UN Under-Secretary Worried About Arms Industry

With defense company mergers and international arms production cooperation on the rise, UN Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala questioned on July 8 the impact that the "globalization of the arms industry" would have on arms control. Dhanapala spoke amid growing U.S. calls for its NATO allies to upgrade their militaries to counter what Washington fears is an expanding gap between U.S. and European military capabilities as revealed during the alliance's 11-week air war against Yugoslavia.

Dhanapala pointed to stagnating and declining defense budgets and the increasing cost of producing advanced weapons as "powerful incentives" for cross-border cooperation among arms manufacturers. As cooperation grows, he noted, it will be harder to define what an export is and to develop trade controls. Moreover, he questioned whether government or industry would define defense needs as companies become increasingly global.

Dhanapala challenged arms manufacturers to join the UN in "promoting greater transparency and in curbing wrongful uses of weapons" while also volunteering that the UN could serve as a "robust databank" on arms production and trade.

The UN currently maintains a voluntary Register of Conventional Arms, which was established in 1992 and calls on countries to annually report their exports and imports of tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and missiles and missile systems. On average, some 90 countries participate each year.