Controlling arms brokering and transport agents: Biting the Bullet - Briefing 8

This briefing in the Biting the Bullet series argues that it is time for international access.

Evidence suggests that many of the arms transfers to the worst affected conflict regions and human rights crisis zones are organised and trafficked by arms brokering and transport agents.

Targeting those states with weak national export controls and enforcement, these unscrupulous brokers and transportation agents organise the transfer of arms and security equipment to a range of illegitimate end users such as criminals, terrorists and human rights abusers.

Arms brokers can be defined as middlemen who organise arms transfers between two or more parties, often bringing together buyers, sellers, transporters, financiers and insurers to make a deal. They generally do so for financial gain, although political or religious motivation may also play a part in some deals.

Often such brokers do not reside in the country from which the weapons originate, nor do they live in the countries through which the weapons pass or for which they are destined. As a result, such ‘third party’ arms brokering is notoriously difficult to trace, monitor or control. Arms brokers work very closely with transport or shipping agents. These agents contract transport facilities, carriers and crews in order to move arms cargoes by sea, air, rail or road.

International Alert, in collaboration with BASIC and Saferworld, is working to facilitate the dialogue between government and civil society in order that an effective programme of action follows from the 2001 UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. The Biting the Bullet series provides governments and NGOs with information and policy recommendations on issues addressed at the conference.