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Small Arms Proliferation Fuels Conflict

  • Maha Saad

The new study warns that global arms proliferation is fueling violence, crime and insurgency. VOA's United Nations correspondent Margaret Besheer voices the story by Maha Saad.

Keith Krause, program director of the Small Arms Survey, the independent research group that conducted the survey, says approximately 650,000 civilian firearms move from lawful to illegal possession every year. This is known as diversion of small arms, such as pistols, revolvers, and rifles.

"It is worth underlining that the widespread diversion of weapons fuels crime, fuels insurgency, and fuels armed violence around the world," said Kraause. "It mostly stems from weak systems of stockpile management and control or from negligence on the part of authorities at all levels of the chain of command."

Krause says this can be prevented with low-cost improvements, such as installing perimeter fences, locking weapons stocks, and monitoring inventories.

Switzerland's representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Jurg Streuli, says the improper disposal of excess military arms is also a big problem. There are at least 76 million small arms in surplus of modern military requirements.

"States still tend to send their excess military weapons to other states instead of destroying them. Incentives for destruction must be enhanced if excess stocks are to be kept from the illicit market," said Streuli.

Krause and other experts warn that light weapons, including anti-tank guns, grenade launchers, improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, and rocket launchers, are widely used by non-state armed groups to carry out insurgent acts.

"Non-state armed groups in Southeast Asia, Middle East, Eastern Europe, and South America have been reported to produce light weapons," he said. "They are often produced from materials that are salvaged from stocks of ammunition and explosives, so weapons stocks may be pillaged and then used, in particular the explosives and other parts, to produce improvised explosive devices."

He urges governments to secure and monitor their stockpiles of small arms and light weapons and to pay attention to the risk of diversion.

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