Over the next decade, more than a million lives globally could be saved through decisive action on armed violence and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW).
In Africa, despite significant progress towards mitigating and resolving violent conflict, the prevalence of lethal weapons continues to perpetuate armed violence, with far-reaching and often devastating consequences.
This violence deprives citizens of their most fundamental human rights, and of the dividends of peace which so many of us take for granted: employment, education, healthcare, personal safety.
The proliferation of weapons is an enabler of crimes such as human trafficking, drives human rights violations, fuels political fragility and undermines attempts to strengthen governance and democracy in affected states.
But progress is being made.
This report demonstrates how one country, Sierra Leone, is tackling arms control through national commitment and a wide range of partnerships, and highlights the need for a community-centred approach.
It is published at this moment in time – on the eve of the 7th Conference of States Parties of the Arms Trade Treaty – to serve as both encouragement and warning to the global community.
Sierra Leone’s path to peace has not been an easy one but its concerted approach, working in partnership with communities, non-governmental organisations and the international community, can and should be an exemplar to others. That note of optimism must be tempered with consideration of the increasing impact across the wider West Africa region of issues such as climate change, extremist violence and increasingly complex, contagious and escalating conflicts.
Accelerated action on arms proliferation is needed now, with the international community prioritising conflict prevention and armed violence reduction, if we are to limit the terrible suffering which ordinary people will otherwise face.
Put simply, endemic armed violence in Africa is an enduring and too often neglected humanitarian catastrophe.
Sierra Leone’s experience, however, along with the far-sighted support it has received from key members of the international community, show that it is a catastrophe that can be curtailed.