Globalised trade needs global controls. Oct 2006.
Military spending has risen steadily since 1999 and is expected to overtake peak Cold War levels by the end of 2006. This is the biggest market that the global arms trade has ever had.
At the same time, the arms trade has become more ‘globalised’, with weapons assembled using components from around the world. This has exposed major loopholes in existing arms regulations that allow the supply of weapons and weapon components to embargoed destinations, to parties breaching international law in armed conflict, and to those who use them to flagrantly violate human rights.
This paper shows how the changing pattern of ownership and production since the early 1990s means that national regulations are insufficient to prevent arms from reaching the hands of abusers. Weapons are now commonly assembled from components sourced from across the globe, with no single company or country responsible for the production of all the different components. Companies themselves are also increasingly globalised, setting up offshore production facilities, foreign subsidiaries and other collaborative ventures, sometimes in countries which have few controls over where the weapons go, or to what ends they are used.
Faced with an arms industry that operates globally, governments cannot rely solely on traditional national or regional export control systems; effective control of a global arms trade requires new international standards and regulations based on international law.This paper concludes that existing arms regulations are dangerously out of date and that states must agree a legally binding international Arms Trade Treaty to address the problem.
The global arms trade provides weapons for legitimate national self-defence, peacekeeping and law enforcement, operating in accordance with international law. But, as this paper shows, it also provides arms to governments with track records of using weapons inappropriately and unlawfully against civilians in violation of international human rights law and humanitarian law. And, without adequate controls, weapons and munitions that begin in the legal arms trade can too easily pass into the hands of armed groups and those involved in organised crime.