Workshop on Disarmament and Arms Control in a Peacebuilding Approach to Conflict in the Sahel
The history of decolonisation, the setting of boundaries and ongoing issues with the inclusiveness and quality of governance across the Sahel continue to be major elements in conflict across the region, both political and armed.
Destabilising economic factors include conflict between nomadic and settled groups; conflicts over land/land governance; problems with multinational corporations, particularly in extractive industries and the inequalities produced by wealth distribution from mining (gold, uranium, other metals, phosphates).
Climate change and the spread of desertification, along with growing populations, contribute to economic and political destabilisation and conflict between different groups.
Governance and development, and in particular, tensions between post-colonial government structures and traditional societal organisation have led to persistent national movements for self-determination, which have in turn become intertwined with and/or exploited by radical religious armed groups, either those from outside the region, or heavily influenced and even led by external sources/individuals. There are further links between conflict and organised crime – the smuggling of people, drugs, arms, cigarettes across the Sahel. These and illegal gold mining have become major sources of income for armed groups.
The Arab Spring and particularly the European-led intervention in Libya in 2011/12 destabilised the region and led to a spread of arms across the Sahel, and even wider, and re-sparked the conflict in Mali, further destabilising the region. Libya itself is in a state of civil war. Radical religious armed groups have also spread conflict without regard for borders in the region, often as part of factors listed above.
European-led or initiated heavily and increasingly militarised approaches to security, the securitisation of political/economic conflicts, have not only failed to make matters better, they have often worsened ongoing political problems by failing to take account of the current and historical political, economic and social factors prevalent across the Sahel. For example, general arming of the population (Burkina Faso), or the use of some indigenous armed groups against others (Mali) have simply played into and exacerbated existing factors that had already led to conflict.
Despite the prioritisation by the African Union of the Silencing the Guns 2020 initiative, there has been no sustained effort to use a range of possible arms control, disarmament, confidence and security building, and transparency measures as a basis for peace-building in the region. This would be a vital part of improved governance in the region and will contribute to the UN goal of General and Complete Disarmament (GCD).
GCD is generally defined as removing the ability of States to launch an aggressive war, but in this context can also be applied on a smaller scale to armed groups within States, and the use of armed force by States against groups within their borders.
Questions to be answered
How can arms control, disarmament, confidence and security building, and transparency measures be used to reduce conflict and improve security across the Sahel? This includes restricting arms flows into, and throughout the region, as well as securing and reducing existing stockpiles held by all armed actors.
How can traditionally marginalised sectors of society, especially women but also ethnic groups or economically marginalised communities across the Sahel, be involved in bottom-up peacebuilding measures which improve governance, development and societal equality, allowing for non-coercive societal disarmament measures?
How can disarmament and other measures enhance the likelihood of success is community-led bottom up peace-building, and how can that be supported nationally and internationally? How can such measures contribute to stability and enhanced governance at the State level?
How can local, national and regional arms control and disarmament efforts form part of a wider SCRAP initiative to achieve the UN’s goal of general and complete disarmament?