Small Arms Survey 2002

and societies struggling to recover from war. The media is saturated with a bewildering array of images depicting the ..... Mogadishu raid (US) ..... than 150,591 new cases of sleeping sickness have been detected during the past decade ...... It is important to note, however, that the sheer volume of humanitarian agencies ...
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Chap.4 .1 - 03/04/02 PROD-BD

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Chap.4 .1 - 03/04/02 PROD-BD

4.4.2002

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Caught in the Crossfire: The Humanitarian Impacts of Small Arms

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Introduction Amidst all of the debate about controlling the proliferation and misuse of small arms, there is a glaring, fundamental omission—the human face. Research and policy tends to focus on supply-related issues such as production and the mismanagement of stockpiles, inter-state transfers and the illicit trade, technical aspects of weapons tracing, marking, collection and destruction, and on legal or normative regimes designed to stop the flow of weapons. But missing from all of this is the human dimension—a consideration of how people are affected daily by the presence of these weapons—particularly in regions of armed conflict. It is essential that we recall the human devastation directly attributable to small arms on an annual basis: more than 200,000 deaths from homicide and suicide in the industrialized world, and at least 300,000 killed during armed conflicts occurring in developing countries. Millions more suffer from non-fatal injuries and crippling disabilities, while the anguish of further untold numbers cannot even be documented. This chapter considers the plight of the hundreds of thousands of people who are fatally and non-fatally wounded by small arms. It recalls the millions deprived of their homes and assets at gunpoint—whose very livelihoods are threatened by the presence of small arms. It forces the humanitarian advocate and policy-maker to reflect upon the damaged wreaked by a single bullet. It challenges all of us to consider, even before the bullet tears through flesh and splinters bone, how to reduce the humanitarian impacts of small arms. The chapter also highlights those instances where the humanitarian community has mounted a forceful response to the issue of small arms availability and use. Critical entry-points considered in the chapter include supply-side advocacy and the strengthening of export criteria to ensure the adoption of human rights and humanitarian norms, the application and enforcement of international humanitarian law in war zones, and operational reform among humanitarian agencies themselves. Key findings of this chapter indicate that: • The humanitarian impacts of small arms—fatal and non-fatal injury, forced displacement, and declining access to basic needs—are severe, especially in regions affected by armed conflict. • The impacts are difficult to quantify because of poor or non-existent data collection facilities and insufficient international attention and concern. • Many humanitarian agencies are reconsidering previously sacrosanct principles of neutrality and impartiality as small arms proliferation endangers their activities and personnel. • Responding to the humanitarian impact of small arms is a growing priority within the humanitarian sector. • Strengthening current humanitarian approaches, coupled with the innovative use of international humanitarian law and codes of conduct, offers the best hope for alleviating the humanitarian impacts of small arms.

Refugees on the move in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (© Associated Press/Jean-Marc Bouju)

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SMALL ARMS SURVEY 2002

The Small Arms Survey 2001 identified the direct and indirect effects of small arms on population, health and criminal activity as well as on relief and development. It compared the consequences of small arms availability and use from different perspectives, examining high- and low-income countries including those at war and peace. This chapter focuses exclusively on the consequences of small arms on individuals and societies in those regions affected by chronic violence and armed conflict. All but a handful of today’s armed conflicts take place in d