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A Moratorium on Light Weapons in West Africa

Below is a summary from the International Conference on a Moratorium on Small Arms in West Africa. For the full text from the conference, click here (Pdf, 348 Kb)


The Oslo Platform for a Moratorium on
Small Arms in West Africa


The International Conference in Oslo, 1-2 april 1998
as summarised by the convenors (NISAT and UNDP)


In the presence of 13 West African countries, members of ECOWAS, 23 countries, members of the Wassenaar Arrangement of arms-exporting countries, and relevant UN organisations, NGOs and observer governments, the proposal on a moratorium on the manufacture, export and import of small arms in West Africa was presented by the President of Mali, H.E. Alpha Oumar Konaré. Participants expressed strong support for the moratorium. The conference welcomed the decision of the ECOWAS ministerial meeting in Yamoussoukro on 12 March 1998 to instruct its secretariat to prepare a draft text in readiness for a declaration of a moratorium at the forthcoming summit of ECOWAS scheduled for July 1998.

Participants at the Oslo Meeting agreed inter alia:

1) A regional moratorium on small arms in combination with wider efforts to address the root causes of a conflict is a concrete and effective contribution to

    v undertake conflict prevention, post-conflict consolidation and  peace-building

    v create a secure environment for development

    v promote and protect human rights

    v reduce crime and banditry.

2) Participants expressed the hope that the pioneering efforts of West African countries, members of ECOWAS, would encourage similar efforts in other subregions, which are subjected to the consequences of the illegitimate and violent use of small arms and light weapons.

3) Participants consider the subregional initiative of West Africa to be an important contribution towards strengthening the United Nations’ resolve to prevent the excessive accumulation, proliferation and use of small arms in pursuance of General Assembly Resolutions 50/70B and 52/38J.

4) Directed to the ECOWAS countries, participants voiced

v their appreciation of the initiative of the Republic of Mali and its fellow ECOWAS members to work towards the world’s first such moratorium

v their encouragement to ECOWAS members to keep up the momentum of their work towards preparing a draft declaration on the moratorium so as to have it formally declared without delay at the highest level of government

v their further encouragement to ECOWAS members to start work, assisted where appropriate by international partners, on carefully preparing for the implementation of the moratorium by harmonising national laws and making administrative reforms, e.g. regarding customs and police operations.

5) Directed towards arms-producing countries participating in the Wassenaar Arrangement, participants at the conference noted with appreciation the encouragement already expressed at Wassenaar meetings. Expectations were voiced regarding the need for the Wassenaar Arrangement to keep the idea of a moratorium high on its agenda for future meetings. The hope was also expressed that Wassenaar members will indeed state their support, respect and adherence to the principles of the future moratorium of small arms in West Africa.

6) Conference participants expressed their appreciation to donor countries who already have committed resources to support the implementation of the moratorium, as well as to those who used the occasion of the Oslo conference to pledge their future financial and other assistance. Considerable resources are needed to make the noble principles of the moratorium a reality and not only words on paper. Participants from donor countries offered to work closely with the countries of the subregions on the following problems: enhancing and harmonising national legislation; training of specialised services; and working out the scope, objectives, and definitions of the moratorium.

7) Participants expressed satisfaction with the associated measures that will support the moratorium regime. In this connection, they called on donor countries and ECOWAS member states alike to provide the financial and technical assistance needed to facilitate the implementation of the Programme of Coordination and Assistance on Security and Development (PCASED), which will be the supporting mechanism and secretariat for the moratorium. It was deemed necessary for PCASED to become operational as soon as possible.

8) Noting that a concerted, active UN input is called for in order to realise and implement the moratorium, conference participants expressed appreciation of the extensive assistance provided by the UNDP and other UN organisations for studying, preparing and facilitating the process within ECOWAS towards the realisation of the moratorium. Participants also expressed their appreciation of the strong support for the proposed moratorium by Secretary-General Koffi Annan, by Under Secretary-General for Disarmament Jayantha Dhana- pala, by the UNDP Administrator James Gustave Speth, and by the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Vieira de Mello.

9) Participants further expressed the belief that the role of non-governmental organisations is crucial in creating awareness of the importance of controlling and limiting the proliferation of small arms. Constructive interaction between democratic governments and responsible civil society groups and institutions, including religious communities, is crucial in creating an environment conducive to peace, development and human values.

10) Some participants represented countries already actively engaged in the fight against illicit trafficking of small arms through bilateral commitments in the region. They expressed their willingness to adjust their programmes or adapt them to the requirements of the implementation mechanism PCASED. Those programmes cover the training and equipment of gendarmerie units, specialised police and customs personnel.

11) Participants representing some of the member states of the European Union declared their intention to propose within that the EU provide financial, political and moral support for the establishment of the West African moratorium.

12) Participants proposed that a similar international conference, with high-level participation from ECOWAS countries, Wassenaar Arrangement members, and other interested parties, be convened by the United Nations as soon as the moratorium has been declared. The role of this meeting would be to enhance the substance of the dialogue between suppliers and recipients, and to be a pledging conference for the implementation of the moratorium and its associated measures.


For the full text from the conference, click here (Pdf, 348 Kb)