Ambassador Bukun Onemola
Ambassador/Deputy Permanent Representative
Nigeria Mission to the UN
New York, NY
19th March, 2010
I, too, would like to welcome Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro and Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, as well as Mr. Louis Sylvain-Goma, Secretary-General of the Economic Community of Central African States.
We appreciate your initiative, Mr. President, in organizing this thematic debate on the impact of illicit arms trafficking on peace and security in Central Africa. Your concept paper has proved valuable in facilitating discussion on this topical issue.
Illicit arms trafficking has a profound impact on peace and security in Africa in general, and in Central Africa in particular. It undermines good governance and disrupts trade, tourism and investment. It jeopardizes economic development and generally putsdemocracy and development at risk. Illicit small arms also heighten inter-State conflicts and put the nation- State system itself under attack. With armed guerrilla groups proliferating and often dividing into warring factions, internal instabilities increasingly tend to evolve into larger regional wars. Cross-border support for insurgent movements is also on the rise. Largescale wars are ongoing in some parts of Africa, resulting in millions of internally displaced persons. The role of natural resources in fuelling conflicts in the region can never be overemphasized. Fighters on all sides benefit from mineral wealth, while arms merchants are only too happy to keep the fighters supplied as long as they partake of that wealth.
I should like to suggest five areas where efforts should be directed in tackling illicit arms trafficking in Central Africa and other parts of the continent.
First, there is a need to strengthen national and subregional mechanisms to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. The experience of the Wes t African subregion provides an important lesson in this regard. To consolidate peacebuilding and reconciliation in the subregion, the heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decided to transform the moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of light weapons into a legally binding instrument, known as the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials. The Convention seeks to control, regulate and prohibit the transfer, manufacture and possession of small arms and light weapons. The subregion has been able to develop a plan of action, the ECOWAS Small Arms Control Programme, and also encourage the establishment of national focal points.
Secondly, in order to prevent weapons from ending up in the hands of those prohibited from receiving them, we believe that Governments must adhere to regional and international arms embargoes. They must start to sanction violators, as contraveners of arms embargoes have been able to act with impunity. The United Nations should redouble its efforts to closely monitor compliance, supervise enforcement and suggest persuasive measures to enhance compliance.
Thirdly, to end the impunity under which arms brokers operate, States should adopt an international arms trade treaty, which would provide common international standards regarding the practices of arms brokers. There is currently no uniform practice, with the result that arms brokers can change locations to avoid prosecution under one country’s laws by doing business in and through other, less regulated countries. Such a treaty would ensure that middlemen cannot move weapons from conflict to areas free of conflict for fear of prosecution.
Furthermore, on the issue of standards, an international treaty that provides criteria on exports is needed in order to prevent arms from getting into the hands of abusers of human rights and international humanitarian law. International standards that determine eligibility requirements for arms exports would prevent arms from entering the illegal market and from falling into the hands of those likely to divert or use them for nefarious purposes.
Lastly, national Governments, especially those of arms-exporting States, must strengthen and use monitoring mechanisms in order to prevent legal sales from being diverted into the parallel market. End-use monitoring ensures that exported weapons are used properly and that exploiters follow all laws, policies, regulations and procedures, thus verifying that a foreign Government or the authorized foreign recipient of defense articles is using and controlling them in accordance with the terms and conditions of a transfer. Because many countries have non-existent or weak end-use monitoring provisions, international standards that require end-use monitoring are the most systematic and complete basis. Onboard pre-shipment and postshipment points are required. In addition, a common international end-used certificate that cannot be easily forged or duplicated must be developed.
Finally, I would like to thank Gabon for the draft presidential statement, and affirm our support for its adoption at the end of this debate.