The Burden of Disarmament: UN Peacekeeping Operations & Illicit Weapons
Keywords: International Arms Trade Disarmament United Nations UN Peacekeeping Diplomacy Weapons Arms Trade Treaty
"Disarmament is not an end in itself. The end is peace, and security is one of its essential elements.”
It has become undeniable that illicit weaponry, specifically small arms and light weapons pose an unprecedented global security threat. In fact it may almost be acceptable to say that with the turn of the 21st century, we witness a world which is more further armed (whether legally or illegally) than at any other time in human history. That being said, weapons are readily available to a world overwhelmed with intra state conflict and terrorism, both of which have established themselves as the new post cold-war era widespread types of conflict.
Arms transfers have the capacity to directly and indirectly undermine development by inducing insecurity, contributing to abuses of power, and diverting arms into illegitimate hands.
An increase in conflicting geopolitical interest and tendency for violence has seen the demand for weapons (especially small arms) increase on a continuous basis. All the meanwhile, these conflicts have called on the United Nations (and other multilateral institutions1) operations to restore the peace. While operational success of these efforts has hindered upon the fact that states face a difficulty in agreeing on what the common challenges are, let alone the collective strategies to address them (Prins, 2006:110), one thing remains evident, and that is the fact that small arms and light weapons pose a security challenge to UN Peacekeeping Personnel as well.
This article analyzes the challenges facing the international community when it comes to arriving at collective strategies to address arms control, the feasibility of disarmament under the context of UN Peacekeeping operations, and the threat it poses from a military perspective as opposed to a humanitarian one. Furthermore, this article will consider that the ATT policy on engagement as a product of an unstable decision-making process at the international and domestic levels in which perceived humanitarian and political benefits are weighed against the perceived costs and risks of involvement (Hubert et al. 2000:X - See Figure A Appendix).
The aim is to tackle an overall perspective on arms control from a preventive security approach focusing on UN Peacekeeping Operations.
The Preventive Security Impact
“A weapon is a device for making your enemy change his mind.”
Indeed modernization has yielded an impact on numerous societies and resulted in technological advancements that help shape the nature of the global interconnectedness we experience today, but on another hand the “old politics” mindset continues to exist despite the overwhelming driving force of globalization. Politicians worldwide with extensive Cold War experience find themselves facing a world structured along different lines. None the less they still champion the notion of security under the context of national defense as opposed to collective global preventive human security. Perhaps it would be accurate to say that while the Cold War ended, its ripple waves can still be felt today in the remnants it has left behind. The first of which is the sudden spike in illegal arm transfers worldwide ( as a result of massive stockpiles being abandoned and corruption that saw the other half fall into the wrong hands); secondly, the remnant global political psyche of exaggerated national interest.
It goes without saying that as our world becomes ever more interconnected, so does our security. From a Human Security perspective, this new concept of “protection and empowerment” goes beyond the fact that it is only our physical security that is jeopardized. While arms transfers can contribute to peace and development by deterring rebellion and aggression, strengthening legitimate security functions, and helping governments combat crime and violence, arms transfers also have the capacity to directly and indirectly undermine development, by inducing insecurity, contributing to abuses of power, and diverting arms into illegitimate hands (Small Arms Survey 2004:10) Eventually of course one can draw out that arms are not only expensive in terms of their monetary value, but they proliferate on the account of other vital human security pillars. To invest into arms is an equation that yields the same results always (more so amongst developing nations):
Now if we take into consideration the fact that In 2002 alone, arms deliveries to Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa (continents/ regions in most need of development assistance programs) constituted 66.7 per cent of the value of all arms deliveries worldwide, with a monetary value of nearly US$17bn and the fact that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council accounted for 90 per cent of those deliveries (Amnesty International 2004:4) it becomes remarkable to see that there are two faces to the same coin we toss. On the one hand billions are spent on development and on another billions on arms (which in many instances hampers development eventually).
The Variables of Disarmament & Control
“To the extent that money can solve conflicts and potential conflicts, not a huge amount is required compared to what the world is prepared to spend on everything else, including defense."
Why should disarmament even concern us? Excellent question; now when we take into account the fact that small arms result in at least a third of a million people killed each year, directly with conventional weapons and many more die, are injured, abused, forcibly displaced and bereaved as a result of armed violence, that indicates that on average, up to one thousand people die every day as a direct result of armed violence (Arms Without Borders 2006:4), it becomes apparent then that we not only should be concerned, rather alarmed.
The impact of small arms goes beyond the fact that they simply pose a physical security threat. As mentioned earlier, in an age of globalization, even the threats we face are interconnected, the proliferation of these arms has been shown to hinder development; the cost of lost productivity from non-conflict or criminal violence alone is about USD 95 billion and may reach as high as USD 163 billion per year. (Geneva Declaration 2006:10) Although some steps have been taken in the right direction, for example since early 2001, US-supported programs in 23 countries have resulted in approximately 800,000 SALWs and 80 million rounds of ammunition destroyed (Garcia 2006:10), the world continues to be littered with illegal SALWs which pose a serious risk to global human security. Approximately 8 million small arms and light weapons are produced each year which result in over 1000 deaths per day (Amnesty International 2008) …While this appears to be outragous, to date only about 40 states (including the US and UK) have enacted laws and regulations for controlling the business of arms brokering (Amnesty International 2008).Continued on Next Page »
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