Oxfam report decries free-for-all global trade in ammunition

The Oxfam report, 'Stop a Bullet, Stop a War,' has been published ahead of this summer's Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in New York, where diplomats from around the world will gather to hammer out a new global agreement to regulate the trade of weapons and ammunition.

May 30, 2012

May 30, 2012 — Global sales of ammunition are worth more than $4 billion and are growing faster than the trade in guns, yet there is virtually no regulation in place to control where the bullets end up, according to international agency Oxfam.

The Oxfam report, 'Stop a Bullet, Stop a War,' has been published ahead of this summer's Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in New York, where diplomats from around the world will gather to hammer out a new global agreement to regulate the trade of weapons and ammunition.

Some countries, including the United States, Syria and Egypt, have recently voiced their opposition to including ammunition in the final treaty text. Oxfam believes the agreement must cover ammunition, given the devastating impact of the illicit and irresponsible arms trade on the lives of people living in poverty, particularly in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

Lina Holguin, Policy Director at Oxfam-Quebec, said: “Guns are useless without bullets. An Arms Trade Treaty which doesn’t include the trade in bullets doesn’t make sense.”

Oxfam’s report reveals how poor regulation of the ammunition trade makes it virtually impossible to put an accurate figure on the number of bullets currently being produced and transferred across the world each year, though estimates hover at around the 12 billion mark – nearly enough to kill every man, woman and child on the planet twice.

The trade in ammunition for small arms is worth $4.3 billion per year, while the trade in firearms and light weapons is worth $2.68 billion, according to the authoritative Small Arms Survey.

Oxfam says only a minority of countries report on their ammunition exports and there is hardly any monitoring by intergovernmental agencies. To make matters worse, data on ammunition is often not listed separately, making it hard to monitor the bullets’ final destination.

Of the 34 of states that have publicly reported since 2006 on their arms exports, 28 reported on ammunition exports as an explicit category, including Canada, the UK, the US and France. Regulation through an international treaty would ensure transparent reporting by all.

Holguin added: “The Arms Trade Treaty is an opportunity to bring the rest of the world up to Canada’s high standards for reporting on ammunition flows.”

Oxfam researchers found some of the biggest gaps in information related to undocumented ammunition transfers to war-torn countries. The report says many bullets are diverted into the hands of armed groups, often prolonging conflicts and increasing the chance of human rights abuses.

Read the full report

For further inquiry, please contact:

Kristen Ostling
Director of Policy and Outreach, Oxfam Canada
613.608.2895