Black Market Regulations

June 27, 2012

Next month, the U.S. will join final negotiations on a treaty to regulate trade in conventional arms, dubbed the arms trade treaty (ATT). Small arms have caused the vast majority of deaths in violent conflict since 1945; the treaty aims to protect legitimate trade while establishing a framework for the international arms market, preventing such weapons from ending up in the hands of terrorists and human rights abusers. A strong agreement would serve U.S. national security interests in regional stability, and controlling armed groups, as well as provide global humanitarian benefits.

Small arms spawn most conflict deaths, threatens human rights, democracy, and national security. Christian Caryl, senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and editor of Foreign Policy’s Democracy Lab, writes, “It seems nonsensical that the international community already maintains rules for broad swathes of global trade — but somehow hasn’t ever managed to do the same thing for a category of products that kill global citizens on a regular basis… The overwhelming majority of the millions of people who have died in conflicts since 1945 were killed by bullets, bombs, and artillery. And most of these casualties, in turn, are caused not by tanks or planes but small arms — which nowadays usually means assault rifles.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, explains, “Each year, thousands of civilians around the world are slaughtered by weapons sold to unscrupulous regimes and transferred by arms brokers to criminals and illegal militias. The enormous human toll of this cycle of violence undermines economic and social development and political stability in fragile regions, as well as international security. According to a recent report published by Oxfam, more than $2.2 billion worth of arms and ammunition have been imported since 2000 by countries operating under 26 UN, regional, or multilateral arms embargoes in force during that time.” [Christian Caryl, 5/22/12. Daryl Kimball, 6/12]

Treaty will set framework for licensing trade – as the U.S. already does – and put US at table as details negotiated. The treaty “aims to establish a framework for controlling the international arms market,” according to Caryl. David Bosco of American University and Foreign Policy sets out the issues the U.S. and other nations will debate next month: “These include whether the treaty will cover all classes of weapons (ammunition is a particularly tough subject), whether developing states will get funds to improve their export controls, and whether the treaty will create legal obligations for brokers and middlemen. Most important is the set of standards against which arms transfers will be judged. Are certain governments and organizations inherently illegitimate recipients? And how much assurance do those transferring weapons need that their product won’t be used for human rights violations?” Kimball explains some of the criterion for an effective agreement: “To be effective, an ATT should identify possible criteria for denial of international arms transfer licenses; this list should address human rights, security, and development concerns. A strong treaty should require member states to report regularly on their arms sales and purchases, transfer approvals, and license denials. Under an effective ATT, states-parties would not authorize a transfer of conventional arms in contravention of UN arms embargoes or when there is a substantial risk the items will be used for serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law, as in the case of Syria.” [David Bosco, 5/25/12. Daryl Kimball, 6/12]

A strong ATT would reduce black market sales to terrorists and warlords, and benefit legal sale of arms. Andrew Wood, director of strategic export control for Rolls-Royce plc., explains, “The aim of an ATT is to regulate global trade in conventional arms more effectively, not to reduce or to limit the scope for legal trade. The envisioned treaty would represent a new kind of instrument that would not fall neatly into the category of disarmament or arms control.” As Caryl writes, “We’re talking about drawing up rules of the road for a global business that often operates in the shadows. The denizens of this murky world — people like Viktor Bout, the notorious Russian arms trader recently convicted to 25 years in jail — rely on elusive middlemen, bogus documents, and shell companies to cover their tracks and evade accountability. As often as not their black-market wares end up in the hands of terrorists, thugs, or vicious warlords, the Charles Taylors and Joseph Konys of the world. The ATT could be an important tool in drying out this swamp.” [Andrew Wood, 1/12. Christian Caryl, 5/22/12]

 

What We’re Reading

Bashar al-Assad declared that Syria is “in a state of war,” while the White House remarked that Assad has been slowly “losing his grip over the country.”

Five people died from an American drone strike at a compound in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan.

A Bahraini court ruled that three policemen will be tried for murder for killing three citizens during pro-democracy demonstrations.

Egyptian president-elect Mohamed Morsi will appoint a woman and Coptic Christian as his joint vice-presidents.

Shareholders of Tepco, the operator of Fukushima nuclear power plant, agreed to nationalize the company.

Australian vessels  rescued more than 120 asylum seekers, many from Afghanistan, after a boat capsized in Indian Ocean territory.

Queen Elizabeth II shook hands with former Irish Republican Army commander Martin McGuinness.

French President Francois Hollande declared his support for Aung San Suu Kyi’s effort to democratize Burma.

Sudanese security forces have brutally cracked down on protests, arresting scores of people, including journalists.

China has offered to set up a $10 billion loan to Latin American countries in a bid to support infrastructure projects.

Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Pena Nieto has a wide lead over his rivals going into Mexico’s presidential election.

Commentary of the Day

Sergey Markedonov explains how Russia’s position on Bashar al-Assad is shaped by its problems in the North Caucasus.

Peter Mandaville looks into the potential of a positive relationship between the U.S. and Egypt moving forward.

Steven Grossman worries Mitt Romney’s pledge to do “the opposite” of President Obama on Israel would create an Israel that’s less secure and weaker on the world stage.

 

 

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