Swedish Arms Export : An Evaluation from an Ethical and Human Rights Point of View

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Teologiska institutionen


As an arms-exporting state, Sweden has certain legal responsibilities to ensure that licences authorizing arms exports are in line with existing laws, policies and guidelines. Apart from that, the government has an ethical responsibility to ensure that arms are not exported to countries where they are used to oppress the population and commit human rights abuses. Despite this, questionable and unethical deals are authorized without any accountability being demanded. The main purpose of the essay is to perform a critical ethical analysis of the Swedish arms trade policy, to develop the application of policies in relation to arms trade, and to suggest additional criteria to make this trade more ethically justifiable. Among other things, it is asked whether different goals and principles come into conflict, and if they do, does the “right” goal or principle win? Also, which criteria are necessary to make arms trade ethically justifiable? The essay outlines some additional criteria which could be useful in making the trade ethically justifiable and performs a text analysis on selected documents relating to the arms trade in order to delineate where the inherent issues lie. The conclusion reached is that the different policies, mostly, harmonize, although security and human rights concerns sometimes conflict, which leads to potential serious outcomes. The existing legal and policy framework provides for a robust foundation, although inadequate as contentious arms exports are authorized. However, the imposition of the suggested criteria, especially criteria pertaining to establishing responsibility and accountability in the existing structures, should prove useful. 

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