Gap between ambition and budget for sustainable peace

During the autumn, the government presented a strategy for sustainable peace, which emphasizes that the uncontrolled proliferation of small and light weapons is a threat to global security and an obstacle to sustainable development. The ambition to invest in reducing the spread of these weapons in development cooperation is very positive and must now be clearly reflected in the budget, states Karin Olofsson and Maria Andersson Willner from the Parliamentary Forum for Light Weapons issues.

Small, cheap, easy to handle and easy to access. Weapons with devastating consequences for people and societies around the world. 875 million small and light weapons is in circulation in the world today. Of these, 75 percent are in the hands of civilians. Small and light weapons are the weapon category that kills the most people around the world - roughly 24 hours, 586 human lives per day. These weapons have rightly been called today's weapons of mass destruction.

Parliamentary Forum is a unique international organization that brings together parliamentarians across party lines from 80 countries. Our goal is to prevent and reduce armed violence for increased human security and sustainable, peaceful development. After 15 years of work, we can state that the uncontrolled spread of small and light weapons, despite existing knowledge and a general recognition as a major obstacle to development, is still an under-prioritized area worldwide.

Peaceful societies and freedom from violence are both goals and means for sustainable development. No lasting progress can be made in a context of violence and uncontrolled proliferation. Sweden has a clear political focus on conflict prevention, peace and security. Important work is carried out within the framework of the UN Security Council, in aid and political dialogue as well as diplomacy.

We can state that globally there is a gap between political ambitions and budget allocation for peace and security efforts - in general, and in particular in the work against the uncontrolled proliferation of small and light weapons. Here, Sweden has great opportunities to show the way and through clear political visions reduce that gap.

Sustainable peace is a special priority in the Government's development assistance budget for 2018. At the same time, the special strategy for the area is planned to comprise only SEK 135 million. If we look more closely at the targeted financial support for the reduction and prevention of the proliferation of small and light weapons within the strategy, it is also disproportionately low. According to Sida's compilation of aid to combat illegal trade in small and light weapons, it amounted to SEK 17 million in 2016. In relation to the dimension of the problem, this must be reviewed.

Our conclusion is that there is a great need for the government to continue its commitment to sustainable peace. Clear political signals should also be given to make the development problem of uncontrolled arms proliferation more visible in Swedish development assistance strategies, especially the geographical ones.

Small and light weapons must be given priority in conflict prevention

Objective 16 of Agenda 2030 emphasizes the importance of reducing illegal flows of weapons in order to achieve sustainable development. It is a unique recognition of the connection between arms flows, peacebuilding and sustainable development. Small and light weapons are not a root cause of conflict per se, but a conflict-driving factor that greatly increases instability and violence, which is also established in a investigation report by the UN Secretary-General.

Preventive work against armed violence is not just an investment in human security and sustainable development. It is also about cost efficiency. As humanitarian organizations and aid organizations have testified, the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons makes daily access to conflict and disaster areas more difficult to deliver aid to vulnerable people. Working to reduce the spread of weapons is thus a way of ensuring that aid arrives.

Clear connection with women's safety

Women, peace and security is a profile issue for Sweden. We know that boys and men are the perpetrators of armed violence to the greatest extent and make up the majority of the victims. But gun violence - and threats of gun violence - also have serious consequences for women. One recent study from Oxfam focusing on the human cost of the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Africa, notes that 100 million uncontrolled weapons are flowing in the region. The same study shows that 45 percent of African girls and women have experienced gender-based violence. The widespread proliferation of small and light weapons is leading to increased vulnerability for women. To work for gun control is thus to work for women's safety.

Sweden, with a feminist foreign policy, can be a leader in this work. We welcome the government action plan for feminist foreign policy highlights the link between the uncontrolled proliferation of small and light weapons in relation to women's security.

The uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons today constitutes the greatest single threat to peace and development globally, in terms of the number of people affected. To combat the threat, both political will and actual conditions are needed in the form of budget allocation. With unique credibility in diplomacy and aid, Sweden has excellent opportunities to take the lead in the global fight against armed violence.

Maria Andersson Willner (S)
Karin Olofsson

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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