US Feeds a Global Plague of Handguns and Pistols: Small Arms Imports to Middle Eastern Countries Have Doubled
June 11, 2016
Dave Bryan / Associated Press & KIM Won-soo, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
Small Arms Survey's latest report reveals annual sales of small arms and light weapons to Middle Eastern countries nearly doubled in dollar terms in 2013 over the year before, as conflicts heated up across the region. Weapons sales rose from $342 million in 2012 to $630 million in 2013. The US was both the biggest exporter and importer of weapons ranging from pistols and military firearms to hunting rifles, ammunition and anti-tank guns.
UN: Small Arms Imports to Middle Eastern Countries Doubled
Dave Bryan / Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (June 6, 2016) -- Annual sales of small arms and light weapons to Middle Eastern countries nearly doubled in dollar terms in 2013 over the year before, as conflicts heated up across the region, according to a study released Monday.
Meanwhile, the US was both the biggest exporter and importer of weapons ranging from pistols and military firearms to hunting rifles, ammunition and anti-tank guns, according to the report.
"Trade Update 2016: Transfers and Transparency," a study by the independent research project Small Arms Survey found that small arms and light weapons imports in the Middle East rose to $630 million in 2013 from $342 million in 2012, the latest years for which data was available.
According to the study, the world's biggest small arms exporters -- countries that export at least $10 million per year in such weapons -- delivered about $6 billion in weapons and ammunition in 2013 -- a nearly 17 percent increase from 2012.
Nocolas Florquin, senior researcher for the Small Arms Survey, said the increase in imports of such weaponry to the Middle East coincided with the intensification of conflicts in countries including Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
Florquin said there is some evidence of the "retransfer" of small arms without authorization from importing countries to some of those conflicts. For example, UN investigators found ammunition and pistols in Libya that could be traced back to importers in the region -- despite an arms embargo, he said.
"There is evidence that some importing states were involved in unauthorized retransfers of materials in the past, either to conflict zones or even circumvented UN arms embargos such as the one in Libya," he said.
With $1.1 billion in sales, the US was the leading exporter of small arms and light weapons, followed by Italy and Germany. The three countries accounted for almost 40 percent of exports of such weapons in 2013.
The US led imports purchasing $2.5 billion in small arms, including everything from ammunition to hunting rifles to military firearms.
The US mission to the UN did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Researchers looked at trade data, including from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, and national arms exports reports, for their report.
The Small Arms Survey is an independent research project located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. It is supported by the Swiss Foreign Ministry and contributions from 10 countries including the United States and the European Union.
Sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects
Mr. KIM Won-soo, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
First of all, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to you, Ambassador Rattray, on your assumption of this important task. Let me wish you success in this important endeavour and assure you of the support and full cooperation of the Secretariat.
Let me start with some key facts that we should all be aware of.
First: More than 1.5 billion human beings live in fragile and conflict-affected states or in countries with high levels of criminal violence.
This devastation is fuelled, in part, by the fact that the number of civil wars in the world has tripled over the past decade: from four in 2007 to eleven in 2014. As of today, we maintain peace operations in 16 countries.
Second: More people than at any other time since records began, are fleeing their homes and seeking refuge and safety elsewhere. Some 60 million women, men and children are now forcibly on the move, almost triple the 24 million of a decade ago.
Third: The number of direct conflict deaths is sharply on the rise: from 56,000 in 2008, to 180,000 in 2014 -- more than triple again.
Nowadays, when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, 90% of the resulting casualties are civilians. Over half a million people die violently each year, including from non-conflict related homicides.
This tells us that the widespread availability of illicit small arms and light weapons, and their ammunition, is a key driver of violent deaths. Weapons are the toxic lubricant allowing the engine of conflict to run.
The historic 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognised this. For the first time states established a link between sustainable development and the reduction of illicit arms flows, through target # 4 of Goal 16.
The indicator selected for this target is the proportion of seized small arms and light weapons that are recorded and traced. This directly associates the Programme of Action and its International Tracing Instrument, or 'ITI', as tools for monitoring the progress of the 2030 Agenda.
It is why the Programme of Action and its ITI are crucial to not only preventing conflict but also to facilitating sustainable development.
Unfortunately, we must acknowledge that, despite good progress made in adopting the POA and ITI, gaps remain in their universal implementation.
This is why I believe the Sixth Biennial Meeting of States is an important opportunity to strengthen the Programme of Action in the lead-up to the third Review Conference in 2018.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I want to take a moment to outline what I believe to be three of the bigger gaps in the regime and suggest possible strategies for addressing them for consideration by member states.
The first gap is in stockpile management.
Reducing illicit arms flows requires enhanced national efforts in securing arms and ammunition stockpiles. Too often, weaponry used in conflict turns out to have been diverted from close-by warehouses and depots.
It is every state's full responsibility to safeguard properly the weapons needed for its national defence and law enforcement. A large number of States have adopted good practices and are applying recognized standards on this issue. Unfortunately, as you know, many states -- due to capacity and capability constraints -- have not.
Strengthening states capacities for safe and secure weapons stockpiling will contribute to the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Authoritative guidance such as the International Small Arms Control Standards and the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines are available to assist all states in improving their stockpile security.
Regional organizations are making great strides to improve the safety and security of citizens in their regions together with their member states. States should continue to use -- and fund -- these partnerships to build on existing gains.
The second gap is in weapons marking and tracing. Agenda 2030 underlined that when it comes to countering the illicit arms trade, "data and information from existing reporting mechanisms should be used where possible".
This is a direct link to the ITI and its reporting mechanism on tracing. However, reporting under the PoA and ITI is not as universal as it should be. Now is the time for those nearly 120 states that have not reported to do so. We will work with member states to update the reporting template to reflect the Agenda for Sustainable Development indicator.
I want to remind all member states that UNODA's regional centres in Lima, Lome and Kathmandu are available to work on practical implementation of the POA and its ITI. We are ready to assist with stockpile management and marking and tracing. We are also available to help build capacity to draft legislation, and for record-keeping and weapons destruction.
I look forward to continuing our partnerships with member states in these areas. The final issue I wish to highlight is the potential negative impact of new materials and technologies on both stockpile management and marking and tracing.
Technologies such as the modularity of weapons, increased use of plastics, 3-D printing and the application of biometrics are profoundly changing arms manufacturing and control.
Some of these developments, if used properly, can contribute to stemming the flow of illicit weaponry. Fingerprint technology and micro-stamping can assist in the tracing and marking of weapons.
But many of these new technologies may also constitute a threat. Large-scale, uncontrolled do-it- yourself manufacturing, including through 3D printing, could not only create untraceable weaponry but also increase access to weapons. The use of plastics and other materials can make weapons undetectable and make erasing of markings easier.
It is now critical that the international community develops the mechanisms that will maximise the positive benefits of technological advances while minimizing the risks. We have to catch up with the technology curve.
One first step could be to agree to a technical annex to the ITI. This would allow the ITI to include new technologies and ways of regulating them.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, This meeting takes place at a crucial time to prepare for the Review Conference.
You have the opportunity now, to shape the road ahead and ensure success in 2018. I count on you all, under the leadership of Chairman Rattray, to rise to the challenge of confronting one of the most pervasive global threats, the illicit flows of small arms and light weapons. Let us rededicate ourselves to our common journey to build a safer, more secure and better world for all.
I wish you a very fruitful session this week.
Sixth Biennial Meeting of States on the Programme of Action
United Nations Office on Disarmament Affairs (UNODA)
NEW YORK (June 6-10, 2016) -- The UN Programme of Action (PoA) on small arms and light weapons envisages the convening of Biennial Meetings of States "to consider the national, regional and global implementation of the Programme of Action." BMS6 will be the last meeting before the 2018 3rd Review Conference (RevCon3).
Draft Outcome of the Sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects
1. In the context of the Sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, States considered the implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Instrument to EnableStates to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Armsand Light Weapons.
2. States reiterated their grave concern about the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world, which have a wide range of humanitarian and socioeconomic consequences, such as impeding the provision of humanitarian assistance to victims of armed conflict, and pose a serious threat to peace, reconciliation, safety, security, stability and sustainable development at the individual, local, national, regional and international levels.
3. States reaffirmed their respect for and commitment to their obligations under international law and the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, as well as those set out in the Programme of Action, including its eighth to eleventh preambular paragraphs.
4. States reiterated that Governments bear the primary responsibility for preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, in accordance with the sovereignty of States and their relevant international obligations.
5. States welcomed the progress made in implementing the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument since their adoption, including on the establishment, strengthening and enforcement of national laws, regulations and 2/13 administrative procedures to prevent the illicit trade and illegal manufacture of small arms and light weapons, the development of national action plans, the establishment of national points of contact, the submission of voluntary national reports and the strengthening of subregional and regional cooperation.
They also welcomed progress made in implementing stockpile management and security, the collection and destruction of illicit small arms and light weapons, the marking of small arms and light weapons, technical training and information sharing.
6. Bearing in mind the different situations, capacities and priorities of States and regions, States noted the continuing challenges to the implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument, including the need for enhanced international cooperation and assistance, as well as the implications of new developments in small arms and light weapons manufacturing, technology and design for the implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument.
7. Building on the agreed outcome documents of the Second Review Conference and BMS5, also bearing in mind the MGE2 discussions, including the Chair's Summary, and preparing the ground for a substantive, forward-looking Third Review Conference, States underlined the continued relevance and vital importance of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument and reaffirmed their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument over the period 2012-2018, in accordance with the implementation measures adopted at the 2012 United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (A/CONF.192/2012/RC/4, annexes I and II) and endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 67/58.
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