Monday, July 31, 2006

Small Arms Sales

Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons may grab the world’s attention as threats to human life. But it is hand-held and cheap weapons that deliver most violent death in wars today.[1]

Small arms are weapons that can be carried and used by an individual and include hand-guns, pistols, rifles, submachine guns, mortars, grenades and light missiles. Light weapons may require more than one person for operation and include machine guns, mounted grenade launchers, anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank guns and portable launchers of anti-tank missiles.

The Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based independent research project, has estimated that 1000 people are killed every day by small arms: 560 are criminal murders; 250 are direct war deaths; 140 are suicides; and 50 are accidents.

Oxfam, Amnesty International and IANSA (the International Action Network on Small Arms) estimate that there about 640 million small arms and light weapons in the world today with eight million more being circulated each year. “Experts estimate that there are more than 600 million small arms and light weapons in circulation worldwide,” says the UN.

The world’s top arms exporters belong to the Group of Eight, Yes, it is another G8 irony I mentioned in my previous post. The Small Arms Survey 2005: Weapons at War report states that “According to latest available data and estimates (year 2002), the top small arms exporters (exporting at least $100 million of small arms, including parts and ammunition, annually) are the United States, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Russia, and China. These countries supplied equipment, weapons and munitions to destinations where they contribute to violations of human rights. And, they all compete for markets. The top reported small arms importers by value were the United States, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.”

Cyprus? Yes, with less than 700 000 inhabitants the country is the second largest importer. It is very naïve to assume that the arms would indeed stay in that EU country. Where would then the guns land?

Control Arms coalition estimates that a million people have been killed and many more maimed by small arms since 2001. While governments talk big about curbing illegal gun traffic, there are few specifics on how to do so.

· Worldwide Authorized Small Arms Sales was $4 billion in 2002.[2]
· Worldwide Illicit Small Arms Sales in 2002 was 10-20% of the total trade in small arms.[3]

By unanimously adopting the UN Programme of Action to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (UNPoA), in July 2001, the UN Member States committed to collecting and destroying illegal weapons, adopting and/or improving national legislations that would help criminalize the illicit trade in small arms, regulating the activities of brokers, setting strict import and export controls, taking action against violators of such laws, and better coordinating international efforts to that end.

Five years after the adoption of the UNPoA, representatives from governments, international and regional organizations, and civil society will meet at UN Headquarters from 26 June to 7 July 2006 to review the efforts and progress made at all levels.

According to a news report released by the Control Arms campaign at the start of the UN world conference on small arms and light weapons in New York on 26 June 2006, the Kalashnikov assault rifle remains the most widely-used weapon in conflict zones for at least the next 20 years because it is so poorly regulated. There are an estimated 70 million AK-47s in the world, which could be bought for as little as US$30. The AK outstrips its nearest rival, the M-16 assault rifle, by 10 to 1 in terms of numbers produced.[4]

Kofi Annan announced before the conference that “Our targets remain unscrupulous arms brokers, corrupt officials, drug trafficking syndicates, criminals and others who bring death and mayhern into our communities, and who ruin lives and destroy in minutes the labours of years”

He reminded the Conference in his opening address on June 26, 2006, every year an estimated $1 billion worth of these weapons are traded illicitly worldwide, exacerbating conflicts that kill tens of thousands, sparking refugee flows, undermining the rule of law and spawning a culture of violence and impunity.[5]

But the UN conference on progress in stemming the illicit trade in small arms that fuel conflict and crime has collapsed on July 7, 2006 without adopting a common position paper – as differences between delegations on follow-up actions remained unresolved. It was reported that a small number of states, most prominently the USA, also by Cuba, India, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan blocked key issues so consistently that no agreement was possible.

Annan is reported to be disappointed that the Conference has ended without agreeing on an outcome document to tackle the global arms trade and curbing the illegal trade in small arms. But he reportedly acknowledged that the conference did succeed in 'recalling the issue of small arms and light weapons to the attention of the international community, which clearly remains committed to the programme of action as the main framework for measures to curtail the illegal trade in these weapons. According to the UN News Service Chairmen Kariyawasam of Sri Lanka said that ”This conference was a success in that it brought great international attention to the issue.”[6]

Conventional arms sales and small arms sales are mostly conducted by the world’s most developed countries. Those countries stay without any shame on the UN Security Council seats and supposedly the most powerful ones of them (making up G8) try to find solutions to word wide problems. Meanwhile, their customers kill themselves with those imported weapons. We see the last examples in Lebanon-Israel war, and since yesterday between Ethiopia and Somalia.

What is the UN doing? Right, what UN.

[1] Small weapons of mass destruction, The Economist, 29 June 2006.
[2] Source: Small Arms Survey 2004, p. 100.
[3] Source: Small Arms Survey 2001, p. 167-168.
[4] Control Arms Media Release: AK-47 is world's worst regulated weapon according to new report, 26 June 2006.
[5] UN conference draws attention to illicit trade in arms, but closes without a text, UN News Service, 7 July 2006.
[6] ibid

See you where parallels intersect.


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