New regulations must mean an absolute ban on arms exports to dictatorships

At the same time as the new regulations on arms exports have been delayed for several years, Sweden increased its exports of munitions by 45 percent in 2016. Swedish arms exports are not compatible with a feminist foreign policy and a majority of parliamentary parties say they want to stop arms exports to dictatorships. Now it's time to move on from words to action, writes Gabriella Irsten, International Women's Association for Peace and Freedom (IKFF).

A few weeks ago, the Swedish Inspectorate for Strategic Products (ISP), the authority responsible for licensing and export issues for munitions, reported that Swedish arms exports increased by 45 percent in 2016. The largest export was Jas Gripen to Brazil, to a value of 2,8, SEK XNUMX billion - a deal characterized by bribery allegations where Saab may also be prosecuted as a result of the ongoing investigation. Sweden thus continues to be one of the world's largest arms exporters per capita.

Sales of weapons to non-democracies also continue, such as to Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Sweden has, among other things, sold the radar system Globaleye to the United Arab Emirates, which participates in the Saudi-led coalition that has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has also bought the Swedish radar system.

Contributes to violations of women's rights

Sustainable peace is not built by military means. A constant supply of weapons incites violence and legitimizes states such as Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses, not least women's. When countries prioritize investing their resources in military means, it also means that they prioritize investment in development and social rights.

Our colleagues in conflict areas testify to how the proliferation of weapons contributes to violations of women's political and social rights and makes societies unstable and more vulnerable to armed violence and conflict. For example, women's freedom of movement is restricted when the proliferation of weapons increases in a society, which impairs their opportunities for economic support and participation in democratic processes.

Arms exports create goal conflicts

When Stefan Löfven took office as Prime Minister, he declared that he was leading a feminist government. The responsibility for feminist policy is thus the responsibility of the entire government, not just the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and also includes Minister of Justice Morgan Johansson, who is responsible for arms exports. But at the same time as work is underway to develop a new regulatory framework that will clarify the conditions for arms exports to non-democracies, Swedish ministers made state visits to both Saudi Arabia and the Philippines in 2016, with representatives from the arms industry participating.

"All policy areas must contribute to a sustainable and fair world," said Foreign Minister Margot Wallström when the foreign policy declaration was presented almost a month ago. Sweden's arms exports are actively counteracting this goal. The feminist foreign policy action plan also emphasizes the link between the spread of weapons and gender-based violence, but does not mention how Swedish exports relate to this. The analysis of the goal conflicts between Swedish armaments exports, feminist foreign policy and Sweden as a leading player in the implementation of Agenda 2030 thus shines with its absence.

"The new regulations must change practice"

In 2015, the Armaments Export Inquiry (Kex) presented its proposal for a new regulatory framework for arms exports. The proposal met with great criticism because the democracy criterion remained unclearly formulated and would not entail an absolute ban on arms exports to dictatorships.

The new regulations must change practice. Because despite the fact that human rights are already a "central condition", loopholes have led to Sweden exporting weapons and other munitions to countries where human rights are systematically violated.

A majority of the parties in the Riksdag; The Social Democrats, the Green Party, the Left Party, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats; has said for several years that they want to stop arms exports to dictatorships. But six years after the work of reviewing the regulations started, we are still waiting. We have now been informed that the government's bill will come in the spring. Whether the proposal will contain a clearer democracy criterion is still uncertain. It is therefore crucial that all parties that have already taken a stand, and thus made promises to their voters, now live up to these. Together, they can ensure that the new legislation puts a complete stop to arms exports to dictatorships and other states that seriously violate human rights - not only on paper, but also in practice.

Gabriella Irsten

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

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