Oxfam, Amnesty and Ploughshares Launch Control Arms Campaign

Tasneem Jamal

Embargoed for Release: Thursday October 9, 2003

Oxfam, Amnesty and Ploughshares Join Forces: NGOs Seek Controls on Arms Transfers

OTTAWA. Three global organizations –Oxfam International, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) – today launched an international campaign in over fifty countries for a treaty to control the arms trade. A report released to
launch the campaign paints the global arms trade as “dangerously unregulated,” allowing weapons to reach repressive governments, human rights abusers and criminals.

“The impact of the weapons trade is staggering,” said Rieky Stuart, executive director of Oxfam Canada. “Every minute someone dies from armed violence and every minute 15 new guns and 30,000 new bullets are produced.”

“More than three dozen ongoing wars are fuelled by these irresponsible weapons sales,” said Ernie Regehr, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a Canadian member of IANSA. “Humanitarian and disarmament groups have long been working to bring weapons suppliers under legally-binding controls, and this campaign will give a welcome boost to our efforts.”

The daily effects of an uncontrolled ‘free market’ in arms are devastating – an estimated 500,000 deaths and many more non-fatal injuries. Those at most risk are those who have no voice in the debate – poor people, those subject to repressive governments, and those in conflict zones, the organizations said.

Among the report’s findings:

  • The easy availability of arms increases the incidence of armed violence, acts as a trigger for conflicts, prolongs wars once they break out, and fuels poverty. Civilians are increasingly being targeted.
  • The possession of guns is becoming an integral part of daily life in many parts of the world. In some countries, such as Iraq, there is more than one gun per person; among farmers in northern Uganda, AK47s have replaced spears, and in Somalia, children are now named “Uzi” or “AK”.
  • The September 11 attacks and the resulting ‘war on terror’ have fuelled weapons proliferation, rather than focusing political will on controlling arms. The fight against terrorism has led to increasing numbers of arms being exported by the US and the UK Oxfam, to new-found allies (such as Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines) regardless of human rights or development concerns.

Alongside the call for an Arms Trade Treaty, the Control Arms campaign is also urging:

  • Governments to develop and strengthen regional arms-control agreements.
  • Governments to control national arms transfers and do more to protect their citizens from armed conflict.
  • On the ground action to improve safety at a community level by reducing the local availability and demand for arms.

“The arms trade is out of control. It is a global problem with horrific local consequences. Canada should take the lead on an Arms Trade Treaty to stop the flow of arms to abusers and to help make our societies safer,” said Rieky Stuart of Oxfam. “A growing group of governments is also realizing that an unrestrained arms bazaar is not compatible with global peace and stability,” said Ernie Regehr of Project Ploughshares. “It’s a good time to forge a potent alliance of civil society and activist governments to tackle this problem head on.”

For a copy of the report “Shattered Lives: The Case for Tough International Arms Controls,” and more information about the Control Arms campaign, visit: www.controlarms.org or www.oxfam.ca

Click here for additional information on the Arms Trade Treaty.



Mark Fried, Oxfam Canada
613-237-1698, ext. 231
cell: 613-850-9723

Ken Epps, Project Ploughshares
519-888-6541, ext 701

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