Arms trade 'undermines efforts to relieve debt'

The world's richest nations stand accused of double standards - exporting billions of pounds worth of arms to poor countries while discussing measures to lift them out of poverty.

In a joint report published today, pressure groups including Oxfam and Amnesty International say the G8 countries are compounding the problems in developing nations, including much of Africa, by allowing them to import costly arms and weapons.

Tomorrow, G8 foreign ministers, meeting in London, will consider a proposal by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary for a watertight worldwide treaty covering small arms as well as major weapons. Although today's report strongly endorses his proposal, it could also prove embarrassing because it criticises Britain over its arms exports.

According to the report, Britain is the world's second biggest arms supplier with exports estimated at $4.3bn (£2.2bn) between 1996 and 2003, less than America's $15.18bn but more than other G8 nations such as France ($3.02bn), Russia ($2.62bn) and Germany ($1.08bn). The five countries are the world's biggest arms exporters, accounting for 84 per cent of the global trade.

The pressure groups express concern that open licences for multiple shipments issued by Britain for exports to Turkey could allow weapons to be sent on to other countries with whom Britain would not trade directly. They say Britain has licensed arms exports to countries with serious human rights concerns, including Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Israel and Indonesia. They also raise fears that the Government is not putting enough resources and staff behind new legislation on arms control which took effect last year.

The United States is accused of providing military aid to states guilty of persistent human rights violations including Pakistan, Nepal and Israel, while France is alleged to have exported bombs, grenades, ammunition and mines and to countries subject to EU arms embargoes, such as Burma and Sudan.

The pressure groups warn that the trade could jeopardise Britain's goal during its year in the G8 presidency of relieving global poverty because the purchase of arms diverts resources in poor countries.

The report says: "Many of the G8 countries are large donors to aid programmes in Africa and Asia. However, continuing arms transfers to developing countries undermine their pledges to relieve debt, combat Aids, alleviate poverty, tackle corruption and promote good governance." It also warns that the arms could be used to suppress human rights and democracy.

It accuses the G8 nations of not matching their rhetoric about arms sales and Africa with action. "G8 governments have left significant loopholes in their own arms export standards and control mechanisms. Their efforts to control arms exports are not in proportion to the G8's global responsibility," the report says.

The Foreign Office defended Britain's record, saying that export licence applications were considered on a case-by-case basis and were blocked if there was a risk they would be used for "internal repression or external aggression".

But a spokesman admitted: "There is currently no international treaty that sets binding global standards. The irresponsible and unregulated trade in these arms inflicts untold misery in some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable nations, so it is vital to tighten the net to eliminate blatantly irresponsible trading and ensure legitimate trade is properly regulated and not diverted to undesirable purposes or end-users."

Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International, said: "Each year hundreds of thousands of people are killed, tortured, raped and displaced through the misuse of arms.

"How can G8 commitments to end poverty and injustice be taken seriously if some of the very same governments are undermining peace and stability by deliberately approving arms transfers to repressive regimes?"

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Mentor for people who have offended

This is an unpaid volunteer role. : Belong: We are looking for volunteers who ...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Experienced TA's urgently...

Business StudiesTeacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Supply Business Studies Teacher...

English Teacher

£110 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: English Teacher - CaerphillyT...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?