19 October 2003

The UN's Big Five supply 88% of all killer arms

Lydia and Cecilia's suffering is repeated in dozens of other countries throughout Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, which are awash with weapons. Millions of weapons seep through porous and unguarded borders on every continent each year. There are a staggering 639 million small arms in the world, one for every 10 people.

The onus to control the proliferation of weapons lies with all governments that export or re-export arms. Rich governments are constantly urging developing countries to become less reliant on aid and to become accountable for improving their own country and regional security, economies, education and health. Yet, in what can only be seen as enormous hypocrisy, the very countries that are urging self-reliance are helping to fuel the conflicts that destroy people's livelihoods and trap countries in a cycle of violence and poverty.

In the past four years, Britain, France and the US earned more income from arms exports to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America than they provided in aid.

The hypocrisy cannot go on. Rich governments must admit the role they play in allowing the deadly and global trade in arms to go unchecked. Organisations such as Oxfam Community Aid Abroad and Amnesty International Australia are calling for an arms-trade treaty to stop the flow of arms to abusers. The treaty must be agreed to by governments around the world and provide a universal standard for all arms exporters to comply with.

The argument is unanswerable. I guess that is why the question is never raised. See Control Arms for much more detail.

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