The independent resource on global security

Transparency in military expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa

Transparency in military expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa
AMISOM Troops Up at Dawn on Mogadishu's Frontline. Photo: Flickr/ United Nations Photo

The United Nations Report on Military Expenditure intends to serve as a confidence building measure between states in four key ways. Firstly, to enhance international transparency on military matters; secondly, increasing the predictability of military activities; thirdly, reducing the risk of military conflict; and fourthly, raising public awareness of disarmament matters. However, the low participation from UN Member States has become a growing problem for the initiative and is one of the core challenges identified by the 2017 Group of Governmental Experts during the First Committee meetings.

In light of this lack of member participation, SIPRI will explore the state of military sector transparency in member states, in particular focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The example shows that significant amounts of information on the military sector already exists in the form of publicly available national reports.

SIPRI has seen vast improvements in military sector transparency in the last five years. Not only are there a growing number of defence policies or white papers; useful budgetary information is now becoming more readily available. Countries such as Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia–which used to provide almost no military spending figures–now have disaggregated military budgets that is verified as official government sources. Other countries which previously had no government portal now have publicly accessible websites where documents can be found.

Considering that an abundance of budgetary information already exists in the public domain, it is hoped that this finding can be highlighted at the discussions in the First Committee. The challenge at the First Committee is to encourage member states to submit data to the UN. What is clear from SIPRI’s analysis is that the lack of member participation to the UN is unrelated to information availability or sensitivity. Since states already report such information (in some cases in an extensive manner) nationally, incentives must be offered for these members to also report to the UN.

Research staff

Pieter D. Wezeman is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
Dr Nan Tian is a Researcher with the Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.