To set the ball rolling, my concern this morning is all about arms control. I keep asking myself each day how did these weapons we have now come into our community. Is there a law on arms control? After the conflict what next? Are we sure to completely dispose of these arms? The global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) became international law on 24 December 2014.


The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and idirect consequences of armaments

According to the ATT  every State that has signed it up must now obey strict rules on international arms transfers. This will at last help us to stem the flow of weapons that fuel bloody conflicts, atrocities and State repression around the world. Every day, thousands of people are killed, injured or forced to flee their homes because of violence and armed conflict. A case in point the two English Speaking Regions in Cameroon. The majority of casualties in armed conflict are civilians. Weapons such as missiles destroy hospitals, homes, markets and transport systems, pushing survivors into poverty. People’s lives are destroyed. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, it is estimated that more than five million people died indirectly because of armed conflict since 1998. For every person who is killed in armed conflict and armed violence, many more are injured, tortured, abused, or kidnapped at gun point. Weapons aren’t just on the battle fields, they often end up on the streets, fuelling violence in communities. Three-quarters of deaths caused by armed violence take place in non-conflict situations. In places like Central America domestic violence and killings of women are frequently committed with small arms bought on the black market. Weapons are also a tool for state repression. In too many countries around the world security forces use firearms against unarmed, peaceful protestors or to commit other human rights abuses.Trade details are often shrouded in secrecy, but the value of the international trade in conventional weapons is estimated to be USD$100 billion annually.


Whose responsibility is?

Most deals are carried out by manufacturing and trading companies, military service providers, arms brokers and dealers, but it is governments who have a duty to protect their populations. Only States can control the trade by granting or refusing licenses, and only States can prohibit certain inhumane types of arms and impose arms embargoes and suspensions. Unfortunately these governments have not always lived up to their obligations:

China has supplied ammunition and small arms to Sudan, where they are used by security forces and militia in Darfur, as well as to South Sudan and to the DRC.
France has supplied arms to Libya under al-Gaddafi, Egypt, Israel and Chad, and Syria between 2005 and 2009.
• 10% of all Russian arms exports are believed to go to Syria, making it Syria’s largest arms supplier. It has also supplied helicopter gunships to Sudan and is set to be a major exporter of military equipment to Egypt.
• The UK has supplied arms to countries with high-risk behaviour when it comes to human rights abuses, such as Sri Lanka.
• The USA has supplied arms to more than 170 countries. It has restricted arms transfers to Myanmar, China, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe but hasn’t taken the same precautions against Iraq, Israel, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen.

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