Civil society groups call for action to reduce armed violence in Sub-Saharan Africa

At the Geneva Declaration Regional Review Conference for Sub-Saharan Africa, 26-27 November, civil society groups delivered a strong call for action from States to reduce armed violence. A collective statement called on all governments to take key steps towards tackling the drives and impacts of violence and insecurity across the region, and to support the inclusion of peace, justice and governance issues within a post-2015 development agenda.  

Ida Nganga, Head of Communications and Mentor for the African Union Youth, delivered the statement at the review conference on behalf of civil society. 
Click here to download the statement. The recommendations were developed by 35 civil society groups who met on 25 November in Nairobi, Kenya, at a regional workshop hosted by the Global Alliance on Armed Violence (GAAV) with the America Friends Service Committee (AFSC) on Preventing and Reducing Armed Violence to Promote Development. Over 190 groups were also invited to take part in an online consultation towards developing the statement.

The NGO forum, as well as the participation of a delegation of civil society participants for the RRC, was made possible with support from the Dialogue and Exchange Programme (DEP) via the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

The workshop provided an interactive space, engaging all participants in group work and dialogue, to explore themes of the review conference – armed violence challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa, measuring and monitoring armed violence, and the post-2015 development agenda. A summary note on ways to consolidate and improve targets supporting goal 16 as defined by the Open Working Group will also be shared by the non-government groups.
Geneva Declaration Regional Review Conference, Kenya, Nairobi, 26-27 November
Sub-Saharan Africa has been affected by high levels of armed conflict and violence for decades. The region has suffered ethnic, religious and border conflicts, civil wars, resource-based violence, electoral violence, extremism and terrorism. Human suffering, economic loss and impacts of migration and refugees have been felt by States and communities across the region.

The destabilising impact of violence and insecurity on development has severely degraded people’s access to basic services and human rights. In a recent Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) progress report, the African Development Bank stated that “armed conflicts have been the single most important determinant of poverty and human misery in Africa.[i]  

Underlying challenges which drive vicious cycles of violence include corruption, fragility in the public sector, poverty, small arms proliferation, and natural resource management. High levels of military spending, aimed at tackling violence, has in fact diverted critical funds from basic services to promote human development. Our collective recommendations seek to address the scourge of armed violence affecting the daily lives of women, girls, men and boys in all corners of this diverse region.

  • We call for all State signatories of the Geneva Declaration, in line with their existing commitments, to support the inclusion of a people-centred goal on peace, governance and justice in a post-2015 development framework. The proposed targets aimed at addressing drivers of violence, conflict and insecurity should be consolidated and improved through consultation with civil society.[ii]  



  • We call for increased accountability of regional multilateral institutions and national governments through transparent systems which measure and monitor forms of violence and conflict, rule of law and access to justice, governance and security provision using harmonised indicators.
  • We call on States to reallocate excessive budgets for military spending to support national development strategies which work structurally to prevent risks of armed violence.



  • We call on governments to respect and to implement commitments in regional instruments and Conventions in Sub-Saharan Africa for effective arms control. We strongly urge States to advance the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNPoA) and to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) without hesitation.



  • Recognising that young people are at high risk of becoming both victims and perpetrators of armed violence, we call on States to promote their social and economic inclusion by providing opportunities for education and skills development for decent livelihoods. We also call for the increased engagement of youth in decision-making at all levels to harness the capacity of young people as social leaders.



  • We call for institutional approaches to policy and service provision to address the needs and protect the rights of victims of armed violence - across areas of health, justice and social and economic inclusion – and for the empowerment of survivors to engage in processes to reduce armed violence. 



  • We call on all actors seeking to prevent conflict and reduce violence to tackle masculine gender norms linked to the preservation of gun cultures, militarism, and the perpetuation of violence. Recognising the advancement of gender equality as linked to breaking harmful gender norms, we call on States to implement national policies on the Women, Peace & Security agenda to advance women’s equal participation in efforts to promote peace and security.[iv]
[i] African Development Bank (2013) MDG Report 2013: Food security in Africa – Issues, challenges and lessons African Development Bank, p4 
[ii] Target revisions of the Open Working Group outcome document Goal 16 were outlined by civil society groups at the GAAV and American Friends Service Committee sub-Saharan Africa regional workshop, Preventing and Reducing Armed Violence to Promote Development, 25 November, Nairobi, Kenya. Email to receive a summary. For a copy of Saferworld’s Informal comments on Goal 16 of the Open Working Group Outcome Document: Protect, improve and consolidate, please email
[iii] By victims we mean persons that suffer direct physical, psychological or economic harm or the impairment of one or more fundamental rights due to a violent act.
[iv] This should include implementation of provisions in the Resolution on Women, Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control.