Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: Africa’s Missing Billions Show Need for #Armstreaty

December 9 2011, 2:39 PM  by Oistein Thorsen

As an economist, I am acutely aware of the devastation to African economies due to armed violence. In my own country, conflict has led to the squandering of rich mineral, agricultural, and human resources that should have benefited Liberia and its people. Although economic recovery has begun, it will take many years to recover from the destruction of infrastructure, the damage to businesses, and the loss of life and livelihood.

On top of the human misery suffered by millions during armed conflict, these conflicts cost Africa billions of dollars each year. This is money Africa can ill afford to lose. The sums are appalling: the price that Africa is paying could cover the cost of solving the HIV and AIDS crisis in Africa, or provide education, water and prevention and treatment for TB and malaria. Literally thousands of hospitals, schools, and roads could have been built, positively affecting millions of people. Not only do the people of Africa suffer the physical horrors of violence, armed conflict undermines their efforts to escape poverty.

I’d like to highlight the global nature of the problem of one of the key drivers of armed conflict – the proliferation of weapons. That nearly all of the weapons used in African conflicts are not made in Africa, the need for global action to control the trade in weapons and prevent weapons, especially small arms, reaching Africa’s conflict zones is brought into stark relief.

At this critical time for reaching agreement on tough international controls on the arms trade through an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), it is essential that all governments understand the economic costs of armed violence and the impact that cost has on development.

I call on the governments of Africa and the world to be bold in our work towards the ATT. The treaty provides an opportunity to agree tough controls on the arms trade that would significantly help reduce armed violence in Africa and across the world, an opportunity that is truly priceless.

This blog was originally written by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the foreword for Oxfam, Saferworld and IANSA’s report “Africa’s Missing Billions”. Please download the entire report here.