A Case For Regionalization

May 11 2011, 11:33 AM by Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will

As the MGE continues to discuss the technical and practical challenges of implementing the UNPoA, there has been significant reference to existing regional cooperation as well as a call for further such collaboration. Ambassador McLay devoted a section of his pre-meeting papers to “Regional Cooperation” which is encouraged in the provisions of the ITI. More specifically, the UNPoA emphasizes regional cooperation for tracing purposes, including the strengthening of information exchange.

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

Several delegations have already made reference to regional efforts to improve implementation of the UNPoA. Sudan, Kenya, and the DRC all referred to the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control, and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa signed in 2004 by the countries of Burundi, DRC, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. These states compose a region that is severely affected by the proliferation of small arms resulting in sustained armed conflict, crime, and degradation of the environment. This regional instrument represents a tool to directly address the challenges present in the implementation of the UNPoA.

The Nairobi Protocol is representative of states that are generally not manufacturers of small arms, but rather subject to the illicit trafficking through import of SALWs. As such, the Protocol calls for national legislation to criminalize the illicit trafficking, manufacturing, and possessing of small arms as well as the falsifying of markings on SALWs. Furthermore, the Protocol calls for the strengthening of sub-regional cooperation among national police, intelligence officers, and border control agents.

In addition, states parties are called upon to improve national databases, communications systems, and upgrade equipment technologies. States are urged to establish inter-agency groups of relevant bodies to improve information sharing. The Protocol covers both civilian-owned and state-controlled SALWs and places great importance on marking, record keeping, and tracing as the tri-fold approach to implementation of the UNPoA. Markings are required at the point of manufacture as well as time of import. States parties are urged to keep adequate records of SALWs for no less than 10 years. Other relevant provisions of the Protocol cover disposal of seized SALWs, voluntary surrender of weapons, and harmonization of information exchange.

Illicit trade in SALWs is inherently a transnational issue that penetrates porous borders and fuels issues that are a regional concern and demand a regional response. The security and well-being of the region is at stake. Furthermore, this sub-region of Africa is particularly vulnerable to illicit trafficking in SALWs because of exacerbating circumstances such as internal political strife, terrorist activities, and extreme poverty. Although these circumstances are not entirely particular to this group of states, they do form the basis for necessitating a comprehensive strategy for addressing illicit trade in SALWs in this sub-region of non-manufacturing importers of arms. Such a comprehensive strategy would inevitably change depending on the set of circumstances particular to a group of cooperating states. That is to say, the comprehensive strategy for Latin American and Caribbean states would undeniably emphasize different priorities to better address the specific concerns of that region.

Such a Protocol does not ensure successful implementation, but indeed it does provide further solidification of a legal framework to support cooperation on an issue, which necessitates a response buttressed by regional support. By nature, the ITI and the UNPoA cannot be operational in national political silos. Both the ITI and the broader UNPoA necessarily require that states, no matter to which region they belong, cooperate with other states to ensure successful implementation of the UNPoA and, in turn, stymie the illicit trade of SALWs. Even the most discriminate and meticulous national system of marking is deemed worthless if sufficient tracing and record keeping is not sufficiently carried out by cooperating countries in contact with those same marked arms.

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