Control Arms Media Briefing: key facts and figures

The arms trade is out of control
Every day, millions of men, women, and children live in fear of armed violence. Every minute, one of them is killed. From the gangs of Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles, to the civil wars and armed rebellions in Uganda and Nepal, conventional weapons are used to do the killing. The global trade in arms that brings these weapons into the hands of killers is a multi-billion dollar business.

  • There are over 600 million small arms in the world, or one for every ten people, produced by over 1,000 companies in at least 98 countries.
  • 8 million more small arms are produced every year.
  • 16 billion units of ammunition are produced each year - more than two new bullets for every man, woman and child on the planet.
  • Nearly 60 per cent of small arms are in civilian hands.
  • The majority of illegal small arms start out as legally traded weapons.

The human cost
The uncontrolled proliferation and misuse of arms by government forces and armed groups takes a massive human toll in lost lives.

  • More than 500,000 people on average are killed with small arms every year: one person every minute.
  • Small arms are the cause of 60-90% of direct conflict deaths.
  • There are 300,000 child soldiers involved in conflicts.
  • Torture and ill treatment by state officials - mostly armed police - was persistent in over 70 countries between 1997 and 2000.
  • Women and girls are raped at gunpoint during armed conflict - for example, 15,700 in Rwanda and 25,000 in Croatia and Bosnia.

Conventional arms proliferation and misuse destroy individuals' livelihoods and prevent countries from escaping from poverty.

  • One third of countries spend more on the military than they do on health-care services.
  • An average of US$22 billion a year is spent on arms by countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America. Half of this amount would enable every girl and boy in those regions to go to primary school.
  • El Salvador's expenditure on its health services to deal with the effects of violence amounts to more than 4 per cent of its GDP.
  • Nearly half (42 per cent) of countries with the highest defence spending rank among the lowest in human development.
  • In Africa, economic losses due to war are about US$15 billion per year.
  • Pakistan's total defence spending is one-third of its annual GDP, or half if arms-related debt repayments are included.

The Control Arms Campaign
For these reasons Amnesty International, Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA, represented in Canada by Project Ploughshares) have come together for Control Arms, a major global campaign launched in 2003 in over 50 countries around the world.

The Control Arms campaign is calling for urgent and coordinated action, from the local to the international level, to prevent the proliferation and misuse of arms. The campaign is calling for:

  • International level: Governments to agree on rules to stop arms from being exported to destinations where they are likely to be used to commit grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
  • Regional level: Governments to develop and strengthen regional arms control agreements, to uphold human rights and international humanitarian law.
  • National level: Governments to improve state capacity and their own accountability to control arms transfers and protect citizens from armed violence, in accordance with international laws and standards.
  • Community level: Civil society and local government agencies to take effective action to improve safety at community level, by reducing the local availability and demand for arms.

Since the campaign was launched, 45 countries have expressed explicit support for an Arms Trade Treaty. Canada is not one of them. Over 100 countries have come out for controls on weapons transfers, Canada among them.

What can be done
The UN World Summit on Small Arms and Light Weapons, to be held 100 days from today in June, will seek to reduce the proliferation and misuse of these weapons around the world. Unless real progress is made at the June summit, hundreds of thousands of people stand to lose their lives.

Canada must take leadership of the UN process, and ensure the June summit gets results in strengthened government commitments to deal with small arms proliferation and misuse, and sets an agenda for concrete follow-up actions.

What you can do
Oxfam, Ploughshares and Amnesty International Canada are seeking to collect the images of thousands of Canadians in support of the global "Million-Faces Petition" which will be presented at the UN summit. The petition is online at