The independent resource on global security

SIPRI highlights of 2016

Highlights of 2016: military spending graph, UN peace operations vehicle, map of reports from Mali's local elections
A selection of SIPRI's highlights of 2016: US military spending graph, UN peace operations vehicle, map of reports from Mali's local elections

2016 was a turbulent year for peace and security with record-breaking numbers of refugees, the Colombian peace deal and a controversial US presidential election. Throughout these 12 months, SIPRI remained committed to providing reliable data and independent analysis to engage researchers, policymakers, the media and the public on the path to sustainable peace. Here are a few of SIPRI's highlights of 2016.


Short-film series 2016—A Year of Reflection

In honour of its 50th anniversary in 2016, SIPRI produced the short-film series 2016—A Year of Reflection which looks at SIPRI's work and its role in understanding how to move towards a more peaceful future. The first video features SIPRI Director Dan Smith outlining four major challenges to peace. All the videos are available to watch on SIPRI’s YouTube channel.


The refugee crisis—a crisis for whom?

Syrian refugees dominated European political agendas in 2015 and the first half of 2016 with thousands of refugees arriving in Greece and Italy. In May SIPRI held a seminar about the issue, discussing the role of EU member states as both humanitarian aid contributors and hosting states. Associate Professor Marcello Di Filippo called the situation a ‘crisis of governance,’ pointing to the lack of a joint European strategy.

SIPRI’s last blog post of 2016 also looks at the broader issue of migration, calling for new perspectives on an old story.

Map of Syrian asylum seekers in Europe
Syrian asylum seekers in Europe, July 2011 to December 2015, by percentage of the host country's 2014 population. Graphic: SIPRI Yearbook 2016


World military spending went up for the first time since 2011

SIPRI is probably best-known for its military spending data (see the database or interactive map). This year, SIPRI data showed that global spending went up slightly in 2015 after four years of flatlining. The USA and Africa saw big declines in military spending, Western & Central Europe saw small declines in military spending, while Asia & Oceania and Eastern Europe saw big increases in military spending.

SIPRI also compared military spending to health spending and looked at what reallocating military spending could achieve. Later in 2016, SIPRI released its extended military expenditure dataset with data going back to the 1960s for several countries, after numerous requests for comparative military spending data from before the cold war.

Graph of US military spending 1949-2015
US military spending 1949-2015. Data and graphic: SIPRI


An interview with Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi

In 2015 the UN published a comprehensive report on UN peace operations. The last such report dated from 2000; Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi led the team that produced it. He is now a SIPRI Governing Board member and SIPRI's peace operations researchers gained his insights in a thought-provoking interview covering the use of force in UN missions and the role of world powers in UN peace operations.

"The UN’s main problem is that the countries that have well-equipped and well-trained armies refuse to participate in UN missions, even for the purpose of peacekeeping"

Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi

SIPRI collects data on all multilateral peace operations, and published a map of all multilateral peace operations in 2016 (pdf). SIPRI also published a report on the views of African stakeholders on future UN peace operations in Africa.

Zambian UN peacekeepers drive along the border of Sudan and South Sudan
Zambian peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) patrol streets in Abyei on the border of Sudan and South Sudan, May 2011. Photo: Flickr / UN Photo (Stuart Price)


Malians report violence during local elections

In 2016 SIPRI and its Malian partner CONASCIPAL launched a project aimed at involving civil society in building sustainable peace in Mali after the country’s violent crisis in 2012. As part of the project, several Monitoring Groups have been set up around the country to engage communities in the peace process. The Monitoring Groups gave feedback after Mali’s local elections in November, which included reports of violence and other tactics that prevented people from voting in some areas.

Map showing local reports from Mali's elections
Reports from the Monitoring Groups for Peace and Security, set up as part of the new SIPRI-CONASCIPAL project aimed at engaging civil society in building peace in Mali. Graphic: SIPRI


New research programme on climate change

Formed in the 1960s, SIPRI’s research was influenced by pressing security concerns at the time and focused largely on monitoring weapon flows, military spending and nuclear weapons. Today SIPRI’s research is much broader and addresses not only the symptoms, but also the root causes of conflict. In 2016, SIPRI started a new research programme on Climate Change and Risk.

With the World Economic Forum naming the failure to respond to climate change as 'the most impactful risk for the years to come' it is crucial that future security policies incorporate climate-related risks (and climate policies incorporate security-related risks). In December SIPRI presented a report that proposed several strategies for achieving this.

Launch of SIPRI climate change report
SIPRI launches a new climate change report at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The closing panel comprised Anna Axelsson, Policy Advisor Climate Change, Diakonia; HE Lameck Nthekela, Ambassador of the Republic of Botswana to Sweden; Dr Malin Mobjörk, Senior Researcher and Head of SIPRI’s Programme on Climate Security; and Dan Smith, Director of SIPRI. Photo: SIPRI


Stockholm Security Conference on Secure Cities

Today more than 50% of the global population lives in cities and this is expected to rise to 75% by 2050, according to the London School of Economics. This rapid urbanization brings a new set of security-related challenges and opportunities to cities. Together with the Swedish Parliament and the City of Stockholm, SIPRI hosted the first Stockholm Security Conference in September with the theme of secure cities. Individual sessions covered a wide variety of security topics including police strategies, gender and violence, radicalization and gang violence.

Participants also heard from the Mayor of Stockholm, Karin Wanngård, the Costa Rican Deputy Minister for Public Security, Maria Fullmen Salazar and former US Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff about the strategies they employ for promoting secure cities. SIPRI spoke to the moderators of each session to get their thoughts about the main trends from their session and next steps.


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Dr Kate Blanchfield was the online editor at SIPRI.