A report released on Wednesday by the Control Arms Campaign says that every one of the 13 Security Council embargoes in the last 10 years has been routinely violated and only a handful of offenders have been successfully prosecuted.
The campaign is an initiative of Oxfam International, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms.
Although arms embargoes are legally binding under the UN Charter, enforcement of them is generally the responsibility of the 191 individual member nations, many of which have failed to adopt laws making violations a criminal offence.
The 43-page report also said that others turn a blind eye to banned arms deals or even participate in them for the money or to advance what they see as their strategic interests.
Call for reform
Despite an obligation to enforce embargoes, "a sample of data from UN reports over the past decade shows that individuals and companies operating in at least 30 countries across different world regions have been implicated in embargo-busting".
The report called on the Security Council to initiate moves to improve the design of embargoes, crack down on violators and establish more effective controls.
It also said the UN should offer more support to the teams of experts it uses to monitor embargoes.
Current UN bans on arms deals exist in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan. Arms flows are also banned to members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban and any group or individual linked to those groups.
Embargoes have also been in force over the past decade but are no longer in effect in Eritrea and Ethiopia, Angola, Iraq, Libya and the former Yugoslavia.