September 16, 2019
 In Articles

Disarmament and International Security Committee 

Preventing the Illicit Arms Trade


Claire Michiko Verbrugge


Plagued by conflict, warring regions, and political unrest, countries across the globe are in dire need of strategy and organization. The Illicit Arms Trade has networked a one billion-dollar-a-year global business. However, this momentous black market profit comes at a drastic and detrimental cost to the world’s security. About 500,000 people a year are killed by 639 million small arms in circulation. These same small arms, sadly, supply many warring parties: terrorists, rebel forces, and government armies. 


Finland believes that this threat – one to human security and peace – should be dealt with in a careful and thought through manner. This is a complex issue. According to the Minister of Foreign Trade of Finland, Mr. Kimmo Sasi believes small arms usually stem from deeper problems: inequality, lack of opportunity, abuse of human rights. He continues with the idea that it should not be used as an excuse to do nothing about the tools that prolong those conflicts and render them more lethal. Arms exporting States have a responsibility to ensure that the small arms and weapons they export do not end up in the hands of those who abuse human rights and international humanitarian law. The adoption and strong enforcement of national arms export controls are a key means of ensuring that weapons are not transferred to human rights.


Finland, together with the other member states of the European Union, considers export controls key tools in combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. There is a need to assess applications for export authorizations along with strict procedures that cover all categories of these arms. They should also cover small arms and light weapons, which are surplus to national defence requirements. Surplus weapons will continue to be a major source of inexpensive weapons fuelling conflicts around the world. Finland has taken immense measures to be proactive about the illicit arms trade. Recently Finland presided over the Arms Trade Treaty which regulates trade of conventional arms. Specifically highlighting sustainable development goal 16.4, Finland worked to achieve a hold on various arms control mechanisms. Finnish global missions have also played an imperative role to promote and maintain international dialogue about this issue.


Factors that States should take into account in authorizing transfers of small arms have been developed regionally in Europe. Finland is specifically encouraged by the attention given to this issue by African states in their Bamako Declaration. There is a lot to build on when this Conference looks to globally chart norms in this sense, as it must. Finland wishes to emphasize the valuable role of nongovernmental organizations through pushing the issue of small arms into the global agenda, and in encouraging much needed action among governments (Sasi, Kimmo). Also, more transparency about legal trade of arms is necessary. States must release detailed reports on their military arms transfers. In Finland’s case, specific military arms export authorizations are available to the public. After signing and ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty and continuously supporting the prohibition of arms, Finland looks forward to working with members of the United Nations towards cross-sectional discussion and supporting a strong international legal instrument.

  • Claire Michiko Verbrugge

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