Arms control: the need for tougher regulations

The United Nations argues that small arms and light weapons are primarily responsible for much of the death and destruction in conflicts throughout the world. But despite a growing recognition that small arms are in fact, the real “weapons of mass destruction”, there is no international treaty to control the proliferation of these weapons worldwide. In June 2006 a UN Review Conference will discuss possible principles for the international transfers of these arms in the hope that these can serve as stepping-stones to negotiations for an international treaty later this year. Civil society has not been entirely heedless of the problem of small arms proliferation. Control Arms, a campaign launched in 2003 by Amnesty International, Oxfam International and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), aims at convincing governments of the importance of introducing and respecting a binding arms trade treaty. We asked Melanie Teff, JRS Advocacy Director, to tell us how she sees this campaign and how it fits in with overall JRS advocacy strategy. ?In many countries where JRS works, for example in Liberia, the proliferation of small arms is one of the most serious problems affecting the security of those who return. JRS is not a member of the international campaign on small arms, but we are very supportive of its aims? JRS is a founding member of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and the easy availability of small arms has a direct relationship with the recruitment of children as soldiers. Lightweight weapons which can be handled by children make it easier for armed forces and groups to recruit children?.