The independent resource on global security

11. Controls on security-related international transfers


I. Introduction

II. Developments in multilateral export control regimes

III. Supply-side measures in the European Union

IV. The role of investigation and prosecution in enforcing export controls of dual-use goods

V. Conclusions


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Export controls are preventive measures intended to ensure that exported goods do not contribute to activities in other countries that are either illegal or undesirable from the perspective of the exporting state. The role of export controls in supporting the main multilateral non-proliferation treaties is now supplemented by the important role that they play in implementing decisions of the United Nations Security Council on particular countries (such as Iran or North Korea).

A number of multilateral cooperation arrangements attempt to improve the effectiveness of the participating states’ national export controls. The participation in these arrangements continued to expand in 2007 when Croatia joined the Australia Group. The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies completed a review and evaluation of its overall performance.

In 2007 the European Commission proposed simplifying the rules governing transfers of items specially designed and developed for military use from one European Union (EU) member state to another. The Commission has also proposed modifications to the legislation governing exports of items that are not specifically designed or developed for military use but that can have military uses (‘dual-use items’).

In 2006 and 2007 the UN Security Council adopted resolutions that prohibit and restrict certain types of international trade with Iran as part of a wider effort to address nuclear proliferation concerns. The prohibitions and restrictions decided by the UN focus on items that could contribute to the most sensitive activities from a proliferation perspective—uranium enrichment, the recovery of plutonium and the development of ballistic missiles that could deliver a nuclear weapon. The EU has taken steps to translate the UN decisions into rules binding on EU exporters. Indeed, the EU has extended the range of prohibitions and restrictions on trade with Iran beyond those mandated by the UN.

Export control authorities’ enforcement of both export controls and non-proliferation sanctions requires that legal bases be adapted and institutional set-ups and procedures rethought. Effective enforcement demands the active, competent and cooperative involvement of a range of national actors—including customs, police, intelligence and prosecution services—and an appropriate legal framework—including penalties for export control violations. An international debate about what constitutes dissuasive, effective and proportionate sanctions in response to violations of export control law has been initiated, in particular within the EU.


Dr Ian Anthony (United Kingdom) is SIPRI Research Coordinator and Leader of the SIPRI Non-proliferation and Export Controls Project.

Dr Sibylle Bauer (Germany) is Head of the Export Control Programme of the SIPRI Non-proliferation and Export Controls Project.

Anna Wetter (Sweden) was a Research Associate with the SIPRI Non-proliferation and Export Controls Project.

Dr Ian Anthony and Dr Sibylle Bauer