Accra, Ghana – The surge in the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) is dramatically reshaping the dynamics of illicit trafficking in the ECOWAS region. With flows intensifying and a diverse array of actors involved, including terrorist and violent extremist groups, Ghana is stepping up its efforts to combat the escalating threat of illicit small arms and light weapons trafficking.

This comes in response to the growing menace posed by terrorist and violent extremist groups, operating within a network of sophisticated and organized armed entities. Their involvement in trafficking arms and illicit goods is not only a means of self-empowerment and financial gain but also poses a grave danger to Ghana’s peace and security. These small arms serve not only as tools for attacks but also as instruments for establishing control over populations and territories, heightening the urgency for Ghana to address this critical issue.

In Ghana, SALW trafficking stands out as one of the most resilient factors contributing to organised crime, significantly impacting the country’s peace and security.

The spillover effects of crises in Libya, Northern Mali, Northern Nigeria, and the Central African Republic have, in some instances, led to the plundering of state armories. Coupled with porous borders and a lack of capacity of control armed group movements, these gaps have created fertile ground for the proliferation of small arms throughout the ECOWAS region. Terrorism and violent extremism are gaining momentum in Africa, particularly in the Sahel region, with frequent attacks in the northern borders of Togo, Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire. Ghana, despite its strong interaction and proximity to the ‘theatres of terrorist violence’ in the Sahel, has not yet experienced any open attacks.

The upcoming SALIENT (The Saving Lives Entity) project in Ghana is part of a UNDP and UNODA global initiative that financially sits with the Peacebuilding Fund. This project is set to bring into action a concrete cooperative and collaborative mechanism to control the possession, trafficking, and proliferation of illicit arms and ammunition together with addressing armed violence in the country. The project is designed to support Ghana in responding to emerging regional security threats, especially terrorism and violent extremism.

SALIENT aligns with SDGs indicators 16 “Peace, justice and strong institutions” and 5 “Gender equality” on SALW, the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA), the AU Agenda on “Silencing the Guns”, and the ECOWAS Five-Year strategic plan for the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

A Scoping Mission, scheduled from November 27 to December 1, 2023, aims to identify Ghana’s current needs and constraints in small arms control. Key objectives include integrating small arms control into Ghana’s national policies, mapping current and recent programs and projects addressing peace and security, and assessing socio-cultural drivers of SALW illicit trafficking.

SALIENT emphasizes a collaborative approach involving key stakeholders, including national government authorities, the UN Country Team and CSOs. The project’s joint document will contribute substantively to creating enabling sustainable and catalytic conditions for peace and development in Ghana, focusing on armed violence reduction and youth demobilization.

The SALIENT project, responds to over two decades of experience in small arms control and armed violence prevention by the United Nations. Supported by countries including Finland, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. SALIENT offers sustained financing to address the root causes of armed violence, contributing to sustainable security and development in regions most affected.