A $4 billion global market for ammunition is not regulated by any international treaties. However, this week members of the United Nations have been meeting in order to craft an arms treaty that would include the governing of international sales of bullets and other ammunition.
Scott Stedjan, senior policy adviser with Oxfam America, told Free Speech Radio News (FSRN) last week that there have only been a few countries that have opposed the including ammunition within arms trade treaties and “those countries are led by the United States.”
Stedjan went on to say that in comparison ammunition is the only commodity sold on the international market that has no binding international agreements that are governing its sale. This has created a “patchwork system” of laws and agreements between some countries having very strict regulations on the import of ammunition while others having no regulations.
“If you are an arms dealer who wants to supply arms or ammunition to people who are in countries who are in an UN arms embargo for example. They can operate out of countries that have very little or no laws, and trade these weapons with impunity with no possibility of any accountability on them,” said Stedjan.
Reuters reports that delegates have gathered this week from around the world to create the first binding treaty that would regulate not just ammunition but a global weapons market worth $60 billion annually. However, over the past few days disputes have hampered the negotiations. Disputes over Palestinians’ status have delayed negotiations, and the U.S. has reportedly insisted on the ability to veto a “weak treaty.”
Those calling for the treaty point to the numbers of people being killed in armed conflict, which they say is exacerbated by illicit weapons flowing into conflict zones and fueling wars and atrocities. “Why should millions more people be killed and lives devastated before leaders wake up and take decisive action to properly control international arms transfers?” Brian Wood, the international arms control and human rights manager at Amnesty International, told Reuters.
According to reporting by the Associated Press, the United Kingdom has been among those leading the effort to fashion a treaty that would “promote transparency and accountability in the arms trade and prevent international transfers of arms that contribute to serious human rights violations, armed conflict, U.N. sanctions violations, organized crime and terrorist acts.”
Amnesty International has called for a “comprehensive” arms trade treaty, and in a statement said that a failure to adopt one would result in many more millions of civilians being killed, injured, raped and forced to flee their homes as a direct result of the irresponsible and poorly regulated trade in arms.”
“Having this transparent system would actually do a lot to ensure that arms and ammunition are not transferred to places that they are used for human rights abuses,” Stedjan told FSRN. “The only tool that citizen activists have to hold their government accountable is information. If there is not information out there, governments can continue to transfer weapons and ammunition to places that their citizens would disagree with, but do it under darkness without any accountability.”
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