Imperialist world politics revolve around two axes; trade and war. Wars are profitable ventures for capitalism. Threats, real or conjectured, legitimize concerns of security which create the possibilities for arms trade. No region presents a better example of this than the Middle East. It is unsurprising that a region that is a global supplier of energy resources, with the largest proven reserves, has remained a theatre of war and conflict for much of its modern history. The continuity of war in the region is a result of successive imperialist interventions. The conflicts serve various imperialist objectives including the profitable trade in arms. The world-wide black market in arms thrives in the absence of coordinated international action.
The volume of international transfers of major arms has grown steadily since 2003. In 2014–18 the volume was 7.8 per cent higher than in 2009–13 and 23 per cent higher than in 2004–2008. The five largest exporters in 2014–18 were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China. Together, they accounted for 75 per cent of the total volume of arms exports in 2014–18.
Although many states in sub-Saharan Africa are affected by armed conflict and some receive foreign military aid, the volume of major arms imported by those states is relatively small. In the Middle East, the irregular and black-market arms trade – estimated at USD 10 billion a year – have weaponised extremism and fuelled instability. Disturbing images of civilian infrastructure being bombed and destroyed by extremist groups are telling testimonies that the flow of arms and weapons continues to exacerbate violent conflict in the Arab region. This is particularly the case in Syria, Libya and Iraq where the supply of weapons to the warring sides has prolonged the fighting and adversely affected the civilization population. The rebuilding of societies affected by armed conflict and violence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is estimated at USD 250 billion. A price tag that the next generations in the MENA region will have to repay for decades to come.
According to a SIPRI report global arms sales have crossed all-time high in the post-cold war period and are gradually reaching the levels of the 1980s when it was the highest ever. The world has seen the rise of low volume conflicts throughout the globe. The global sale of arms has consistently increased since 2003 mostly owing to the imperialist interventions in the Middle East. Currently, countries such as Libya, Sudan, Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Yemen are in one way or another, involved in wars and none of these wars are solely of their doing. As of now, there is no serious institutional attempt to stop these wars and the surge in the arms trade.
- Profit is secondary to world peace. Life is scared. The quest for power and dominance has made the world unpeaceful.
- The ultimate goal is in such a sensitive market is to ensure that profiteering goal should not the primary gaols in arms trade. With this in mind, the greed involved in the arms trade must be kept in check by all stakeholders
- World civil society are thus encouraged to take action to curb future arms proliferation in regions prone to armed conflict and violence.
- Governments and arms traders must commit to respecting and to fulfilling the provisions set forth in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of the United Nations.
- The aim should be to identify, prevent and mitigate as the case may be, the human rights-related risks of business activities in conflict-affected areas. Civilians should not have to bear the brunt, as they do now, of the devastating consequences of military conflict.
No solution in sight
The 2014 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has a limited role in regulating the global arms trade because there is no control on volume, type or nature of the trade in conventional weapons. It only requires greater transparency from the state and a minimum assurance about the potential use of the arms. The political economy of war provides a clear explanation for this apathy. The political world promotes just, peaceful and inclusive societies as enshrined in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development however, for its to come into fruition it rests on the ability of world society to promote a climate conducive to peace and sustainable development. According to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the countries that are furthest from achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are in, or emerging from, armed conflict and violence.
The best investment to peace and prosperity therefore rests on the ability of decision-makers and governments to curb arms trade, prohibit economic gains from war, armed conflict and human suffering and instead commit to rally for a world where peace and justice prevails. There is need to promote ‘’disarmament for development”. What is most needed is a conversion strategy that will gradually transform war economies into sustainable peace economies.
Article from AFRIC editorial
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