When the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended with it, there was lots of talk about a peace dividend. But for many people in the poorest parts of the world, it meant that conflict got hotter.
The UN is trying to control the spread of small arms
The collapse of the Soviet empire flooded these countries with cut-price Kalashnikovs and shoulder-mounted rocket launchers. These weapons have been wreaking death and destruction ever since. They kill more than 400,000 people a year around the world, according to an estimate by Amnesty International.
Later this month a United Nations conference in New York will be reviewing the effort to curb the arms traders.
An alliance of 700 organisations, among them the British charity Oxfam, is pressing for tougher restrictions.
The British government says it backs that idea. Ministers even claim that they are leading the world in the search for an international treaty to control the arms trade. Sceptics point out that a fifth of all global arms exports come from British firms.
In southern Sudan, one of the poorest and most conflict-ravaged regions of the world, its believed there's at least one gun for every family. John Beesley reports on the bloody effects of the illicit arms trade.