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Can UN stem flow of small arms?

Neither cops nor courts have been able to bring many notorious arms dealers to justice.

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Apparently, no one knows what's happened to the thousands of AK-47s – and millions of rounds of ammunition – transferred from Bosnian wartime stockpiles to Iraq since 2004: Not the Bosnian government, nor NATO officials, nor the Alabama-based military contractor who transported the weapons, nor the Multi-National Command in Iraq, which was the intended recipient.

The international authorities who control arms shipments from Bosnia admit that they have no tracking system to ensure the weapons don't fall into the wrong hands, according to Amnesty International.

Like Africa in the past decade, Iraq today is awash in lightweight weapons. An estimated 7 million small arms were "lost" from Saddam Hussein's stockpiles at the beginning of the 2003 Iraq war.

Add these to the millions already circulating in Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and the Middle East. These weapons have a remarkably long shelf life, and many are recycled from cold-war conflicts of earlier decades. But new arrivals constantly replenish the supply, as lightweight weapons are now produced in at least 95 countries.

In 2001, the United Nations opened a process to address the burgeoning small arms problem, and member states pledged to carry out a program to address "all aspects" of the illicit trade. Later this month, those states will reconvene to consider their progress – and it hasn't been stellar.

Governments can claim some improvement in their management of weapons stockpiles, but relatively little has been done to reduce the size of the inventories or stem the flow of new provisions.

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