In an effort to address the alarming proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Eastern and Southern Africa, Nairobi is hosting a gathering from March 4 to 5, 2024 whose aim is to prepare for the upcoming Fourth Review Conference on the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (UN PoA).

High-level attendees include Ambassador Maritza Chan Valverde of Costa Rica, President Designate of the Fourth Review Conference, and Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. Delegations from over 26 countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa region, as well as representatives from regional and sub-regional organizations like the African Union and the Economic Community of East African Community (ECA), are expected to participate.

The meeting will focus on assessing the progress made in implementing the UN PoA and its International Tracing Instrument (ITI). Discussions will revolve around setting priorities to effectively combat the illicit trade in small arms, which has been identified as a significant driver of armed conflicts, violent extremism, and terrorism.

“Adequate small arms control is a crucial means of reducing armed violence, preventing conflict, and building peaceful and inclusive societies – without which sustainable development cannot happen,” stated Izumi Nakamitsu, emphasizing the importance of collective action in addressing this pressing security challenge.

The UN PoA, adopted in 2001, provides a politically binding framework for Member States to enhance control measures over small arms through improved regulations, stockpile management, and international cooperation. The International Tracing Instrument, introduced in 2005, further strengthens this framework by emphasizing the need for effective marking and record-keeping of weapons to aid in their traceability.

The regional preparatory meeting will feature thematic presentations and group discussions on various topics, including developing effective national policies, enhancing tracing of SALW, and curbing the supply and demand of illicit arms. Participants will also explore synergies between the UN PoA and regional instruments such as the Nairobi Protocol on small arms and the South African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on firearms control.

Dr. Raymond Omollo, Principal Secretary for Internal Security and National Administration, highlighted Kenya’s commitment to implementing the PoA and ITI. He stressed the importance of strengthening national legal frameworks, enhancing border controls, and promoting regional cooperation in arms control to effectively address SALW proliferation.

Participating countries and organizations will work towards identifying region-specific challenges and formulating strategies to tackle the illicit small arms trade. By fostering collaboration and shared responsibility, the gathering aims to contribute to building a safer and more secure future for East and Southern Africa.


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