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5 recommendations for stemming the flow of Small Arms & Light Weapons


As NATO is committed to addressing the flow of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) through legal and technical means and also via cultural, societal and functional methods, the Hub has collaborated with experts from across North and Sub-Saharan Africa to gain greater insight into this issue. In our discussions, 5 recommendations were identified.

SALW constitute a serious threat to safety, security and stability in the North and Sub-Saharan African regions and have long been considered primary tools of and discrete enablers to violence. In conflict situations, small arms are used to commit a wide range of human rights violations including mass killings, forced displacements, gender-based violence and attacks on peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.

Dialogue with a diverse selection of experts and practitioners from across North and Sub-Saharan Africa was created and provided NATO with insights into the flow of SALW. Its sources were investigated and it was acknowledged that the demand for SALW needs to be better understood in order to determine strategies and policy to effectively combat it. Such demand was seen to be driven by poverty and conflict, often due to a lack of response in tackling these issues by governments.

            “If people need to arm themselves for their own security or if they need to raise arms to get their voice heard they

               will find weapons; there is no stopping weapons’ flows unless the conditions creating the need are addressed.”

                                                                                                                                                                                         Webinar Panellist

During the webinar, the panellists’ consensus was that armed conflict is the number one factor in enabling arms to flow through, to or from a country. Other conditions mentioned often related to internal conflict, such as corruption, weak states, regional power struggles, illegal armed groups, vulnerable/porous borders and illegal exploitation of resources. Currently, the most noteworthy conflict and instability cluster lies in the Sahel, including Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

Panellists contributed insights as to how NATO might strengthen its approach, resulting in a number of recommendations concerning the following themes:

  • Supporting border control: towards the adoption of a custom-made approach with attention to local conditions.

  • Training and Equipping border agencies with a ‘Do No Harm’ approach.

  • Investing in setting up reliable data collection and sharing mechanisms.

  • Taking a regional approach, generating legal frameworks and cooperation among countries.

  • Adopting a holistic approach tailored to this complex matter.



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