Defining the Problem
The relationship between the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, the effects of globalization and societal disintegration have been greatly under-researched. The dearth of serious enquiry into this phenomenon is all the more significant because such weapons continue to be most commonly used in many of the violent civil and ethnic conflicts of the post-Cold War era. All of the 34 major armed conflicts, documented during 1993 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), were being fought mainly with light weapons (1). While it is obvious that there is a correlation between small arms and light weapons proliferation, societal violence and the general weakening of the social fabric, identifying the exact nature of this relationship in any one situation or universally is more problematic. In addition, too little is known about the international trade in these weapons and the true extent of societal militarisation around the world.
Light weapon has been used as a generic term to describe all conventional munitions that can be carried by an individual combatant or by a light vehicle (2). This includes (small arms), bazookas, rocket propelled grenades, light anti-tank missiles, light mortars, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and hand placed landmines (3). Small arms is a sub-category of this classification, defined by the United States Department of Defence as including automatic weapons, up to, and including 20mm. This includes sub-machine guns, rifles, carbines and handguns (4) Most light weapons do not require complex training or operational expertise, making them suitable for insurgents and irregular forces, which lack the formal infrastructure of a professional army. Furthermore, the specification of small arms is important in terms of military and non-military demand and usage of light weaponry. While organised groups, normally described in terms of their military activity, will use the whole range of light weapons, criminal and other non-military requirements have traditionally only involved small arms. However there is an increasing overlap between the two categories, as trends in availability in military and non-military materiel become more fluid. As this paper attempts to illustrate, greater and more diverse availability, profoundly influences the societal impacts which result from light weapons proliferation.
The international community’s relative indifference to the control of such weapons has been due, in part, to the concern generated by the continuing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems as well as major conventional weapons systems and technologies. By comparison, the worldwide transfer and sale of light weapons seems to have been judged as being peripheral to a stable international system. This is illustrated by the United Nations Arms Register, which lists certain types of major weapons systems under its transparency regime. In so much as weapons control regimes are aimed at mitigating tensions which could lead to conflict, there are a number of inconsistencies inherent in the current system. The international realm of states is increasingly being dominated by internal conflicts within sovereign territories, involving irregular as well as regular forces. In these types of conflicts major weapons systems are of less significance than cheaper, more easily available and more numerous light weapons and small arms. Insurgent groups and paramilitary organisations have been able to utilise available light weaponry, much of which is based on technologies dating back to World War II, with devastating effect. Civilian and civilian societies have been the principal victims of these weapons.
The purpose of this article is to explore the systemic processes which have facilitated universal proliferation and describe some of the impacts these processes have had on particular societies. This has led the author to two sets of observations based on the available empirical and anecdotal evidence. Firstly, the proliferation and use of light weapons and small arms within societies around the world can be seen as symptomatic of deeper problems at within the fabric of these societies. Therefore, to understand the effect of the light weapons equation, it is necessary to place it in the broader context of prevailing political, social and economic trends. Secondly, it is apparent that the availability and use of these weapons affects the pace and direction of societal violence. In areas where structural violence is already severe, the proliferation of light weapons and small arms accelerates prevailing trends of societal dysfunction, political anarchy and the undermining of state authority. it is also apparent that where the overall framework of state authority is not challenged, the proliferation of arms exacerbates deep social problems and widens domestic fissures.
Globalization and Militarization
The Changing Roots of Conflict – Globalization and Localized Violence (5)
The past fifty years have been marked by opposing socio-political trends in the global polity. On one hand, the world has become increasingly unified through globalization and modernization. These processes have promoted a sense of global integration and induced the spread of a universal culture. On the other hand, the state-system has experienced the growth of particularism and constructs of localized violence, accompanied by the empowerment of groups seeking socio-political fragmentation. Although there is a tenable correlation between these two phenomena, there is, in my opinion no simple cause-effect dichotomy, linking the multi-faceted nature of globalization and the complex issues associated with the rise of particularism and the spread of localized violence. Nevertheless, the question of a link must be posed since these contrasting images appear to be two sides of the same geopolitical coin, the currency of which is shaping the dimensions of the post-Cold War world.
This then, is the profound contradiction in the international system, that while in the developed world industrialised warfare has altered the character of both international and domestic politics — making war a less rational means for states to achieve their political objectives — the developing world continues to be prone to more frequent incidents of conflict. In some countries, Clausewitz’s maxim that war should be regarded as “nothing but the continuation of politics by other means” is a stark reality. In many of these areas “government has become the management of conflict, opposition has meant insurgency and guerrilla activities have become a life-style” (6). Unravelling the problem requires analysis of globalization and localized violence, first in isolation, and then in contrast to each other.
Globalization is used to describe the process by which the world is transformed into a single arena. At the heart of this is the contention that the concept of globalization per se should be applied to a particular series of developments concerning the “concrete structuration of the world as a whole” ( 7). The constituent features of this process have developed along a number of historical trajectories: most notably, the universal adoption of the state-system, the development of globally interdependent political, economic, and financial institutions; rapid advances in technology, transport and communication; the increasing global demand for commodities and creation of transnational agencies; the development of a fluid global market and the subsequent perforation of state boundaries.
The traditional concept of state integrity, as the central feature of the global polity, is today being questioned more vigorously than ever before: worldwide, the exclusive right to sovereignty and the functional legitimacy of state institutions have been severely challenged by the twin features of globalization and localization. While such supra-national institutions like the United Nations Security Council, the European Community, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have removed elements of absolute sovereignty, many governments face violent challenges to their authority from within their own borders.
Localization can be defined as “the rise of ethnic identities and communalism and nationalism” (8). As a result, my discussion of localized violence starts by emphasising the state as the central point of reference. While globalization may erode, in a more abstract fashion and from above, some tenets of state sovereignty, localization and localized violence impinge upon the state from beneath and perhaps in a more direct fashion. Part of the process of state organisation is to maintain the monopoly on the legitimate exercise of violence as a way of structuring internal order. However, it is important to recognize that the rise of particularism/localization is not necessarily a pre-requisite for the eruption of localized violence, and neither does the development of particularist trends make the emergence of such violence inevitable. In this context, a more comprehensive understanding of localized violence refers to the use of weapons outside of state control and to the various challenges which this poses to state-orientated precepts of domestic power. The question then, is how and when does the state’s monopoly on the use of violence collapse?
Part of the answer requires the acceptance of the assumption that the state is also an idea (9). Consequently, the organising principle of the state (and its institutions) also concerns its legitimacy in the minds of those over which it rules. One reason why the state’s monopoly of power may be challenged, is because portions of the population within its judicial borders may no longer accept the status quo. Alternatively, state institutions may be so weak that the state is no longer able to exercise its authority universally. It is clear that state sovereignty is being challenged at the popular level in many parts of the world. Why should this be so? In its broader sense, sovereignty represents a two-way street between central authority and citizenry, relating not just to the government’s monopoly of power within its territorial boundaries but the functional legitimacy of its conduct and its ability to provide basic human needs for all the people under its jurisdiction. Basic needs, if defined as security, identity and recognition are non-negotiable (10). Consequently, where the state fails to furnish the needs of human security (11), political security and economic security, and where there exists a vacuum of state authority, characterised by the failure of institutional authority to reach all parts of the sovereign territory, together with an absence of the idea of the state, a crisis of sovereignty occurs.
The next question is how has globalization affected this process? In a very real sense globalization and modernity has influenced localized violence in a very indirect manner. That is to say, globalization has contributed to creating the framework and conditions in which localized conflict has emerged and increasing levels of violence have been sustained through the proliferation of light weapons.
For example, in recent years the rise of ethnic identity has been emphasised as a crucial tenet in understanding the emergence of so many civil conflicts worldwide. Thus, on one level globalization and modernity have been identified as stimulating the formation of ethnicities. It would seem that groups become more sensitive to their uniqueness when they are thrust or incorporated into larger entities. However, several case studies reveal that “ethnic consciousness itself should not be perceived seen as a permanent problem in multi-cultural societies. Rather ethnicities are `constructed’, `invented’, and `imagined’ under particular circumstances[emphasis added] and for specific reasons and objectives” (12). Moreover, the evidence suggests that many ethnic conflicts have their roots in the history of state formation, in which relationships between dominant and subordinate ethnic groups are structured and processes of economic change, in which populations are categorized into social classes along ethnic lines (13).
On a second level, globalization has contributed to stimulating mounting popular expectations and perceptions of relative deprivation. And certainly, analysis of the effects of a world culture, the development of the media and the pervasiveness of modernization would go some way to explaining the emergence of conflicts centred on unfulfilled aspirations. It is out of these conditions that so called “inversionary movements” may emerge. The driving principle of these movements is the belief that only through violent revolution can society be sufficiently changed to accommodate the interests of the disadvantaged (14). In such cases religious, cultural, ethnic and/or ideological factors have acted as points of focus and encouraged popular mobilisation for the use of organised violence and the use of arms as a method of empowering disenfranchised groups.
However, these developments should be put into a broader context. There are, for example, many multi-ethnic states which have successfully managed the unrelenting forces of globalization and whose integrity has been maintained, while there are incidents of localized violence in which the ethnic or ideological element plays no part. As Dharam Ghai and Cynthia Hewitt de Alcantara suggest:
The Combination of institutions, laws, procedures and norms, which allows people to express their concerns and fight for their interests within a predictable and relatively equitable context, forms the basis of good governance. Efficient administration of public resources is an additional element in this definition. And the entire edifice of good governance ultimately rests upon a legitimate use of power: public authority must be sanctioned by the consent of the governed (15).
Consequently, citizens and groups which either, no longer feel part of the state (due to a lack of political participation and/or marginalisation from the society’s legitimate economic activity), or who perceive the state as being unable to provide them with personal protection, will continue to seek alternative security guarantees. This may be satisfied by an ethnic or political allegiance which supports an armed struggle against central authority. In other circumstances it may represent an illicit activity, often centred on drugs and associated with increasing levels of criminal violence. The overlap between these two areas of activity is becoming increasingly evident as the line distinguishing the military and non-military demand and use of weapons blurs and the distinctions between criminal violence and war are no longer clear-cut. Finally, the possession of firearms by private citizens can be a response to these developments in an environment where state institutions are perceived as being inadequate providers of protection.
Where states are unable to provide a secure environment for their citizens or meet the prerequisite demands of basic human needs, the proliferation of weaponry is both a principal consequence of, and a key contributor to, weak and ineffective governance. As I have noted above, aspects of globalization have been crucial in determining the nature of the framework in which forms of localized violence take place. Crucially, this includes increased opportunities for the procurement of weapons. In addition, technological advances in weaponry, since 1945 have combined firepower and convenience, while advances in communication and transportation have facilitated the speed, and made more efficient the means, by which weapons are transferred. The emergence of transnational financial and commercial institutions has been exploited and used to create a sophisticated black market in illegal goods; making the concealment of illicit exchanges of goods and money an easier task for governments and non-governmental groups. The sum total of these developments has been to lower the price of light weapons, making them more available to more people.
Trends in Light Weapons Proliferation
Light weapons are characterised by their durability, cost effectiveness, accessibility and utility. In terms of military and non-military demand, such criteria perfectly match the needs of those who require weapons in the violent political, ethnic and criminal disputes of the post-Cold War era and the growing demand for weapons for personal protection. The end of the Cold War has created a glut in the arms industries of Europe and North America, resulting in a surplus of used but modern materiel being dumped on the world market. At present, the supply of weapons is vast and the demand strong. The societal affects of these trends in supply and demand can be best illustrated in terms of military and non-military developments in weapons proliferation.
A number of factors emanating from the end of the Cold War has helped shape contemporary trends in the supply and demand of light weapons. On the supply side, many of the stock-piles and weapons flows initiated by the superpowers have been released from controls which hitherto prevented unrestrained proliferation. The evidence from a number of case studies illustrates the difficulty of controlling the transfer and spread of light weapons and small arms once they have entered the free-flowing, transient supply and demand markets of the international arms trade (This includes both the overt and covert trade in weapons). For instance the single most important factor in the militarisation of Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the U.S. pipeline of arms established in the mid-1980s to assist the Afghan Mujaheddin insurgency campaign. In the post-Cold War era weapons from the pipeline have accumulated in the arms bazaars in and around the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), and reached at least as far as Bombay and the state of Bihar. In addition, many of the weapons that were siphoned off by the Pakistan Inter-Service Intelligence organisation at the time have been used to support Kashmiri militants, fuelling the region’s ethnic conflict (16).
It is clear that the South Asian pattern and experience of arms proliferation has been replicated elsewhere, demonstrating the durability of light weapons and small arms. This durability factor, together with easy transportation is crucial in assisting the proliferation of weaponry. Since light weapons, and especially small arms, have few moving parts, and there is little need for replacement parts, once the proliferation has taken place there is the potential for it to be constant (17). Thus, Colombian guerrilla groups have had access to arms originally pumped into Central America under the auspices of the Reagan Doctrine, which have now become part of a vast black market in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Panama (U.S. military aid allocated to the Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980s totalled $70 million annually). Somalia’s civil war was exacerbated by the millions of dollars worth of arms supplied to the previous regime by the U.S. and Soviet Union. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia has certainly profited from Cold War-era weapons stockpiles. While the Croats have been able to replenish their armament needs from stocks belonging to the former East German Army, the Bosnian government has benefited from supplies of light weapons left over from Lebanon’s old civil war, paid for by Iran and other Muslim governments in the Middle East. Chinese weapons have been traced moving via Bolivia into Bosnia and Croatia. It was estimated that during 1993, $2 billion worth of weapons were delivered to the former Yugoslavia in spite of the UN arms embargo (18).
The availability of weapons has also been shaped by factors arising from the transformation of the international order and influenced by globalization. In the first place, the end of the Cold War created a glut in the arms industries of Europe and North America, resulting in a surplus of used but modern materiel for the world market. The pressure to sell and reduce this surplus and the expansion of black market opportunities has ensured high levels of light weapons deliveries across the world. With a drop in domestic military spending privatized Russian firms, for example, have been under mounting pressure to increase their export sales. This has led to dubious or illegal transactions (19). In Western Europe, too, traditional exporters such as Britain and Belgium continue to sanction the export of light weapons as part of government efforts to boost defence sales (20).
The sharp decline in official military aid to the developing world in 1987-1993, has only been in the sale of major weapons systems. Contraction in the transfer of expensive high technology equipment has been off-set by the continued purchase of less sophisticated, but still extremely lethal light weapons and small arms. (A rough estimate, is that total world exports of light weapons come to about $5 billion per year) (21). The pattern change in arms transfers by developing countries, not only reflects the general reduction in purchasing power, but also the growing incidence of insurgency and “low intensity warfare”, which impinge upon the functional capability of their regimes. It also provides outlets for the conventional weapons manufactured by the leading military powers. Moreover the number of potential suppliers has increased over the years and so-called “second tier” arms producing nations have been able to capture a sizable share of the global market. In addition to the major arms suppliers, (the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council), nine other states have a broadly based military industry: India, Israel, South Africa, Brazil, Taiwan, North Korea, Argentina, South Korea and Egypt. During the 1980s, another 45 states were identified as possessing a domestic arms production capacity. The 1993-94 edition of Jane’s Infantry Weapons recorded no less than 1,700 different weapons from 252 manufacturers in 69 manufacturing countries (22). On the demand side, light weapons are now required to sustain the growing number of ethno-political conflicts and insurgency campaigns. The 1994 Human Development Report identified 52 major armed conflicts in 42 countries, and another 37 countries which had political violence. Of these 79 countries, 65 were in the developing world (23). In 1988 a paper written by Gunnar Nielsson and Ralph Jones, identified 575 ethnic groups as actual or potential states (24 ). A more recent survey conducted by Professor Ted Gurr, estimates 233 minority groups as being at risk from political and/or economic discrimination, leading to collective adversity (25). In the modern era, increased patterns of supply and demand converge. Legal government-to-government sales, as well as commercial sales, are supplemented by conditions, which offer greater opportunity for covert transactions of weapons.
The covert trade in weapons involves three transfer systems: the black market, secret government-to-government deals and sponsorship of sub-state groups. This last category usually relies upon sympathetic support from a foreign government, although private assistance from arms dealers or altruistic interest groups are not uncommon. Estimates of the size of this trade range from $2 billion in a lean year to $10 billion in a profitable one (26). The principal factor in determining the nature of this cycle is, of course, the number of ongoing conflicts and political instabilities globally. The fluidity of the international market, the increased number of potential suppliers and weakening controls on armament flows have assisted this process. As a result, with the greater potential to manipulate the market, opportunities are opening up for groups and actors previously denied access to advanced technologies (27).
Non-military demand for weapons has traditionally come from criminal elements and private citizens. The types of weapons acquired have normally been small arms with limited levels of firepower. The effects of globalization, technological advances and the end of the Cold War, have all played a role in changing patterns which place more advanced technologies in the hands of a wider variety of users. While both the military and non-military demand for weapons has been influenced by these factors, non-military acquisition has especially benefited from the decline in prices. Consequently, the civil and financial restraints which hitherto deterred the proliferation of more sophisticated weapons are being increasingly eroded as non-military demands for weapons begin to overlap with military trends and sources of proliferation.
The criminal activities of various sub-state groups illustrate this convergence. For example, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), whose campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland has fallen into a grey area between militant insurgency and criminality, (28) have acquired a range of military light weapons and non-military small arms. The most spectacular example of this was the organisation’s acquisition of SAM-7 ground-to-air missiles during the 1980s. Potentially, the SAMs give the IRA more tactical options, offering them the means to destroy British helicopters which are frequently used in the province to locate IRA activities and to transport troops (29). In the Southern Hemisphere, ordinary criminals in Zimbabwe and South Africa are exploiting the easy access to relatively sophisticated military weapons. Many of theses are being smuggled into these countries from Mozambique, pushed onto the market by troops belonging to the Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana (Renamo) (30). In Colombia drug cartels (narcos) are able to utilise a whole range of advanced weaponry as their tentacles extend in search of new markets for illegal drugs. The last decade has also seen the emergence of right-wing paramilitaries (paras) who are financed by the drug-gangs and dedicated to fighting Colombia’s left-wing guerrillas, and murdering their civilian sympathizers. The convergence of drugs-related criminality and politically motivated terrorism has both encouraged and benefited from changes in weapons supply patterns. Colombian police have seized several German-made MP5 sub-machine guns and technologically sophisticated Swiss-made night-vision devices from narco properties (31). Colombia’s experience is indicative of the effect of the convergence between the military trends in supply and the non-military trends in weapons acquisition. So long as powerful light weapons are easily obtainable on the black market and commonly used by narcos, paras and guerrillas, they also become accessible to common criminals and ordinary citizens who feel threatened surrounded by so many arms (32). As a consequence, easy availability, vast supplies and increasing levels of firepower have helped create conditions where ownership of a weapon becomes a cultural norm. This has been further encouraged by low prices. For example in Lomashasha, Swaziland, an AK-47 can be procured for as little as US$6.00 (33). The convergence problem and gun-culture syndrome is highlighted in the United States. For example the non-military or civilian version of the M-16, (a semi-automatic weapon such as the AR-15, which releases one bullet with one pull of the trigger), can be converted into a military-style fully automatic weapon, by the installation of a military component, (the military automatic sphere), which is widely and easily available in the United States from spare parts shops and specialist by-order magazines. Thus it is increasingly possible to circumvent those restrictions which exist to regulate the private civilian ownership of fully automatic or military-style weapons.
The Social and Political Impace of Militarization
Light Weapons Technology and the Changing Face of Human Conflict
The extent to which small arms and light weapons have proliferated throughout societies has been consistent with and reflected changes in the nature of conflict, and the security priorities which determine modern trends in human development. However, what remains clear, is that the scope for killing is not subject to the calibre of weapon possessed, neither is the inclination to kill predetermined by the possession of such weapons. This point was highlighted by Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping, in a discussion with then U.S. President George Bush, in 1989, when he stated that “civil war doesn’t necessarily require guns and artillery; fists and wood bats can also be wielded ferociously” (34). In other words, if people are determined to kill each other they will use whatever means are at hand. One of the bloodiest of all conflicts in the period since World War II was between Hindus and Muslims at the time of India’s partition. Millions were slaughtered with no more than pitchforks, knives and bare hands. However, what has become apparent with the erosion of traditional structures of human security and the development and spread of military technology, is the creation of greater opportunities for the use of lethal violence.
The nature of modern warfare and the weaponry used has had an increasingly detrimental effect on civilians. Since World War II, over 23 million people have been killed in the developing world as a result of war, (35) 90% of them civilians (36). During World War I, 90% of those killed were soldiers. The easy availability of modern weapons and the changed nature of the use of violence has polarised ethnic, religious, economic and political differences in regions of spiralling structural collapse and blurred the distinction between civilian and combatant. Conflict has ceased to become the struggle between states or ideologies but has become the struggle between peoples and cultural identities. With some level of weakness prevalent in most societies, the degree to which human security has been eroded has become linked to the propensity for violence. This has meant that societal relations have, to differing degrees, become a series of “zero-sum” interactions. Where this has been most acute, in such places as Somalia orRwanda, society has imploded. Where it is emerging as a growing menace, but has been contained by stronger state structures, such as in the deprived inner-city areas of the United States, society has been burdened by increasing levels of violent crime.
Modern weapons have made the ability to kill, more than ever before, a utilitarian act, restrained neither by age nor gender; it was estimated that in 1988 there were at least 200,000 child soldiers under the age of 15 years fully participating in conflicts around the world (37). The introduction of small calibre weapons has, according to military historian John Keegan, changed modern warfare. One of the most widely available weapons, the AK-47, which has sold an estimated 55 million copies since its introduction into the Soviet army in 1947, can be stripped and reassembled by a child of 10 years, while a semi-automatic hand-gun, such as the Cobray M11/9, weighs no more than a newborn baby. The marriage of technology, firepower and convenience has facilitated the non-discriminatory use of immensely powerful weapons, putting military hardware in the hands of civilian constituencies. Advances in light weapons technology has led to increased lethality and destructiveness. Modern assault rifles for instance can fire a burst of 30-35 rounds with one pull of the trigger (rather than one round, as with older bolt action rifles) (38). In addition to making the ability to kill far easier, the technology now being employed by light weapons, and particularly small arms, represents a greater capacity for destroying societal cohesion. The rapidity of firepower and the ability to expend more ammunition in a shorter space of time offers a new set of tactical options, as killing capabilities become more efficient, subsequently resulting in a greater sense of civilian terror. This effect was utilised during the 1980s by the Sikh Kalistani movement in the (Indian) Punjab
In a region where the ethnic balance between Sikhs and Hindus had traditionally been even, a strategy based on a campaign of terror and murder, was aimed at tilting the balance in favour of the Sikhs. This was made possible after 1984, when Sikh militants became better equipped with more sophisticated armaments (39).
In civil conflicts worldwide, the availability and use of sophisticated light weapons has had similar results, in terrorising civilian populations and depopulating areas, either by killing civilians or creating such an atmosphere of terror, that civilian populations flee in the face of approaching armed forces. In Bosnia most of the “ethnic cleansing” campaigns were carried out with light weapons, while one of the worst refugee crises in modern times occurred when over one million, mainly Hutu civilians, fled from the advancing Rwandan Popular Front (RPF) in July 1994. Terrorised by government radio warnings that the predominantly Tutsi RPF, which were armed with small arms and light weapons, would slaughter all Hutus, a large proportion of the population fled across neighbouring borders.
The Breakdown of Law and Order
As indicated earlier the availability and use of more sophisticated weapons has contributed to the erosion of state authority. This has become particularly evident in the escalation of crime. It is widely held that guns are not the root cause of crime, but rather that crime is rooted in inept structural forms which create or sustain human insecurity in its broad sense. It is clear that the proliferation of arms is, in part, a response to demand for personal security when normative social relations collapse or are seen to be on the brink of collapse. It is also evident that the widespread availability of arms accelerates and aggravates dysfunctional trends.
For example, the upsurge of law and order problems in the Sind Province of Pakistan have been exacerbated by a number of inter-related factors arising from the decline of government control. In the vacuum created, the province’s industrial and economic-based conflicts in Karachi, and feudal conflicts in rural areas, were allowed to fester. Powerful political forces emerged from competing ethnic groups and, in the absence of a strong central authority, were able to utilise the easily accessible pool of modern weapons in the neighbouring North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) (40)
In parts of West Africa too, the absence of functional government has led to the spread of lawlessness and criminal violence. Some observers see such situations as being indicative of a growing international trend of failing states and rising criminal anarchy.
According to Martin van Creveld, “Once the legal monopoly of armed force, long claimed by the state, is wrestled out of its hands, existing distinctions between war and crime will break down much as is already the case today in…Lebanon, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Peru or Colombia.” This points to situations where, as “small-scale violence multiplies at home and abroad, state armies will continue to shrink, being gradually replaced by a booming private security business, and by urban mafias, especially in the former communist world, who may be better equipped than municipal police forces to grant physical protection to local inhabitants” (41).
Law and order problems have been increasingly linked to the proliferation of drugs and the empowerment of drug gangs. Britain has, for example, experienced a 42% upsurge in (reported) firearms offenses between 1987-1992, while the seizure of drugs has risen by 182% over the same period (42). Drug-related violence is evident at a number of levels. At the social level, the violence takes three forms: the violence of criminal gangs determined to protect their interests (territoriality); violence against people and property by drug users to pay for their habit; and the violence perpetrated by individuals under the influence of drugs. The gun culture which has developed around drug traffickers, is the result for the need for arms to protect the vast profits to be made from the trade in narcotics.
Perceptions of gun-related criminal violence in the United States, together with lax gun controls, has facilitated the circulation of 212 million firearms in private hands. “More than even in the days of the frontier, Americans believe they need firearms and are not safe without them…they know that guns make it easier for criminals to kill; but guns also allow peaceful citizens to defend themselves” (43). Gun-related violent crime in the United States rose by 55% between 1978 and 1992, (44) and criminologists have attributed dramatic increases in violent crime committed by juveniles to the widespread shift, from the use of knives to firearms (killings by teenagers under the age of 18 rose by 124% between 1986 and 1991, and arrests of people under 18 for violent crime rose by 47% between 1988 and 1992) (45). Despite these high figures, total felonies involving firearms account for less than 15% of all violent crime nationwide, while the number of assaults committed without a weapon has doubled in the decade since 1982.
The decision by the House of Representatives at the beginning of May 1994, to pass a bill banning 19 types of assault weapon reflected concerns that America’s criminals were becoming better equipped and armed than the state. Figures show that though 38,000 Americans die each year from gunshot wounds, over half of those are through accidents and suicides (46). The high incidence of self-inflicted death and injury was attributed to the fact that a gun was so easily available (47).
Increases in societal violence or the perception of deteriorating security is leading to the bifurcation of societies. For example, security problems in Karachi have become so acute that the freedom of movement of individuals has become restricted. However, for wealthy residents this “presented only nonessential problems — large houses became fortresses and private security firms became widely employed in both a private and a commercial capacity” (48) One private security firm employs over 6,000 guards, many of them retired from the armed services. Growing social anarchy has made the line between rich and poor even more pronounced.
Wealth has become the distinguishing feature, dividing those who are able to meet their personal security requirements and those who are subject to rising levels of arbitrary violence. The American middle-class is increasingly moving out of high crime urban areas.
The fact that there are three times more security guards in the United States than there are police officers is indicative of governments’ inability to control and reverse violent crime. The result has been the creation of fortress-type, self-enclosed communities, protected by high-tech security devices and guards, emphasising the growing gulf between the `haves’ and `have nots’ in American society.
The Empowerment of Sub-State Groups
The supply of weapons to insurgent groups and other non-state actors has concerned many governments since the Second World War. The most successful of these groups have controlled territory and had a major supply of arms to empower their activities. The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s control of territory within Lebanon before the Israeli invasion in 1982 is a good example of the supplanting of state authority. The control of territory is especially important for weapons acquisition. According to Aaron Karp, “It provides a reliable source of income through taxation or extortion of local civilians. It makes large transfers of arms physically manageable” (49). Subsequently, the direction of an insurgency campaign can be determined by such factors. The Philippine New People’s Army (PNPA), has faded as a challenge to the Manila government partly because of a lack of armaments and territorial control. Conversely, the United Liberation Front for Assam (ULFA), perfected the art of extortion during the 1970s, and bolstered by the acquisition of arms supplies initially left over from the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, moved from political agitation to insurgency. Similarly, in Jammu and Kashmir, the drive towards full-scale guerrilla warfare has been achieved because of the qualitative and quantitative increase in weapons over the past two to three years. Dr Chris Smith asserts:
Certainly, if the arms pipelines into Kashmir were to be cut or run dry, the militants would be quickly deprived of the resources they require to take on the Indian Union – New Delhi has now stationed over 400,000 troops in the area, making the valley of Kashmir the most militarised area in the world (50).
The control of territory is also important for the immensely powerful drug cartels and criminal organisations which have emerged over the past two decades. The expansion of an international criminal class has been supported by the profits made from drugs and protected by force of arms. The need to operate within territory normally controlled by states has required the arming of criminal organisations and the establishment of private armies to defend the criminal interior from other sub-state groups and the state itself. The most common method of obtaining weapons seems to be through a drugs-for-guns barter system, established by the most successful drug cartels. Drugs and guns are transported using the same clandestine routes (51). Just as the laundering of drug money is central to the narcotics trade, so the “cleaning” of illegal arms has become a prominent concern of the cartels. In 1993, guns legally purchased in the US, were seized from Colombian drug-lord, Ivan Urdinola. Despite their use in a series of murders, almost all of the 200 weapons had been legally imported and registered by the state-owned Colombian arms industry – INDUMIL (52).
Some estimates indicate that the drug trafficking industry’s annual turnover is worth $500 billion — larger than the global trade in oil. The potential benefits to be gained from the drugs industry has released a myriad of vested interests. The effect of this has been to place organised crime onto the national security agenda, since, according to CIA Director, James Woolsey, syndicates have gained the power to undermine governments and create economic and political chaos (53).
Over the past ten years different states have increased efforts to reassert their control over the socialising processes inherent in the drugs trade and drugs culture. On the one hand, domestic law enforcement agencies battle to contain the drugs culture and the law and order problems related to it. On the other, national and international security forces battle to prevent the proliferation of the international drug-trafficking industry. The United States has spent $10 billion annually on drug enforcement programmes since 1988, promoting a new kind of Reagan Doctrine, in which the U.S. government has supplied the weapons and assistance to Latin American countries enabling them to attempt to combat the drugs industry at source. However, rooting out the problem has proved extremely difficult, partly because of the economic benefits derived from the drugs industry. In Colombia, for example, cocaine production represents an estimated 3-5% of Gross National Product, and through the multiplier effect, about 15% of aggregate demand in the economy (54).
The Militarization of Daily Life
Many societies are becoming increasingly militarised. Militarization includes the presence of heavily armed policemen or soldiers patrolling streets, military personnel occupying high government posts, military censorship, armed guards in schools and public buildings, armed checkpoints along roads and curfews. The most overt consequence of societal militarization has been the realization of cultural militarism and the horizontal diffusion of weapons throughout communities.
Widespread proliferation has often led to the acceptance of weapons as a normal part of life and violent conflict as an every-day occurrence. These developments have created widespread anxieties induced by perceived threats to personal security and consequent domestic arms races. The formation of paramilitary groups, civilian defence groups and armed vigilante groups can be seen as both symptoms and causal factors in processes of societal militarization and weapons proliferation. In Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been known to use television to broadcast programmes showing combat training and actual combat. The Tamil separatist group’s militarization of children’s education in northern Sri Lanka has included lectures on the need for soldiers, military parades and drills in school grounds, while in at least one school in a LTTE-controlled zone, toy guns have been mounted on see-saws (55). The Peruvian guerrilla group, Sendero Luminoso, which exerts varying degrees of control over educational practices in areas where it is active, has altered the school curriculum to include military-style calisthenics and labour education. The emergence of “refugee generations”, has similarly facilitated highly militarized environments, where refugee camps have become the breeding grounds for cultural militarism. In 1988, the US Committee for Refugees reported that in many parts of the world guns were being delivered to refugees “under the umbrella of humanitarian aid” and that under-age children were being trained to use them (56).
In Peru and Guatemala, the forced recruitment of peasants into civil defence patrols (PACs), has not only influenced population movements but has also replaced traditional leadership structures and eroded traditional values. Organised by the military, the PAC system is designed to supplement government counterinsurgency strategies. Mayan villagers in Guatemala, and Peruvian peasants, lose income by participating in the patrols. None of those who contribute to the PACs in Peru get paid and there are no provisions in case members get wounded while on patrol. Villagers with patrols, almost all of which have been created through pressure from the armed forces, become favoured targets of the Sendero Luminoso (57). The Colombian government has actively encouraged the arming of private citizens, openly exhorting the population during the late 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s to arm itself against the country’s left-wing guerrillas. In rural areas, self-defence groups known as autodefensas were organised under the supervision of the army. As a result, there are an estimated 1 million legal arms in the hands of private citizens and an estimated 5 million illegal arms (58).
The horrific consequences of another government-sponsored scheme designed to create armed civilian self-defence groups has been evident in Rwanda. Bolstered by arms supplied in the early 1990s, principally from South Africa, Egypt and France, the Rwandan government began distributing hundreds of Kalashnikovs and automatic weapons to groups loyal to the Habyarimana regime. At least 500 Kalashnikovs were distributed to local civilian authorities and civilians participating in the programme were trained by the army. These forces initially served as border patrols, but by February 1993 the programme had been extended from border communes to interior communes. There was also an increasing overlap between these groups and government party militia forces. Created in 1992, these militias, the Interahamwe (Those Who Attack Together) and the Impuzamugambi (Those With a Single Purpose) were reportedly trained by the army in methods of how to kill most efficiently, and planned well in advance, the massacres which followed the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana.
Already volatile inter-communal tensions were exacerbated by the widespread availability of weapons in the hands of an undisciplined body of civilians. Weapons distribution by Rwandan authorities to the militia and supporters of the Habyarimana regime continued in early 1994, and was extended on 15 April as hostilities were renewed (59). Two months after Habyarimana’s death, estimates of the death toll in the ensuing massacres of Tutsi and Hutu civilians varied from 200,000 to 500,000 (60).
Militarization and arms proliferation amid conditions of weakening social cohesion have led to domestic “arms races”. As in state-to-state arms races, the driving logic is the fear of the perceived threat posed by an armed neighbour. However, in a domestic arms race personal security becomes the dominant requirement, if the state cannot guarantee social order. The inadequate state presence in Colombia has led to the private use of weapons for personal protection, from the traditional machete in the countryside, to the powerful handguns used by many of the 100,000 private security officers who guard wealthy Colombians and their properties. Colombia also exemplifies the internal proliferation dynamic which is indicative of societies engaged in domestic arms races (61). In the first instance, it becomes difficult to control the diffusion of small arms, and like the ruptured U.S. pipeline to the Mujaheddin , arms distributed for one purpose inevitably fall into “the wrong hands”. Secondly, a qualitative arms race can emerge with outlawed groups and state forces each vying for parity in sophistication and firepower. However, in at least one instance, that of criminal groups in Bihar, it appears that a conscious decision has been made to curb the proliferation and use of sophisticated weapons in order to avoid prompting more forceful intervention from the Indian government (62).
The Socio-psychological Consequences of Militarization
Salvadorean psychologist Ignacio Martin-Baro suggests that the excessive militarization of a society leads to a “mental militarization”, by which violent responses to social problems become the norm (63). The highly militarized nature of communities can profoundly colour individuals’ perceptions of reality. The dual sense of fear and empowerment, which the widespread use of armaments brings to groups and individuals, can disrupt rational decision-making processes and destroy perceptions of non-violent options to conflict resolution. The result is societal brutalization and the collapse of traditional value systems.
The gravest direct consequence of this are the number of human rights violations which are committed in regions of extreme structural violence, particularly where state forces are waging counterinsurgency campaigns. The spread of small arms and light weapons not only makes government more difficult, but also polarises communal groups and leads to the erosion of respect for human rights. The nature of guerrilla warfare and the perceived widespread proliferation of weapons in areas known to be havens for insurgents, obscures any distinctions that could be made by government forces between armed terrorists and innocent civilians. Training manuals used by the Colombian army clearly indicate that it is still standard procedure to treat the civilian population in guerrilla controlled zones as the “enemy” (64). The greater militancy illustrated by Kashmiri insurgents resulting from better supplies of arms has prompted the security forces to use harsher methods in maintaining control. The increased level of violence has led to the “erosion of respect for those caught in the cross-fire by the security forces and militants alike” (65). Militarization — both actual and perceived — has meant both sides in Kashmir have become progressively brutalized, contributing to the increased incidence of rape, torture and murder.
The trauma experienced by societies in which violence is rife is a consequence of the deep fears that become entrenched in the communal psyche (66) and result from the process of militarization and the unchecked use of weapons. The undermining of traditional communal values in Latin America, Asia and Africa has partly been a result of the empowerment of individuals and groups through weapons diffusion and the dynamics of local conflict. It can be argued that widespread societal trauma is, therefore, a result of weapons proliferation in an unstable environment. One of the more destructive effects of this societal trauma is the communal division which results, particularly in agrarian societies, whose viability is largely dependent on unity. Fear and attempts at self-preservation have split many such communities around the world. In Cambodia, the sense of mistrust which accompanied the war was extremely divisive; collaboration with the enemy and the reporting of neighbours contributed to the destruction of co-operative structures in many communities (67).
Social disintegration, linked to gun-culture is most clearly reflected in areas most severely affected by militarization. It is poignantly illustrated in the behaviour and response of children. The militarization of future generations which have known little else, other than processes of brutalization and conflict, makes the rejuvenation of societies an even greater task to achieve. In Uganda, “some children had spent the whole of their formative years carrying a gun. When the war ends, they’ve never been to school. All they know is how to shoot. You can’t just expect them to put down the guns and start being kids again” (68). Problems faced by United Nations peacekeeping forces in demobilisation campaigns around the world have reflected these dilemmas. The re-eruption in November 1992 of Angola’s civil war, after UN sponsored peace efforts and elections, was in part, a result of the failure to complete the demobilisation process.
The Legacy of Landmines
Landmines have been described as the weapons that never miss. They are indiscriminate killers, which go on killing long after hostilities have ended. They have been characterised as “the greatest violators of international law, practising blind terrorism” (69). Originally designed as a defensive weapon of static warfare, mines have developed as offensive weapons in the guerrilla warfare tactics of modern intra-state conflicts. The random use of mines has been intended to deny the enemy access to resources. This has meant alienating land, food, transportation routes and basic infrastructural necessities, deliberately striking at unarmed civilians and the land itself. Rather than the tactical weapon of yesteryear, mines have become strategic, creating refugee flows and, in places such as Bosnia, used as the instruments of “ethnic cleansing”.
The principal features of mines which make them intrinsically different from other weapons is their persistent and uncontrolled nature (70). There are an estimated 100 million landmines, many of them unmapped, scattered over 62 countries. Mine clearance is a dangerous occupation; at the present rate it will take the 27 mine clearing teams in Afghanistan 4,300 years to clear one-fifth of the country. In Cambodia alone, which is contaminated with at least 4 million mines, 60 people are killed or injured every month as a result of stepping on an undetected device. Handicap International estimates that there have been over one million casualties during the past 15 years (71). According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), there are 150 identifiable types of mine, produced by 60 manufacturers in more than 37 countries (72 ). In 1993, at lest 23 countries exported landmines (73).
Apart from their indiscriminate nature, killing soldier and civilian alike, the main effects are long-term and strike at the heart of a country’s socio-economic infrastructure. The consequences are threefold: personal landmine injuries, the social ramifications, and the effects on developing agricultural economies. Landmine victims suffer horrendous injuries. Those who survive usually require surgical amputation. Angola has an estimated 20,000 mine-related amputees, mostly women and children. In Cambodia, one out of every 236 people is an amputee due to a mine explosion (74 ). Since most of the world’s mines are deployed in the developing world, where transportation is all too frequently inadequate, civilian mine victims are not likely to receive the kind of urgent medical attention which their injuries would require. Hospital treatment, when it is administered, is often rudimentary. Medical facilities which can barely meet the survival needs of the patient, cannot begin to consider the longer-term psychological and rehabilitative requirements of the amputee returning to a society unable to care for the disabled (75). The labour-intensive nature of agricultural and pastoral communities requires the full participation of every man, woman and child in the productive life of the family, community and society as a whole. Amputees who are unable to fulfil this role are often viewed as a liability to the communal structure.
These depredations are further compounded, since a high proportion of mine victims are women, who traditionally play a central role in agrarian societies. Indeed, a female amputee may be undesirable as a wife, since she will not be able to work in the fields. In many post-war countries, amputee war veterans have been left without any support. Angry and resentful that the society for which they sacrificed themselves, has abandoned them, they resort to crime, begging, drug abuse and alcoholism.
In cultures underpinned by strong family ties, the stress caused by war and famine, together with the social consequences of mine injuries, have helped erode family life. The danger posed by mines may mean families are unable to return to their homes, leading to severe stress and depression for those affected. In addition, where adults are killed by mines their children are often left destitute. The spouses of amputees may eventually abandon their husbands or wives to seek more productive, able-bodied partners. Unable to care for them, peasant families have been known to commit acts of cultural sacrilege by abandoning their amputee relatives.
The U.S. Department of State’s 1993 report on landmines concluded that the impact of uncleared mines on a developing country was “tremendous”. During conflict the mining of key strategic installations is a war objective. In civil war, these are normally economic targets aimed at disrupting civilian facilities such as electric plants, water treatment plants, key road networks, major market centres and harbour installations. These are also the key installations required to support economic reconstruction and development. The State Department report observed that:
When the economic infrastructure has been isolated by landmines, it cannot sustain economic development. As a result, economic reconstruction is delayed until the roads, the electric power system and the water system can be cleared of mines…
The inability to engage in post-war reconstruction can inhibit the process of peacebuilding and national reconciliation;
The disruption of the transportation system produced by even a few mines results in local scarcities in products, lessened exports and balances of hard currency. They bring inflation, and sometimes famine (76).
Such consequences invariably mean that refugees are unable to return to their home villages, while the economic rebuilding, which in subsistence farming communities is dependent on sustainable land use, is near impossible to achieve. In Angola, Mozambique and Afghanistan, large swathes of valuable agricultural land have been made inaccessible because of landmine contamination. In Battambang Province in Cambodia, up to one-third of the territory has been made unusable for farming. Afghanistan’s self-sufficient food production and distribution systems have all but been destroyed by mine deployment. The effective irrigation system and livestock transfer system which had developed in the country over centuries have been victims of mining strategies since 1979. Irrigation ditches were targeted because they were thought to be possible trenches and grazing land was made unusable by random mine laying. The nomadic tribes which operated the livestock transfer system left their usual grounds to find new grazing land (77).
Assessing the Societal Impact of Light Weapons Proliferation
The United Nations’ 1994 Human Development Report asserts that global human security is indivisible. Threats to human security in one part of the world are not containable: conflict and its effects, the spread of AIDS, the reach of drug traffickers, environmental degradation and global economic recession are all transnational.
In the last half century, just as the worldwide diffusion of wealth has increased prosperity, so the consequences of poverty have travelled across state boundaries. Global interdependence has created inextricable linkages, placing the requirements of individual human security at the heart of the international peace and security agenda. Universal militarization has been part of the globalizing process. The diffusion of weapons has been facilitated by technological advances, the emergence of global networks, communication, transportation and rapid advances in trade practices. The contraction of the world as a single arena has created a marketplace for all commodities, and the development of a sophisticated global black market has facilitated the delivery of illegal goods anywhere in the world.
In the absence of the strong bipolar structure which characterised the Cold War period, the inherent weaknesses of governments and the dysfunctional tendencies of underdeveloped societies, have been exacerbated. Loose or non-existent control of Cold War military hardware, supplementary sources of weapons and increased socio-political instabilities, have fuelled the global supply and demand cycle for weapons acquisition. The emergence of highly militarized and increasingly brutalized societies has perpetuated unchecked weapons proliferation within those societies which, for a multiplicity of reasons, are victims of protracted social conflict.
With a crisis of sovereignty, civilians have been placed at the heart of modern conflict, the nature of which has been profoundly influenced by the development and diffusion of modern light weapons.
The intensity of “low intensity” warfare is highly destructive and corrosive, and strikes at core elements of many societies. The loss of life and burden of casualties add further stresses to weak healthcare systems, demanding rehabilitative structures which many developing countries cannot furnish. Protracted social conflict undermines traditional family and communal cohesion; the consequences of direct violence and the effects of widespread landmine contamination have destroyed the economic bases underpinning the viability of many peasant communities. The severe physical and psychological effects on women and children, particularly where they are principal or supplementary breadwinners, portend long-term damage to societal stability. Families have been torn from their homes and torn apart by refugee migrations resulting from conflict. Often, returning refugees have no home or agricultural livelihood to return to once the violence has ended, since land is made unusable because of the presence of mines. Family heads and community leaders are lost in conflict, while invaluable assistance and development programmes are destroyed or retarded.
Protracted social conflict and violent crime resulting from failed or failing social structures, erodes personal security by posing a constant threat to the integrity of life. The fear of violence becomes pervasive, altering communal psyches and changing the behavioural patterns of individuals. To varying degrees, freedom of movement is restricted in most societies which experience daily violence. The threat of violence widens the gulf between rich and poor, with the rich using their wealth to build defences against perceived growing levels of anarchy. The culture of violence erodes respect for human rights. Militarization and brutalization destroys levels of tolerance and normative perceptions of human dignity, inviting increasingly widespread acts of rape, torture and other forms of repression. Political tolerance and democratic participation in the political process are circumscribed in areas where violence is the determining factor of societal or national development.
Thinking About A Control Regime for Light Weapons
There are two very clear ways of approaching the question of stemming the proliferation of light weapons and small arms. The first of these involves policy directives, aimed at establishing legislation which would stop or deter the supply of weapons; tackling the means of the weapons circulation problem. The second approach focuses upon the causes of weapons proliferation and consequently the demand side of the light weapons equation; what Chris Smith refers to as thinking about “big” solutions and the interlocking aspects of security (78). Both approaches demand political will at the highest level for there to be any effective change.
There are a number of inherent problems which a light weapons control regime would have to overcome. In this context, control mechanisms used to address the proliferation of strategic weapons are not particularly helpful as a blueprint. Light weapons do not possess some of the constraining qualities of major weapons systems. In many cases strategic arms control rests on governmental consensus such as the SALT agreements and the UN Arms Register.
Moreover, systems can be controlled by denying states from acquiring select technologies or keeping a leash on spare parts supply (parts which have a limited life span, decided by the supplier). Considering that in many cases light weapons transfers are not part of official government policy and the life-span of most weapons is not dependent on renewable spare parts, these constraints are not applicable.
As a result new thinking is warranted at a “conceptual level which reaches beyond traditional arms control paradigms” (79). Buy-back schemes and amnesties may be one policy in this direction. In October 1993 consultants for the World Bank issued a study of seven such schemes which had been carried out in Angola, Chad, Mozambique, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua and Panama (80).
The report’s principle suggestions proposed that prices offered for guns (and bullets) should be just above the black market rate, that the buy-back scheme should be well publicised and a complete amnesty should exist for those who returned their weapons. The experience of such schemes demonstrates the extent to which they can only be successful within the context of a broader settlement.
If people feel insecure they will either hold on to weapons or use the money to buy new and better weapons. A comprehensive settlement which includes rehabilitation programmes is necessary, if ex-fighters are not to return to force of arms.
Another possibility is to exploit the only aspect of light weapons which does not have an indefinite lifespan – ammunition. The continued effectiveness of light weapons is dependent on a plentiful supply of ammunition, particularly those which are characterised by rapid rates of fire. Many countries produce ammunition under licence and many of the same countries are major economic aid recipients.
This invites the issue of aid conditionality and the use of aid as a leaver to restrain laissez-faire approaches to ammunition exports (81). Indeed such a policy could extend to the import of light weapons themselves. The most effective aspect of such a policy would be in stemming the tide of official north-south weapons transfers, although the overall effect may prove to be limited. If a demand exists there will be enough conduits in the transient free flowing market, particularly within the covert one, to satisfy universal needs. To what extent can any gun-control regime be effective unless the political will exists to enforce it? And to what extent can governments, which lack the institutional capacity to promote national cohesion, be expected to enforce any such regime? In this context so much more information is required concerning the trends in supply and demand and the conduits through which light weapons and small arms are transferred. This endeavour will have to be a pre-requisite to any effective control regime (82).
This brings the discussion to the “big” solutions. The evidence presented in this paper suggests that light weapons proliferation accelerates prevailing disintegrative trends, such as the societal consequences of political under-development, weak governance, religious, ethnic and racial tensions, social fissures, criminal violence and civil conflict. In general terms, it is evident that degrees of national stability, the strength of democratic institutions and levels of human development are key factors in determining levels of societal violence and trends in the demand in weaponry.
These considerations beg for a policy which addresses the root causes of the conflicts in which the proliferation of light weapons is a determining feature of national life.
Consequently the “big” solutions require the major powers to look at the international system in a way which departs from traditional concepts of foreign policy and national interest. This is based on the premise that globalization has made the facets of human security a truly collective concern. As the 1994 UNDP report indicates, the effects which derive from a crisis of sovereignty and under-development in one part of the world has an impact beyond the immediate point of crisis. As a result, one of the main issues is eliciting sufficient political will, to address these structural problems.
A test of whether the world wishes to embark upon this path will come when the international community reviews the Inhumane Weapons Convention (Properly known as the 1980 Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or Have Indiscriminate Effects) in 1995. This convention which places restrictions on landmines is viewed by many non-governmental organisations and advocacy groups as being flawed and is not sufficient to ensure civilians protection from landmine contamination. When the Review Conference takes place there will be pressure from humanitarian groups to ban the production and transfer of landmine devices, while the military and commercial interests will claim that they are a legitimate form of self-defence. Considering that they have been described as the “greatest violators of international law”, the only control regime which could satisfy both legal and humanitarian norms, would be the unconditional withdrawalof landmines from the theatre of conflict. The more immediate problem concerns the misery which the existing land mine problem causes.
The only answer to this is extensive mine clearance operations, which will require a long-term financial commitment from the international community. The United Nations have highlighted the size of this task. The Organisation estimates that the average cost for removing a single landmine, including all support and logistics costs, is between $300 and $1,000.83 (This is compared to the $3 which it would cost to procure a single anti-personnel mine such as the Chinese Type-72A) (84).
However it is not as though the money for mine clearance does not exist. Rae McGrath, Director of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) in Cumbria, England, stresses the need for sustainable low cost technology, and the establishment of an indigenous mine clearance capability. This would deal with the problem of uncleared mines at a local level, and enable the rehabilitation of local economies. However, it is an approach, which, if to be globally comprehensive, has to be backed by the international community. Certainly the re-direction of monies, for example, presently allocated to continuing research and development projects in landmine technology (which amounts to millions of dollars each year), would not only signal the international community’s commitment to the problem of uncleared landmines, but would also have a more beneficial long-term impact on the economic welfare of communities in the post-conflict stage (85). It is a question of augmenting and making more efficient present mine clearance techniques, rather than spending millions of dollars on trying to develop new high-tech methods, which swallow up funds, and which often develop un-suitable or only partially effective solutions (86).
Ultimately, the “big” solutions are concerned with addressing the factors which cause a crisis of sovereignty in the international system. Increasingly, this has meant developing strategies which will prevent the conflicts in which light weapons proliferation becomes endemic, and consequently, deter the corrosive societal effects which are associated with their use. In these terms the world community must engage to make preventive diplomacy (87) and preventive development (88) twin agents in a holistic approach to establishing a more stable international environment. Although a discussion of this strategy is beyond the confines of this paper, it is clear that the major actors in the international community have a duty, borne of a humanitarian obligation and ultimately, an awareness of their own self-interest, to putting such a strategy in place.
This article was first published by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development as Discussion Paper DP59 (March 1995).Christopher Louise is a researcher at International Alert. International Alert may be contacted via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Discussion with Siemon Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
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11. For a full discussion of human security refer to “New Dimensions of Human Security”, Human Development Report 1994, United Nations Development Programme (Oxford University Press, New York 1994) pp.22-46
12. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Thirty Years of Research for Social Development, UNRISD, 1993, London, P.34
13. Ibid, P.34
14. Ibid, p.35
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17.Discussion with Dr Chris Smith on 21 July 1994.
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39. Smith, C. The Diffusion of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Pakistan and Northern India, Centre for Defence Studies, (Brassey’s, London, 1993),
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49. Karp, A. “Arming Ethnic Conflict”, Arms Control Today, 1993, p.9
50. Smith, op.cit., 1993, P.31
51. Garcia, op.cit., p.20
52. Ibid, p.20
53. Weiner, T. “Head of CIA Calls Gangsters a Major Global Problem”, International Herald Tribune, 21 April, 1994
54. De Roux, F.J. “The Impact of Drug Trafficking on Colombian Culture” in The Culture of Violence, (United Nations University, Tokyo, forthcoming).
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59. Human Rights Watch (Africa), Genocide in Rwanda April-May 1994, Vol 6(4), pp.2-3
60. Amnesty International “A Call for Human Rights Action on Rwanda [And Burundi]“, United Nations Commission on Human Rights – Special Session, 23 May 1994 (Oral Statement). Amnesty International estimates that up to 500,000 had been killed by 13 June 1994.
61. Ibid, p.6
62. Smith, op.cit., 1993, p.34
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64. Garcia, op.cit., p.13
65. Smith, op.cit., 1993, p.51
66. An editorial comment made on the basis of an article entitled “The Deepest Wounds of War”, OXFAM News, Winter 1993 by Christopher Sarah
67. Roger Newton, OXFAM’s Regional Manger in Cambodia, speaking in OXFAM News, Winter 1993.
68. Paul Sherlok, an engineer with OXFAM in Uganda, speaking in OXFAM News, Winter 1993
69. Beach, op.cit., P.10
70. McGrath, R. Landmines: Legacy of Conflict (Oxfam Publication) 1994
71. Block, R. & Doyle, L. “UN aid goes to landmine makers”, The Independent, 6 June 1994
72. Beach, Op.cit, P.10
74. Landmines: A Deadly Legacy, The Arms Project of Human Rights Watch & Physicians for Human Rights (Human Rights Watch, New York) 1993, p.126
75. Ibid. p.129
76. US Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Problem with Uncleared landmines, (US Department of State, Washington, 1993)
77. For further details on the societal affects of landmines read Williams, J. Socio-economic Consequences of the Widespread Use of Landmines, (Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation Washington D.C, 1994)
78. Smith, op.cit., 1994, p.281
79. Ibid, p.280
80. The World Bank Discussion Paper, Africa Regional Series: Demobilization and Reintegration of Military Personnel in Africa, The Evidence from Seven Case Studies, October 1993
81. Discussion with Dr Chris Smith, 21 July 1994
83. Landmines: A Deadly Legacy, The Arms Project of Human Rights Watch & Physicians for Human Rights (Human Rights Watch, New York, 1993), p.251
84. Klare, op.cit., June 13, 1994, p.16
85. Discussion with Rae McGrath, 16 August 1994.
86. An example of this unsustainable and unsuitable research into landmine clearance has been represented by recent European initiatives to develop methods of destroying landmine devices by the use of microwave technology (For details see John Carvel’s article, “Microwaves could end the blight over landmines”, The Guardian,London, March 9 1994)
87. Boutros-Ghali, B. An Agenda for Peace, (United Nations, New York, 1992)
88. Speech given by Mahbub Ul Haq, Special Adviser to the Administrator, United Nations Development Programme to development NGOs at the Foreign Press Association, London, 26 May 1994.