About the Issues
WHAT’S THE LINK BETWEEN GUNS AND POVERTY?
Arms imports require foreign currency, which, for countries with limited foreign exchange resources, may require obtaining credit, leading to increased debt. In the past, arms imports have been a very significant contributor to debt in developing countries, due in part to irresponsible lending. In 1994 it was estimated that a fifth of all developing-world debt was due to arms purchasing.
One round for an AK-47 assault rifle cost an average of twenty cents. In some parts of the world, the rifle itself can be purchased for less than $10. But the damage inflicted by conventional weapons runs into the billions of dollars and frustrates the hopes of countless societies striving for a better future. Of the 34 countries least likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, 22 are in the midst of–or emerging from–armed conflict. Weapons don’t only wreak havoc on the battlefield.
Over 500,000 people die every year from armed violence. Countless more are injured every day. Armed violence creates fear and insecurity, destroys families, burdens healthcare, discourages investment and impoverishes communities, countries and sometimes whole regions. Spending on arms or arms races diverts vital funds from public services such as education and healthcare. When such spending takes place without transparency it aggravates corruption that drains away even more money and erodes public trust.
It is not merely the use of weapons that undermines development prospects, but also the threat of weapons. In societies awash in illegal arms, feelings of insecurity and the threat of violence prevent from speaking out and actively participating in development activities.
By 2010, half of the world’s poorest people will be living in states that are experiencing violent conflict or are at risk of it. Poverty and inequality breeds armed violence, and insecurity and violence undermines efforts to eradicate poverty.
The impact of armed violence on development felt by millions of people around the world, every day, from women in the Eastern Congo who cannot access adequate healthcare because of insecurity, to teachers in India who lack supplies and educational materials while the government spends ever more on arms imports.