On this page you will find the following:

1. Small arms in Africa and AEFJN

2. African Regional Treaties to fight the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons

3. Arms Control

Small arms in Africa and AEFJN

Armed men in a pick-up
Armed men in a pick-up

Small arms are one of the main causes of death in Africa. The widespread and often uncontrolled presence of small arms in different parts of the continent and the facility to buy and use them has become a scourge in itself.
Civil and inter-state conflicts drive demand for small arms and create a pool of weapons which can be used to commit violent crime as well as fuelling conflict. Small arms such as assault rifles are especially suited to the irregular warfare because they are cheap (an AK-47 Africa’s favourite killing machine can be easily bought for as low as $12).

The availability of small arms is not only a cause of killings and wounds, but also of insecurity, where development cannot flourish and the economic activity stops. Disruption of local resources, misuse of public money and the imposition of the law of the stronger accompanies the proliferation of small arms.

In Africa governments have signed many regional agreements on the control of small arms.  Under these agreements governments and civil society have joined hands to introduce mechanisms to halt the influx of guns.


AEFJN lobbying on Small Arms

To stop the transfer of weapons and its proliferation in Africa AEFJN works at three levels:

  1. At European level, AEFJN works towards strict implementation of the legally binding EU Common Position on the export of arms, adopted in 2008 and its concrete adoption by all EU member states.
  2. At the UN, towards an international Arms Trade Treaty, based on fundamental principles of international law, to reduce the human cost of arms proliferation, prevent unscrupulous weapons suppliers finding the weakest point in the supply chain, and ensure that all arms exporters are working to the same standards.
  3. In Africa AEFJN supports the regional agreements for a greater control of firearms.

1. The European Code of Conduct

The European Common Position on the export of arms and military equipment signed in December 2008 is legally binding. It represents a step forward from the Code of Conduct adopted on June 1998. It applies to 32 countries (the 27 members of the EU, plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Canada).  In 1999, the US endorsed the principles of the EU Code. In 2003, Belgium integrated it in its legislation and in 2007 Spain did the same.


AEFJN, together with other NGOs, worked towards the adoption of the Common Position as a legally binding instrument. Currently it monitors its compliance and tries to advocate for its content to be integrated in the legislation of the single States who support it.

2. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the United Nations

After years of collaboration between civil society and governments, and many debates at the United Nations, the UN General Assembly finally in October 2009 agreed a timetable to establish a 'strong and robust' Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) with the 'highest common standards' to control international transfers of conventional arms.


Currently there is no global regulation of the arms trade. The resolution in the ATT recognized that international arms transfers contribute to armed conflict, displacement of people, organized crime and terrorist acts, thereby undermining peace, safety, security and sustainable development.


This agreement means that the ATT will be negotiated in a series of meetings to be concluded at a UN Conference in 2012. The resulting treaty is expected to require states to regulate international transfers strictly according to principles based on international law, significantly reducing the human cost associated with the proliferation of conventional arms.


AEFJN is working with civil society in Africa and in Europe, for the conclusion of a strong and effective treaty in 2012. It is vital that governments keep up the pressure for a strong treaty, and do not allow a minority of states to block the process.

African Regional Agreements to prevent the proliferation of small arms

Nearly all African regions have reached agreements on a regional basis to fight the proliferation of small arms in the continent:

  • tl_files/aefjn-images/im_1_Icons/pdficon_sm.jpgThe Nairobi Protocol on Small Arms, a legally binding instrument adopted in 2004 that applies to 12 States of Central and East Africa. I came into force on 5 May 2006.  The Regional Centre for small arms (RECSA) is the coordinating Secretariat.

  • tl_files/aefjn-images/im_1_Icons/pdficon_sm.jpgThe ECOSAP Convention, adopted by the 15 countries of ECOWAS (Economic Community of Western African States) on 14 June 2006. It is a legally binding agreement, whose text, recognised as one of the more advanced in the field, was prepared with the assistance of the civil society.

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Arms Control

Asking for an Arms Trade Treaty at the UN
Asking for an Arms Trade Treaty at the UN

Small Arms a danger for Africa

The Arms Trade, a lucrative business

The 2nd African Synod on arms trafficking

AEFJN and arms control

AEFJN lobbying on Small Arms


1. Small Arms a danger for Africa

Africa is very much affected by the abundance of small arms. The high concentration of mineral resources in places suffering from endemic conflicts, as the Great Lakes Region in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an example. However conflicts of different kinds also ravage other regions, like Somalia and Darfur. Though the reasons at their origin may be economic, ethnic or political, the widespread presence of arms contributes to its persistence. The political instability in some countries, often due to the presence of armed factions, prevents them from developing.


Small arms are one of the main causes of death in Africa. The widespread and often uncontrolled presence of small arms in different parts of the continent and the facility to buy and use them has become a scourge in itself. The availability of small arms is not only a cause of death and injury, but also of insecurity, disruption of local resources and misuse of public money.


The wide presence of small arms on the African continent affects the life and livelihood of many ordinary people. Economic activities cannot flourish when infrastructures are disrupted by conflicts and formal education becomes difficult, if not impossible, during war or persistent conflicts. When arms are easily available, a culture of violence takes root: that which is desirable is deemed obtainable by threats, blackmail and force. This applies to all kinds of possessions such as houses, cattle and crops, even to the small-scale family food crops. When the law of the well-armed prevails over the rule of justice and fundamental rights, it is not possible for peace, security, democratic rule, stability and economic growth to put down roots and grow strong.

2. The Arms Trade, a lucrative business

The trade of arms is a lucrative business that supports many other illegal activities. Weapons also facilitate illicit exploitation, the control of production and the marketing of natural resources like diamonds, copper, coltan, cassiterite and many other precious or strategically valuable minerals and highly profitable export commodities. In these cases, basic human rights are overlooked or crushed. The phenomenon of child soldiers, with all that goes with it, is an eloquent sign of this.


Many arms that reach the African market illegally are produced outside Africa.


3. The 2nd African Synod on arms trafficking

In the preparation for the 2nd Synod we read: For the Church-Family of God in Africa, the call for peace means demanding a stop to the arms trade in areas of conflict. Everyone knows how the parties in conflict are supplied with arms. This is a great injustice and thievery: the resources of poor countries are systematically plundered to fuel the arms trade. The material force of arms needs to be replaced by the moral force of law.

The 2nd Synod for Africa denounces the prevalence of arms on the continent and welcomes the initiatives of the United Nations, African Union (AU) and African Regional organizations to stop illegal arms-trafficking and to make transparent all legal trading in arms.

The bishops encourage national governments to support the Arms' Trade Treaty (ATT) within the UN, with binding universal standards for the global commerce of conventional weapons, which would respect Human Rights and Humanitarian International law.


The African bishops encourage the Church in arms-producing countries to lobby their governments to pass legislation restraining production and distribution of arms that is to the detriment of African peoples and nations.

4. AEFJN and arms control

AEFJN, motivated by its Christian faith, works at the roots of the injustices that affect African peoples. The widespread presence and the uncontrolled trade of small arms constitutes a danger to the stability of democratically elected governments, to the growth of lawful economic activities and hinders development and progress. Those who suffer most from this situation are ordinary citizens, especially the weakest.

AEFJN denounces the complicity between the trade of arms and the illegal traffic of humans and local resources.

We highlight the disproportionate spending in some African countries on military equipment and social services.

We consider it our duty to persuade the European Union, the European countries, as well as the United Nations, to adopt legally binding measures aimed at controlling the production and the export of small arms.
We network with other organisations in Europe and Africa in order to foster and support agreements and measures taken by African countries at regional level to control the proliferation of weapons.

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