Guns or Growth? Assessing the Impact of Arms Sales on Sustainable Development

Tasneem Jamal

Control Arms

There is a fundamental imbalance in global spending, with (US) $900 billion going toward defence and only (US) $60 billion going toward aid. In fact, excessive and inappropriate arms purchases are draining the social and economic resources of many developing states. Every state has a right to individual and collective self-defence; however, states are also obligated to promote and respect human rights, including the right to economic development and social progress. Both arms importers and exporters must ensure that arms transfers do not undermine sustainable development.

The right to sustainable development is enshrined in international human rights instruments and declarations. However, few governments make a serious attempt to consider the impact on development of their arms exports. If exporter governments are serious about their promises to improve sustainable development, they must act now to work towards adopting a thorough and transparent methodology for assessment that weighs carefully the impact of arms transfers on sustainable development alongside the legitimate security needs of the importing country and the human rights of its people. The development and adoption of an international Arms Trade Treaty provides the opportunity to establish such a methodology and to strengthen existing regional and multilateral export-control agreements.

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