Fifth Biennial Meeting of States 2014

PoA Implementation Kit

Brokering Control

Back to Regional Organizations

Economic Community of West African States
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional group of fifteen countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo), founded in 1975. Its mission is to promote economic integration in "all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, social and cultural matters .......". ECOWAS became increasingly concerned with security issues, undertaking six regional peacekeeping operations since 1990s. A UN advisory mission in the region in 1994 and 1995 noted that reducing the availability and spread of small arms in the region would be vital to create a minimum level of security for development projects to be carried out successfully. In a UNIDIR/UNDP conference on conflict prevention, disarmament and development in West Africa in Bamako on 25-29 November 1996 the proposal for a moratorium was well received by the delegations present. ECOWAS also participated actively in discussions of the proposal and on 12 March 1998 the ECOWAS council of ministers instructed the ECOWAS Secretariat to draft a text for the moratorium proposal. On 31st October 1998, the ECOWAS countries adopted the world’s first regional Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Light Weapons, to be in effect for three years.

The following year, on 10th December 1999, the ECOWAS member states agreed a Code of Conduct for the implementation of the Moratorium. It specifies the types of weapons covered by the Moratorium and expands the scope of the Moratorium to include ‘components and ammunition’ for those weapons. The Code of Conduct calls for institutional arrangements to be put in place to support the implementation of the Moratorium, specifically National Commissions consisting of representatives from relevant authorities and civil society and structures, staff and procedures within the ECOWAS Secretariat. With regard to regional cooperation, the Code of Conduct requires information exchange to improve transparency (the development of a regional arms register and database) as well as the harmonization of legislation and administrative measures. It also allows for the development of procedures for inter-state cooperation between customs, law and order and other relevant officials, in tandem with the development of more effective border control mechanisms. Finally, the Code of Conduct includes provisions referring to public relations and outreach, resource mobilisation to ensure long term financial support, dialogue with suppliers and producers, declaration of weapons and ammunition used in regional peace operations and the possibility of the extension of the Moratorium regime to other African States.

The moratorium was a political, voluntary instrument, and by 2003 the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government had decided to transform it into a legally binding instrument in order to ensure more effective and comprehensive implementation. The process of the development of the ECOWAS Convention included input from the EU, Canada and Switzerland, West African civil society and PCASED. The draft text of the Convention was drawn up by two independent consultants selected by the ECOWAS Secretariat. The ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and other Related Materials was adopted on the 14th June 2006. The Convention prohibits all international transfers of small arms within the subregion unless a Member States obtains an exemption from the ECOWAS Secretariat. It stipulates strict controls on the manufacture of SALW and lays down measures to support transparency and exchange of information between Member States. Further provisions deal with civilian possession, stockpile security, marking, tracing and brokering. The Convention also contains a provision for a register of arms destined for use in peace operations and calls for a dialogue with manufacturers and international suppliers.

ECOWAS welcomed the adoption of the UN Programme of Action, seeing it as an effective mechanism to support regional efforts. The UNDP supported the implementation of the moratorium through the Program for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development in Africa (PCASED), which was set up to address security questions in the region related to the proliferation of small arms. Activities under the moratorium included the establishment of arms databases, education and public awareness campaigns, a review of legislation governing the purchase of small arms and the collection and destruction of weapons. At the end of PCASED’s mandate in 2004, ECOSAP, a five year SALW programme again involving the collaboration of UNDP with ECOWAS was launched on 6th June 2006. The project aims to build capacity of the region’s National Commissions, and to provide technical support to the newly formed Small Arms Unit in the ECOWAS secretariat. To date ECOSAP has provided both National Commissions and the Small Arms Unit with vehicles and equipment. ECOSAP also works with civil society, for example, in jointly organising a two day subregional forum in June 2006 with the West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA) and attending a civil society conference on small arms in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 20 - 24 June 2007.

The first International Consultative Conference on the Implementation of the Economic Community of West African States Small Arms Control Programme (ECOSAP), organised jointly by ECOWAS and the Government of Ghana, with support from Ghana UNDP country office, was held from 12 - 16 February 2007. At the end of the conference, member states adopted a Harmonised Regional SALW Control Implementation Action Plan for 2007. In that document, the conduct of national SALW surveys was agreed as the most important joint activity for 2007. ECOSAP worked to support this aim, leading to the adoption of a harmonised set of survey questionnaires at the end of a two day consultative meeting held in Bamako, Mail, from 28 - 29 April 2008. The surveys track, inter alia, distribution of SALW, stockpile management issues and knowledge, attitude and perception (KAP) of SALW issues. This endeavour included collaboration between ECOWAS and its Member States with UNDP, UNDESA and the Small Arms Survey

ECOSAP has also organised border management meetings, dividing Member States into four clusters for this purpose, in which field experiences are exchanged between National Commissions, national survey consultants, ECOSAP, the ECOWAS Commission and UNDP. More recently, ECOSAP organised workshops for representatives from Member States’ armed forces and police on the professional management and security of the stocks of arms and ammunition in line with current international best-practices. Topics covered included record-keeping and accident prevention. A workshop for English speaking states was held in Kaduna, Nigeria on 8 – 12 June 2009 while French and Portuguese speaking states were hosted in Bamako, Mali on 11 – 14 May 2009 at the Ecole de Maintien de la Paix.
Member countries:
Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Côte d'Ivoire
Sierra Leone