Oxfam: Ammunition trade must be regulated

Humanitarian agency Oxfam has called for an international treaty to control and keep track of who bullets are sold to.

In a new report, Oxfam has revealed that global sales of ammunition are worth more than $4bn and are growing at a faster rate than trade in guns.

The report, ‘Stop a Bullet, Stop a War,’ however, shows that there is virtually no regulation in place to control where the bullets end up.

Oxfam’s report has been published ahead of this summer’s Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in New York, where diplomats from around the world will gather to try and 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. But Oxfam believes it is essential that the sale of ammunition is covered by the new agreement, given the devastating impact that the illicit and irresponsible arms trade has on the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.

Anna Macdonald, head of arms control campaigning at Oxfam, said: “Guns are useless without bullets; bullets are what turn guns into lethal weapons. It is absolutely essential that the sale of ammunition is included in the treaty and it is far better regulated. It would be totally irrational to leave it out.

“The trade in ammunition is lucrative; but while the monetary cost of production is low, the price paid in human lives for the trade in ammunition is incalculable. An Arms Trade Treaty which doesn’t include the trade in bullets doesn’t make sense.”

Oxfam’s report shows that only a minority of countries report on their ammunition exports and there is hardly any monitoring by intergovernmental agencies covering this trade. To make matters worse, data on ammunition is often not listed separately and is just added to data on general arms exports, making it hard to monitor the bullets’ final destination.

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