UNDP promotes a sector-wide approach to increasing community security and focuses on involving people to identify both the causes of insecurity and solutions to improve their own safety. Supporting the creation of grassroots infrastructures to increase safety and security, including for curbing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, is key to ensuring lasting change. UNDP also strengthens the capacity of security sector institutions to undertake reforms that better align their services with community needs. Further, UNDP helps to ensure that security actors are professional, accountable, and aware of human rights, especially for the protection vulnerable groups in crisis or conflict situations.
Similar conflict dynamics, such as escalating inter-communal conflict and a loss of public confidence in the state, are manifesting in several countries across West Africa. At the same time, these states are experiencing an increase in violent attacks and arms trafficking emanating mostly from the Sahel. Addressing these challenges that are cross-border in nature, requires a collaborative approach that reduces incidences of armed conflicts, increases security, enhances social cohesion, and builds resilience across the region as a whole.
To advance these efforts, UNDP Nigeria is implementing the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms project (2015-2019) covering seven contexts: Côte D’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Through this project, UNDP supported community engagement and sensitization efforts on the importance of reducing small arms and light weapons for community safety, reaching about 25,500 people (15,200 men and 10,300 women) in 2018. Over the year, these sensitization efforts contributed to the voluntary surrender of 37,896 weapons and ammunitions in 25 cross-border communities. In addition, unprecedented levels of cooperation on community disarmament between Niger and Nigeria as well as Niger and Mali were reached and trust between the cross-border communities in Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as Liberia and Côte D’Ivoire grew significantly. Moreover, in return for weapons surrendered, 25 border communities benefited from community-based projects, resulting in: a rehabilitated health centre, community school, and hand water pumps in Côte D’Ivoire; the provision of hand water pumps as well as milling and oil extracting machines for women groups in Guinea hand water pumps in Sierra Leone; a rehabilitated town hall in Liberia; and replenishment of livestock herd and food in Niger; amongst other developments.
Looking forward, UNDP Nigeria intends to deepen and expand its integrated efforts to reduce small arms and light weapons and promote social cohesion by strengthening cross-border community engagements, enhancing the capacity of national security institutions in the region, developing alternate livelihood opportunities, and promoting a more gender-sensitive approach.