Arms Trade Treaty long overdue, as new research shows billions spent on illicit weapons deals by states under embargo
Oxfam says lack of global rules on arms trade is main factor for embargo violations
More than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition have been imported since 2000 by countries operating under arms embargoes, according to new figures released today by international humanitarian agency Oxfam.
The figures are contained in a new report, called The Devil is in the Detail, showing the extent to which states have been flagrantly flouting the 26 UN, regional or multilateral arms embargoes in force during this period. Oxfam is calling on the international community to put an end to decades of irresponsible arms deals which devastate people’s lives, by agreeing a set of legally-binding laws when diplomats meet to draw up a new Arms Trade Treaty in July.
Ongoing flow of weapons into Syria
The report also demonstrates how the lack of robust and legally binding obligations on the sale and transfers of arms has allowed the ongoing flow of weapons into Syria. In 2010, for example, Syria imported $167 million worth of air defense systems and missiles as well as $1 million worth of small arms and light weapons, ammunition and munitions. Some of these arms have played a central role in the Syrian government’s crackdown on protesters in which the United Nations estimates 8,000 people have been killed this year and last.
Existing embargoes “easy to break or ignore”
Oxfam’s Head of the Control Arms Campaign Anna Macdonald said: “We are on the brink of a historic moment but the challenge is to ensure the new Treaty is really strong. It must unambiguously stop arms transfers where they would fuel conflict, poverty or human rights abuses.
“Existing arms embargoes are far too easy to break or ignore. The lack of international regulation means that states under embargo have been importing whatever weapons they choose with impunity."
In the last decade and beyond, several states have broken embargoes and continued to trade weapons on a massive scale including Myanmar ($600 million between 2000-2010), Iran ($574 million between 2007-2010) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ($124 million between 2000-2002).
Arms trade lacks robust and universal rules
The aid agency wants to see the new treaty place strict, unambiguous and legal obligations on states to control the global trade in arms. The report says the global trade in most consumer goods – including bananas, coffee and cocoa – is tightly-regulated but there are currently no legally-binding, robust and universally applicable criteria governing the transfer of weapons across borders.
Instead, there is an intricate patchwork of regional and sub-regional agreements but this lacks structure and coherence allowing states to continue importing and trading weapons despite UN or other types of embargoes. As weapons slip through the net, Oxfam believes thousands of lives are being lost and livelihoods destroyed.
Macdonald adds: “How can the sale of bananas be more tightly-controlled than the sale of machine guns? It just doesn’t make sense. This situation is indefensible and it’s long overdue for countries to hammer out a legally-binding agreement on weapons transfer.”
“A weak treaty would be worse than no treaty”
To be effective, the new Arms Trade Treaty must include legally-binding criteria that prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial risk they will be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian law or undermine development.
Macdonald says: “The new Arms Trade Treaty must be robust enough to have a genuine impact on the lives of tens of thousands of innocent civilians suffering from armed violence every single day. This is the chance of a generation to truly make a difference.
“Our position is clear: a weak treaty would be worse than no treaty at all as this would merely legitimize the existing flawed system.”
Notes to Editors
Download a table showing SIPRI and COMTRADE data on Embargoed States Importing Arms (2001-2010) (pdf 15kb).
Zahra Akkerhuys on +44 (0)1865 472498 or +44 (0) 7525 901932
Thx for speaking up for women: @MarsGlobal,#Mondelez & @Nestle have now moved from words 2 action http://t.co/laFtaWajFI #BehindTheBrands2 days 4 hours ago
UN agency and Slow Food group partner to boost livelihoods of small farmers http://t.co/l0YMT9yyk8 @SlowFoodHQ2 days 10 hours ago
RT @oxfamgbpress: Oxfam very relieved that Cyclone #Mahasen did not cause damage to vulnerable communities in Myanmar http://t.co/t2VwONPjs02 days 11 hours ago
RT @annamac33: The #ArmsTreaty can create a safer future for millions. Urge the US to sign! http://t.co/HRlNC8BcO32 days 12 hours ago
#FF Oxfam Global Ambassadors @KristinDavis @GaelGarciaB @driverminnie @liviafirth @baabamaal @HelenLMirren @BoseOfficial2 days 12 hours ago
#FF Oxfam Global Ambassadors @AnnieLennox @djimonhounsou @angeliquekidjo @firthcom @coldplay @RahulBose1 http://t.co/rXOrgldjlt2 days 12 hours ago
Thanks for speaking up for women! @MarsGlobal #Mondelez & @Nestle have moved from words to action http://t.co/pMvtbhesPh #BehindTheBrands2 days 14 hours ago
#FF the Oxfams! @IntermonOxfam @OxfamIndia @OxfamJapan @oxfamnovib @OxfamQuebec @Oxfam_mcm @OxfamItalia @oxfam_sol @oxfamfrance2 days 15 hours ago
#FF the Oxfams! @OxfamIreland @oxfamcanada @OxfamAustralia @Oxfam_DE @OxfamAmerica @oxfamgb @oxfamnz @oxfamhongkong @oxfammexico2 days 15 hours ago
Dismal levels of investment in agriculture a primary reason 1 in 8 people in the world are hungry http://t.co/orbRUxuVQo #govspendwatch3 days 5 hours ago
'A Jungle of Humanity - and Disorder', an interactive feature from @nytimes http://t.co/DxmATtGICV #SyriaCrisis #Zaatari3 days 7 hours ago
RT @benphillips76 How to Start Development’s Gutenberg Revolution http://t.co/DbieZs9UBZ #govspendwatch3 days 8 hours ago
Social protection, #genderequality & #climatechange crucial to tackling inequality http://t.co/mKqSIBcceM via @guardian #govspendwatch3 days 10 hours ago
RT @louis_belanger Starting to see Syrian refugees all over #Beirut On promenade, on Hamra, outside grocery stores, in parking lots #Syria3 days 10 hours ago
Are governments meeting their #MDG spending targets? Read the blog http://t.co/3bF1lhH8AX #govspendwatch #MDGs3 days 11 hours ago