The Game of Disarmament: The Arms Trade Treaty

Back during the Cold War, a Swedish government minister talked of the ‘game of disarmament’ played by the US and USSR.  But Control Arms, a coalition campaigning for a new Arms Trade Treaty, have created a very different kind of disarmament game — an interactive online game to raise awareness of conventional arms proliferation.

Last week, African leaders and UN disarmament experts met in Nairobi to discuss the proposed treaty, which would prevent the sale of conventional arms to countries that might use them to abuse human rights, exacerbate conflict or stunt development.

“We need a global, effective, Arms Trade Treaty,” said British Foreign Minister David Miliband yesterday, urging support of the proposed convention.  “It is bizarre that while treaties and conventions have existed for several decades to control the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, there is no equivalent global arrangement to stop weapons flooding into conflict zones.”

The UK, along with Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan and Kenya, introduced a UN General Assembly resolution two years ago that called for the negotiation of the treaty.  It was supported by 153 countries.  Russia and China abstained and the US voted against the resolution.  For resources on persuading the US to support the process, see the FCNL page.

The treaty also has the support of over 800 civil society organizations that are seeking to replicate and build on the success of the Mine Ban Treaty and Cluster Munition Convention, where humanitarian groups were able to push states to adopt more progressive positions on conventional disarmament.  They are joined by 20 Nobel Peace Laureates (including landmine ban campaigner Jody Williams) who also support the treaty.

Many of these organizations work in conflict zones, where they observe the impact of small arms proliferation on civilians and poor communities.  While many of these arms are initially produced or traded ‘legitimately’, siginificant numbers leak out into the illicit and informal markets or fall into the hands of militia and organized crime groups after the conflict has ended.  See this report from WorldWatch Institute and this one from the Humanitarian Practice Network for more details.  For more in-depth information, look at SIPRI’s site.

Several demining NGOs are responding to the threat of conventional arms proliferation with ‘humanitarian disarmament’ programs.  See, for instance, the programs run by MAG and the HALO Trust.

~ by Matthew Bolton on 10 September 2008.

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