By Temitope Ponle
Abuja – ECOWAS has called on members states to increase awareness at the community level to reduce the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons in the region.
The Director, Gender, ECOWAS Commission, Dr Sintiki Ugbe, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sideline of a workshop on peace and security in Abuja.
Ugbe said that the proliferation of small arms within the region was a major challenge to security and also threatened the rights of vulnerable groups.
The Heads of State and Government adopted the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and other Related Materials in 2006 to support member states control the proliferation of small arms.
She, however, stressed that the convention did not deter criminal organisations from violating its provisions and called for synergy at all levels.
“ECOWAS is playing an important role to control how arms come into countries and that is our responsibility within the small arms convention. If a country is to acquire arms, they must obtain exemptions to show that they are going to use it in line with the convention.
“But we have to complement what is happening at the strategic level with what obtains at the community level.
“We have to engage the community more in being part of preventing the flow of illicit small arms and also raise awareness more because it is cheaper to prevent than to respond.”
She further called on member states to adopt necessary measures to promote the participation of women in vital decision-making positions on conflict prevention, management and peace building.
The ECOWAS Commissioner of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Gen. Francis Behanzin, represented by Head of the commission’s Small Arms Division, Mr Joseph Ahoba, said that the workshop was aimed at promoting gender balance in the peace and security sector.
“A major ingredient in this direction is mainstreaming of gender balance in our plans and processes in the peace and security sector.
“Fortunately, this is an idea that is gaining grounds all over the world because of the obvious gaps in the level of participation on the genders in the various initiatives that are launched.
The two-day workshop was tagged “Strengthening ECOWAS Operational Capacity to Integrate Gender in the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture: A Review of Small Arms and Light Weapons Control Baseline”.