Today, I stumbled upon an interesting infographic which is dealing with small arms (on www.pbs.org). Unfortunately, the stories that emerge from this infographic are sobering. It says that in the US there are 8.9 firearms per 10 residents. Yemen is second to the US with much less firearms: 5.5 per 10 residents. Furthermore, the Infographic shows the flag of Mozambique which is – amongst other things – depicting a Kalashnikov AK-47!
When I saw this graphic it was once again obvious to me knew why it is important to adopt a worldwide Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which would include small arms and ammunition. The adoption of the ATT is scheduled for 2012. But it is uncertain how powerful it will be in terms of scope, oversight or sanctions and so forth.
There are legal and illegal forms of arms trade but in the end the outcome is this: too many firearms end up being held by civilians. Even weapon deals between states which are negotiated to equip the security forces (and I would like to add that the notion „security forces“ may in some countries not be suitable for the military and the police) often satisfy the demand from civilians or rebel groups. One such an example are weapon deals between China and Sudan.
China sells AK-47s to Sudan where some of them get stolen and smuggled through South Sudan as well as Uganda and end up in the hands of rebel forces in the Congo. Another example is the former Afghan weapon pipeline. Most of today’s weapons in Afghanistan are relicts from the Soviet invasion when the weapon pipeline was being operated by states like the US, Saudi-Arabia or China in order to arm the Mujahideen. But many of these weapons leaked in Kashmir or India (See Bhatia: Small Arms Flows into and within Afghanistan). Those weapons that found their way to Afghanistan did not stay within the country either. It is estimated that nearly 60 per cent1 of those weapons that were delivered by the US and China to the Mujahideen sooner or later arrived in Pakistan, Kashmir or some parts of India. Today, South Asia is still suffering from this unhampered access to small arms.
It is obvious that the illegal arms trade is not the only problem. The legal arms trade between states is also a reason for concern. In the end too many firearms are stolen or sold by corrupt officials. Democratic countries have to publicly account for weapon deals with countries like Bahrain that oppress their people (see also my earlier blogpost on a deal between Germany and Saudi-Arabia to sell 200 German tanks).
Small arms and light weapons are called today’s „weapons of mass destruction“. Just look at the fact that small arms kill one person every minute (see infographic) and you know why the adoption of a global arms trade treaty is of utter importance. For this reason I try to monitor the developments with regard to the implementation of a global Arms Trade Treaty.
For more information on the ATT please see Oxfam’s Why We Need A Global Arms Trade Treaty.
See also the Arms Trade Treaty Monitor
1 Christina Lamb, Waiting for Allah, p. 223.