UK to push for ethics in arms industry?

Britain on Thursday said it will push for a new arms trade treaty to prevent "unregulated and irresponsible" arms sales across the globe.

London: Britain on Thursday said it will push for a new arms trade treaty to prevent "unregulated and irresponsible" arms sales across the globe and introduce international regulations to stamp out unscrupulous practices, during the July session of the United Nations.

Addressing the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) here, Minister of state for International Development Alan Duncan said laws in different countries to regulate the arms industry needed to have common international standards, including making brokers accountable.

He said: "Currently a variable patchwork of regulation exists across the world".
"Some Governments have very robust arms trade control systems in place, but other Governments are fuelling the illicit and irresponsible trade in arms by not having any control systems at all, or by only having weak systems".

The IISS audience included defence industry companies such as Rolls Royce and NGOs including Amnesty International.

Duncan added: "Overall, there are no common international standards for the arms trade. This results in gaps and loopholes which can be exploited".
The proposed treaty is intended to close loopholes that currently allow corruption to thrive and weapons to be diverted on to the illicit market.

The treaty will be legally binding, and supported by monitoring and reporting mechanisms, he said.

At the UN session, Duncan said Britain will demand common ground on four issues: Before exporting arms, countries must satisfy criteria including human rights, impact on development, exacerbating conflict and the risk of corruption.

The treaty must be broad, covering everything from fighter jets to rifles and ammunition, he said and added that countries must also demonstrate transparency, which must include publication of a national export control list and detailed reports on arms exports.

Britain will also demand that controls on arms brokering must be included, which will close loopholes, by ensuring brokers are accountable.

Member states must prosecute those involved in corrupt practices, he said.
Duncan said: "It is scandalous that there is currently no international regulation of the arms trade. The UK has one of the strongest arms export control systems in the world, which is why we are the forefront of these negotiations.
"The defence industry has produced pioneering technology, which has undoubtedly improved our world".

He added: "Honest defence companies have nothing to fear from an international treaty. However, it is time to stamp out unscrupulous, greedy and immoral practices which lead to bloodshed and war".

Supporting the initiative, Kate Allen, director of Amnesty
International UK, said: "We`re encouraged by the UK`s continued commitment to delivering an effective international arms trade treaty".

She added: "This historic new treaty can only be effective if it stops weapons ending up in regions where they are likely to contribute directly to serious human rights abuses, war crimes or poverty".

The proposed treaty, she said, had the potential to stop thousands of needless deaths, but was under threat from a handful of sceptical states who allegedly wanted to see the "irresponsible arms trade continue unabated".