RICR No. 835

Arms availability and the situation of civilians in armed conflict — Summary of an ICRC study for the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

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As international arms transfers, particularly of small arms, have become easier, the promotion of respect for international humanitarian law has become vastly more difficult. The proliferation of weapons in the hands of new and often undisciplined individuals or groups has outpaced efforts to ensure compliance with basic rules of warfare. The result is appalling levels of wanton violence and a stream of horrific images which threaten to immunize the public and decision-makers to ongoing violations of international humanitarian law. In the absence of vigorous action to restrain the availability of military style arms and ammunition, those responsible for training combatants in the laws of armed conflict have little hope of reaching all those capable of waging war. The price to be paid is high, in terms of human suffering, social and economic disruption and the burdens of intervention when the international community decides to act.

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