Monday, February 7, 2011

EU-UNIDIR Regional Seminar for Countries in Central, Northern and Western Africa, 2-3 February 2011, Casablanca, Morocco

‘Supporting the Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations through Regional Discussions and Expertise Sharing’

Participating countries: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia

Unofficial summary

Most of the countries of the region are importers of arms. Nevertheless, it was felt that the ATT was important for them for several reasons. First and foremost, African countries are among the most negatively impacted by the circulation of weapons, especially small arms and light weapons (SALW). Indeed, several participants stressed that the proliferation of weapons has fuelled armed conflicts and prevented the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In addition, the ATT could set up valuable cooperation mechanisms in terms of arms regulation between exporters and importers, benefitting from the sharing of experiences. Finally, the dichotomy ‘exporting/importing’ countries was not reflecting adequately the reality of the arms trade. Indeed, even though most of the countries concerned by this seminar were importing rather than exporting arms, these weapons could still be transferred to other countries, or could transit through their territories en route to other destinations.

The seminar showed that most of the countries, if not all, were in favour of better regulation of the arms trade at international level, and specifically supported the adoption of an ATT. As for the treaty’s legal framework, emphasis was put on the importance of the principles of the UN Charter, notably the principle of territorial sovereignty. The arms trade should not be an excuse for intervening in the domestic affairs of a State, according to the view of several participants. Some participants also underlined the fact that States had the responsibility to ensure that their level of armaments corresponds to their actual needs and be proportionate to the necessity to ensure peace and stability.

Among the many issues to be addressed, participants referred specifically to terrorism, armed non-State actors, and arms brokers. The challenge of regulating new ways to trade arms, such as through the internet, was also raised. Furthermore, the advantage of the treaty would be to contribute the harmonisation of the different juridical regulatory frameworks at national level. In that perspective, many countries from Central Africa underlined that their regulatory framework was going to be the one set up by the Kinshasa Convention of 2010 on the Regulation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (see also UNREC website).

As for the scope of the treaty, most countries were in favour of including the 7+1+1 scenario (the regulation of the trade in ammunition was considered crucial). Discussions also took place regarding so-called ‘traditional’ manufacturing of weapons. Some African countries were concerned by such manufacturing and while some participating States considered it should be regulated by the ATT, others were of the opinion it was part of the national sovereignty of States.

Concerning the parameters to be included in the treaty, most countries were in favour of including a UN Security Council arms embargo clause, an international humanitarian law clause, as well as a human rights clause, even though some countries admitted this was controversial. A clause concerning the prohibition to supply arms to non-State actors was also considered necessary. Some countries underlined that such clauses were necessary because the treaty would not only be a political and legal instrument, but would also be of a moral and symbolic nature. Thus, a prohibition on the supply of arms in situations where it could facilitate gross human rights violations was considered to be of a great moral weight.

Finally, many states put an emphasis on the need for the treaty to elaborate effective monitoring mechanisms and cooperation clauses between countries to ensure the better regulation of the arms trade.


  1. The regional negotiations and the expertise sharing should help the work of the prep committee.
    Please joint the Monitoring Mechanism towards an Arms Trade Treaty.