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Developing Countries Urged to Contribute to Proposed Arms Trade Treaty

An international relief agency says major developing countries are running out of time to make proposals for an arms trade treaty. OXFAM says countries, including Liberia, Ghana, Namibia, Uganda, Botswana and Tanzania, have one more month to submit their suggestions on time.

Anna MacDonald is Oxfam’s arms campaign manager. From London, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about efforts to write and approve an arms trade treaty.

“Last December 153 governments, which is more than 80 percent of the world’s governments, voted in favor of a resolution to begin work on an arms trade treaty. This included a majority of countries in Africa, South America and many countries from Asia and other developing regions. These countries now have a month left in which to input their views on what should be in such a treaty. So, we’re encouraging them all to submit their proposals to the Un as soon as possible,” she says.

Supporters say such a treaty could help curtail or prevent many conflicts. “Basically, an arms trade treaty would control sales of arms and transfers of weapons across the world. At the moment, the arms trade is unregulated at the international level. Different governments have got different levels of export controls, which means that unscrupulous arms dealers or unscrupulous governments can easily find their way around these controls. Which is why we see so many weapons ending up in the world’s worst conflict hotspots. And why the arms trade at the moment is contributing to fueling conflicts, fueling poverty and fueling human rights abuses in some of the poorest countries in the world,” MacDonald says.

Asked how it would control the flow of weapons, the OXFAM official says, “For a start, what it would do is make states responsible for all transfers of weapons that either begin from their country or pass through their country. At the moment, states don’t have to authorize every weapon sale that passes through their country or goes from their country to another country because we don’t have any international agreements.”

She gives an example of conflicts where an arms treaty might have had an effect. “In the 90’s, we saw unscrupulous arms dealers selling weapons to both sides of the civil war in Liberia, in Sierra Leone, in countries in Central Africa and so on. That kind of arms transfer needs to stop,” she says.

Details of the treaty are expected to be worked out in 2008 with a vote at the United Nations in October of next year.