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Oxfam Says Bullets Fuel Conflicts


The British-based charity, Oxfam International, says uncontrolled trade of ammunition around the world fuels conflicts in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.

Oxfam is issuing its findings before a major U.N. conference on small arms trade due to begin June 26.

The manager of Oxfam's "Control Arms" campaign, Anna MacDonald, says a new report examines how the unregulated flow of ammunition across international borders leads to death and injury.

"The scale of the ammunition trade is increasing massively," she said. "Globally, 33 million bullets are produced every day. That is two bullets per every man, woman and child on the planet per year. And lax controls on these bullets means that millions of them are ending up in war zones, and falling into the hands of human rights abusers."

MacDonald says, there is a clear and demonstrated connection between the availability of ammunition and the level of fighting in strife-torn countries.

"A really good example of that is Liberia, during 2003, when the forces that were fighting the civil war there actually ran out of bullets and retreated, and the level of conflict decreased by quite a lot," she said. "It was indicative of how ammunition really is the fuel of conflict, and that is why, as well as controlling the trade in arms, governments also need to be looking at controlling the trade in ammunition."

Oxfam has joined a coalition of other non-government organizations pushing for the upcoming U.N. conference to adopt strong international controls on the trade of arms and ammunition, as MacDonald explains.

"It would make it explicit that transfers could not take place to any destination that is embargoed, or [where the arms] are likely to end up in the hands of those who would use them for human rights abuses, or to end up in zones where they would fuel conflict further," she said.

As part of its campaign, Oxfam plans to deliver to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan a petition of photos and self-portraits from people in more than 160 countries calling on governments to crack down on the arms trade.