Guns or Growth?

Tasneem Jamal

Report puts sustainable development on arms export control agenda.

Arms importing and exporting governments including Canada pay insufficient attention to the impact of arms sales on poverty according to the findings of a new report co-authored by Project Ploughshares. As a result, arms transfers can divert much needed resources from basic social needs such as health and education, or undermine the economic development of vulnerable populations. To address the problem the report proposes criteria and indicators by which arms supplier governments can assess the impact of arms exports on sustainable development before they are approved.

Guns or Growth? Assessing the impact of arms sales on sustainable development was produced by Oxfam Great Britain with research and writing support from Project Ploughshares in Canada and Saferworld in the UK . The report is a component of the international campaign “Control Arms” which seeks greater controls on the arms trade. It is one of a series of reports by Oxfam, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) in support of the two-year campaign during 2004-2006. The campaign calls on governments to negotiate an international Arms Trade Treaty to control the arms trade and safeguard sustainable development and human rights.

Report researchers surveyed seventeen of the world’s main exporting countries. All are party to international agreements calling for sustainable development impacts to be assessed when arms export decisions are made. Yet the findings show that most exporting states are inadequately pursuing these obligations. Few states have denied an arms sale based on sustainable development concerns (four out of 17) for example and nearly 90 percent have no policy of consulting the government department responsible for development issues when make arms export decisions. The latter includes Canada which does not consult the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

The report also shows that the procedures of arms importing governments vary significantly in considering the development impacts of arms purchases. The majority of the seven states studied for the report demonstrated little or no coordination between arms import decisions and the country’s development planning. The findings reinforce the need for both importing and exporting governments to look closely at the development implications of arms transfers.

Guns or Growth? argues that an international Arms Trade Treaty would provide the opportunity to establish a standard methodology for assessing development impacts of arms transfers. The report offers a framework for formulating such a methodology, one which takes into account human development standings, the relative size of the arms sales, and development goals. It argues that if states are to implement the Millenium Development Goals agreed in 2000, then greater attention must be given to the impacts of arms transfers.

For more information about the report contact Ken Epps, Project Ploughshares
Tel: (519) 888-6541 x701

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