continued, recognizing the links between development and security. Multidimensional strategies were being applied to combat small arms and light weapons, with the Programme responding to the whys and wherefores of the problem. A system of incentives was being introduced, using diplomacy and capacity-building. In particular, the programme provided assistance to national commissions, which were trying to align existing laws and administrative procedures with the requirements of the small arms Moratorium. There had been only five national commissions until 2001, but lately the number had increased to 13.
Border controls were also being strengthened, he said. Efforts were being made to destroy confiscated small arms and light weapons. Paradoxically, Liberia was the country where the most weapons had been destroyed. Particular attention was also being paid to the issue of landmines, and efforts were being made to create a culture of peace. The Programme maintained a register of weapons used in the subregion, provided training in arms control, and promoted cooperation with United Nations agencies. Good governance and the creation of relevant infrastructures were also stressed.
Turning to the difficulties encountered by the Programme, he said that since its beginning, it had been unable to mobilize the needed resources. A tighter regime was needed for the countries that had accepted the Moratorium, as well as a more reliable statistics collection system, for the statistics collected by customs agents for the United Nations were not enough. Today, only 29 of more than 100 exporting countries were supplying information.
BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the Gambia, said that ECOWAS Moratorium on small arms was the first of its kind in Africa. ECOWAS heads of State had also adopted a plan of action and a code of conduct and made a decision that each country would establish a national commission to oversee implementation. The PCASED provided support and monitoring in the region. Militias drove conflicts in Africa, and the realization that those depended, to a significant extent, on child soldiers had shocked the world into action, and the international community had responded with appropriate measures to confront that issue. Another important aspect of the problem, however, was that the backbone of the militias was made up largely of mercenaries.
Increasingly, Africa was producing its own rich crop of “soldiers of fortune”, he continued. The conflicts of the Mano River Union, for example, were sustained through the use of mercenaries by various warlords. It was now a well-known fact that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone was made up of combatants from virtually every country in West Africa, who were engaged on contract terms to fight for pay and profit for the sole purpose of overthrowing the legitimate Government of the country. It was also a fact that those elements had been involved in the invasion of Guinea and in the present situation in Liberia, not to mention the atrocities they had perpetrated. It was certain that as long as those unsavory elements existed, the demand for small arms and light weapons would be there –- as well as the financiers and lords of war.
Turning to the proposals for future action, he said that each West African country must show stronger commitment towards the objectives of the subregional and international initiatives on the issue and a greater willingness to enforce the collective agreements. An international legislative instrument was needed to hold both suppliers and users of small arms and light weapons to greater account. Manufacturers and suppliers must show more responsible behaviour in the transfer of those arms to non-State actors. In addition to that, something akin to the monitoring and regulation of the movement of “blood diamonds” should be designed to control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, backed by an appropriate sanctions regime.
As an immediate measure to respond to the urgency of the situation in West Africa, he said, steps should be taken to demobilize mercenaries and have them reinserted into productive economic activities in their countries of origin. A legislative instrument was needed preventing the provision of safe havens, rear bases, logistics and supplies to mercenaries. And finally, strong partnership was needed between the United Nations, PCASED and ECOWAS. It was necessary to broaden cooperation arrangements, establishing a mechanism to monitor the situation, receive reports and enforce decisions. Perhaps the United Nations Office for Conflict Prevention and Peace-Building for West Africa should assume the role of coordinator of that arrangement, and act as liaison between the Security Council and ECOWAS.
JOAO BERNARDO DE MIRANDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Angola, said that the proliferation of small arms, and threats from mercenaries, had become a real danger in West Africa. Those were also directly related to protracted conflicts and ongoing tensions. The number of deaths and injuries were growing daily, due to the use of small arms. The causes were many in number and varied from one region to another. The inappropriate use of light weapons, in some countries, harmed the well-being and safety of their citizens. In other countries, those arms threatened the existence of the State. In countries which had concluded peace agreements, that factor created impediments and undermined trust among the parties to the peace process, blocking reconstruction and development.
He said that the scope of problem in West Africa was so great that the solution could not be entirely up to the countries directly affected. A more substantial commitment on the part of the United Nations and, in particular, the Security Council, was vital. The growing concentration of small arms around the globe, and their possession and use by civilian groups or subversive arms organizations, could be traced back to, among other factors, the faulty oversight of military arsenals, illicit trafficking, and poor customs control. Some State sellers had not shown enough restraint in exporting those arms into regions already torn by conflict. The import of small arms had spurred belligerent groups to pursue subversive and destabilizing wars.
At the same time, he said that the arms embargoes imposed by the Council had not been fully respected and had even spawned new marketplaces for weapons. It was urgent, therefore, to evolve an international process that would allow States to identify and trace small arms flows, including those originating from legal sales, and to establish a means of identifying individuals or groups involved in the illicit traffic. Regarding the implementation by States of the 2001 programme of action, southern Africa had already taken measures to do so through the adoption of a protocol on firearms and munitions. The United Nations must play a critical role with respect to arms proliferation and it should provide aid to West Africa for implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. It must also promote all measures aimed at collecting and destroying weapons arsenals. Angola was fine-tuning a mechanism involving registration procedures, public education and the voluntary surrender of small arms and light weapons.
FRANÇOIS XAVIER NGOUBEYOU, Minister of State for External Relations of Cameroon, said that the Council should assist States and subregional institutions in ensuring that all African States could rise to the same level of awareness as other countries in the area of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Last October, during the Cameroon presidency of the Council, his delegation had organized a discussion of small arms and light weapons. On that occasion, several speakers had recognized that the Council should play a better role in combating the proliferation of small arms by setting up a permanent monitoring mechanism to follow up on embargoes and similar measures.
In addition, the organization of the collection of such weapons and the setting up of small economic projects for affected communities could also be of great usefulness, if supported by the international community, he continued. It was also necessary to strengthen national legislation on the carrying of weapons and the purchasing of firearms by security companies. What worried him was the linkage between the trade in small arms and other phenomenon, such as terrorism and drug trafficking. He emphasized the need, at the national and subregional levels, for measures to prevent conflict. Disputes could lead to civil wars, which were an important factor in the illicit trade in, and proliferation of, small arms.
The use of mercenaries, he added, was among the major preoccupations of most West African States. Mercenaries continued to fuel conflict, pillage natural resources and destabilize power. Priorities for action in that regard should emphasize the redefinition of mercenary activity and the study of how mercenaries were used in terrorist activities.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, MONIE CAPTAN, said that the problem of proliferation of small arms and light weapons had claimed the attention of ECOWAS for some time now. As a result, a moratorium on the importation of small arms had been introduced, which depended, to a large extent, on the cooperation of arms-producing States. The proliferation of mercenaries also presented a serious problem. To a large extent, it resulted from the failure of reintegration programmes for ex-combatants, as a result of the lack of adequate resources.
The proliferation of arms and mercenaries were linked, he continued. In many cases, mercenaries joined rebel movements and were ensured military supplies by States that used non-State actors as proxies in regional conflicts. Mercenaries survived in environments where non-State actors were actively engaged in armed conflicts. Mercenaries in West Africa were often ex-combatants from conflicts who were recycled into other conflicts. The international community had witnessed that situation in Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Côte d’Ivoire. In addressing the proliferation of arms and mercenaries, the international community must focus on the source of arms supply to the non-State actors.
Continuing, he said that the recent arrest and disarming of more than
100 Liberian mercenaries fighting for the Côte d’Ivoire Government by French forces was an indication of the seriousness of the problem. Those Liberians were a part of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group, who had gone to fight for the Côte d’Ivoire Government in order to open a second front on the east of Liberia. In another recent development, the Government of Ghana had raided a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana, where a recruitment centre and a military training camp had been discovered. His Government had been engaged in a war for the past three years to defend its territorial integrity against armed aggression by the LURD group and its mercenaries from neighbouring countries. In an attempt to curtail such illegal activities, ECOWAS had recently imposed a sanctions regime upon LURD. However, the pressure of ECOWAS had not received much support from the international community.
The Council had mandated a panel of experts to investigate the inflow of arms to rebel groups in Liberia in violation of the arms embargo, but the panel’s recommendation that the Council expand its arms embargo on Liberia to the other two members of the Mano River Union had been selectively ignored by the Council. Today, the LURD rebels continued to wage war against the Liberian people with a robust supply of material. Last month, Liberia had presented a formal complaint to the Council, in which Guinea’s involvement in fuelling the war in Liberia was documented. Sustainable peace in West Africa would require putting an end to support for rebel movements and their mercenaries. It would also require provision of adequate resources for the reconstruction of economic infrastructure for reintegration of ex-combatants, resettlement of internally displaced persons, repatriation of refugees and job creation.
INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said that the regional dimension of the issue was essential. It was only by combining national measures with regional initiatives that it was possible to handle the threats to peace and security stemming from the circulation of millions of small arms and light weapons throughout West Africa. He appealed to all involved to implement the measures contained in the 2001 programme of action, and he emphasized the importance of including concrete measures to eliminate those arms in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for former combatants. That element was sometimes not included in peace agreements, and even when it was, implementation was often slow and problematic. Indeed, delays in implementation very negatively affected the post-conflict phase.
He asked about lessons learned from those countries in West Africa with disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. He was also very concerned about the crucial problem of child soldiers and he strongly favoured their rehabilitation, in particular, the educational component of their reintegration. He asked the participants what was being done in that regard. In implementing the ECOWAS Moratorium, States should not lose sight of the importance of the ways in which those arms came into a country and the great responsibility of the border countries surrounding conflict-ridden States. He also asked about the technical difficulties encountered by ECOWAS in setting up the Moratorium, and about the role that could be played by the national commissions.
JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that action needed to be taken in a number of areas. First, he encouraged ECOWAS to work on practical steps to implement the well-constructed Moratorium adopted in 1998. The presidential statement to be adopted today included several suggestions, including establishing an ECOWAS register of small arms and light weapons, strengthening national commissions, and introducing standardized end-user certificates for imported weapons. He encouraged donors to help ECOWAS meet those challenges. In that regard, he asked the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS to inform the Council about what was needed in terms of items and costs so that donors could respond to the needs of his organization.
Second, he encouraged arms-producing/exporting countries to exercise the highest degree of responsibility in small arms and light weapons transactions. The governments of those States that transferred small arms and light weapons bore significant responsibility for controlling trade in such weapons. Strengthening export controls would be an important step in the right direction. That included careful scrutiny not only of end-user certificates, but also of the wider environment in which the weapons were to be deployed.
Third, he continued, it was crucial that United Nations sanctions be more effectively implemented. That was the motivation behind the United Kingdom and France’s proposal last year for an independent monitoring mechanism on sanctions. Mechanisms needed to be developed to strengthen the capacity to enforce United Nations arms embargoes, at the national, regional and international levels.
Responding to comments from the floor, the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, Mr. CHAMBAS, said that a major part of the problem was the lack of information about the issue of small arms and light weapons. The role of national commissions was to bring greater awareness of the issue and sensitize the population to the dangers involved. Those commissions were also expected to ensure that the States incorporated the provisions of the Moratorium into their national laws. From the national level, it was important to move on to the regional and other levels. Decentralization to the local level was also to be promoted.
The Regional Director of PCASED, Mr. SALL, said that today the first problem in implementing the Moratorium was the need to maintain political involvement. Since the problems were becoming more serious, it was necessary to motivate the political commitment of ECOWAS members. One of the hardest tasks was to establish national commissions, harmonizing the different aspects of various ministers’ portfolios. Also important was the availability of human and financial resources. Only Guinea and, to a lesser extent, Mali had been able to establish national programmes to fight the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, with assistance from donors. Thus, it was important to mobilize resources. The Programme was now involved in 15 countries, and the international community needed to provide assistance in ensuring security in the region.
CHEICK TIDIANE GADIO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Senegal, expressed grave concern over the eruption of mercenary movements, the increased appetite for certain natural resources, the domestic social and political chasms and transborder conflicts in West Africa, which had been caused by the illegal intrusion of a large number of small arms and light weapons, as well as the emergence of mercenary operations. Those weapons were accessible, cheap and easy to use. The more than one-half billion in circulation around the world had underpinned all of the conflicts in West Africa, undermined economic and social development, and compromised the implementation of peace agreements. Those weapons had always promoted the appearance of criminal gangs lured by the “hook of easy money”. Now, the mercenaries, or “war dogs”, from distant or neighbouring lands had emerged, often sporting the title of agents of military companies.
He said that West Africa was often their theatre of operations. “No matter how you dress them up”, those mercenaries had a terrible ability to undermine the maintenance of public authority. To counter their economic disruption and fratricidal divisions, ECOWAS and the African Union had developed several appropriate instruments. Although attention was focused on the Iraqi crisis, the Guinean delegation “did a good thing” by seeking to improve the lives of millions of people. Something must be done to reverse the “law of silence”, which had been the hallmark of certain political regimes in his subregion. Those regimes had mastered the art of spreading that nomadic curse of small arms and their users. He called on the United Nations, through fact-finding commissions, to make a clear distinction between those and the legitimate regimes. The former must be neutralized, one way or another.
Training centres for mercenaries should be abandoned and the perpetrators should be brought to justice, through extradition under the rules of domestic law and international instruments. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes should be strengthened, as should the control of arms transfers among both producers and users, through a twin tracking and marking system. Among other proposals, he recommended that a special inquiry commission be created and its conclusions submitted to the International Criminal Court. Real progress must be made to free the subregion. “Let us hasten to act, rather than always react, so that the shadowy crime network of unscripted arms merchants and blood-stained mercenaries would disappear forever from West Africa”, he said.
JOHN NEGROPONTE (United States) said that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons contributed to conflicts around the world, and the situation in West Africa was particularly grave. The use of mercenaries had only exacerbated that situation. To help stem the proliferation of such weapons, ECOWAS adopted the Moratorium in October 1998. The international community, including the United States, had praised ECOWAS for that landmark effort. The Moratorium had called for the establishment of national commissions to serve as the focal point for the Moratorium’s implementation at the national level.
However, little progress had been made, he noted. Not many States had created those national commissions. Now was the time to move beyond words to full and practical implementation. It was crucial that ECOWAS members take the necessary steps to enforce their own Moratorium by fully establishing functioning national commissions and implementing the code of conduct at the national level. Solutions to the problem of small arms and light weapons must be practical and effective. The most effective way of preventing the proliferation of such weapons was by implementing strict import and export controls and strong brokering laws, and ensuring the destruction of excess weapons.
It was also necessary to address the combatants themselves in addition to the weapons they wielded, he said. In Sierra Leone, 48,000 weapons had been turned in since the end of the conflict there. Former rebels had been given the tools to reintegrate into society, including monetary payments corresponding to their ranks and job training. The international community had contributed generously to the ECOWAS Moratorium’s implementation and the rebuilding of societies. The United States had undertaken bilateral programmes with Senegal and Guinea to destroy excess weapons and had assisted Sierra Leone and Guinea to control their borders with Liberia. It had also funded a joint training programme to instruct Nigerian law enforcement officials in the tracing of small arms.
He urged ECOWAS member States and those that supply small arms to comply particularly with two paragraphs of the programme of action on small arms. By paragraph 12, States had recognized their obligation to fully comply with arms embargoes decided by the Council, in accordance with the Charter. By paragraph 13, they recognized that governments bore the primary responsibility for combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, and should intensify efforts to identify the problems associated with such trade and find ways to address them. He urged all States to provide reporting on the implementation of the programme of action to the Department for Disarmament Affairs. It was only through full and candid reporting that the international community could take stock of the progress made or lack thereof, and assess the priorities for national action in the future.
GUNTHER PLEUGER (Germany) said that the world was holding its breath, in view of the imminent danger of a major military confrontation in the Middle East, with potential global consequences that nobody could foresee. Nevertheless, it was important to not forget that there were conflicts in other parts of the world. Those involved not weapons of mass destruction, but small arms; and not highly trained specialized soldiers, but mercenaries, who nonetheless caused tremendous misery and death.
It would not suffice for the international community to try and cure only the symptoms, he continued. It was necessary to focus on the root causes of armed conflict that incited demand for the import of weapons and invited trafficking in them. Also needed was raised awareness of the mechanism that turned conflicts of interest into armed violence. It was necessary to ensure that small arms and light weapons stayed in the hands of government authorities. In that context, the
trade in weapons needed to be made much more transparent, and those who had acquired them needed to be held accountable for their further use.
In 2001, important guidelines had been established, he said. Now, action was needed, as well as determination and, above all, a firm conviction amongst the parties involved about the need to implement the measures to limit and eventually stop the flow of illicit small arms and light weapons. The extension of the ECOWAS import Moratorium was an encouraging example of a regional initiative. At the same time, donor countries must support efforts made in West Africa. The focus of aid work should be on capacity-building, for example, in the area of setting up national disarmament commissions, training trainers and providing know-how in different ways. Mercenaries needed a realistic alternative to make a decent life. Another interesting concept was that of arms for development –- the surrender of arms for aid to the communities. Also, arms-producing countries needed to play by the rules regarding weapons transfers.
Germany was in full support of the ECOWAS Moratorium, he said, and respected it in line with European Union decisions and political principles on the export of military equipment. It advocated strict adherence to export criteria for weapons. Another disarmament issue, which too often was overlooked, was disarmament education. Children needed to learn that conflicts were to be resolved not through violence, but through intelligent bargaining. They also needed to learn that the strength gained through the possession of a weapon was false, and did not lead to lasting solutions. Among the commendable efforts in that regard, he mentioned the work of The Hague Appeal for Peace, operating together with the United Nations Foundation and the Secretariat’s Disarmament Department. He appealed to the donor community to give more attention to such efforts.
The meeting suspended at 1:05 p.m.
As the Council meeting resumed this afternoon, ROLAND Y. KPOTSRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Togo, said he appreciated today’s search for providing West Africa with the political stability and economic prosperity it had long sought. He was aware, however, that no development effort was possible without peace and security. Unfortunately, the subregion remained at the mercy of fratricidal conflicts. That climate of insecurity was spreading “like a bush fire”. Since September 2002, Côte d’Ivoire, as if in a domino effect, had been beset by civil war. Such conflicts were the direct consequence of the free flow of light weapons and the recruitment of jobless youth, trained to attack other Member States. Everything must be done to implement the non-aggression protocol of 1978, with a view to ensuring that no territory of a Member State could be used for the recruitment, training or arming of attackers.
Above all, he said, there must be friendship and active cooperation among a nation’s immediate neighbours. The conflicts in the Mano River region and the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire testified to the precariousness of the subregion, where the conflicts had been protracted and significant in their economic and humanitarian scope. After Côte d’Ivoire “fell into turmoil”, it was necessary to examine how war could progress from a State to a subregion. One of the reasons in West Africa was the proliferation of light weapons, funded by the exploitation of natural resources. After the dramatic conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone, numerous measures towards peace and reconciliation were formulated, but those had not met expectations.
Moreover, pledges made for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration had not been honoured, and programmes to rebuild had only been moderately successful, he said. Given that dangerous situation, the heads of State and governments of ECOWAS had adopted a three-year moratorium on small arms, which led to the establishment of national commissions to eradicate the small arms trade, and the training of armed forces and security personnel. That had also led to the collection and destruction of light weapons. All of those goals required an even greater commitment by the international community through the provision of assistance. Such aid would also help the member States of ECOWAS implement the 2001 programme of action on small arms and shore up national legislation.
SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) condemned the use of mercenaries and supported international efforts to eradicate that phenomenon. The tragic consequences of their involvement in national and regional conflicts could be seen in Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, among other countries. The actions of mercenaries were unethical and illegal. Important in that regard was the entry into force of the Convention on Mercenaries, which had expanded the arsenal of tools to combat that scourge. Also crucial was the corresponding political will and ongoing implementation of international standards in national legal systems. The Russian legal system contained norms, which criminalized the use of mercenaries, as well as their recruitment, training and financing.
Recently, there had been a heightened interest in the United Nations on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he said. Of particular significance were the Small Arms Conference in 2001 and the resulting Programme of Action. In July, the United Nations would hold the biannual review meeting to assess the implementation of the Programme of Action. The Council must focus on those instances where the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons was directly linked to conflicts in Africa. His country had always called for tough measures in those instances, when arms were delivered to illegal armed groups.
In the last few years, the mechanisms to monitor arms embargoes had been fine-tuned, as could be seen in the reports by the chairmen of the various sanctions committees, he noted. At the same time, much more was needed to monitor violations of arms embargoes. It was important to assist West African countries to combat the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. Regional organizations had a solid body of useful experience, particularly experience in Africa. The measures proposed within ECOWAS, such as the regional registry, merited approval and support. It was also essential to take steps to improve domestic legislation to prevent weapons from falling into the illegal system, as well as to codify national systems of export control. He hoped today’s meeting would allow for progress in those areas.
CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) said that small arms and light weapons and their connection to the use of mercenaries were a factor in many conflicts. Although the Council regularly returned to the situation in West Africa, including Sierra Leone, Liberia and now Côte d’Ivoire, illicit flows of small arms and light weapons had not been halted. In that connection, he called on all involved to fully comply with relevant Security Council resolutions and respect embargoes and other measures. End-user certificates could be an important tool in curbing illegal spread of those arms. He also called on all the countries of West Africa to fully comply with the ECOWAS moratorium.
He went on to say that mercenaries not only contributed to instability, but also impeded access of humanitarian agencies to the populations in need. He reiterated a recent appeal of the Council in connection with the situation in Liberia that States of the region stop providing military support for armed groups in neighbouring countries and refrain from any action that might contribute to destabilization of the situation on their borders. It was also important to put an end to the use of mercenaries and child soldiers in West Africa.
Among the suggestions to stop proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he noted the need to take into account the lessons learned in Sierra Leone. Collection and destruction of small arms and light weapons should be an integral part of peace accords. The international community should continue to support disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes in the countries of the region, including Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. It was necessary to strengthen international and regional machinery for consultation on mercenaries. In its search for peaceful solutions for crises, the Council should take into account the regional dimensions of the conflict in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.
PIERRE OSHO, Minister of State of Benin, said that, given the acuteness of the present international situation, the convening of today’s workshop could have had the appearance of a non-event, but that had not been the case when one considered the level of participation, in particular, the opening of the meeting by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He supported the statements made earlier by the representatives of Senegal and the United Kingdom. The time had come to stop speaking about the proliferation of small arms and evolve specific and effective actions. He proposed the establishment of an international convention that placed strict limitations on the purchase of light weapons of war only to States and national armies, and to ensure that such weapons could be traced. Guidelines must also be established to dismantle the companies and international networks that sold weapons without the agreed labelling of an exporting State.
He also drew attention to the fact that poor countries, such as Benin, had neither the technology nor the logistics to sell or manufacture, or to organize the flows of weapons stockpiles. So, it was the responsibility of those countries with the technology and logistics to curb the illicit flows. He sought the formation of a United Nations convention for dismantling the companies specializing in so-called “military service-providing activities”. Those were nothing more than official mercenary companies, militia or private armies. They were flourishing in the northern countries and springing up in some southern countries. They even announced legal competitions for recruitment and portrayed themselves as providing protective services for official institutions. In reality, they provided lethal, destabilizing services. Among his further proposals was that the Council form a working group to design, organize and complete an international media campaign to counter the activities of mercenaries.
JEAN-DE-DIEU SOMDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of Regional Cooperation of Burkina Faso, said that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons had exacerbated a number of armed conflicts, and had grave consequences for women, children and the most vulnerable of society. In July 2001, the United Nations had expressed its universal concern with the scourge, when it convened the Small Arms Conference. The results of that Conference did not completely respond to the concerns of the countries most affected by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Therefore, it was necessary to pursue and follow up those results. The upcoming biannual follow-up meeting would provide an opportunity to take stock of the progress made since the Conference. Today’s debate should provide an opportunity for the Council to renew its support to the worldwide effort to combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. He expected that the Council would support existing efforts in West Africa.
He said that a new phenomenon had shown up in West Africa –- the use of mercenaries. Even governments were using mercenaries, for example, to quell domestic rebellion. Mercenaries were a source of insecurity and were not alien to the scourge of proliferation of small arms and light weapons, but provided a host environment for it. It was necessary to send a strong signal to those who recruited and used mercenaries. Burkina Faso had always affirmed its desire for freedom and peace, both within its own borders and with its neighbours’. Armed conflicts around his country had increased the circulation of illicit weapons through the territory of Burkina Faso. The geographical position of his country made it difficult for it to control its borders. To end that situation, which created national and subregional insecurity, his country had taken part in the process leading to the adoption of the ECOWAS Moratorium.
In that framework, Burkina Faso had given due attention to all of the actions and meetings that might contribute to combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. At the national level, actions to implement the ECOWAS Moratorium had been taken. His Government had also revisited legislation related to weapons. In April 2001, it had created a national commission for combating the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. To show its commitment and despite its financial difficulties, Burkina Faso had agreed to host the headquarters for the follow-up of the Moratorium in its region. The Council had a critical role to play in eradicating the scourge of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which was a dangerous threat to peace and security.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) said that the scourges of small arms and the use of mercenaries were particularly evident in West Africa. They were at the heart of many violations of human rights and represented a threat to peace and security. They were also linked to each other. The ridiculously low prices of small arms and light weapons also contributed to the problem. In many cases, the use of mercenaries was based on the illegal use of natural resources. Another aspect of the issue was the transboundary nature of the trafficking in arms and mercenaries.
Regarding the use of mercenaries, he said that one explanation of their wide use in West Africa was the failure to disarm and rehabilitate the combatants in the Liberian civil war, creating the conditions for their use in other conflicts afterwards. The first obligation of the international community in that respect was to contain the combatants in “robust peacekeeping” efforts. The French troops were doing that today in Côte d’Ivoire, but that was only the initial phase. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts were absolutely indispensable at a later stage.
Turning to the small arms and light weapons, he stressed the need for international and regional action. Recalling that in 1999 France had launched an initiative aimed at concluding an international instrument on marking and tracing small arms and light weapons, he expressed hope that negotiations would proceed on an international convention in that area. He also stressed that producing States must adopt stringent legislation for export control.
France fully supported the ECOWAS Moratorium and had announced in February its contribution to PCASED, which coordinated efforts in support of that mechanism, he said. Among the measures in implementation of the Moratorium, he listed the need for each participating State to establish a national commission and a small arms registry, and to ensure the training of the police and collection and destruction of small arms. To date, 12 national commissions had been instituted, and extra efforts were needed to make them truly up and running.
He suggested that it might be worthwhile for the Secretariat to prepare a report on specific risks in the region, which could focus on the issues of small arms and mercenaries, as well as humanitarian and development issues.
Mr. SALL, Regional Director of PCASED, responding to comments, said that the last communication addressed to France had referred to 12 national commissions out of 15, but there were now 13. As to the staffing, once executive action was taken, he immediately made the resources available to finance the activities of the commissions and render them operational. Regarding final use certificates, there was a possibility of falsifying those final user certificates.
He, therefore, proposed the inclusion of item on his agenda, so that it might be improved, in order to address the problems raised by the French delegation. Emerging from the recent meeting of UNDP representatives in Dakar had been the possibility of some exploratory work on the risks in the West African subregion. Such work would be coordinated with the Secretary-General’s representative there. Those matters were being studied.
JAIME ACUÑA (Chile) said he was also deeply concerned about the subject of today’s meeting. Such practices violated human rights and international humanitarian law, among both combatants and civilian populations. In that connection, the question of child soldiers was particularly relevant and serious. He agreed with the Secretary-General’s appeal that the subregion should set up an instrument prohibiting such practices. As he stated in the high-level debate at the 2001 Small Arms Conference, the formulation of norms to restrict the manufacture and trade of small arms and light weapons to duly authorized manufacturers and trading agents was indispensable, not only for subregions like West Africa, but for the entire international community.
He said that restrictions deserved “pride of place” over freedom of commerce. Regarding the supply of small arms to West Africa, he supported the initiative to shore up cooperation and exchange information among the States of the region, in order to monitor those involved in the illicit small arms traffic, as well as those supporting mercenary activities there. States of the region must also become more closely involved in the practical implementation of the 1998 ECOWAS Moratorium. Particular attention should be given to implementation of the 2001 action programme. For some time, the Council had been developing a set of measures to avoid, at least in part, the devastating consequences of the excessive accumulation of the illicit small arms trade. Today’s workshop had made it possible to exchange views in the search for solutions to that scourge.
MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said that the adoption by the international community of the Programme of Action in July 2001 was an important step forward in addressing one of the most important problems in the maintenance of international peace and security. The illicit trafficking of small arms in West Africa contributed to violence and the displacement of innocent people, and undermined the stability of nations and regions. The way to deal with the problem was to make the resort to weapons less necessary, to take measures to control the circulation of small arms and light weapons, and establish a mechanism to stop the import of small arms to non-State entities. Also, sanctions must be imposed on the countries that engaged in the latter. In addition, financial and technical support was necessary for programmes to reintegrate ex-combatants.
On mercenaries, he said that armed conflicts, illicit trafficking and covert operations by third countries had led to the demand for mercenaries in the international market. It was a question of supply and demand. The General Assembly and the Council had adopted many resolutions condemning the use of mercenaries as a form of interference in the internal affairs of States, in cases where the aim was to undermine the stability of those countries and violate their territorial integrity. The disputes among neighbouring countries, particularly in West Africa, had led to armed conflicts, and the presence of mercenaries was a fact in all those conflicts.
Although not limited to West Africa, Africa was the continent where that phenomenon had done the most damage, he continued. Many armed conflicts in Africa were the result of the presence of valuable natural resources, which foreign sources had tried to control. It was wrong to think that private security companies could help manage the affairs of the countries in which they lived. The problem of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the use of mercenaries had led to the threatening of peace and security in West Africa and other parts of the world. Cooperation with regional and subregional organizations was essential to achieve the United Nations objective of peace and security in West Africa and all over the world.
DIALLO MBODJI SENE, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training of Mali, said that her country had taken two initiatives on the issue of small arms and light weapons. In 1994, it had called for a study in connection with the issue, which later resulted in United Nations and ECOWAS resolutions on the matter. Later, Mali had initiated an idea of a regional moratorium on the use of small arms and light weapons. Today, five years had elapsed since the adoption of the ECOWAS Moratorium.
An act of diplomatic intelligence that had led to voluntary abstention on producing, importing and using small arms and light weapons, the Moratorium was an important step in ensuring security in the region, she continued. While not legally binding, the Moratorium was essentially a confidence-building measure. An assessment undertaken at the end of the initial three years had shown that it had been a right step, and the Moratorium had been extended for another three years.
While the Moratorium had made it possible to reduce the spread of small arms and light weapons, it was estimated that some 8 million such weapons were now in circulation, she said. Now, it was important to recoup them. As for the problem of mercenaries, she said that armed gangs were using mercenaries to threaten the peace and security of other countries, and the situation in Côte d’Ivoire was a perfect illustration of that. Despite international legal instruments prohibiting the use of mercenaries, they were still being used in the region. That phenomenon traced its roots to poverty, misgovernance and injustice. Among the possible measures to combat the problems of proliferation of small arms and the use of mercenaries, her country envisioned an embargo against participants in conflict, a resolution forbidding the use of mercenaries, and efforts directed at development.
STEFAN TAVROV (Bulgaria) said it was logical for the Council to give special attention to the illicit small arms trade in West Africa, as that region was among those suffering the most from the devastating effects of such trade. The illicit and uncontrolled circulation of and traffic in small arms remained a major challenge to security and stability there. Uncontrolled proliferation intensified existing political and ethnic tensions, caused a considerable loss of life, and drained the international community of its ability to help quell the conflicts. He welcomed more active cooperation among the countries of the region, which was an important element in the global strategy to combat that problem. The effectiveness and performance of the ECOWAS Moratorium must also be enhanced.
He encouraged the countries involved to implement the recommendations contained in the reports of the expert groups on Liberia and Sierra Leone. The international community must also support regional efforts. Current embargoes were another important ingredient in the global strategy. The report of the expert group on Sierra Leone and Liberia had revealed schemes of violations, which were similar and frequently orchestrated by the same arms trafficker. Those schemes went far beyond the West African region. The Council should consider the best way to deal with that reprehensible phenomenon. A structural change, such as the introduction of a semi-permanent mechanism, along the lines of that proposed by the British and French delegations, would be a desirable addition to United Nations sanctions.
The use of mercenaries in armed conflicts clearly threatened peace in the subregion and played a damaging role in the conflicts there, he said. The international community must examine and assess recent concentrations of mercenaries in Africa, particularly in West Africa. Ending conflicts required the immediate demobilization of ex-combatants. The resolution to be adopted today would be a useful contribution to efforts to eradicate such threats.
OUSMANE MOUTARI (Niger) said that, given its geographical position and recent national experience, his country was an integral part of all initiatives taken in the area of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The path his country had followed could provide useful examples in the areas of prevention and the settlement of conflicts, as well as in the consolidation of peace. The Niger was familiar with armed rebellion, which had begun in the early 1990s. Niger’s national experience had taught it that the pivotal point in the quest for solutions was genuine will on the part of the national protagonists to face the deep-rooted reasons for the conflicts they faced.
Between 1995 and 1998, peace agreements had been signed between his Government and 17 different movements, with the help of neighbouring countries. Doing so had allowed the Government, among other things, to begin collecting and destroying weapons. Also, a new project to consolidate peace had been crafted by the Niger in partnership with the UNDP to reintegrate ex-combatants and promote the culture of peace in areas affected by conflict.
A shortcoming for his country had been the weakness of the national structures charged with the collection of small arms and light weapons, the reintegration of ex-combatants and reconstruction. There was an urgent need for ECOWAS to establish a small arms unit to effectively implement the Moratorium. The Moratorium could only function if there was an independent follow-up and oversight mechanism, which was adequately resourced. He hoped that from today’s workshop, recommendations would emerge to strengthen national and regional institutions, which worked against the scourge of small arms and light weapons and the use of mercenaries.
WANG YINGFAN (China) said that rampant illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons in Africa had aggravated turmoil and unrest in the regions involved. Plundering of resources further exacerbated the problem, and in the absence of effective measures to tackle the situation, peace would be elusive. His delegation believed that only an integrated approach with a regional dimension could effectively solve the problem. Therefore, better coordination was of critical importance.
The countries concerned should implement the measures envisioned by the United Nations 2001 plan of action and the conditions of the ECOWAS Moratorium, he said. The Council should continue to strengthen its cooperation with the regional and subregional organizations concerned and strengthen its monitoring of the implementation of the arms embargoes. The international community should also help the countries of West Africa to lift themselves from poverty and achieve sustainable development. China had always been opposed to illicit manufacturing and trafficking in small arms and light weapons and the use of mercenaries. It supported regional and subregional measures to address the situation and was prepared to participate in international efforts to solve the problem.
JOE R. PEMAGBI (Sierra Leone) acknowledged the critical role that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes played in the prevention, reduction and eradication of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The successful disarmament and demobilization of ex-combatants in Sierra Leone, followed by the equally successful Community Arms Collection and Destruction campaign, were due primarily to the level of international assistance and cooperation extended to the Government and people. Unless such cooperation was accelerated for the reintegration component of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, many ex-combatants could easily be recruited to fight in new and ongoing conflicts in the subregion.
The idea of extending the ECOWAS Moratorium indefinitely or making it a legally binding regional instrument could be in the interest of the Community, he said. However, the fact was that virtually all the estimated 8 million illicit small arms in circulation in West Africa, including those that were in the hands of rebels, bandits and other non-State entities, were manufactured outside the West African subregion. Therefore, the implementation of the Moratorium and similar regional initiatives should be seen in the context of continued collaboration between ECOWAS and arms manufacturing States.
Implementation of the Moratorium should also be considered, he said, in the context of efforts aimed at securing legally binding international agreements on marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons. Those were core issues that must be actively pursued to make any significant progress in curbing the illicit transfer and trade in those weapons. Due consideration should continue to be given to the question of the adequacy of existing machinery to deal with the relating problem of brokering.
By resolution 1171 (1998), his Government had been required to mark, register and notify a Council monitoring committee of all arms or related material imported by the Government through named points of entry registered with that committee. The Government had complied with those requirements. At the same time, the Council had prohibited States and their nationals from supplying or selling arms to non-governmental forces in Sierra Leone.
However, he continued, the RUF rebel movement was able to acquire a considerable amount of arms and ammunition to maintain its vicious campaign of death and terror, with the direct and indirect support of a network of international and regional arms dealers. In short, the embargo was deliberately violated. In reviewing any existing arms embargo, the Council should take into consideration the prevailing situation and any continued serious threat to peace and security in the West African subregion as a whole.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said it was alarming that 8 million small arms were in circulation in West Africa, and intra-State conflicts had created a staggering demand for them and had contributed to the emergence of mercenaries, bandits and child soldiers in the entire subregion. As the Secretary-General had stated earlier today, those problems sustained development problems, violated humanitarian law and exacerbated conflicts, particularly affecting women and children. Two years ago, Pakistan had adopted a comprehensive strategy to control and eliminate the illicit small arms trade. That campaign had achieved considerable success, but it was not yet complete.
He said that the problems facing West Africa were complex and multifaceted. There was a need to address peace and stability in the entire subregion, and not just one country at a time. Indeed, efforts must be made to remove tensions between the concerned countries, and ways must be found to address their problems. He supported efforts being made by ECOWAS, and he urged the United Nations to take a more proactive role in that regard. Efforts must focus on implementation of the 2001 programme of action. He also endorsed several recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report on small arms, submitted to the Council last year. With the adoption of the Bamako Declaration on the illicit small arms trade, the African Union had articulated, for the first time, a continent-wide strategy for tackling the illicit arms trade.
Similarly, the renewal of the Moratorium was a sincere effort in addressing the issue, but that could be strengthened through several recommendations reflected in the draft resolution to be adopted, including those concerning transparency, and well-conceived disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. Arms producers and exporters should adopt stringent laws to ensure that their exports to West Africa did not further destabilize the region. The series of complex crises in West Africa and elsewhere required a comprehensive approach, which took into account social, economic, political, and security factors, among others. The international community could help with further development assistance. The United Nations, and especially the Council, should devise a new composite approach that drew together all those who could contribute solutions to those complex crises. That approach could be discussed in the ad hoc working group on conflict prevention and resolution in Africa.
ARTHUR C.I. MBANEFO (Nigeria) said the illicit small arms trade was a major impediment to peace, stability, security and economic development in many developing countries, especially in Africa. Those arms continued to have devastating consequences there, considering their capacity to fuel, intensify and prolong conflicts. The West African subregion had more than a fair share of conflicts, fuelled by the illicit and free circulation of those weapons. The greatest challenge was curbing the easy accessibility to non-State actors. For adequate and effective control of the proliferation of that class of weapons, efforts must be made to control their sale to non-State actors.
The illicit trade had always obstructed the implementation of the Security Council’s arms embargoes, he continued. The Council’s recent establishment of an independent panel of experts and monitoring mechanisms to promote compliance with arms embargoes was welcome. While those measures would be useful in controlling the illegal cross-border movement of small arms into conflict areas, those were ineffective in controlling and eliminating those arms already inside conflict areas. He, therefore, emphasized the need for effective mandates for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, which included weapons collection, disposal and destruction. Tracing the flow of those arms from their source made it necessary to identify points of diversion into illicit networks.
In that regard, the Secretary-General’s recommendation to develop an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace illicit arms that entered their countries was welcome, he said. The ongoing work of the group of experts on tracing would hopefully lead to a legally binding global agreement. Reliable marking by manufacturers was also important, and recent studies had shown that arms brokering played a significant role in the illicit arms trade. The establishment of an effective international regime to control that practice was crucial. Effective national, regional and international controls on export licensing and end-use were also critical elements in ensuring that the arms trade remained under government control and was not diverted to illicit markets or users. For its part, the Council should intensify efforts to identify the link between the illicit small arms trade and the illicit exploitation of natural and other resources.
DJESSAN PHILIPPE DJANGONE-BI (Côte d’Ivoire) expressed support for most of the recommendations made today, particularly those by the Foreign Ministers of Senegal and Benin. He said that this morning the Foreign Minister of Liberia had stated, without a shred of evidence and in spite of the denial of the Ivorian Government, that Liberian mercenaries were fighting alongside the national army of Côte d’Ivoire in the west of Côte d’Ivoire. It was highly regrettable that Liberia had turned the workshop into a trial against Côte d’Ivoire. In a spirit of peace, his country had not deemed it necessary to “pour oil on the fire” by publicly denouncing anyone.
Given the falsehoods provided by the Liberian Foreign Ministry to distract the international community, he wanted to make certain clarifications. The truth was that Liberian mercenaries had been among the aggressors against his country. Some of them had admitted they belonged to the Liberian army. President Charles Taylor had assured President Gbagbo that those mercenaries had no connection to the Liberian army. If they were not soldiers of the Liberian army, then they were Liberian mercenaries. The English accents of Liberians were distinct compared to those of other English-speaking countries of the region.
The Liberian mercenaries, he continued, were totally under the drug empire, without any pity, systematically pillaged plantations and houses, and killed indiscriminately, sometimes for the fun of it. That explained the presence of so many mass gravesites in rebel areas. They had no regard for women and girls, which they raped on a daily basis.
Contrary to what had been done elsewhere, where refugees were put into camps, Liberian refugees had been received into families and integrated into Ivorian society. For more than a decade, those fleeing conflict had come to his country. They were contributing to the instability in his country today. The Foreign Minister of Liberia did not know that before the current aggression, Côte d’Ivoire had not hesitated to send teams of doctors to Liberia. Contrary to the reports sent by those who destabilized Côte d’Ivoire, Liberian mercenaries had no connection with the regular army of Côte d’Ivoire. Also, in the western part of country, Liberian mercenaries were fighting alongside and on the payroll of those stabilizing the country. In addition, Liberian thieves were acting on their own in the western part of Côte d’Ivoire.
FRANÇOIS LONSENY FALL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guinea, said that the international community seemed somewhat impotent when dealing with ongoing flashpoints of tension in the world. The causes of instability in West Africa had been diagnosed on many occasions, but the cure had been slow in coming. There was no doubt that domestic conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and now in Côte d’Ivoire had had a negative effect on the neighbouring countries and the region on the whole. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons exacerbated the problem. With the use of mercenaries, the situation had become particularly disturbing.
The Council needed to proceed to in-depth consideration of the phenomenon and identify the means of terminating it, he said. Some 60 per cent of small arms and light weapons were held by civilians, and 500,000 civilians died every year, many of them women and children. The unprecedented use of those arms, which were easy to use and acquire, needed to be recognized. It was also necessary to recognize that unemployment and poverty promoted proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
The ECOWAS Moratorium in 1998 had been an important step, he continued. In spite of the slowness in establishing the national commissions, some progress had been achieved. Hindering the effective implementation of the Moratorium was the lack of effective cooperation among States in harmonizing their policies, insufficient funding and the absence of binding legal provisions. It was important to strengthen institutional capacities in the region and take into account the need to introduced standardized end-user certificates, broaden information exchange, and computerize the lists of registered aircraft under the relevant International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) convention. Also important
were national plans and enhanced unity of action to break the mafia mechanisms that fed the illicit trafficking in arms.
For its part, Guinea had established a national commission and had elaborated a national plan based on the priorities defined by PCASED. It was also introducing national legislation and administrative procedures related to small arms. Success, however, would depend largely on the measures outlined above. It was also important to denounce mercenary activities. Merchants were often ex-combatants who had not been reincorporated into gainful activities. His country was familiar with the problem, and it called on all countries to scrupulously respect the measures undertaken to combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. He also invited the countries of the subregion to take into account the observations put forward in today’s workshop.
Taking the floor to summarize the discussion, Mr. SALL said the international community recognized, not only the importance of security in West Africa, but also the emerging threats, particularly the proliferation of small arms and mercenaries. Still, there was a need for the international community to support the ECOWAS Moratorium, firstly, by supporting the national commissions, and then helping the executive secretariat of ECOWAS to strengthen its capacities in that regard. He also favoured coordinating development assistance within the United Nations system.
Regarding the Council, he said he took note of the idea of having an embargo on light weapons in conflict areas. Also worth considering was penalizing mercenary operations in West Africa. He had also noted the interest in containing those activities by adopting appropriate national legal instruments. There, the Council would need to assist in implementation of the 2001 action programme.
Finally, an idea had emerged about developing independent mechanisms for monitoring and penalizing all such activities, he said. As for PCASED and ECOWAS, two things were very important: improving the monitoring of import controls and end-user certificates; and looking at improving that procedure as part of its agenda. He also saw a need to evaluate risks in the subregion and report annually on trade flows and mercenary activities there.
Action on Text
The Security Council unanimously adopted the resolution on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and mercenary activities: threats to peace and security in West Africa, as resolution 1467 (2003).
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