Unregulated arms trade diverts development resources: Oxfam

October 9th, 2008 - 4:31 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Oct 8 (DPA) Many poor countries are saddled with defence debts that obstruct efforts to develop their economies and end poverty, Britain’s largest aid charity Oxfam International said Wednesday.In a report released at United Nations headquarters in New York, the group cited South Africa as a typical case, as it has to pay $530 million a year until 2011 on defence expenditures related to weapon purchases.

At the same time, South Africa would need $425 million a year to pay for free water for its population.

Burundi, which ended an internal conflict with a ceasefire in 2006, has been spending $163 to treat one person with injuries from firearms, while per capita government expenditure on health is just five dollars. Gunshot wounds accounted for 75 percent of medical expenses resulting from violent injuries in that country, Oxfam said.

Turkey owes $15 billion in arms imports accrued between 2000 and 2007.

“Irresponsible arms transfers force up defence spending in developing countries and divert resources that could otherwise fund education, healthcare and social development,” the report said.

There is no official arms trade treaty in the world and arms sales usually result from agreements between buyers and sellers, or between governments.

The UN has set 2015 as the target date to end poverty and hunger around the world. It has called for universal primary education for all children, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and ending maternal and child mortality. The mid-point to the set of targets known as the Millennium Development Goals is 2008.

Oxfam said low-income countries would need $73 billion more per year than was invested in 2006 in order to reach the goals set by the UN.

It said irresponsible arms sales have fueled armed conflicts and other forms of violence, which undermine national economies and the ability to achieve the UN goals.

The report also said, “Responsible, regulated transfers of military and security equipment can assist a state to fulfil its legitimate defence, military and policing needs, which can help to provide the security and stability necessary for development.”

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