Armed Robbery

How the poorly regulated arms trade is paralyzing development

Publication date: 12 June 2012
Author: Deepayan Basu Ray, Oxfam GB Policy Advisor, Arms and Development

The poorly regulated global trade in arms and ammunition weakens the ability and willingness of governments to sustain progress in development. It fuels and exacerbates conflicts and armed violence, diverting resources away from poverty reduction activities.

Development gains are lost as communities are paralyzed: schools are closed, health systems are strained to breaking point, investment is discouraged, and security is undermined. Through a strong focus on development, the Arms Trade Treaty can help prevent serious impediments to development, consolidate regional initiatives to safeguard development, and strengthen national capacity to become ‘treaty-compliant’.

With just weeks to go before diplomats meet at the United Nations, ‘Armed Robbery’ makes the case that a specific criterion on development as part of the Arms Trade Treaty, alongside other criteria on human rights and international humanitarian law, is one of the best ways to ensure that arms sales do not have a negative impact on socio-economic development.

Key recommendations

There are five ways in which specific language in the treaty can protect development:

  1. The preamble of the treaty must make reference to all relevant development-focused legal obligations, as enshrined in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, relevant UN conventions and covenants, and other legally binding regional and sub-regional treaties.
  2. The criteria of the ATT must stipulate that the transfer of conventional arms must be prohibited if there is a substantial risk that those arms would seriously impair poverty reduction.
  3. The scope of the ATT must ensure that it is all-encompassing. It must include the tools of violence that significantly undermine poverty reduction efforts – in particular small arms and light weapons, and the ammunition that make these weapons lethal.
  4. The co-operation and international assistance mechanisms outlined by the ATT must ensure that states take proactive measures to realise the goals and objectives of the treaty.
  5. Finally, to improve transparency and accountability, the implementation requirements of the treaty must oblige States Parties to publish accurate and comprehensive, annual national reports on international transfers of conventional arms.