INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS TO RESTRICT THE PROLIFERATION
OF SMALL ARMS
The British Government prides itself in having
implemented some of the most stringent domestic firearms laws
in the world, yet the UK continues to make a significant contribution
to the excessive pool of small arms throughout the rest of the
world. We can take little pride in these double standards. On
the one hand we rightly limit gun availability in our own country
while on the other hand the UK continues to provide large quantities
of guns to other nations.
The majority of those killed and injured by
small arms are civilians. GCN urges the Home Affairs Committee
to use its influence to urge the Government to give its strongest
possible support to the current moves to restrict the proliferation
of small arms throughout the world.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently addressed
the Security Council saying:
Small arms and light weapons are primary tools
of violence in many conflicts taking place in the world. The proliferation
of small arms, ammunition and explosives has also aggravated the
violence associated with terrorism and organized crime. Even in
societies not beset by civil war, the easy availability of small
arms has in many cases contributed to violence and political instability.
The arms trade features at the top of the agenda
of the United Nations Security Council, yet the five permanent
members, including the UK, are alone responsible for more than
80 per cent of the world's arms trade. British companies, including
for example British Aerospace, avoid export controls by making
guns under licence in other countries.
According to Oxfam Britain exported small arms
to more than 100 countries between 1995 and 1997. Small arms export
licences have been granted for Columbia, Cambodia, the Congo and
Turkey amongst others. British-based companies broker small arms
transfers to conflict zones such as Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
GCN has been involved in discussions on the
proliferation on small arms at the United Nations Commission on
Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. We were pleased that the
UK government gave its support to the resolution on "Measures
to regulate firearms for the purpose of combating illicit trafficking
in firearms". However, we wish the government to go further
than this and actively encourage a reduction in small arms sales
involving this country.
In May 1999 the international NGO community,
identifying the proliferation of small arms as a serious humanitarian
challenge, launched a campaign under the banner of the International
Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). It was created to facilitate
international NGO action that is fundamentally aimed at enhancing
the security of populations by preventing the proliferation and
misuse of small arms. However, IANSA and its constituent NGOs,
cannot achieve this without the support of governments. GCN hopes
that Britain will be able to show the same kind of lead to the
world as it has on domestic gun control by taking prompt action
to reduce the danger of guns to those who live outside our shores.