Campaigners call for Arms Trade Treaty as new figures show massive increase in arms transfers

Military spending and the global arms trade rose dramatically in 2003, international arms campaigners revealed as they marked the second worldwide Control Arms day on Saturday.The downward trend in arms sales has been reversed, with both 2001 and 2003 showing the first increases in the arms market in almost a decade. These figures come amid further calls for an international Arms Trade Treaty to regulate the export of arms across the globe.

Military spending and the global arms trade rose dramatically in 2003, international arms campaigners revealed as they marked the second worldwide Control Arms day on Saturday.

The downward trend in arms sales has been reversed, with both 2001 and 2003 showing the first increases in the arms market in almost a decade. The figures, from one of the world's leading sources of information and data (the SIPRI Yearbook 2004), also show a dramatic 18% rise in military spending during 2002 and 2003. These figures come amid further calls for an international Arms Trade Treaty to regulate the export of arms across the globe.

"The massive rise in arms transfers makes the case for controls more pressing than ever. Until there are global controls on this deadly trade, people's lives will continue to be ruined by weapons in the wrong hands," said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.

The first Control Arms day (9th October 2003) was marked in 70 countries across the world, when Oxfam, Amnesty International and IANSA (the International Action Network on Small Arms) launched the Control Arms campaign. The campaigners are pushing for a legally-binding, international Arms Trade Treaty to help stop weapons being sold to destinations where they might undermine human rights, fuel conflict or exacerbate poverty.

"We know that an increase in the arms trade also means a rise in black market sales, as many small arms are diverted to human right abusers, warlords, terrorist groups and common criminals. Control Arms is working to stop these black market diversions," said Rebecca Peters, Director of IANSA.

So far, the political leaders of countries including Brazil, Cambodia, Mali, Macedonia, Costa Rica, Finland and the Netherlands have given their support to Control Arms. The campaign was given another boost last week when Britain announced its support for the Arms Trade Treaty. Britain is the second biggest arms exporter in the world.

There are around 639 million small arms and light weapons in the world today. Eight million more are produced every year. Without strict control, such weapons will continue to fuel violent conflict, state repression, crime, and domestic abuse.

As part of the Control Arms campaign, Oxfam, Amnesty and IANSA also launched the Million Faces petition, a visual means by which members of the public worldwide can pledge their support to the campaign by posting a photograph or self portrait on the website www.controlarms.org Celebrities including Dido, Desmond Tutu, Michael Moore and Bob Geldof have taken part.