A civil society activism to encourage ECOWAS member states to ratify the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) regulating the international trade in conventional arms from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships begins.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the landmark ATT to foster peace and security by putting a stop to destabilizing arms flows to conflict regions and to help keep warlords, pirates, and gangs from acquiring these deadly tools.
It also seeks to prevent human rights abusers and violators of the law of war from being supplied with arms, Mr Baffour Dokyi Amoa, President of the West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA), told the Ghana News Agency in an interview in Freetown, Sierra Leone on Sunday.
The lobbying and activism campaign in West Africa is being led by WAANSA, a regional body of civil society organisations and an association of journalists working in the area of peace and security is leading the campaign.
WAANSA, which works in close collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission, is holding a Training of Trainers’ workshop in Freetown from February 23-26 in lobbying and campaigning for its members in Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Council of Churches in Sierra Leone is hosting the workshop.
The objectives of the workshop are to increase capacity of Civil Society Organizations in Zone three – Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to champion a national lobby and campaign for ATT signature and ratification.
Thirteen ECOWAS member states have so far signed but regrettably only two countries – Nigeria and Mali have ratified the Treaty to date.
Mr Amoah said the Freetown workshop also sought to build on the momentum already developed by the more the 13 countries that had signed the Treaty and the two that had ratified it.
He said the illicit transfer of conventional arms and their components was a grave and pressing concern, impacting on vulnerable countries most seriously.
“WAANSA’s priority now is to have the Treaty enter into force as soon as possible as West Africa over the years has experienced turbulence due to proliferation of small arms and light weapons,” he said.
Mr Amoah said that ATT, when it enters into force, would require states parties that had not done so to establish a national control system to regulate the export of certain categories of conventional arms, their ammunition and components, maintain national records of arms exports, and provide annual reports on arms transfers.
He said ATT was a significant step towards reducing the human suffering caused by an unconstrained trade in weapons in Africa and around the world.
“While an agreement for an Arms Trade Treaty is a first step in the treaty process in order to make a real difference, the Treaty has to be ratified and fully implemented on a global scale, with 50 signatories needing to ratify the Treaty in order for it come into force,” he said.
WAANSA has sought help from the Government of United Kingdom to implement a project that will encourage member states in the ECOWAS region to ratify the Treaty, to contribute both to disarmament objectives in West Africa and also to reach the global target of 50 ratifications.
WAANSA plans to conduct lobbying and campaigning in all the ECOWAS member states to achieve full signature and ratification and also identify the ATT implementation needs of the states.