series Gunrunners uncovers secrets of the illegal arms trade
illegal trade in small arms and light weapons has been identified
by the UN as one of the world's greatest challenges.
kill half a million people a year - 1,300 a day on average.
over half of the lives lost are the result of armed conflict, the
rest are due to crime.
are also huge economic costs. The Inter-American Development Bank
calculates the cost of gun violence across the Americas since 1990
to be as high as $170 billion dollars.
a new four part series Gunrunners (BBC World Service from
Friday 4 October), award winning investigative journalist Philip
Fiske travels to El Salvador, Macedonia, Sierra Leone and the United
States to investigate illegal arms; the people who deal in them
and efforts to police the trade.
talks to a sergeant who fought with the rebel Revolutionary United
Front army in Sierra Leone until the war ended in 2001.
former radio operator claims businessmen from Guinea were dealing
undercover in cocoa, for which they paid the RUF with guns taken
from an army barracks near the Sierra Leone/Guinea border.
was there," he says.
Rafi Saditi, a guerrilla commander of the National Liberation Army
in Macedonia, admits the guns used by him and his forces in 2001
came originally from Albania.
were looted from military depots in 1997, used against government
forces there, then smuggled into Kosovo and used against Serb troops
by the Kosovo Liberation Army, ending up in Macedonia - their third
conflict in four years.
also investigates the economics of arms dealing.
US agent JJ Ballesteros, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms, says guns increase in price the further south they travel
in Central and Latin America - from recent to potential conflict
rifles obtainable for $100 in Nicaragua sell for $300 in Costa Rica;
$500 in Panama and $2,500 in Colombia.
officer Adrian Garcia, a consultant to the US government, says guns
are smuggled in TV sets, hidden inside crates of food, even dead
popular method is to have mules carry different gun parts to their
destination. Coming back to the US are consignments of drugs, especially
to experts about the efforts of the international community to tackle
the problem, Fiske finds many believe America's war on terrorism
will make things worse.
arms smugglers may find it harder to operate because of greater
scrutiny of terrorist funds, there's likely to be arms inflation,
with an increase in weapons supplied by the US to governments and
other groups around the world.
conference "On the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons
in all its aspects" held in New York last year failed to secure
any binding international agreement on the issue.
among others, was unwilling to commit.
Meek of the Institute of Security Studies in South Africa says:
"They said the national interests of the US had to be paramount
and they had the right to arm whatever group they wanted."
Fiske (28) has worked as a freelance reporter, producer and presenter
for BBC World Service since 1997.
has worked for several departments at the World Service including
Arts, Current Affairs, Education, Youth and News - reporting from
Iran, Peru, the Falklands, South Africa, and the Caribbean.
has also reported for BBC Radio 1, Radio 4 and Radio Five Live,
and written for various magazines and websites including the Irish
Times, BBC On Air and AOL Netscape.
work has been featured several times on Pick of the World (BBC World
Service) and Pick of the Week (Radio 4).
three part series Shadow Trade (2000, BBC World Service) on the
international illegal drugs business won a Sony Silver award in
the category Best News documentary - and was described by the Daily
Telegraph as "first-rate investigative journalism".
currently lives and works in London.
can be heard on Fridays from 4 October at 8.30pm (repeated Saturdays
2.30am; Mondays 3.30pm; Tuesdays 10.30am).
online - any time during the week from Friday 4 October (updated
weekly Friday at 8.30pm) at: