THE Stockholm International Peace Research Institute had, in its report last year, highlighted trends in global arms transfers which any sane human being would describe as "worsening".
The institute showed that "the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons was 24 per cent higher in the period 2007 to 2011 than in 2002 to 2006".
The top supplier of arms during both periods was the United States. Its exports increased by 24 per cent in the latter period. The US accounted for 30 per cent of all arms exports between 2007 and last year.
The US was followed by Russia, whose exports increased by 12 per cent from 2002 to 2006 and from 2007 to last year. Russia accounted for 24 per cent of all exports. Germany, France and Britain were the other three big arms suppliers.
The top five suppliers accounted for 75 per cent of the total volume of all global arms exports.
The five biggest arms importers from 2007 to last year were India, South Korea, Pakistan, China and Singapore in that order. India was also the top importer from 2002 to 2006.
Asia was the biggest importer of arms from 2007 to last year, accounting for 44 per cent of imports.
However, the largest arms deal for "at least two decades was Saudi Arabia's order for 84 new and 70 rebuilt F-15SG combat aircraft".
What is the larger significance of these worsening trends in global arms transfers?
One, global security has not increased one iota as a result of increased arms transfers. Wars and armed conflicts continue unabated. The underlying causes of conflicts and tensions in West Asia and North Africa, Korean Peninsula, East Asia, South Asia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa remain unresolved.
Two, increased arms transfers are happening at a time when the global economy is in deep crisis. It is a crisis that has caused massive unemployment in some parts of the world, compounded national debts, aggravated inflationary trends, increased food and fuel prices and reduced growth rates.
To focus on buying and selling arms when economies are crumbling and collapsing, and millions of people are without jobs or are struggling to make ends meet, is despicable, immoral and unconscionable.
Governments and ruling classes everywhere should concentrate on those economic activities that conduce towards life, dignity and justice, not an enterprise that promotes death, violence and destruction.
Given this conjuncture between an increase in arms transfers, on the one hand, and a global economy in crisis, on the other, everyone should persuade and pressure governments and the ruling classes to reduce and eliminate the production and consumption of major conventional weapons.
Governments should come together and formulate a timetable for global disarmament. This is one of humankind's time-honoured, much cherished dreams: a world free from all weapons of death and destruction.
Let the citizens of the world demand that those who rule in their name put disarmament on the global agenda as an item that requires immediate attention.
Dr Chandra Muzaffar, International Movement for a Just World, Petaling Jaya, Selangor