Thursday, 11 June 2009

Air cargo firms deliver aid and arms

Originally uploaded by RoseBridger
SIPRI, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,have published a report Air transport and destabilising commodity flows, which reveals that 90 per cent of air cargo companies identified in arms trafficking reports to conflict zones in Africa have been contracted to transport humanitarian aid and in peacekeeping operations by the UN, EU, NATO member states, defence contractors and NGOs. Many of these air cargo carriers are also involved in transportation of conflict sensitive goods such as illegal narcotics, cocaine, diamonds, fossil fuels, valuable metals and minerals such as coltan, which is used in electronic products. In some instances, air cargo companies are delivering aid and weapons to the same conflict zones.

The report covers Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan, although ‘war economies’, conflicts driven by economic and political gain and rooted in control of resources, operate across states and regions. Air transportation links between groups in different states can be stronger than within individual states. Conflict zones may be geographically isolated, but are dependent on connections to global markets and reliant on external support and supplies. Air cargo firms have a central role in these destabilising commodity flows, as there is a reliance on air transport for essential commodities over dangerous land routes. Carriers are identified as ‘facilitators of war economies’ through transportation of small arms and light weapons, and less directly through movement of valuable raw materials and supplying extractive industries with equipment, spare parts and fuel.

SIPRI recommends two key actions that could be taken at the EU level. Aircraft have to be registered, which means that air cargo firms are the only non-state actors in the commodity flows which are relatively easy to trace. This means that a combination of training, coordinated information and field research would enable policy makers to undertake systematic monitoring of air transport firms involvement in illicit or destabilising commodity flows. ‘Ethical transportation’ clauses could be added to peace, humanitarian aid and defence logistics supply chain contracts. Secondly, refinement of the established EU air safety mechanisms to target air cargo companies with poor safety records the would effectively target several of the air cargo firms involved in the destabilising commodity flows, as they have a poor safety record. These measures would help to make companies choose between transporting aid or transporting arms, and put ‘hard core arms dealers’ out of business.

The lamentable air cargo safety record in Africa continues. Eleven people were killed on 9th March, when a cargo plane chartered by Dyncorp carrying tents and water purification treatment to Somalia crashed after taking off from Entebbe Airport into nearby Lake Victoria. Then, on 30th April a Boeing 737 cargo plane crashed near Kinshasa the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, shortly after taking off from Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo.

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