On 22 and 23 May, the Government of Sudan will host a conference in Khartoum to focus on regional small arms control. The two-day conference, formally branded “First Regional Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons,” is designed not only to foster greater awareness of issues related to small arms but also to develop more effective ways Sudan can coordinate with its neighbours to reduce small arms in the region.
The two-day event, organized by Sudan’s Ministry of Interior and Sudan’s Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Commission in collaboration with the Embassy of Germany, the United Nations Development Programme and the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, will involve participation by representatives from Libya, the Central African Republic, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Specific objectives of the conference include creating a forum for regional dialogue on the illegal trade, circulation and use of small arms; developing a harmonized regional approach to control small arms; developing a strategy for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants; and creating a unique and holistic mechanism to monitor small arms control programmes across the borders of participating countries.
The conference’s organizers say that achieving these objectives is critical, especially as the number of small arms circulating in Sudan alone is estimated to be 3.2 million, according to official statistics that peg the number of small arms accessible to civilians at 1.9 million.
Reports by United Nations organizations monitoring the issue suggest that proliferation of small arms not only has escalated disputes across Sudan, but also has weakened conflict-management systems in the region. These reports suggest that cycles of conflict in the region, cross-border movements of armed groups and porous borders continue to compromise the possibility of sustainable peace, security and development, while weakening neighbourly coordination.
While many efforts have been undertaken by various agencies to address these issues, it is widely believed that much more needs to be done. The conference program is designed to focus attendees on discussion that will lead to action plans for medium- and long-term impact.
“The medium-term impact will be represented in the success of regional cooperation on reducing and controlling small arms and light weapons,” says Dr. Mahmoud Zain El-Abdein Mahmoud, Coordinator of Small Arms and Light Weapons Control at the Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (SDDRC) headquarters.
Dr. Mahmoud points out that there is a body of global evidence showing that efforts exerted by countries independently will fall short in the fight against the proliferation of small arms. He says the best way to face small arms is through comprehensive and coordinated programs that focus on regional cooperation.
The long-term impact of the conference, says Dr. Mahmoud, will be measured in creating opportunities for enhancing security and stability in the border areas and preventing the access of armed actors. The long-term impact of the conference also will be measured “in the realization of peaceful coexistence and sustainable development in the border areas,” he says.
The First Regional Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons will take place on 22 May 2012 at Corinthia hotel and the following day at the Friendship Hall. The second session of event will be attended by the Ministers of Interior of the participant countries.