Small Arms – Big Effects Part II

By | October 20, 2021

4: Control of arms trade

Arms trade is regulated in several ways. The rest of this article is about laws and regulations for trade in all forms of conventional weapons; mostly there are no own controls of small arms . Most countries have an export control law which requires that arms exports cannot be carried out until the export is licensed . Who are acceptable recipients of weapons depends on the policies of the various exporting countries. It varies.

It is safeguarding Council of the United Nations adopts the arms embargo against specific states or non-governmental groups. To help with the process, a panel of experts has been selected . These ensure that export bans are enforced. They often report on arms dealers violating the export ban (often with help from neighboring countries). Export bans can prevent access to weapons. But to ensure this, active measures must be put in place, such as controls at the borders of countries covered by export bans and the investigation of illegal arms trade. Unfortunately, many countries did not invest enough resources to enforce an export ban.

The UN is an active coordinator (coordinator) for states that try to prevent illegal trade in small arms. Of particular importance was a UN conference in 2001 in which a Program of Action (PoA) was adopted against the illicit trade in small arms. The action program outlines practical ways (for example, to impose restrictions on the activities of arms dealers) that states can use to prevent illegal arms trafficking. But it is completely voluntary to implement the action program.

An Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was negotiated at the UN in 2013. It contains 28 articles which, among other things, require states (those who have signed and ratified (finally approved) the agreement) to have rules for and control over exports of weapons. It is then forbidden to export weapons to parties involved in serious acts such as war crimes. Furthermore, an exporter must assess the danger by exporting to an area where, for example, there is conflict or internal repression. States are obliged to report on their own imports and exports, as well as on what laws and regulations they have.

It was a long way to go until the agreement on the arms trade was finally signed. In 1997, Oscar Arias (Costa Rica) hired a group of Nobel Prize winners who proposed legally binding, international ethical rules on arms transfers . In 2003, three NGOs – Amnesty International, Oxfam and the Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) – launched a campaign to reach an arms trade agreement. The campaign got wind in the sails in 2004 when 10 countries, among these large exporting countries such as Brazil and the United Kingdom, gave the campaign support. The case officially came on the agenda at the UN in 2007, and with reports from experts and working groups, negotiations began in 2012 and were concluded on 2 April 2013. At that time, the UN General Assembly adopted an agreement on arms trade .

The agreement was approved by the General Assembly with 154 in favor , 3 against and 23 abstentions. The votes came from a number of states, including other global arms exporting countries such as the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany, but also from leading developing countries such as Brazil, South Africa and Turkey.

According to citypopulationreview, Iran, Syria and North Korea voted against . Those who abstained from voting were important exporting countries such as Russia and China, and important developing countries such as India, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. India was worried that the arms trade agreement (ATT) could be used to prevent the country from importing military equipment. Due to all the countries that abstained from voting, the ATT agreement gets less moral force ; it is also unlikely that these countries will sign and ratify the agreement in the foreseeable future. The effect of important countries being outside the agreement remains to be seen, but it will probably be significant.

Members of civil society (non-governmental organizations) have criticized the arms trade agreement. For example, they are concerned that by banning only the worst weapons transfers, it is understood that the agreement allowed all other arms trade . What is certain is that the Arms Trade Agreement (ATT) was never intended to reduce the total arms trade, nor to reduce the consumption or availability of weapons in the various countries. Others have stated that the text of the agreement is too weak : it lacks impact, is inaccessible to most people (not very transparent) and linguistically too vague and weak. Overall, it can be said that the agreement (ATT) is an important basis for control of the arms trade. But far more must be done to prevent the spread and accumulation of weapons.

Several regional organizations have their own rules and guidelines for arms exports. The most important is the EU, which has a common position with eight points that control arms exports from member countries. EU members should thus refuse an application for an export license “if there is a clear danger that the military technology or equipment to be exported may be used for internal repression”. Enforcing EU rules is a responsibility of national governments, and there are several cases where governments have licensed exports to particularly dubious governments. For example, weapons were exported from EU countries to Libya to a value of several billion euros in the period 2006 to 2011, to a dictatorship that used military forces against its neighbors; many of the exported weapons were also used in the civil war in Libya in 2011.

5: Can a peace nation export weapons?

In his millennium speeches, the then Prime Minister Bondevik emphasized that Norway should be a “nation of peace” . In the years following this figure, Norwegian arms exports increased rapidly from NOK 1 billion in 2000 to over NOK 4 billion in 2012 . The control of arms exports from Norway is based on a Storting decision from 1959 . It states that Norway “will not grant licenses for the sale of weapons or bombs to countries that are at war or threatened by war, nor to countries where there is civil war”. A later decision also includes that one should consider democratic and fundamental human rights in the recipient country. Otherwise, Norway follows the EU Commission’s common position (cf. 8 points above) on arms exports.

Most of the exports of military equipment from Norway consist of components and ammunition that are exported to NATO member countries and to other “Western” countries (such as Sweden, Australia or Japan). The Norwegian system has been criticized for not living up to being a “nation of peace”. Normally, Norway will not demand guarantees from NATO countries about what happens to the various components when they are included in the production of finished weapons. But we know that leading NATO members such as the United States and France export weapons to the whole world, including to states at war. Norway has exported equipment to authoritarian states (eg Saudi Arabia) and Norwegian-produced equipment was used by the USA, Great Britain and Australia during the invasion of Iraq (without a UN mandate). In the two most prominent Norwegian arms-producing companies, Nammo and Kongsberg , the Norwegian state is part owner .

Norway’s commitment to peace is reflected in the fact that Norway has a stricter policy for export control than other exporting countries in Western Europe and North America. But Norway has not gone as far as Japan, which in 1976 decided that all exports of military equipment were incompatible with “the position of a peace-loving nation” (despite this, Japan has recently stated that it will relax the ban on arms exports). Norwegian policy is a compromise between committing to work for peace, fulfilling obligations to its allies and a desire for industrial development domestically.

6: They have survived the shooting, but …

Young woman from Uganda

“One day when my parents and I had gone to find charcoal, we met a group of warriors. They demanded to know where the animals were. We told him they were not with us since we were looking for charcoal. Then they would have our charcoal; we gave it to them and they left. But after a few minutes, two of the warriors came back and sent a hail of bullets at us. My parents died instantly. I was shot in one arm, shoulder and hip. I was taken to Matany Hospital where some neighbors paid for the treatment. Now I can no longer cut wood for charcoal due to great pain in the shoulders.

During the time of peace and disarmament, my husband was captured and tortured by government forces. Now he is unable to do anything; he is in pain all the time. I sell fuel and work a little sometimes for people in the city to keep the family alive. I cried myself to sleep every night when I think of my parents and the sad life my family lives today. ”
Source: As above

Some handgun fates

Economic (Africa ): “After I became disabled, my family has been dragged into deep poverty and the local community sees me as useless.
(male, 30, with amputated leg) »
Social (Africa):
I’m ashamed to hobble around among other people. (male, 27, with amputated leg)
Economic (South America):
I live in unresolved poverty. My children had to drop out of school. I can not handle this situation.
Survey Respondent (male, 35, with amputated leg)
Jorge (South America)
«As a teenager I worked hard – started as a bus assistant and soon learned to drive buses myself, already as a 15-year-old.

One day when I was 17, I was driving a minibus and collided with another vehicle. In our culture, people believe that the one who roars the loudest also has the right on his side. The other driver and I got out after the collision and started yelling at each other. The other man went back to his car and retrieved a gun. When I saw what was about to happen, I turned to start running. Then I was hit by two bullets. ”
(in a wheelchair today)

Arms Trade Treaty 2