Hearty congratulations to everyone
associated with organizing this event in opposition to the arms exhibition
here in Lansdowne Park, including the Coalition to end the arms trade
(COAT) (http://COAT.ncf.ca), Physicians for Global Survival, the Raging
Grannies, Diane McIntyre and Jason Bailey.
Green Party Leader and newly-elected
MP Elizabeth May deserves special praise for her principled political
stand. Permit me to congratulate her publicly as well for calling for
the cancellation of an invitation-only event put on for two speakers
representing the Tehran regime, held in Ottawa last winter.
Congratulations to Member of Council
Small Arms Worldwide
The growing traffic in small arms has
been a major factor in the increase in the number of conflicts and in
impeding rebuilding and development after conflicts end. It is estimated
- There are now approximately
half a billion military small arms around the world;
- Some 300,000 to half a million
persons are killed by them each year;
- They are the major cause
of civilian casualties in modern conflicts.
Small arms, by the way, include sub-machine
guns, mortars, landmines, grenades and light missiles.
Professor Robert Neild of Cambridge
University was blunt:
“It has been estimated that
there are now about 500 million small arms and light weapons in circulation
in the world, one for every twelve people. Gone long ago is the time
when we Europeans could subdue other continents because we had firearms
and the local peoples had not. In 1999 it was reported that an AK-47
assault rifle could be bought in Uganda for the price of a chicken.”
— Robert Neild, Public Corruption;
The Dark Side of Social Evolution, (London: Anthem Press, 2002), p.
As the United Nations Department for
Disarmament Affairs stresses, small arms:
- Spark, fuel and prolong
- Obstruct relief programmes;
- Undermine peace initiatives;
- Exacerbate human rights
- Hamper development; and
- Foster a “culture of violence.”
“The five permanent members
of the UN Security Council—France, Russia, China, the UK, and the
USA—together account for 88 per cent of the world’s conventional
arms exports; and these exports contribute regularly to gross abuses
of human rights.” a report from the control arms campaign, Shattered Lives,
Robert Muggah, senior researcher at
the Small Arms Survey, the principle international source of public
information on all aspects of small arms, notes that the issue also involves a difference between
the rich and poor. The NGO,
ID21, summarized Muggah’s report thus:
- People living in poor countries
in Africa and the Americas are more than twice as likely to die a violent
death as those living in rich European countries.
- Many of these deaths are
due to the misuse of small arms, the ownership of which has spread throughout
poor communities as a result of war and the insecurities of poverty.
- The spread of small arms
is both an effect and a cause of underdevelopment and poverty.
- Small arms misuse means
that instead of making investments in improving their well-being and
economic development, the already poor are burdened with the cost of
nursing the injured and paying for informal forms of security such as
vigilantism and para-militaries.
- Yet much of the initiative
to reduce and control small arms has been left to the poor communities
themselves, with little help from international governments or agencies.
The challenges include:
- Member states are still
far from achieving global legal standards, which would help keep small
arms away from human rights abusers.
- Domestic laws and international
policies are interdependent, and each country’s national laws affect
the small arms proliferation problems of other countries.
- The legal and the illegal
markets for small arms are inter-related; many illicit transfers start
out as legal ones; small arms are responsible for deaths and destruction
whether they are technically held illegally or not.
- The minimal requirement
on governments to report to the UN on their small arms activities and
efforts is woefully low and must be raised.
In short, what all of us outside
are doing is responsible and what at least some of those inside are
doing is not.