The independent resource on global security

Air Transport and Destabilizing Commodity Flows

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Publisher: SIPRI
ISBN 978-91-85114-60-3
May, 2009

Download the executive summary

Destabilizing and illicit flows of small arms and light weapons, cocaine, tobacco and valuable raw materials fuel the war economies that have devastated much of Africa in recent decades. This Policy Paper unequivocally establishes the role of air transport across the full spectrum of these commodity flows. It also demonstrates the extent to which air transport actors named in United Nations and other arms trafficking-related reports have become enmeshed in humanitarian aid, peace support, stability operations and defence logistics supply chains.

This pioneering analysis provides a range of policy options available to the European Union (EU) for improving mechanisms for monitoring and controlling these air transport actors. It shows that existing EU tools and empirically proven programmes can be adapted and applied with minimal cost and effort to address some of the most pressing security threats facing the world today.

About the authors

Hugh Griffiths (United Kingdom) is a Researcher with the Countering Illicit Trafficking-Mechanism Assessment Project (CIT-MAP) of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. From 1995 until 2007 he worked for governments, the UN and non-governmental organizations in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, conducting investigative field research, analysis and programme management on issues surrounding humanitarian aid, clandestine political economies, conflict, and small arms and light weapons.

Mark Bromley (United Kingdom) is a Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. Previously, he was a Policy Analyst for the British American Security Information Council (BASIC). His areas of research include the export control policies of EU member states, transparency in the field of international arms transfers and the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons.



1. Introduction

2. The role of air cargo carriers in destabilizing or illicit SALW flows

3. The role of air cargo carriers in war economies

4. The role of air cargo carriers in humanitarian aid and peacekeeping

5. The European Union response

6. The impact of EU air safety bans

7. Conclusions: policy options for the European Union

Appendix A. Typical flight routes

Appendix B. Model air intelligence programmes


Hugh Griffiths was Head of the Countering Illicit Trafficking–Mechanism Assessment Project and was seconded to the United Nations Panel of Experts on sanctions to North Korea.
Dr Mark Bromley is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Dual-Use and Arms Trade Control Programme.