NewsNorth AfricaNew UN arms trade treaty and Africa


Posted on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 11:13

New UN arms trade treaty and Africa

By Konye Obaji Ori

File photo©ReutersIs Africa the biggest benefactor of the United Nations treaty that prohibits states from exporting conventional weapons in violation of arms embargoes?


On Tuesday, member-states of the UN voted by 154 votes to three, to control an annual business worth $70bn.

Most African states have suffered from the impact of small arms trade to rebels, warlords and militias.

But the new treaty requires states to prevent conventional weapons reaching the black market.

In Africa, and elsewhere, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is opaque, amorphous and dynamic.

Arms trade is also a global enterprise with illicit weapons across Africa coming from virtually every major arms producing country in the world.

According to arms trade researchers, Matt Schroeder and Guy Lamb, the dollar value of the illicit small arms trade is at $1 billion, or 10-20 percent of the global trade.

The clandestine nature of this trade makes it impossible to confirm these estimates, but what is obvious is that in Africa the illicit trade in small arms is counter-developmental on many levels.

Several African states rank amongst the vulnerable states in the world as far as conflicts and illicit arms trade are concerned. 

"We owe it to those millions - often the most vulnerable in society - whose lives have been overshadowed by the irresponsible and illicit international trade in arms,'' Australia's ambassador to the UN, Peter Woolcott told reporters.

Some analysts believe that the efforts to reduce black market proliferation of small arms will significantly impact Africa's problems with arms accessibility to militias.

Washington has welcomed the move.

"The document can strengthen global security while protecting the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade," US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

The impact of this treaty could positively impact vulnerable African states, especially as very limited number of African-manufactured arms and ammunition enter the illegal market.

The UN arm treaty further protects Africa's vulnerable states from the small arms that are seized or stolen from government forces, looted from state armories, purchased from corrupt soldiers and stolen from private owners.

"This is an historic day and a major achievement for the United Nations," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

As expected there were 23 abstentions including Russia and China.

Syria, Iran and North Korea blocked its adoption by agreement.

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