A recent piece by Robert Fisk that was published in The Independent shined a light on the murky records that follow arms around the world. Blockchain oversight could help governments and NGO’s to make sure that arms aren’t being delivered to middlemen that will pass the weapons along to terrorists, or other parties that aren’t supposed to have access to dangerous goods.
Robert Fisk used the example of a missile casing that he found in Aleppo, one of the worst-hit cities of the Syrian war. The shell had originated in the USA and was manufactured by Hughes/Raytheon. Sufficed to say, the weapon that launched the missile wasn’t supposed to be in the hands of rebels in Aleppo and tracking down how it got there is basically impossible.
Blockchain oversight can improve compliance
Blockchain oversight can be used with other technologies, like RIFD, to establish a fixed record for chain-of-custody. This oversight could easily extend to the arms trade, which is a constant source of problems for human rights. Blockchain oversight would probably discourage intermediaries from passing weapons along to groups that aren’t authorized to receive them, as the records that blockchain oversight would create would be difficult to falsify.
Robert Fisk asks a series of questions in his piece that could be addressed by blockchain oversight, to wit, “Why don’t Nato track all these weapons as they leave Europe and America? Why don’t they expose the real end-users of these deadly shipments? The arms manufacturers I spoke to in the Balkans attested that Nato and the US are fully aware of the buyers of all their machine guns and mortars.”
The underlying issue appears to be not one of regulatory failure, but one of compliance with international law. In a separate instance, The Independent pressured the Saudi Kingdom to produce a paper trail for 120mm mortar shells that were also found in Aleppo, that had been sold to the Saudis. The response they got is telling, “they replied that they (the Saudis) did not provide support of any kind ‘to any terrorist organisation’, that al-Nusra and Isis were designated ‘terrorist organisations’ by Saudi Royal Decree and that the ‘allegations’ (sic) were ‘vague and unfounded’.”
A faulty system
Blockchain oversight could help create accountability in the arms trade by eliminating the ability to deny having made transactions that fall outside of the regulations. While blockchain oversight wouldn’t be able to make a difference on its own, it could work with other systems to ensure that extremely dangerous weapons don’t flow freely through unregulated markets.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia recently used blockchain to track almonds that were shipped from Australia to Germany, and blockchain oversight could work in the same way in the arms trade. Despite the fact that numerous unauthorized weapons were found in Syria, there doesn’t seem to be much impetus to reform a system that is clearly ineffective, at best.
Nicholas Say was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has traveled extensively, lived in Uruguay for many years, and currently resides in the Far East. His writing can be found all over the web, with special emphasis placed on realistic development, and the next generation of human technology.