The Fourth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty is 10 days away. This year, our goal is to create stronger barriers against diversion. Why? Here are 10 compelling reasons to tackle diversion:
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1. Diversion can occur at any time during the lifecycle of the weapon: Opportunities for diversion are numerous. Small arms are being diverted during transit and transshipment, stolen from military stockpiles, illegally seized from military forces or peacekeepers , or purchased from corrupt officials.
2. …and it’s not always clear how many weapons are being diverted: One case study conducted in South Sudan showed that the number of weapons diverted from peacekeepers to armed groups is drastically undercounted. Lack of transparency when reporting losses and inefficient record keeping are part of the problem.
3. It offers opportunities for corrupt government officials: Studies suggest that corruption in the arms trade comprises roughly 40 per cent of all corruption in global transactions. Monetary gain provides incentive for military officials to “lose” large quantities of arms and ammunition. In Somalia, many members of the Somalia National Army are involved in clan militia, leading to the deliberate diversion of state-owned weapons.
4. Diverted arms and ammunition end up in the hands of militias, warlords and extremist groups: Weapons captured by militias during the Sudanese Civil War still circulate throughout the country and contribute to human suffering.
5. And of course, terrorist groups: A three year investigation in Iraq and Syria by Conflict Armament Research revealed that unauthorized re-transfers were the main source of ISIS arms and ammunition. According to the ATT Monitor, AQIM-aligned groups in Mali have stolen weapons from military stockpiles.
6. Contributing to brutal conflicts and cyclical armed violence around the world: From Yemen, to Syria, to South Sudan, to homicides across the americas, and beyond.
7. These weapons don’t disappear, but are used in subsequent conflicts: Following the collapse of the Qadhafi regime in Libya, military and police arsenals were raided. These stolen weapons have armed terrorist movements throughout Africa, including in Mali, Somalia, Cameroon, and Nigeria.
8. Need more reasons? Diversion aids the increasing violence of poaching networks: Armed poachers and criminal networks are responsible for threatening the existence of several species, including the northern white rhino, with only 2 left in the world.
9. The Diversion of arms and the drug trade go hand in hand: Drug related violence in Latin American countries destroys millions of lives.Yet military stockpiles are rarely subject to review, and are often the target of diversion.
10. And in the end, civilians suffer the most from the diversion of arms: Diversion shatters communities, creates political and economic instability, perpetuates gender-based violence, contributes to human trafficking, and devastates the lives of civilians.
The Arms Trade Treaty requires all States Parties to assess the risk of diversion before authorizing an arms transfer. It also includes the establishment of “mitigation measures” that could help to prevent diversion of weapons, ammunition, parts and components to unauthorized end users. However these measures are only effective if we press for their immediate implementation.
Call on your government to make sure diversion is properly addressed at the 2018 Arms Trade Treaty Conference of States Parties.