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MEMBER STATES URGED TO SUPPORT ECOWAS COMMON POSITION ON ARMS TRADE TREATY NEGOTIATIONS

By Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)
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ABUJA, Nigeria, May 7, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- ECOWAS Member States have been called upon to own and promote the ECOWAS Common Position (ECP) on Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Negotiations ahead of and during the final negotiations coming up at the UN headquarters, New York in July 2012.

This was one of the key recommendations of a two-day final roundtable meeting on the ECP involving officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the ECOWAS Commission, which ended at the Commission's Abuja headquarters on 26th April 2012.

Since 2010, both the ICRC and ECOWAS have been engaged in a partnership to promote the attainment of an ATT through regional level consultations and agreements, resulting in the ECP, which has been presented and debated at various fora and is accepted as the true aggregation of the position of Member States on the ATT.

This initiative has also inspired efforts to develop and agree an African Common Position (ACP), which is awaiting endorsement by the African Union's Security Council.

The roundtable meeting urged ECOWAS Member States to adopt the text of

the Conference President as the basis of discussion and ensure the participation of their Permanent Missions at the UN, New York negotiations.

They should also consult, articulate and coordinate efforts working under the leadership of the current ECOWAS Chair, Cote d'Ivoire.

Furthermore, the meeting recommended that the region identify and create alliances with other groups such the East African Economic Community, Central Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean Community and Common Market, the EU and the Pacific islands, among others.

Member States should identify the “hawk” nations and promote platforms of engagement with a view to supporting the ECP, while the ECOWAS Commission should make provisions to facilitate regular consultations and meetings among member States and with other delegations.

The meeting noted that the lack of an African Common Position, barely eight weeks to the final negotiations raised the fear of African countries working at cross-purposes in New York.

However, to meet the challenge of sensitization in ECOWAS Member States, the meeting acknowledged the offer of support by the ICRC to contact the Ministries of Foreign Affairs in the region to rally support for the ECP.

In his keynote address to the meeting, Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, reiterated the key positions enunciated in the ECP and urged ECOWAS Member States to be aware of challenges that may arise such as deliberate delay, definition of weapons, as swell related activities and transaction, among others.

Speaking on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission, Maj.-Gen. Charles Okae (rtd), Director of Peacekeeping and Regional Security, observed that “the proliferation of conventional weapons and ammunition, including small arms and light weapons, and their irresponsible transfer” were aggravating human suffering, repression, crime, destabilization of regional security, violation of arms embargoes and human rights abuses.

He cited the ongoing violence in northern Mali, which is linked to the Libyan crisis, adding that this underscored the importance of the upcoming UN Conference on ATT.

The Head of ICRC Delegation to Nigeria, Mr. Zoran Jovanovic, said the ICRC strongly supports the adoption of a comprehensive and effective ATT, adding: “it is urgent that States negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty that would establish common international standards for responsible trade because there are lives for whom this decision will make a

difference.”