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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Arms trade 'hurting development'
A soldier displays a mortar shell
More than $900bn is spent each year on arms, Oxfam says
The irresponsible sale of weapons to the developing world is diverting money from development and promoting global insecurity, Oxfam says.

Major arms-exporting governments are not respecting their agreements to take account of weapons trading's impact on development, according to the group.

Oxfam has called for an international treaty to regulate and control the multi-billion dollar industry.

It says up to $900bn is spent each year on defence, but only $60bn on aid.

In 2002, 90% of all arms deliveries to Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa report by the international campaigning group.

'Growth not guns'

"It is ironic the body that is supposed to ensure world security is actually promoting global insecurity," Oxfam's Brendan Cox told BBC News Online.

"A significant portion of these guns will end up in the wrong hands," he said.

The largest arms-trading nations globally are the US, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China, according to Oxfam.

Source: Oxfam
Many countries have signed up to voluntary agreements drawn up the European Union or the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), committing themselves to assessing arms sales against their impact on sustainable development.

But these agreements are not legally binding and therefore rarely adhered to, Oxfam says.

The net result is developing nations whose health and education budgets are spent on weapons caches.

Pakistan's total defence expenditure in 2002, it says, consumed half of the country's GDP.

And in 1999 South Africa purchased $6bn worth of aircraft, helicopters and submarines whose value would have covered the cost of treatment with combination therapy for all five million Aids sufferers for two years.
A significant portion of these guns will end up in the wrong hands
Brendan Cox, Oxfam

Very few countries have a policy of consulting the government's development department in the decision making process, Oxfam found.

And only four countries - Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK - had ever denied a sale on the grounds of its damage to sustainable development.

The survey, completed with several non-governmental organisations, examined 17 of the world's major arms-exporting countries who had signed up to international agreements.

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