From Moratorium to a Convention on Small Arms: A change in politics and practices for the 15 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Coulibaly, Mohamed

Publication date
14 Jun 2008

Oxfam International

From Poverty to Power

Case study

The ECOWAS moratorium on small arms entered into force in 1998. Although significant, it was not binding on states. This paper describes how civil society action across West Africa has succeeded in transforming the moratorium into a legally-binding regional convention on small arms control. Through a series of regional workshops organised by civil society organisations, a network of 'agents of change' was developed to create policy influence at national and regional levels. A draft civil society convention was developed for presentation to ECOWAS. This became the basis for the resulting ECOWAS convention, which was signed in 2006. Once ratified, the Convention will give West Africa stricter arms controls than any other region in the world, in turn giving impetus to the UN Arms Trade Treaty negotiations. The author describes how dialogue with government and ECOWAS representatives, and sustained advocacy work within member states, have been essential for the success of this campaign.