Small and light weapons kill 1368 people every day. It is high time to highlight the importance of weapons in fueling conflict and violence. And it is time to strengthen the preventive work against armed violence in development cooperation, write Karin Olofsson and Christer Winbäck from the Parliamentary Forum for small and light weapons issues.
57 human lives per hour. 1368 human lives per day. Small and light weapons have - rightly - been called today's real weapons of mass destruction as this category of weapons causes the most casualties. Every year, half a million people lose their lives as a result of armed violence.
Armed violence is an obstacle to development and to human security. This experience drives us in the Parliamentary Forum, which is a unique international organization that brings together parliamentarians across party borders from about 90 countries. Our common goal is to prevent and reduce armed violence, specifically violence caused by small and light weapons.
High economic and social costs
Armed violence affects both countries in conflict and countries in peace. The consequences of armed violence are particularly felt by people in developing countries. In addition to human suffering, the economic and social costs are extensive. In Guatemala, the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, has shown that the cost of armed violence in some years has amounted to just over 7 percent of gross domestic product. The organization Oxfam has highlighted that armed violence costs Africa about 18 billion dollars a year.
The OECD has shown that developing countries spend 10 to 15 percent of their gross domestic product on law enforcement, compared to 5 percent for more developed countries. These "lost" resources could have been used by countries to increase access to, for example, education or health.
Leads to sexual violence
Boys and men are the ones who use armed violence to the greatest extent. They also make up the largest proportion of victims of death and injury. Girls and women are vulnerable - weapons are used in the home to threaten or commit violence in close relationships. Weapons are used when girls, women, boys and men are subjected to sexual violence in conflicts. Or to quote the International Women's Union for Peace & Freedom President from DR Congo: “A man with a machete can rape a woman. Two men, one of whom has a firearm, can rape an entire village. "
Causes of conflict and violence can be economic and social inequality or lack of livelihoods. The UN Secretary-General stated earlier this year in the Security Council that the widespread proliferation of small arms and light weapons is a basic precondition for - and "multiplies" - conflict and violence.
Prevents aid from reaching
The uncontrolled use of illegal weapons is helping to force people to flee their homes. Weapons in circulation contribute to great insecurity and reduce trust in society. As humanitarian organizations and aid organizations have testified, it makes daily access to conflict and disaster areas more difficult to provide support and deliver aid to vulnerable people. Preventive work against armed violence is thus not just a matter of human security. It's about cost efficiency. To be able to assure ourselves that development assistance reaches and achieves sustainable results.
The organization Small Arms Survey estimates that today there are approximately 875 million small and light weapons around the world. 75 percent of the weapons are in the hands of civilians. Small arms are not only a challenge in conflict and post-conflict countries, but also in organized crime and terrorism. The presence of small and light weapons has been a common thread in recent terrorist attacks. We have been able to follow this closely through the news reporting from the terrible attack in Paris recently. Small and light weapons are cheap, easily accessible, easy to use and have a long life. All in all, it makes them - scary enough - very effective and popular weapons.
Golden opportunity to work with long-term peacebuilding
Despite challenges, there is now a clear political momentum to take conflict prevention work seriously. The new global sustainable development goal, number 16, on peaceful and inclusive societies contains an intermediate goal of sharply reducing the flows of illegal weapons by 2030. The Swedish government has high ambitions for conflict-sensitive and conflict prevention assistance. Since December 24, 2014, there is the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which sets up rules for international trade in weapons and ammunition. The Global Development Policy, PGU, has been dusted off with a fresh start that will increase coherence between different policy areas. All in all, it provides a golden opportunity to combine conflict prevention with long-term peacebuilding.
At the Association for Development Issues seminar in October presented Minister for Development Aid Lövin's 2016 budget. One of the news that was raised was precisely development goal number 16, where the minister stated that "it is mainly about political focus" and that "it does not have to cost that much". We agree with the Minister that political will is important. But that is not enough to make the vision of conflict prevention assistance a reality. It is not enough to make the workshop of the ambition of a feminist foreign policy, with a fresh action plan that highlights weapons and gender-based violence.
We mean we can not afford to not invest in preventive work against armed violence as an integral part of development assistance. An indicator of political will is the allocation of resources. Resources provide an opportunity for a diversity of actors to act together to achieve the new sustainable development goals.
Long-term and powerful assistance is needed to build peace and prevent future refugee flows. Assistance that clearly prioritises resources for conflict prevention work against armed violence. It is about enabling other aid to arrive. And last but not least, it's about human security. For the woman in Congo, the man in Ukraine, the girl in Afghanistan and the boy in Guatemala. For you - and for me.
Karin Olofsson and Christer Winbäck