G7 Conference SALW in the Sahel

Never before has the Sahel–Maghreb region experienced such a high level of small arms availability. Following the fall of Gaddafi, non-state armed actors overran sizeable weapons depots in Misrata and Zintan, quickly turning Libya into an open market for arms. These small arms and light weapons (SALW) have since headed east (to Egypt, Sinai, and Palestine), west (to armed groups in northern Mali via Algeria and the Tunisian border), and south (to Boko Haram in Nigeria via Niger and Chad). To try and stem the tide, a large array of counter-proliferation interventions are now being implemented by a wide variety of actors across the Greater Sahel. The United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank, the Economic Community of West African States, and the African Union have all developed separate strategies for the Sahel focussing on different combinations of countries, but all including the “core” Sahel states of Mauritania, Mali and Niger, sometimes plus Burkina Faso and Chad.

With backgrounds in both research and policy advice, BICC’s technical advisory staff have previously worked on the counter-proliferation and physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) of small arms and ammunition. In addition, BICC’s technical advisors have also provided support to the Sub-Regional Arms Control Mechanism to processes of civilian arms registration and marking and to programmes concerning the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants. Against this backdrop, in early 2015 the African Union, BICC, and the German Federal Foreign Office initiated a project addressing both the proliferation of SALW in the Greater Sahel region and the increase in often poorly co-ordinated international responses.

Launched within the framework of Germany’s current presidency of the Group of Seven industrialized nations (the G7), the rationale behind the project is twofold. Firstly, the project aims to improve the co-ordination of the large array of counter-proliferation initiatives currently ongoing in the Sahel and its surrounds (including West Africa and the Maghreb). Secondly, by improving co-ordination and reducing programmatic duplication, the project aims to more effectively match the increasingly limited resources of donors with the needs of Greater Sahelian countries. Thus far, two meetings have taken place within the framework of the G7 project, both held at the African Union in Addis Ababa. BICC also organised a two-day PSSM training course in Abuja, Nigeria.

While mechanisms to co-ordinate humanitarian interventions in the Greater Sahel already exist, such existing co-ordination platforms do not specifically deal with small arms control and PSSM. Furthermore, given that the Greater Sahel region covers the Sahel, West Africa and the Maghreb, there is not one pre-existing regional organisation that is mandated to cover (or has the operational capacity to cover) such a wide geographical remit. As a result of these current gaps, and on the occasion of the September experts’ meeting, the African Union, Germany, and BICC proposed the establishment of a co-ordination platform in which representatives from the donor community, the African Union and relevant member states, implementing agencies and regional economic communities come together once a year to exchange information on SALW control and PSSM.

Funded by

German Federal Foreign Office

Duration of project

since 2015