By Andrew Feinstein

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Control Arms Now

With the disappointment of July behind us, and the current diplomatic wranglings causing consternation, it is important to reiterate that there has never been a greater need for a strong international arms trade treaty.

As I reveal in the updated, paperback edition of my book ‘The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade’ [see] not only do deadly conflicts, repression and violent crime persist across the globe but the tawdry nature of the trade in weapons continues apace. In fact, despite the economic crisis afflicting many parts of the world, between 2007 and 2011 weapons transfers increased by 24% by comparison to the preceding 4 years.

The new edition describes the unconscionable demand from some countries involved in debt negotiations that Greece limit the cuts to its defence spending while slashing social spending across the board; the spiralling trillion-dollar costs of the US’ F-35 jet fighter at a time when over 60% of Americans want a reduction in defence spending; the flow of weapons into Syria through both governments and illicit arms dealers; the case of a major Germandefence company, found to have made over €1.1bn of ‘questionable payments’ in 16 countries, including bribes of over €300m to Muammar Gaddafi, which continues to run a shadowy company in London with the purpose of assisting the parent company and other arms manufacturers to pay bribes around the world; an update on how some of the Gaddafi regime’s weapons have found their way onto the world’s black markets in arms; the  the latest defence corruption scandal involving a UK-based company and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; and the extraordinary case of two governments who inserted notorious arms dealers as intermediaries in a massive debt transaction. The intermediaries’ role was primarily to divert monies that belonged to the citizens and taxpayers of the two countries, into accounts controlled by politicians, government officials and the dealers themselves.

Meanwhile, BAE Systems’ long-time agent in central and eastern Europe, Count Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, will go on trial in Vienna in December on charges of money laundering and misleading a parliamentary enquiry. Richard Bistrong, a long-time American arms industry executive, has recently begun serving a prison sentence in the US.

And these are the miniscule number of cases that actually see the judicial light of day. It is estimated that of 502 recorded violations of UN arms embargoes only two have resulted in legal action, with one ending in a conviction. The vast majority of malfeasance linked to the arms trade – which accounts for 40% of corruption in world trade – is never properly investigated. Much of the illegal conduct that occurs in relation to arms deals remains hidden behind a veil of national-security-imposed secrecy.

Unless we achieve a strong arms trade treaty that is comprehensive in its coverage, clear in its intentions and vigorous in its enactment and enforcement, the global trade in weapons will continue to make our world a poorer, less democratic, more corrupt and, ironically, a less safe place.

 Andrew Feinstein is a former ANC Member of Parliament in South Africa. He is an author and campaigner based in London. The updated, paperback edition of ‘The Shadow World’ is published in the UK by Penguin and will be available in the US from Picador in November. The book has been translated into Dutch and German, with Spanish and Chinese editions forthcoming. For more information see You can follow Andrew on Twitter@andrewfeinstein and on
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