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Published on Friday, October 10, 2008 by Inter Press Service
Unchecked Arms Trade Fuelling Conflict, Poverty
by Isa Karlsson
UNITED NATIONS - With 1.3 trillion dollars spent every year on the world's militaries, countries enmeshed in conflict are often flooded by weapons which are then turned against helpless civilian populations, say human rights organisations pushing for an international treaty to closely regulate arms sales.
With 1.3 trillion dollars spent every year on the world's militaries, countries enmeshed in conflict are often flooded by weapons which are then turned against helpless civilian populations, say human rights organisations pushing for an international treaty to closely regulate arms sales.
"If a country is likely to be involved in warfare, then it is unjustifiable to sell arms. There must be regulation or control of arms -- especially when the countries that are buying them are involved in a conflict," Valentino Deng told IPS in an interview.
Deng's experiences formed the basis of Dave Eggers's recent novel "What is the What", which fictionalises the story of his life as a refugee of the Sudanese civil war. When Deng's village was attacked and burnt down, he was separated from his family and fled on foot with a group of other young boys. On the journey to a refugee camp in
"I saw people being killed by aerial bombings and I saw villages burnt to ashes," he told IPS. "I witnessed one of the incidents when a mother was killed and her young child was trying to breastfeed on the dead mother. At that time, I was wondering about one thing: who was supplying all these arms for war and conflict?"
The U.N. peacekeeping force's former commander in the Democratic
A new report by Oxfam International reveals how irresponsible arms transfers undermine many developing countries' chances of achieveing their development goals. Either these transfers are draining the governments' resources or fuelling armed conflict, or both.
The international arms trade is also considered to be one of the three most corrupt businesses in the world, according to Transparency International, the leading global organisation monitoring corruption.
"What is clear is that if you want to achieve the development goals, with poverty reduction, improved health care and education, you need to control arms transfers, " said Katherine Nightingale, author of the Oxfam report.
At least 22 of the 34 countries least likely to achieve the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals are in the midst of, or emerging from conflict, according to U.N. statistics. Oxfam notes that between 1990 and 2005, 23 African countries together lost an estimated 284 billion dollars as a result of armed conflicts, fuelled by transfers of ammunition and arms -- 95 percent of which came from outside Africa.
An investigative report by Amnesty International last month found that clandestine gun suppliers, funded by the
Because of faulty or non-existent government tracking systems, many of those guns have gone missing, and some have turned up in the hands of insurgents, Amnesty said.
According to the Oxfam report, a comprehensive and effective international arms trade treaty must be agreed to ensure more responsibility and transparency. Existing international initiatives like the
"In parts of
Worldwide support for a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was reflected when 153 states voted in favour during the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006. And later this month, U.N. member states will meet again to consider further steps to move towards negotiations on an ATT.
In the run-up to these discussions, a few states, including China, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia and the United States, have been attempting to block, delay and water down proposals, advocates say. This could kill the treaty before real negotiations even begin and allow continued unchecked trade in arms, human rights organisations fear.
Amnesty International, Oxfam, and others are now calling for the General Assembly to start a negotiating process during 2009 so that the international community can benefit from a legally-binding and universal Arms Trade Treaty by the end of 2010.
© 2008 Inter Press Service
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs