Date: Wed, 11 Dec 96 15:50:14 CST
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Arms Trade: Speech by Oscar Arias on an Int'l Code of Conduct
/** disarm.armstra: 173.0 **/
** Topic: 10/5/96 Speech by Oscar Arias on an International Code of Conduct f **
** Written 10:49 AM Dec 10, 1996 by firstname.lastname@example.org in cdp:disarm.armstra **
From: David Isenberg <email@example.com>
Subject: 10/5/96 Speech by Oscar Arias on an International Code of Conduct for Arms Transfers
Friends, we are gathered here today to create something akin to an action agenda for the State of the World Forum in the 21st century. I am honored to be given the chance to present to such a distinguished audience, a vision of human security that I provide provides the underpinnings for all our efforts for achieving international security. We of this Forum must continue to dedicate our energies toward influencing political leaders, encouraging them to address humanity's greatest problems in an un-biased and holistic manner.
At times we may feel that our suggestions fall on deaf ears. But as someone with a bit of reputation for being stubborn, I urge you never to underestimate the importance of pressing on with your vision. I will be talking to you today about an effort I am preparing with my fellow Nobel Peace Laureates. We hope in the coming months to present to the United Nations and its member states an international code of conduct on arms transfers that would keep the means of repression and violence out of the hands of dictators and abusers of human rights. But, before I describe this code of conduct, let me provide the context for our effort so that you can see where it fits in this Forum's goals.
President Bill Clinton recently told the General Assembly of the United Nations that in the post-Cold War era the world's most pressing threats are drug trafficking and terrorism. Obviously terrorism and the transfer of drugs are problems of great magnitude and complexity and should be treated as such. But these two serious problems are in reality only manifestations of all the more fundamental issues. The growth of poverty and inequality, the continued denial of democratic freedoms and other basic human rights in much of the world, environmental degradation, slow progress in wealth, health and education. The social impact of technological change, external debt in developing countries, corruption, increasing corruption, inequity in international commerce and repression and conflict based on ethnicity.
At this Forum we will be discussing ways to address all these problems. Both those highlighted by President Clinton and the underlying root causes I have just enumerated. What I am eager to convince you of today, is that these problems cannot be solved without bringing the world far closer to a state of peace. A world at war cannot be a world making progress on these fundamental challenges. And make no mistake my friends, we may not be suffering from major international conflicts at this moment but with more than 30 civil wars raging and with nearly half the developing nations living on the repressive non-electoral rule, we are still a world at war.
What can we do to bring an end to the cycle of repression and violence that restrains efforts to achieve the goals that we at this Forum support. I argue to you today, and I will argue to you for as long as this mission takes that none of our goals can be achieved fully unless we reverse the responsible arms transfer policies of the major suppliers. Consider these separate figures. Since the end of the cold war 1990, there have been $150 billion worth of arms transfers to developing nations for an average of nearly $23 billion per year. Over 90% of these transfers came from developed nations and the United States alone accounts for over 45%. According to one recent study, 84% of these U.S. arms transfers went to governments that the U.S. State Department itself describes as not permitting citizens to change their government by democratic peaceful means.
In less diplomatic terms, my friends, the U.S. leads the world in arming dictators. It is hypocritical for many developed nations to talk about spreading democracy while providing the enemies of democracy with the means of repression. It is also fiscally unsound for them to contribute to bilateral and World Bank aid programs while encouraging developing nations to waste their old resources on arms imports.
Let me give you just one example of this problem from my region from the world. As we speak, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry, is pressing President Clinton to lift the ban on selling high technology weapons to Latin America. How is this happening that while tremendous efforts are being made to reduce major expenditures in our southern hemisphere, the manufacturers of sophisticated and expensive arms are striving to use the United States government as a weapons sales agent? The damage that will be inflicted on the emergent democracies, fragile democracies, I should say and peoples of Latin America if this initiative becomes reality is not quantifiable.
In the first place, this measure will reignite Latin America's historic conflict between civilian authorities and military power over the allocation of budget expenditures. Civilian governments consistently attempt to direct resources toward improvement of their country's infrastructure and to satisfy their social obligations in the areas of health, education and housing. On the other hand, militaries are always seeking the larger percentage of the national budget for their own purposes.
It is argued that increased high-technology weapons sales will create more jobs for the United States. It seems an immoral, imbalanced equasion. To justify a few thousand jobs in the United States at the expense of placing more weapons in the hands of the developing world. An increase in armaments that are not needed in Latin America will only provoke more instability and chaos for its people and neighboring countries.
If we accept such reasoning, it will not be surprising if some Colombian or Bolivian were to argue that exporting mind-altering drugs to the United States is justified because the production of cocaine and marijuana creates jobs in the agricultural, industrial, and commercial sectors of these countries.
For many, this comparison may seem rather drastic. However, there is no doubt that both types of sales export death and misery. The reality that selling arms is considered legal whereas selling drugs is not does not automatically make the first transaction morally defensible.
It should be noted that the buying and selling of arms is one of the largest sources of corruption to which several scandals in both industrialized and developing countries can attest. If we are frightened by the extent of drug trafficking originating from the South and directed toward the North, we must then also must be scandalized by the scope and magnitude of indiscriminate arms sales from the North to the South.
Governments that export weapons have treated them as if they were just another commercial export. But weapons are different from commercial products. They waste buyers resources if they are not used, and they destroy economies if they are. They frequently strengthen armed forces that are holding back the worldwide movement toward democracy that we believe is essential to long-term peace and justice. And they often boomerang back on the foreign-policy goals of the suppliers, as when the U.S. soldiers in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, and Haiti face enemies armed with U.S. weapons.
I have set up as you are aware a commission of Nobel Peace Laureates to try to develop a solution to this problem. It is my belief that such a commission would have a unique moral authority to speak on this matter because the quest for peace for which we were honored and the many continuing quests around the globe are undermined by responsible arms transfers to dictators and abusers of human rights. That is why we hope to propose to the United Nations General Assembly and all its individual members' individual states that they approve an international code of conduct on arms transfers. Why do we wish to work through the United Nations at time when its budget is tight and its credibility is under attack from some quarters? First, because the responsible sale of weapons undermines the very purposes and principals on which the U.N. is based. Article One of the U.N. charter says that the U.N.'s purpose is to take effective, collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to international peace.
Article Three states that the U.N. is charged with promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms. How can the U.N. fulfil these missions? While members of its Security Council persist in the unrestrained selling of arms to dictators who deny basic human rights? These are the very countries that should be maintaining world peace and security. It is ironic that on the one hand they have picked up the bulk of the financial burden for peacekeeping operations today, while on the other hand they are creating tomorrow's Somolias, Iraqs, Haitis and Bosnias with their short-sighted arms transfer policy.
Second, because the U.N. is the only forum where all suppliers and purchasers, rich and poor, north and south, can meet on common ground to develop principles that apply equally to all. The self-serving argument used by arms-exporting governments, "If we don't sell, others will." is a counsel of dispair to which we respond, based on the success of previous efforts to limit nuclear and chemical weapons and land minds, "If you take the lead in restraint, others will follow." However, the arms exporters' argument does contain an important element of truth. Multilateral action is far more likely than unilateral action to achieve the goal of a demilitarized, democratic peaceful world.
While individual members states of the United Nations can and should establish strict standards for arms sales, those standards will obviously be most effective, when all potential exporters abide by them.
Under the code of conduct we are developing, to be eligible for arms transfers a government would have to meet a number of standards. Personally, I believe that such standards should include being chosen in free and fair elections, protecting citizens' human rights, admitting the expression of political views, having civilian control over its armed forces, not being engaged in civil war or international conflict, not sponsoring international terrorism, and not taking actions that undermine regional security such as importing a new level of military technology that triggers a wasteful arms race.
To those who say that considerations of regional security mean that dictators should be armed to balance off the power of other dictators, I reply, that it is far better to remove the means of repression from all dictators in a region. Regional security rests fundamentally on the security of the individual of each country. Peace is not a balance of terror between two countries, not a reign of terror within one country. I urge you my friends and respected leaders in your countries to educate your fellow citizens about the need for the Nobel Peace Laureates' Code of Conduct and to press your governments to approve it. Europe parlimentarians have been promoted a code of conduct within the European union. In the US congress, my friends Senator Mark Hatfield and congress woman Cynthia McKinney recently brought the code of conduct to a strong influential vote and that effort will continue next year.
This plenary session looks toward the new century and asks what strategic initiatives should be promoted to make it more humane than the tragic twentieth century with its two world wars, countless regional conflicts, and massive loss of life in civil strife. My friends, the result of recent decades of unfettered arms transfers is clear - devastating civil and international conflicts and a substantial barrier to economic development, basic human needs and democracy. The promise of decades under a strict code of conduct is equally clear - less conflict, more economic growth and the vast majority of the world's citizens finally gaining their birthday, the birthright of democracy, respect for human rights and peace. Please join me and the commission of fellow Nobel Peace Laureates as we strive to turn this promise into reality. Thank you.