Disarmament & International Security Committee
Preventing the Illicit Arms Trade
Background: Article 1 of the Charter of The United Nations statue states that the purpose of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security and achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character. Germany is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of weapons used in international conflict. Part and parcel with this title, Germany is familiar with the longstanding issue of illicit arms trades, garnering billions of dollars in revenue each and every year. Today, we find ourselves in a detrimental imbalance of non-weapon-producing countries and weapon-producing countries. This has led to major disputes on the lines of sovereignty from nations who participate and feel threatened by the increasing spread of illegal arms to their specific regions. Countries such as Africa and the Middle East are disproportionately affected by the illegal trade in arms, which find their way to terrorist and other armed groups. Advanced technology such as the 220-mm mortar, barometric bombs, and PETN anti-personnel mines are all winding up in the hands of terrorists and, although over $140 million in terrorist assets have been frozen worldwide, terrorist groups are becoming increasingly adept at eluding detection through the use of sophisticated money laundering operations, cash transfers, and shell corporations. Although the United Nations has been able to pass major resolutions such as the Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates international trade in conventional weapons, illicit arms dealing continues to be a billion-dollar illegal industry, one which is supplying terrorist militia groups across the world.
Policy: For decades, the German government has rolled back its involvement in promoting arms manufacturers abroad. Despite this, Rheinmetall, a German weapons manufacturer, has moved from strictly supplying the German army to having 70% of their business in international arms trading. Germany has condemned war in all forms and is actively pursuing peace with all nations. Certain legal circumventions of the Arms Trade Treaty have been conducted by Germany, in reference to Rheinmetall’s international business dealings. Despite this, Germany seeks to view this as the setting of a new precedent. In fact, Germany’s international arms dealings not only economically benefit Germany and contracted countries, but the international sale of arms helps bolster German security by enhancing the military capabilities of Germany’s allies, and also helps derive leverage in accordance with policies and international behavior with said client nations.
Solutions: Although it’s true that arms sales create a multitude of negative and unintended consequences, a cautious and limited approach to the international trade of arms might just be the solution to controlling the trade of illicit arms within regions such as Africa and the Middle East. To prevent the sale of illicit arms, there must be an international consensus against the proliferation of illegal arms sales. Although the UN has passed resolutions such as an Arms Trade Treaty, there are still 32 of the 137 countries that have not ratified it. To get extreme results, we must all take extreme action. The United States has recently begun promoting a “proliferation security initiative” to curb the unregulated trade of arms. To combat the problems that be a PSI aimed at creating a blockade, blocking both the informative and the physical must be enacted to prevent the transfer of both conventional weapons, as well as WMD’s. Such precautions would be justifiable under Article 51 of the UN charter, as stopping something like a commercial aircraft or transfer vessel would be protected as an action of self-defense under said UN charter.
- Caleb Bartes