Khartoum Declaration fosters new cooperation

24 May 2012

Khartoum - The Regional Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Control concluded on May 23rd with the agreement of Sudan, Central African Republic,Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya to improve their cooperation and coordination through the creation of a regional mechanism that will aim to control, manage and safeguard against the proliferation of small arms and illegal trafficking of weapons.

With the support of the Embassy of Germany, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the African Union - United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the five neighbouring countries came together for the first time committing to promote a bold set of joint initiatives in border security, training programmes, information sharing, institution building and the development of new interregional bodies for arms control, conflict reduction and economic development.

The ‘Khartoum Declaration’ signed by the Ministers of Interior and Security of Sudan, Chad, Libya and Central African Republic and a representative of the Government of Democratic Republic of Congo also called for the continued support of the UN system and international community in this initiative.

During his opening speech, Sudan UN Resident Coordinator, Ali Al-Zataari spoke frankly of the necessity for strengthening institutions at both the national and community levels and of the UN’s commitment to this aim. “In order to achieve real results in armed violence reduction, and addressing the demand side for small arms, we capacitate communities and local governments to tackle the drivers of armed violence.” He continued, “This support to local authorities to develop, for example, community policing strategies and community-based arms control approaches is complemented by more socio-economic components such as job creation, engaging youth, awareness-raising activities, peace building and social cohesion.”

It was a sentiment later echoed by conference participant, Wolf-Christian Paes of the Bonn International Center for Conversion who noted that for this conference to succeed it must ensure a robust engagement with the actors on the ground, “We need to address the root sources of the conflict. Weapons are just tools. A regional agreement needs to go beyond intergovernmental cooperation, and civil society cooperation. What is essential for this to succeed is not just focusing on the arms; it’s about addressing the root causes of trans-border conflicts. Arms are just a symptom of a far greater problem.”

In the summit’s closing remarks delivered in Khartoum’s capacious Friendship Hall, Sudan’s Second Vice President, Dr. Alhaj Adam Yousif, said that ultimately there can be no sustainable development as long as citizens persist in carrying illegal small arms. “We call upon them to put down the gun. We are here to agree that arms are only to be used according to laws and regulations.” He remarked, “We want the communities to join hands in this respect, we want our security and political organs to cooperate and coordinate. We want to reach a safe society.”