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17.11.2008 General News

Small and light weapons danger to achieving MDGs in West Africa

Small and light weapons danger to achieving MDGs in West Africa

Even though the West African sub-region has seen progress in promoting peace and governance in recent years, the easy accessibility to small arms and light weapons could thwart the sub-region's critical agenda to consolidate peace and the prospects of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The key to the success of consolidating peace is for players in the sub-region to consistently coordinate their responses in tackling the proliferation of small arms to engender human security and sustainable development, Daouda Toure, Resident Coordinator of the UN system in Ghana, said on Monday.

He said this in a speech read for him at the opening of a two-week pilot course on small arms and light weapons for 30 participants from the sub-region at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra.

The course, which is supported by the Government of Japan, is part of a three-year programme targeting the National Commission for Small Arms and Light Weapons of ECOWAS countries to build the capacity of their staff in controlling small arms and light weapons proliferation.

It is a joint project of the Japanese government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the government of Ghana.

Mr Tuore said research findings pointed to the fact that firearm related insecurity discouraged people from committing themselves and their resources to improve their lives in consistent manners.

He said insecurity hampered the accessibility for development partners and governments to effectively reach out to people in need, impacting labour, productivity, flow of resources, as well as access to various socio-economic opportunities.

Mr Toure said that it was in the interest of each country, in an era of inter-connectedness, to effectively address these challenges collectively and effectively in order for their communities to get together, build and retain their capacity to tap into opportunities for development.

Mr Keiichi Katakami, Japan's Ambassador to Ghana, also noted that whilst there were many encouraging developments, the protracted conflicts in Africa and their escalation were becoming worrying.

He said that support to the UN or AU-led peace operations, as well as strengthening the capacity of the AU and African countries, were the two effective and important interventions to prevent such proliferations.

Japan this year began supporting five peacekeeping training centres in Africa to build the capacity of the AU and African countries in peacekeeping.

It is also supporting ECOWAS member states, through the ECOWAS Small Arms Control Programme, in setting up and building the capacity of National Committees on small arms control.

The Ambassador said Japan was committed to peace building and expressed the hope that the course would impact positively at reducing the proliferation of small arms in West Africa.