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Recent Trends in the Arms Trade

United Nation member states are currently discussing the feasibility of an arms trade treaty (ATT) which would seek to create better controls on international arms transfers. This Background Paper is one of a series produced by SIPRI to inform these discussions.

Using the latest available data, this paper describes the ongoing growth in international transfers of major conventional weapons, military spending and arms production. It also describes the increasing complexity of international arms export control policies.

The arms trade is global. The trade in major conventional weapons is dominated by a handful of big exporters. However, even small weapon producers and states without an active arms industry can act as suppliers of either second-hand equipment or newly produced but less technologically advanced weapon systems, such as small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. The prevention of illicit and destabilizing arms transfers is a global concern that requires the active engagement of all members of the international community.


I. Introduction

II. Recent trends in international arms transfers

III. Recent trends in world military expenditure

IV. Recent trends in world arms production

V. Recent trends in export control mechanisms

VI. Conclusions


Dr Mark Bromley is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Dual-Use and Arms Trade Control Programme.
Paul Holtom Paul Holtom is the Head of the Conventional Arms and Ammunition Programme at UNIDIR. He was previously the Director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.
Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman is an Associate Senior Researcher at SIPRI.
Pieter D. Wezeman is a Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.