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Kamala Sarup:Small Arms Control Big Responsibility

Small Arms Control Big Responsibility

By Kamala Sarup

The last decade was seen terrifying abuses of human rights in armed conflicts around the world including Nepal. In 2002, more than 600 factories in more than 95 countries throughout the world are legally producing small arms and at least 50 developing countries are producing small arms, and 26 developing countries are exporting them.

There are around half a billion military small arms around the world. Some half a million people around the world are killed by small arms. Estimates of the black market trade in small arms range from US$2-10 billion a year. There are at least 639 million firearms in the world today, of which 59% are legally held by civilians.

According to the UN report one half billion small weapons are circulating throughout the world and these arms are not expensive, easily available and easy to use. In 2001, the legal trade was estimated to be worth at least US$ 4-6 billion and illegal trade was estimated at up to US $10 billion. UN also said "unlike nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, there are no international treaties or other legal instruments for dealing with these weapons, which States and also individual legal owners rely on for their defense needs."

The Inter-American Development Bank has estimated the direct and indirect costs of small arms violence at $140 to $170 billion per year in Latin America alone. According to the Independent Small Arms Survey 2002, small arms are implicated in well over 1,000 deaths every single day.

An extensive report from Oxfam in 1998 revealed that UK involvement in the small arms trade is much higher than previously acknowledged. Between 1995 and 1997, UK sold small arms to over 100 countries.

According to the findings of an independent study commissioned by the UNDP and IOM in Congo, an estimated 70,000 small arms and light weapons fell into the hands of militais during the conflicts of 1993-1999. Of these, 40,000 are still thought to be in circulation, constituting a serious threat to security and sustainable development. "People don't think of illicit small arms as a huge global problem," according Robert Scharf, who heads the Small Arms Reduction Programme, "but more than 5 million people have been killed by small arms used in conflicts over the last decade. The use of these weapons has crippled economies and impoverished millions."

Mr. Scharf added that the Small Arms Destruction Day events will help raise global awareness of the problem of small arms and also help people in the countries where the events are held "feel that concrete efforts are underway to make their communities safer and the prospects for the future brighter."

"The five permanent members of the UN Security Council - France, Russia, China, the UK, and the USA - together account for 88 per cent of the world's conventional arms exports; and these exports contribute regularly to gross abuses of human rights." as a report from the control arms campaign, Shattered Lives, mentions.

The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) describes that, in effect, small arms are weapons of mass destruction.

For the first time in the United Nation's history, the issue of small arms was finally a topic of conversation at a UN Security Council meeting in 1999, where Kofi Annan also noted the efforts of NGOs in this. Even in Oslo, Norway, July 1998, there was a meeting where representatives from a number of countries were present to tackle and control the spread of small arms.

Oxfam and Amnesty International argued that, according to existing international law, no government should authorize any transfer of small arms or light weapons to a state or non-state entity as long as there is a clear risk that these arms will be used by the likely recipient to commit gross human rights abuses, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Last year, UN Secretary-General had called for arms embargoes to be imposed, monitored and enforced in situations where civilians are targeted, where widespread and systematic violations of humanitarian and human rights law are committed, and where children are recruited as soldiers. He said even insurgent and opposition groups in several nations have the capability to produce small-calibre weapons of their own. Even, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham told the UN Security Council: "The US believes that the most effective ways to prevent small arms from getting into the wrong hands are through strict export and import controls, strong brokering laws, and secure stockpiles."

UN's conference on "Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its" has also strengthened export controls, embargo enforcement, arms brokering enforcement, and assistance to affected regions.

In this critical context, can the UN play an effective role controlling arms especially in south Asia and resolve terrorist violence?

Small Arms and Nepal

People who kill innocent men, women and children for any cause are terrorist. Nepal is currently facing the crisis of small arms. Even though no civilian is issued a license for small arms, administrative measures have failed to control illegal arms trade. The Maoists are engaged in illegal arms trade and threat the Nepalese people.

Nepal should control small arms by monitoring its borders more effectively and should established to regulate legal and illicit arms transfers. It is necessary for us to immediately take care of our national borders. India is our ally and partner in the battle against violence. Nepal must have mutual cooperation to control illegal arms trade across their common borders for adequate security.

Because of illegal arms trafficking in the country undermined Nepal's ability to sustain peace and blocked sustainable development.

Small arms did enormous damage to Nepalese people beyond death, injury and causing forced displacement. In Nepal, schools are unable to open due to insecurity and teachers are unable to teach while parents are afraid to send their children to school due to the fear of abduction. Maoist guerrillas routinely recruit children and youths for combat and often forced to become fighters, human shields, and sex slaves. Many children are abducted and more than a half of the armed groups in Nepal are under 20.

Socio-economic development and employment promotion policy would help those jobless youths to resolve their problems and would never join the violent force. Thus, political, socio-economic, corruption and ideological factors that must be addressed for the conflict to be finally resolved.

People who have suffered from direct attacks by small weapons, experience emotional trauma. Maoists' violence has a devastating impact on our tourism, which is the leading source of revenue for us. Now, we have serious question, can the government control its border with India preventing illegal arms shipped to the maoists?


(Kamala Sarup is editor of )

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