- By Region
Britain is pushing for a wide-ranging international arms trade treaty – the first of its kind – in an attempt to eradicate what one minister calls the “unscrupulous” side of the defence business.
Alan Duncan, international development minister, says Britain has one of the world’s strongest arms control systems, and that UK defence companies would welcome a global accord on the arms trade.
Mr Duncan will announce on Thursday that London will push for a treaty that ensures arms exports satisfy human rights criteria, will not have a detrimental effect on development and will not exacerbate conflict or corruption.
He wants the treaty to cover everything from fighter jets to ammunition and for the accord – subject to a month of UN talks in July – to be transparent and to include the publication of a national export control list.
The British government estimates that illegal small arms and light weapons kill at least 400,000 people a year, while armed violence is responsible for more than 740,000 deaths annually.
Mr Duncan told the Financial Times: “If you’re not prepared to sign up to global standards then get out of the arms business.”
Britain wants to see a treaty signed by all UN members. Mr Duncan believes that the US will be supportive, but the key to success could be securing the signatures of China and Russia.
He said it was vital that other countries applied the same standards as Britain in terms of arms control and tackling bribery, adding: “Otherwise the bad guys win.”
The minister believes that Britain can play a leading role in raising the profile of the negotiations in New York and in helping to secure a deal.
He wants the agreement to include controls on arms brokering, closing loopholes that allow corruption to thrive with weapons diverted to the illicit market.
The proposed treaty is aimed at stopping arms falling into the hands of those fighting wars in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen. It is estimated that more than 95 per cent of small arms in Africa are supplied from outside the continent – a trade facilitated by unscrupulous dealers.