Once again this year, the figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on global arms transfers have prompted much reaction and polemic in Switzerland and elsewhere. Some give as justification the country’s economic interests or current security challenges. Others focus the debate on the promotion of peace and human rights and draw attention to the dramatic impact these exports can have on many countries. The subject might spark lively debate, but the fact that it can be debated at all is evidence of a properly functioning democracy.
This issue discusses the controversy around the arms trade as well as the role of Swiss civil society. The latter has, indeed, a duty to get actively involved in this debate. Whether on the ground, in Switzerland or internationally, it can analyze and report realities and help to forge public opinion with key information. The ultimate goal is to be able to influence national and international legislation. In this regard the actions taken by many NGOs in the last few days at the first Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty in Geneva have been in many ways exemplary.
Marie Seidel, editor