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5. Transfers of major conventional weapons



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Global arms transfers remained at a relatively
stable level in 1995–99 but declined again in 2000, by 26%,
owing mainly to the drop in deliveries by the USA.

There are four categories of suppliers:
(a) the USA, the largest supplier and the sole country in this
category, accounting for 47% of global arms transfers; (b) Russia
and France, each accounting for over 10% of total transfers;
(c) the UK and Germany, each accounting for 5–10% of the
total; and (d) all the other suppliers. Together, the five
suppliers in the first three groups accounted for almost 85%
of all arms transfers.

The USA was the largest supplier in the
period 1996–2000 as well as for each of the five years.
It is a supplier to all of the 10 major arms recipients except
India and has by far the highest number of recipients of all
the suppliers. On the basis of the large order books of US companies
and agreed US military transfers in the form of aid to Colombia,
Egypt and Israel, the US slump in 2000 is expected to be short-lived.
The strong supplier position of the USA is complemented by its
attempts to influence the arms export behaviour of other countries
in support of US policies. In 2000 the main countries which the
USA tried to influence were Australia, Israel and the UK.

Russia increased its arms transfers in
2000 by 19% and accounted for 15% of the transfers in the period
1996–2000. It was the second largest supplier both for the
period and for 2000. The increase in arms transfers by Russia
in 2000 is mainly due to its deliveries of combat aircraft and
ships to China, which also made China the world’s leading
arms recipient in 2000. The leading recipients of major conventional
weapons in 1996–2000 were Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey,
South Korea and China.

The European Union members accounted for 28% of the arms transfers
in 1996–2000. Even if only the transfers from EU members
to non-EU members are taken into account, the EU would still
rank as the second largest supplier, with 24% of the world total.

Transparency in national arms trade has
increased. It is possible to estimate the magnitude of the international
arms trade on the basis of the reports submitted by most major
supplier governments. However, other developments in 2000, resulting
from increasing international cooperation, may complicate national
transparency in transfers of arms and arms-related equipment,
such as the six-nation Framework Agreement and ‘top secret’
classification for documents on EU security policy. In addition,
without a political breakthrough to support its further development
the UN Register of Conventional Arms may have outlived its usefulness.

Attempts to sustain or increase regional
stability through arms supplies, illustrated by countries in
Asia and the Middle East, seem unlikely to be successful in the
long term. In addition, whether under international arms embargoes—including
mandatory UN embargoes—or not, recipients in conflict regions
receive supplies of major conventional weapons. Of the 15 leading
recipients in the period 1996–2000, India, Israel, Pakistan
and Turkey were involved in armed conflicts in 2000.


Appendix 5A. The volume of transfer of major conventional weapons: by recipients and suppliers, 1996-2000
Appendix 5B. The volume of transfers of major conventional weapons: by regions and other groups of recipients and suppliers, 1991-2000
Appendix 5C. Register of the transfers and licensed production of major conventional weapons, 2000
Appendix 5D. Sources and methods for arms transfers data


Full text, Appendices 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D (PDF)


Appendix 5E. Government and industry statistics on national arms exports


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Appendix 5F. Transfers of small arms and other weapons to armed conflicts


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Control of the proliferation and availability of small arms is
considered an important instrument of conflict prevention and
Among the issues under discussion are the use of small arms in
conflicts; the availability, demobilization and collection of
small arms in post-conflict situations; and the supply of small
arms through international transfers. The debate on the last
issue has to a large extent been further narrowed down to the
illegal trade in small arms, as evidenced by the title of the
July 2001 United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small
Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. In effect, this limits
the discussion to the question of how to curb the transfer of
small arms to non-state actors.

This emphasis addresses the problem at
the minimum level. The approach may be preferred because it is
politically convenient or because it limits the scope of the
debate to a manageable level. The central feature of an alternative
approach is to determine when supplies of weapons are legitimate
and responsible, and when the motives of suppliers—whether
of an economic, foreign policy or humanitarian interventionist
nature—are so strong that they are willing to run the risk
that weapon supplies will aggravate the conflicts. Although the
more inclusive approach may not be politically or practically
feasible at the UN level, it can be pursued for policy development
at the national level or between smaller groups of countries
in the development of new norms and regulations.

The appendix contains case studies of the conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia,
the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka.