Worldwide Arms Trade and Illegal Arms

“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth.
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot of fire.” Psalm 46:9

(see also my post re claiming this promise in “Some Principles of Prayer and Intercession”)

(Note: Some of this data may presently have slightly improved but effective regulation of this enormously problematic issue will not happen overnight. Apology for the length of this research project; it is a very complex issue!)

“Arms fuel conflict. Conflict fuels instability and poverty.”

“Violence does not necessarily begin with a weapon, but it increases dramatically when weapons are present, particularly in already volatile environments rife with poverty, mistrust or injustice. They are frequently recycled from country to country, and their ownership is transferred among fighters, security forces and war profiteers.

Quick Facts
• There are approximately 640 million small arms in the world—one for every
10 people on earth.
• Nearly 60 percent of the world’s firearms are in the hands of private citizens.
• 8 million new guns are being manufactured every year by at least 1,249 companies in 92 countries.
• Every year at least 1 million firearms are stolen or lost worldwide
• According to the Small Arms Survey, military expenditure in sub-Saharan
Africa rose by 47 percent during the late 1990s, while life expectancy fell from 50
years to 46 years.
• More than 500,000 people are killed by small arms each year.

Small Arms and Light Weapons: Africa. A Resource Guide by ‘Religions for Peace’ (the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action amongst the world’s religious communities for peace).

“Small arms and light weapons are in a real sense weapons of “mass destruction.” Although small and light, they cause massive and widespread death and injury. Easy to use, conceal and maintain, they are the primary tools of violence in almost every conflict where the innocent suffer most. Small arms afflict countries in conflict and those in peace. They are available long after violent conflicts have ended.
From the theatres of wars in Somalia and DR Congo to the cities of Johannesburg, Nairobi and Lagos, they kill and maim people of all religions, social classes, and ethnicities.
In Africa where over 100 million small arms exist, their effects are devastating. In a vicious cycle, they are both a cause and effect of violence. They not only kill the innocent; they also maim, prolong conflicts, choke development and deepen poverty.
We must break this brutal cycle.”

Dr Mustafa Y. Ali, Secretary General, Religions for Peace Africa.

“UNHCR held an expert roundtable in 2012, and commissioned a number of studies on persons in flight from conflict and other armed violence, which noted that there has been an increase in the targeting or terrorizing of civilians. A 2011 study, The Global Burden of Armed Violence, has documented that more than half a million people die as a result of armed violence every year, fuelled in many cases by the widespread availability of weapons. Many more suffer horrific injuries and abuses, including rape. Still more are forced from their homes; and the long term effects of such conflict can be devastating on families and communities. The cost of providing shelter, food, water and other basic necessities to these people runs into billions of dollars every year.”

UNHCR, Press Release, 3 April 2013

“Most countries require the parties involved in arms transactions to apply for an
import/export license. This information should be recorded by national authorities. Licenses, however, do not always act as a reliable source of information. Often the quantity indicated on the license is different from the quantity actually exported, and there might not be any record on whether the delivery has actually taken place. Besides, some countries allow for open licenses, which do not report any information regarding the quantity, the actual delivery and the end-user (Holtom, 2008).

Refugees and “Missing” Arms Trade, Gaia Narciso, (Trinity College Dublin) no date listed but most recent quotation 2010
“74 per cent of the world’s weapons are supplied by just six countries. In 2010, almost 3/4 of the world’s weapons have been supplied by six of the world’s most powerful countries: USA (34.84%), Russia (14.86%), Germany (7.43%), United Kingdom (6.57%), China (6.29%), and France (4%). All but Germany are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. By allowing the trading of weapons which are then used to commit or facilitate human rights abuses, these governments are permitting their use for repression, conflict, violence, and other human rights violations.”

Amnesty International.

“Vatican City: Pope Francis spoke on Thursday of the “absurd contradiction” between the international community’s calls for peace, the proliferation of the global arms trade and the lack of attention to the suffering of refugees. Everyone talks about peace, everyone says they want it but unfortunately the proliferation of all types of arms is leading us in the opposite direction,” Francis told a group of new ambassadors to the Holy See.”

Immigration rights campaigners estimate that more than 20,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Italian shores in the last 20 years.

Zee News, May 15, 2014


“UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today applauded the approval on Tuesday by the UN General Assembly of a global arms trade treaty.

“Refugees know the costs of armed conflict better than anyone. For them in particular, as well as the millions more forcibly displaced inside their own countries by armed violence, the adoption of this treaty is badly needed,” said Guterres. “The goal for all of us must now be effective implementation.”

“Around the world, there are at least 15 million refugees plus 26 million internally displaced people. In the vast majority of cases, conflict and armed violence are the causes of their flight.
UNHCR has long urged regulation of the arms trade, as a means of reducing the terrible human cost of the poorly regulated arms trade and the widespread availability and misuse of weapons.

UNHCR, Press Release, 3 April 2013

“On Tuesday 2 April, 2013, more than 90 countries co-sponsored a new resolution in the UN General Assembly to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The resolution passed in a sweeping victory – 155 in favor, 22 abstentions and only 3 countries opposed – Iran, Syria and North Korea.

An effective ATT would be based on a simple principle: no transfers of weapons likely to be used for violations of international law. It would establish common binding standards that must be applied to assess international weapons transfers. These standards would be based on existing international law including international human rights and humanitarian law.

In practice, this should mean that a transfer of weapons will be stopped if there is evidence that the weapons are likely to be used for grave violations of international human rights, humanitarian law, or will adversely affect sustainable development.

Consider the Landmine Treaty: this treaty has reduced casualties from landmines by more than two thirds (2/3), and reduced the trade in landmines to almost zero, despite the fact that the US, China, India and Russia haven’t signed it.

A bulletproof international Arms Trade Treaty would promote justice, peace and security and is in the interests of all states, and those who suffer from the scourges of armed violence and conflict.

Why we need a global Arms Trade Treaty, Oxfam International

“Understanding the source of the demand for weapons is the starting point for any action.

Sometimes, demand for weapons can be traced to fear of violence in which weapons are perceived as a means to increase personal security. Some people choose guns or other weapons to reassert their personal worth and ensure their safety, but others then also take up arms for their own protection. It also facilitates a culture of violence in which the use of guns or other small arms is legitimized and seen as socially acceptable. There is a dangerous link to issues of masculinity and strength.

Poor socioeconomic conditions are a second reason for demand. It is often the case that less developed communities are unfortunately more violent, more likely to use weapons and to have a greater demand for them. When there is unemployment, few opportunities and little education, it is easier to become involved in criminal activities out of necessity.

Mozambique was in the midst of civil war for 16 years, during which military-style weapons were widely available in the country to arm the two main warring factions. In an effort to reduce the number of weapons in circulation, in 1992 the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) initiated Swords into Ploughshares, a voluntary weapons collection program in which weapons were exchanged for tools and machinery, ranging from carpentry tools to pickaxes, bicycles, sewing machines, ploughs and tractors. It is run wholly by the CCM and there is no police or political presence at the urban collection sites. In rural areas, however, police officers are often present to handle the destruction of explosives or ammunitions. Participants in the program are guaranteed anonymity, and no identification is required to participate in the exchange. CCM receives funding for the program from ecumenical partners in Europe, but had to suspend operations at times due to a lack of funding. The program is endorsed by the government of Mozambique.

The Gothenburg Process is an ecumenical initiative uniting churches and church-related organizations on the issue of the arms trade. The process takes its point of departure in the ethical dimension of the production, trade and proliferation of military equipment.

… the faith communities can promote disarmament on all levels, from the community level as well as on how to develop an advocacy agenda directed to those who make decisions on procurements and military doctrines.

… actions that support arms regulation agreements include providing information, promoting legislation or supporting programs that relate to rehabilitation or demobilization of former combatants.

…reaching out not only to the victims of armed violence but to the perpetrators and abusers of small arms whose rehabilitation and reintegration into the society is necessary for healing and lasting peace. Religious leaders are well placed to teach the forgiveness and understanding necessary for countries and regions to reconcile in peace. The transformative processes that end conflict may also prevent future ones and can be best carried out by those who hold the trust of communities and governments alike.

Supporting those who have suffered from armed violence is multifaceted. Situated at the heart of communities, religious institutions are often called on to care for the wounded and provide basic medical care or physical rehabilitation where and when it is needed. Sometimes these wounds are not only physical, but also emotional and psychological—for example, a child who struggles to understand why his mother is no longer there, a woman who has been raped at gunpoint or a parent who has seen his or her child taken off to become a soldier.

These programs replace weapons and a soldier’s skills with civilian skills. It is akin to conflict transformation, linked to peace education and works in tandem with the creation of gun collection programs and gun-free zones to create the conditions in which arms treaties can succeed. It is challenging and long-term work.

Other initiatives:
1) Advocacy
2) Engaging the Media
3) Engaging Parliamentarians

Small Arms and Light Weapons: Africa. A Resource Guide by Religions for Peace, (the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action amongst the world’s religious communities for peace).
“Multi-religious cooperation can strengthen the role of religious leaders in reducing these weapons. Working together, religious leaders can use their moral authority to call their communities to work together for the reduction of these lethal weapons. Their extended networks of grassroots congregations, women of faith and youth groups can become the frontlines of disarmament efforts.

Working to end the plague of small arms and light weapons is a religious duty, because these miserable weapons contribute so massively to the abuse of so many innocent people.”

Dr Mustafa Y. Ali, Secretary General, Religions for Peace Africa.

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