Policy and Research Papers
There is no consensus on whether ammunition should be included in the scope of the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Most states support its inclusion and point towards the negative impact of irresponsible and poorly controlled transfers of ammunition. The insecurity and tremendous human suffering associated with such transfers in the context of armed violence in Africa are a case in point.
A few states, however, oppose the inclusion of ammunition in the ATT and argue that controlling international ammunition transfers would be unfeasible and highly cost-intensive. This report discusses the challenges of ammunition controls in Africa against the background of the international discussions on the ATT. It demonstrates that concerns regarding ammunition-inclusion in the ATT are unfounded. It also argues that complementary action will be required by African stakeholders and their international partners to strengthen ammunition controls in the region.
Holger Anders is a consultant on arms control with several years of work experience in sub-Saharan Africa, including as expert monitoring the implementation of a UN arms embargo. He holds post-graduate degrees in peace studies and international relations and has published and presented widely at global and regional levels in Europe and Africa on the scope for action to combat illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition.
The improper management of conventional ammunition and explosives poses significant safety and security risks. Frequent ammunition depot explosions and diversions from ammunition stocks of state actors testify to the relevance of the issue to Africa. Overcoming challenges to effective national ammunition management can be a formidable task in itself. This paper considers the challenges to and scope for action on ammunition management in Africa. It is argued that concerted efforts by African states and their international partners will be essential to effectively limiting risks of undesirable explosive events and ammunition diversions on the continent.
The fight against illegal arms transfers requires regulation and an effective monitoring of arms brokers. Their business primarily consists of facilitating and arranging transactions in exchange for compensation or material recompense. Indeed some of them manage to circumvent existing controls by exploiting different national regulations or conducting their activities from countries where controls are weak or non-existent.
In 2003 the EU member states took an important initiative by setting a harmonized system of control of arms brokers. With the adoption of a European Common Position they introduced controls on brokering activities taking place on their territories. Yet, six years later, all EU member states still have no legislation on arms brokering, while others need to adapt their national legislation to EU standards. Furthermore this European instrument reflects minimum standards which currently appear insufficient to effectively fight against ill disposed brokers.
This report reviews the extent to which EU member states implement the Common Position on arms brokering and suggests some improvements for a better control on brokering activities and an effective fight against illegal arms transfers. One section of the report also considers a major gap in the national regulations: extraterritorial controls on brokering activities. Finally, the report presents the case study of the Belgian legislation on arms brokering.
One of the key weaknesses in controls on the international arms trade is the absence or penury of national regulations on arms brokering activities. At present, only about sixteen countries in the world are known to control the activities of those negotiating, arranging or otherwise facilitating arms transfers between buyers and sellers. Moreover, unscrupulous brokers have demonstrated their ability to circumvent existing controls by exploiting differences in national approaches, or by simply conducting their activities from another country with lax or no controls at all. This weak link in arms control allows unscrupulous brokers to engage with impunity in undesirable or illicit activities such as arranging arms transfers to embargoed governments or non-state actors.
An important regional initiative to counter this phenomenon is the EU Common Position on the Control of Arms Brokering. Under this instrument, EU member states have committed themselves to establishing a clear legal framework for brokering activities taking place within their territory. By creating common standards, the EU Common Position thus represents a significant step forward. However, there remain concerns that these standards still fall short of what is required to effectively combat undesirable or illicit brokering activities.
The first part of this report identifies key issues in this respect and suggests concrete measures governments should consider when deciding on what controls they deem appropriate. The second part of this report presents an overview of already existing or planned brokering controls in certain EU member states. The report concludes that despite the progress presented by the EU Common Position, there are still shortcomings regarding the controls that would seem necessary for effectively combating unscrupulous brokers and their activities. Where appropriate, governments of EU member states should therefore individually be encouraged to ensure that their national approach fully addresses arms brokering. This would also facilitate possible future efforts on the level of the EU to further strengthen common commitments. In turn, such further efforts to counter undesirable brokering will be required to strengthen member states’ abilities to combat and prevent illicit arms transfers.
The problem of lacking or inconsistent regulations on arms brokering is painstakingly clear. Arms brokers are central in many illicit arms transfers, including transfers to conflict regions, embargoed actors, and serious human rights abusers. In the United Nations Programme of Action on SALW (UN PoA) of 2001, States specifically committed to develop adequate national legislation and common understandings on arms brokering. This report reviews progress made around the control of brokering.
It shows that a growing number of states have established legislation on arms brokering, or will do so. Comparing domestic norms and multilateral standards reveals that there is a large degree of convergence on key regulatory principles and measures, a good foundation for developing global minimal standards on brokering controls. The UNGA in October/November 2005 provides an opportunity for strengthening the international commitment to enhancing cooperation in combating illicit SALW brokering. Further efforts in this regard remain crucial, in particular in order to eliminate the loopholes and inconsistencies which allow brokering activities to take place with relative ease and impunity.
It is therefore urgent that the UN establish, at a minimum, a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Brokering, mandated to consider the feasibility of an international instrument and to identify the elements required for effective national brokering controls. The mandate should also consider controls on transportation and financial services related to arms brokering. Complementary standards on SALW control should also be developed in conformity with commitments undertaken with the UN PoA, including the development of minimal standards on end-user certificates and of adequate licensing to decide on arms exports and brokering activities.
Le développement de contrôles spécifiques dans le cadre de la lutte contre le commerce illégal de munitions pour armes légères et de petit calibre a suscité un grand intérêt parmi les Etats, comme en témoignent les récents débats menés sur cette matière à l'échelon international. Le présent article comprend des informations contextuelles sur le commerce de munitions et sur les normes de contrôle existantes en Afrique, une des régions les plus touchées par la prolifération et l'utilisation illégale d'armes légères et de petit calibre et de leurs munitions.
Le chapitre qui suit étudie la problématique générale des contrôles de munitions pour armes légères et de petit calibre. Il est suivi par un aperçu des sources et transferts officiels autorisés de munitions pour armes de petit calibre à destination et en provenance de l'Afrique, ainsi qu'à l'intérieur de l’Afrique.
Les chapitres suivants sont dédiés aux normes de contrôle multilatérales valables qui existent en Afrique et décrivent les défis que l’Afrique devra encore relever pour instaurer des contrôles fiables des munitions. D'aucuns avancent qu'il existe de bonnes bases pour le développement de contrôles adéquats en Afrique. Pourtant, des efforts supplémentaires seront indispensables pour lutter efficacement contre les conséquences désastreuses de la prolifération et de l'utilisation illégale de munitions pour armes légères et de petit calibre ...
Ammunition controls were long neglected in international debates but some progress is made at the United Nations. A UN group of governmental experts reported on problems arising from ammunition stockpiles in surplus in July 2008. The group’s recommendations for further action at national, regional, and global levels were endorsed by the UN General Assembly in a resolution in December 2008. The steps that are taken at the UN have the potential to make an important practical contribution to building capacities for better ammunition stockpile controls.