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A 'New' Approach to the Small Arms Trade
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Lora Lumpe

The UN General Assembly voted in 1999 to hold a global conference—its first ever—on the "illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects." As a result, world governments will gather in New York in July 2001 for what might be to armed violence what Beijing was to women's rights or what Rio was to the environment. This conference will place a spotlight on the gunrunning that sustains bloody conflict around the world, and it will provide an important platform for civil society—including humanitarian relief workers, organizations trying to aid sustainable development, business people, and ordinary civilians whose lives are impacted daily by armed violence—to press governments for serious action.

Serious action, however, is not likely at this venue. While governments have moved frenetically on this issue in the past five years—relative to its complete absence from the international agenda before that time—the likely result of this meeting, as with most small-arms control initiatives, will be a non-binding political declaration with no enforcement mechanism. That said, the question remains as to whether this conference is solely a governmental exercise in public relations, or whether it will help build consensus among governments and lead to further-reaching steps in the near term.

One approach that might help activist states and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) achieve more tightly binding measures would be to link the illicit arms trade agenda to that of UN arms embargo enforcement.


An Issue Is Born

Several trends gave prominence to the issue of gunrunning in the past decade. Newly opened borders, massive post-Cold War arms surpluses, and the rapid expansion of free trade contributed to the over-availability of arms and the ease of smuggling. And increased governmental and media attention to phenomena such as drug trafficking, international crime, and bloody civil wars raging around the globe caused governments and non-governmental activists to focus more on the tools of violence and on the markets that supply them.

Small arms individually are not massively deadly, as are nuclear or other "special" weapons. However, the sheer bulk of guns, grenade launchers, mortars, and other infantry-style weapons in circulation outside lawful state control—and their constant misuse—truly renders this category of arms "weapons of mass destruction." No one knows with any precision how many of these weapons are out there, but a credible estimate of 500 million has been put forward by private researchers and reiterated by UN officials.1 The International Committee of the Red Cross, meanwhile, reported in 1999 that the increased availability of small arms and light weapons had contributed to an alarming rise in civilian casualties during the 1990s, with an estimated one out of every two people killed in war in that decade being a civilian.2

The humanitarian impact of this broader category of weaponry greatly exceeds that of anti-personnel landmines. And the success of the international NGO-government campaign to ban mines encouraged some states to take on this more complex issue. At the same time, that successful campaign spooked others. Whether seeking to be part of "the next big thing" in international affairs, or hoping to co-opt the process and stave it off, governments in recent years have focused unprecedented levels of attention on the proliferation of light weapons—in relation to both crime (principally drug trafficking) and humanitarian concerns.

As one of the earliest actions, in December 1995 the UN General Assembly instructed the secretary-general to prepare a report on small arms, with the assistance of a panel of governmental experts. This effort was motivated by concerns about the efficacy of UN peacekeeping operations in areas flooded with guns.3 Reporting back in August 1997, the panel made 24 specific proposals, some reduction measures and others prevention measures. Among the latter, the panel recommended that the United Nations convene the conference on the illicit arms trade that will take place in July.

In preparation for this summer's conference, states will meet in mid-January 2001 and again in March to hash out procedure for and deliberate goals of the meeting. The first preparatory committee meeting, in February 2000, was not auspicious. Reflecting variance within the international community, the assembled representatives could not even agree on the date or venue for the conference (these were just set in a UN vote this past autumn), let alone the scope and goals of the meeting.

States have widely ranging interests in and definitions of the "illicit trade," and many—including China, Russia, Egypt, and the United States—remain opposed to the inclusion in this conference of topics relating to what they consider to be legitimate arms sales practices. Others are opposed to financially costly measures that would be required to actually diminish this trade. And several are pressing for a "go-slow" approach on the grounds that this small arms agenda is new. As a result, many of the most important aspects of gunrunning are not currently on the negotiating table. And given that this is a global conference, operating on a consensus basis, a lowest common denominator outcome is assured.

The Mexican government opened a second diplomatic track in November 1996 within the Rio Group of Latin American nations. This effort culminated one year later in the signing by nearly all Western Hemisphere governments of a convention negotiated through the Organization of American States (OAS) against the illicit manufacture and trafficking of firearms, ammunition, and related materials. Among other things, the treaty requires states to develop and implement laws and regulations setting out procedures for the legal manufacture, importation, and exportation of firearms and components. As of July 2000, 10 states had ratified the convention, which entered into force in 1998. Several Latin American states are currently in the process of revising their national legislation as a result of this legally binding convention.

This regional treaty became a model, as several governments—including the United States and Canada—pressed for the rapid negotiation by the end of 2000 of a global treaty on illicit firearms trafficking. The Group of Eight leading economic powers, which importantly includes Russia, endorsed this goal in 1998, and negotiation of this agreement was well underway as a protocol to a larger Transnational Crime Convention negotiated by the United Nations in Vienna. However, a supposedly final negotiating session in October 2000 failed to yield consensus, and the negotiation mandate ran out. A main unresolved area involved the rules required of states concerning marking firearms at the time of manufacture and importation to promote traceability.

The transnational crime treaty was opened for signature in December 2000, along with its other three protocols. It is unclear what will become of the orphaned firearms trafficking protocol, but there is some chance that the July UN conference—which has been perceived more as a disarmament measure than a crime-control measure—could incorporate elements of it. This outcome might prove less than desirable, however, if the legally binding nature of the draft firearms protocol were watered down into a non-binding political text to accommodate the UN conference.

In addition to these two global processes, beginning in 1997 several other forums took up some aspect of small arms control. Among these were the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Economic Community of West African States, and the South African Development Community. Most recently, in November and December 2000, meetings of the OAU, OAS, and OSCE all adopted regional statements concerning small arms proliferation and the illicit traffic in these weapons. The OSCE statement is particularly comprehensive, but, again, none are legally binding.

Embargo Enforcement

Perhaps the most significant development in the realm of small arms control is that the UN Security Council has become increasingly engaged with the issue in recent years. It held ministerial meetings in 1998 and 1999 that focused specifically on gunrunning, particularly to and within Africa. In addition, the issue of enforcing arms embargoes gathered momentum within the Security Council in 2000.

Under the UN Charter, all states are legally obligated to enforce any arms embargo enacted by the Security Council. The council levied arms embargoes on 13 occasions during the 1990s; however, enforcement of these embargoes has been weak or non-existent, and violations have been rampant. With each subsequent arms embargo it has levied, though, the Security Council has used stronger and more precise language as to what states must do or refrain from doing, and the work of the various sanctions committees overseeing compliance has grown bolder. (See box below.)

Most notable in this regard is the report to the UN Security Council in March 2000 by a panel chaired by the Canadian ambassador, Robert Fowler. This report, on violations of sanctions against UNITA guerrillas in Angola, challenged the culture of impunity that has generally operated within the UN by naming specific governments and private individuals implicated in violating the UN embargo.4

Among its recommendations, the Fowler report suggested several mechanisms for enforcement of embargo obligations. First, it recommended that Security Council sanctions be applied against governments found to have deliberately broken the sanctions. The panel suggested a secondary embargo for three years on arms transfers to states identified as complicit in violating the primary embargo. Second, it suggested that compliance with UN sanctions regimes should be among the criteria considered by NATO and the European Union when evaluating new candidates for membership.

This controversial report received some support from Security Council members, although the recommendations for secondary sanctions were not embraced. The Security Council did, however, extend the mandate of the committee investigating breeches of the Angola sanctions.


Agenda for Action

Despite all of the meetings taking place in various forums, meaningful remedial actions have been in short supply. Thus far, in general, the wealthier states, most of which produce and export small arms, have been most willing to focus on aspects of illicit arms trafficking, such as helping states in the developing world devise national legislation or policies to manage stocks of weapons circulating outside of government control.

While such assistance is important, these same states have been less willing to reform their own national laws concerning regulation of offshore brokering of arms deals, banning arms transfers by governments to insurgents in other states, and improving regulation of state-authorized transfers—all of which would reduce further inflows of illegal arms to the developing world.

The growing focus on enforcement of arms embargoes—and embargoes on illicitly mined or harvested commodities used to purchase arms—gives new impetus to small-arms control efforts. By demonstrating the linkages between this "new" international security issue of small arms control and the "old" (UN Charter-era) issue of UN arms embargo enforcement, activist governments and NGOs might make the most headway in overcoming this lack of will. This linkage undermines the go-slow approach some states are advocating at the UN conference and places the issue of illicit arms trafficking in the context of an already longstanding legal obligation that states have been remiss in enacting.

Doing so might help raise the lowest common denominator outcome at this summer's UN conference and actually diminish this thriving and deadly trade. At the same time, activists should focus their longer-term efforts for small arms control on governments sitting on the UN Security Council.

The following are several priority recommendations that would advance work in both forums:


Regulate Brokers

First, in order to meet their UN Charter requirement to fully implement and enforce arms embargoes, states must enact national laws, regulations, and policies that will prevent weapons flowing from or through their territory to states under UN Security Council-mandated arms embargoes. As a first step, states need to enact national laws that make violations of arms embargoes a criminal offense. Only approximately a dozen states currently explicitly criminalize UN embargo-busting.

Key to this legislation is regulation by all states of people operating in their jurisdictions as arms brokers—private middlemen who buy up stocks of surplus arms and move them into conflict zones. Not all arms-deal brokering activity is illegal, but most transfers that violate UN arms embargoes are arranged by private brokers and shippers.

Currently, most states do not regulate brokering activities at all, and none cover the entire range of such activities. The United States has in place the most far-reaching law in this regard, which requires arms brokers to register and the State Department to license their individual transactions. To be most effective, such laws need to apply not only to persons or corporations domiciled in a given country, but also to that country's nationals abroad—as does the U.S. law.

Many states have expressed opposition to such extraterritorial application of national laws. And yet without it even the few national laws that do exist to regulate brokering are rendered ineffective by the easy movement of brokers to states that do not have or do not enforce relevant laws. Some states opposed in general to extraterritorial application of laws have nevertheless implemented such legislation with regard to child sex crimes, war crimes, torture, and the enforcement of UN arms embargoes. This precedent provides some cause for optimism that, given the humanitarian impact of gunrunning, anti-trafficking laws might be implemented equally aggressively.

There are several steps that the international conference and/or Security Council should take to promote legal reform in this area. For example, they could develop model national laws and regulations for use by states to control brokering activities, which might work to harmonize laws and standards in this area, thereby diminishing the need for extraterritorial application of such laws. At the same time, they could develop model Security Council language that makes explicit reference to brokers in resolutions mandating arms embargoes or other military sanctions. Doing so might help some states find the political will to extend a long arm in policing their nationals' activities in violation of such embargoes.

In addition, states should agree to undertake several practical measures to promote cooperation in combating illegal brokering activity:


  • Development of an international "watch list" of brokers who have been prosecuted (either in person or in absentia) in any country for violations of arms export and/or arms brokering laws and perhaps other closely related laws.
  • Development of an international register of authorized brokers. Public access to this information by investigators and journalists would facilitate the ability of governments to identify problem brokers.
  • Development of pro-active cooperation and information-sharing modalities among export control and police/investigative authorities. This proposal might include the establishment of a national point of contact within each state to be used when officials from other states are seeking to check more aggressively the bona fides of a broker involved in a particular deal. Alternatively, it might involve the establishment of a clearinghouse, perhaps at Interpol.

Curb State-Sanctioned Gunrunning

Another important area that states should be forced to confront with regard to their legal obligation vis-à-vis UN embargo enforcement is the implication of supplying arms—usually through covert operations—to guerrilla groups via armed destabilization campaigns.

A major source of illicitly trafficked arms today is the large stocks of light weapons that the United States and Soviet Union supplied to Cold War proxy forces in the 1980s. Millions of guns and grenades vanished into zones of conflict in the Andes, Central America, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Levant, and the Persian Gulf. These guns have long lives. And in perhaps the most striking change in the structure and operation of the arms black market, places in which pitched conflicts were raging—such as Cambodia, Lebanon, the Horn of Africa, and the Afghan-Pakistan border region—have actually become exporters of weapons.

While these parties were not under UN arms embargoes at the time, several are now—most prominently Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Equally, if not more, destabilizing than the weapons that were trafficked, these supply operations relied on—and therefore sustained—networks of smugglers and middlemen. The clandestine arms dealers used by United Sates and other countries' intelligence agencies during the Cold War continue to operate as free agents today, arming warlords such as Angola's Jonas Savimbi and Sierra Leone's Foday Sankoh—both under UN embargoes.

While the practice has apparently greatly diminished since the 1980s, governments continue covert gunrunning for political or economic reasons, and left unaddressed this practice will likely continue to be a major source of small/light arms proliferation.

Developing clear international law barring small arms supply (usually covert) to sub-state actors would be one of the most meaningful policies that concerned governments and non-governmental organizations could pursue to curb further dangerous small arms proliferation. The Canadian government floated such a proposal in 1998 for the creation of binding international law to bar states from providing arms to insurgents or other non-state actors without the permission of officials in the recipient state. The British, Norwegian, and German governments all expressed some degree of public support for the Canadian treaty proposal, but the idea was hobbled by the strong opposition of the U.S. government, which viewed it as "too inflexible."5

Past and continuing practitioners of covert arms supply (like the United States) cannot be expected to embrace the proposal immediately. But for the group of like-minded states and non-governmental organizations that came together first in support of the treaty banning landmines and then in support of the establishment of an International Criminal Court, this proposal would seem to be a most worthy effort to explore and further develop.

Moreover, states, such as the United States, which regulate "overt" brokers but sustain covert ones, must be challenged. When looked at in the context of the ability of states to enforce arms embargoes, these covert arms operations directly sustain illicit arms trafficking networks that are used to violate embargoes.


Limit Surplus Production

"Illegal" arms originate somewhere, and they usually start out being produced legally—that is, with the permission of some state authority. While the export of small arms and light weapons rarely, if ever, has become a central earner of foreign exchange or a significant generator of jobs for the major military powers, for particular arms-producing enterprises, foreign sales are usually essential to maintaining production runs, or indeed to provide an economic justification for their very existence. A glut of small arms productive capacity around the world heightens pressures by governments to approve export sales—including sales to dubious end users.

At the same time, many smaller countries have come to view investment in arms production as the best means available to them under today's trade and investment rules for industrial/technological development. (Military industry is largely exempt from anti-protectionist global trade policies.) Local small arms production has the added benefit of ensuring that states' national military goals will not be hampered by national, regional, or global (i.e., UN) arms embargoes. As a result, at least 385 companies in 64 countries were producing high quality guns and munitions in the 1990s.6

Among these are many developing countries that manufacture small arms under licence or with technology provided by industrialized countries. In the global buyers' market, industrialized countries have been all too willing to sell arms production know-how—often with even less regulation than they would sell guns—in order to make a deal. Small arms manufacturing companies established through such agreements frequently operate and export with even less oversight and restraint than do the companies in North America and Europe that issue the production licences.

Surplus production of assault rifles and other military small arms—exacerbated by the establishment of ever more new factories around the world through license arrangements—undermines international support for arms embargoes and other human rights and export controls. At a minimum, in order to protect against diversion of arms and undermining of their own national laws and policies, as well as the undermining of supranational arms embargoes, national governments should be pressed to discuss controls on the practice of licensed small arms manufacture, especially for the new generation of infantry weapons coming on line.

Arms corporations oppose any such restrictions, and so states have been unwilling to negotiate limits on the practice. However, several common sense rules would seem to serve the licensing corporations' interests, especially if they were more or less universally agreed upon.

All states should ensure that all licensed production agreements for small arms and light weapons manufacture, ammunition, and components are subject to authorization within national export control legislation. Authorization criteria should be at least as stringent as those for direct arms exports. And in all cases, licensed production agreements should not be permitted where the recipient state cannot demonstrate sufficient accountability in terms of end-use control; nor should they be permitted to states that have a record of violating UN and other international arms embargoes.



Although the level of diplomatic attention to international arms trafficking has increased dramatically in the past few years, little binding action has resulted—principally because many states, including even those that appear supportive, remain indifferent to or fundamentally ambivalent about this agenda, in particular when it comes to taking the difficult remedial steps required.

Affected civil society is going to have to organize and work to force governments to take more responsibility for and more action against the global small arms trade. Progress in the above areas—controlling arms brokering, barring covert arms supply operations, and limiting production surpluses—as well as in others, will require a substantial push from the many organized and powerful constituencies that suffer the daily consequences of gunrunning.

This summer's big UN conference on the issue, and the lead up to it, provide an important opportunity for those groups to express their anger, frustration, and expectations. While it remains unlikely that the UN conference will result in binding treaty language, making the connection between the above remedial actions and the longstanding obligation of states to be able to enforce UN-mandated arms embargoes might prove politically helpful in terms of getting states to take their responsibilities more seriously. This in turn might result in a better-than-expected outcome.

In the longer term, however, the locus of action for small arms control is likely to be in the Security Council, where states have recently begun to take more seriously their longstanding legal obligation to enforce these embargoes. Activist governments and non-government groups should push and support these efforts in order to promote overall reforms that will curb gunrunning and diminish the flow of arms that sustain violent conflict and crime around the world.


What Is an 'Illicit' Arm?

Small arms are circulated through legal, gray, and/or black markets.

There is no comprehensive and universally accepted agreement on what is "licit" and what is "illicit" regarding arms transfers because governments interpret aspects of international law differently, but many consider legal sales to be those that are authorized by national government authorities. A better definition would limit legal transfers to those that fully observe the national laws of the arms exporting, transit, and importing countries, as well as all applicable international laws.

By contrast, in the black market, private dealers knowingly violate the arms sales laws or policies of source, transit, and/or recipient states for commercial gain. Also clearly within the black market are arms sales to governments or guerrillas that have been placed under UN or other legally binding arms embargoes.

Gray-market sales are more difficult to classify. They include legally questionable transfers, such as arms supplies authorized covertly by an exporting government against the wishes of the importing government.

Further complicating the matter, many states have either non-existent or very weak national laws and regulations in place to govern arms production and trade, rendering distinctions about what is legal and illegal largely moot. Moreover, the interactions between legal and illegal markets are manifold. Arms that are originally exported legally but that are not properly tracked or secured often fall into illegal circulation—diversion, theft, and capture of state security forces' arms are a major source of black-market supply around the world.

Arms Embargoes In Force

Article 41 of the UN Charter gives the Security Council the right to call upon member states to apply measures short of the use of armed force to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such measures are commonly referred to as sanctions, and they include first and foremost an embargo on arms shipments.

The Security Council has imposed sanctions 15 times in the past 35 years (first in 1965 against Rhodesia), levying 13 embargoes in the 1990s alone. Of the parties that were sanctioned, Haiti, South Africa, and Southern Rhodesia have had their sanctions lifted, and Libya has had its sanctions suspended. The following is a profile of arms embargoes that remain in force.


Afghanistan—The Taliban

In October 1999, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1267, which demanded that the de facto Taliban government "cease the provision of sanctuary and training for international terrorists" and turn over Osama bin Laden to authorities in a country where he has been indicted for terrorism.

This demand was not met, resulting in a November 1999 ban on flights owned, leased, or operated by or on behalf of the Taliban and a freeze on funds the Taliban directly or indirectly owned or controlled.

In December 2000, the Security Council passed Resolution 1333, demanding that the Taliban comply with the 1999 resolution. Resolution 1333 also imposed an embargo on the "direct or indirect supply, sale and transfer to the territory of Afghanistan under Taliban control of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare parts." The Security Council also directed states to prevent the "direct or indirect sale, supply and transfer to Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan of technical advice, assistance or training related to military activities." This comprehensive arms embargo will come into force on January 19, 2001, unless the Taliban complies with the Security Council's demands.



The Security Council passed Resolution 864 in September 1993, imposing an oil and arms embargo on the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) for its refusal to lay down arms and accept election results that favored its long-time foe. This resolution also established a Security Council sanctions committee, chaired by the Canadian ambassador, to oversee its implementation. A subsequent resolution in 1997 imposed additional measures against UNITA, such as restrictions on senior UNITA officials' travel, closure of all UNITA offices, the prohibition of flights by or for UNITA, and a ban on servicing UNITA aircraft.

Resolution 1237, passed in May 1999, endorsed visits by the sanctions committee chairman to Angola and other relevant countries to discuss ways to improve sanctions implementation. It also established expert panels to trace embargo violations related to arms trafficking, oil supplies, and the diamond trade, as well as the movement of UNITA funds.

In March 2000, the Security Council considered in an open briefing the report of an expert panel established pursuant to Resolution 1237 on the situation in Angola, which included recommendations for sanctions against states found violating the UNITA sanctions. One month later, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1295, which established a monitoring mechanism for six months, allowing five experts to investigate and collect further relevant information concerning violations of previous sanctions resolutions against UNITA.


Ethiopia and Eritrea

In May 2000, the Security Council passed Resolution 1298, imposing an arms embargo against Eritrea and Ethiopia in response to the countries' bloody war. The resolution banned the provision of "technical assistance or training related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use" of arms and related materiel of all types. The council also established a sanctions committee consisting of all council members to review implementation.


Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Responding to the "excessive use of force" by Serbian police against civilians and peaceful demonstrators in Kosovo, the Security Council passed Resolution 1160 in March 1998, levying an arms embargo against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). The embargo calls on all states to "prevent the sale or supply to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo" of "arms and related materiel of all types, such as weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment and spare parts." States cannot honor arms deals concluded prior to the embargo. The resolution also ordered states to "prevent arming and training for terrorist activities" in the FRY.

The resolution established a committee to monitor the embargo's implementation and also requested that the UN secretary-general make recommendations on establishing a "comprehensive regime" to oversee its enforcement. However, the secretary-general later concluded that the United Nations lacked the funding to establish such a regime and that the resources offered by regional organizations, such as NATO and the European Union, were insufficient to complete the task. The arms embargo was not strictly adhered to, and the sanctions committee issued a statement in November 1998 expressing its "concern at the continued serious violations."

Following the toppling of the Yugoslav government headed by President Slobodan Milosevic, Russia proposed at the end of November 2000 lifting the embargo against Yugoslavia, including Kosovo. However, the sanctions remain in force, as the United States and some European countries have not embraced the proposal.



The Security Council passed Resolution 661 in August 1990, imposing economic sanctions on Iraq in response to its invasion of Kuwait. The resolution included a full trade embargo, barring all imports from and exports to Iraq, excepting only medical supplies, foodstuffs, and other items the Security Council sanctions committee determined were of humanitarian need. All 15 Security Council members sit on the sanctions committee to review the sanctions' implementation.



In November 1992, the Security Council passed Resolution 788, imposing a "general and complete embargo on all deliveries of weapons and military equipment to Liberia until the Security Council decides otherwise." This embargo did not pertain to West African peacekeeping forces deployed to Liberia. Resolution 985 in 1995 established a Security Council sanctions committee to review implementation and adherence.



In an effort to address an ongoing genocide campaign by the Armed Forces of Rwanda (FAR), in May 1994 the Security Council passed Resolution 918, imposing an arms embargo on Rwanda and establishing a sanctions committee chaired by the Malaysian ambassador.

A resolution passed the following year affirmed that the restrictions imposed under Resolution 918 applied to the sale or supply of arms material to persons in states neighboring Rwanda if that sale or supply was "for the purpose of the use of such arms or materiel within Rwanda." It also called upon states bordering Rwanda to take steps to ensure that arms and materiel are not transferred to Rwandan camps within their territories.

Following the routing of the genocidal forces and the establishment of a new government, the Security Council decided in 1995 to suspend until September 1996 the arms embargo on the Rwandan government with the stipulation that the government would be required to notify the sanctions committee of all of its arms imports. In addition, arms imports could only come in through specified points of entry and countries exporting to Rwanda were required to notify the committee of their transactions.

In accordance with this resolution, the Security Council terminated restrictions on the Rwandan government, effective September 1, 1996, but left sanctions on non-governmental forces in place.


Sierra Leone—RUF

In October 1997, the Security Council passed Resolution 1132, which imposed oil and arms embargoes on Sierra Leone, as well as restrictions on travel by members of the military junta of Sierra Leone. It also established a Security Council sanctions committee to monitor the sanctions' implementation.

Following the reign of terror of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters and the restoration of the elected government, Security Council Resolution 1171 of June 1998 terminated arms import prohibitions on the government but left them in place for non-governmental forces in the country. The resolution stated that "all States shall prevent the sale or supply, by their nationals or from their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare parts for the aforementioned, to Sierra Leone other than to the Government of Sierra Leone through named points of entry on a list."

Resolution 1171 also decided that these restrictions would not apply to the sale or supply of arms and related materiel to West African or UN peacekeeping forces in Sierra Leone. It further required states to notify the sanctions committee of all exports from their territories of arms or related materiel to Sierra Leone.



The Security Council passed Resolution 733 in January 1992, imposing an arms embargo on all parties in Somalia. A subsequent resolution in April of the same year established a Security Council sanctions committee.


1. Michael Renner, "Small Arms, Big Impact: The Next Challenge of Disarmament," Worldwatch Paper No. 137, October 1997.

2. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Arms Availability and the Situation of Civilians in Armed Conflicts (Geneva: ICRC, 1999).

3. Report of the Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms, UN Document A/52/298, August 27, 1997.

4. Report of the Panel of Experts on Violations of Security Council Sanctions against UNITA, UN Document S/2000/203, March 10, 2000.

5. For more on this area, see Lucy Mathiak and Lora Lumpe, "Government Gun-Running to Guerrillas," in Lumpe, ed., Running Guns: The Global Black Market in Small Arms, (London: Zed Books, 2000).

6. Pete Abel, "Manufacturing Trends—Globalizing the Source," in Lumpe, op. cit., p. 83.


Lora Lumpe is a senior associate with the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, and a consultant with Amnesty International USA on military, security, and police issues. This article is adapted from a book that she edited, Running Guns: The Global Black Market in Small Arms.

Posted: January 1, 2001