Each year, Oxfam estimates that more than 500,000 people are killed due to armed violence with countless more left devastated, displaced, traumatized, and angry. Armed violence destroys lives, drains government resources, undermines development efforts, and fosters a culture of violence, fear, and corruption. It is big business with huge ramifications.
At the moment, there is no global arms trade treaty regulating the transfer of arms. Too often, cheap yet highly destructive weapons land in the hands of those who use them to assert power insidiously and further continue a vicious cycle of violence. For developing countries, particularly those in conflict or post-conflict situations, the low-cost accessibility of weapons wreaks havoc on efforts to achieve reconciliation and development. While decades of tensions slowly settle, an arsenal of cheap, available weapons remains—stunting efforts to move forward peacefully. Families are left displaced and devastated by the loss or injury of a family member; their home may be destroyed or no longer safe to live in, and they may be left virtually income-less with no able-bodied workers or farmland. Already struggling health care systems are overburdened; schools are forced to closed or get by with meager support; access to food becomes limited. Anger, hopelessness, and fear grow. Any tensions that may arise or continue in communities—ethnic or religious conflicts, neighbor or land disputes—are resolved through violence. And when you are angry and disempowered with no job or education opportunities—no potentials to grow or support your family, when an AK-47 or grenade is as cheap and accessible as a pint of beer, as is the case in Burundi, it is easy to see how violence remains the preferred medium for conflict resolution. Violence infiltrates every aspect of the culture; it becomes a daily part of life.
“Weapons call out to other weapons,” says Teddy Mazina, a journalist in the documentary film Bang for your Buck. The huge supply of cheap weapons leftover from Burundi’s civil war has contaminated his country, he says, causing an intractable cycle of violence and corrupt power that undermines all development efforts. Underlying issues such as why violence is so easily resorted to are obscured by the sheer supply and availability of cheap grenades and Ak-47s. There needs to be regulation: a path towards disarmament.
Bang for Your Buck beautifully illustrates this need. As winner of Oxfam’s "Shooting Poverty” contest, the film was made to galvanize the Control Arms Campaign, a global civil society alliance, of which Oxfam is a part of, calling for a universal Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) would outline universal standards for arms exporters and importers, eradicating any loopholes or variance in regulation that could be used to evade responsibility and further fuel armed conflict, poverty, and human rights violations. The Campaign calls on members of the United Nations to secure this urgent treaty—one round of negotiation is underway this week in New York with the final conference scheduled for July 2010. You can join the campaign and help ensure the government takes this opportunity to comprehensively regulate the deadly weapons trade.
A universal Arms Trade Treaty is an important step towards ending irresponsible arms transfers that promote corrupt agendas and violate human rights, drain resources, and hinder development efforts in countries striving to rebuild, particularly in the aftermath of civil war. Much more needs to be done, however, in order to start over. To learn more about the struggle for new beginnings check out ViewChange.org’s new episode, Starting Over, where Bang for Your Buck is featured along with two other powerful films. In the episode you will meet Teddy Mazina as he walks you through the realities of daily grenade attacks in Burundi, learn about Rwanda’s Gacaca justice tribunals, and witness one ex-patriot’s dream to promote economic development through tourism in Sierra Leone.
Starting Over airs on Direct TV Channel 375 and DISH Network Channel 9410 on:
Friday, July 15th 4 pm PST
Sunday, July 17th 12am PST
Tuesday, July 19th 8pm PST
Wednesday, July 20th 3am and 10am PST
Friday, July 22nd 5am PST
Saturday, July 23rd 11:30pm PST.
And can also be viewed online at LinkTV.org.