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Report Shows Lack of Transparency in Small Arms Trade

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2014 (IPS) - Many countries have refrained from reporting their small arms exports while the weapons trade has continued to boom, according to a report released here.

“More than half of the countries under review do not provide any information on licenses granted or refused, despite the categories’ overall importance of transparency,” the Small Arms Survey, a project of Switzerland’s Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, said in its annual report on Monday.

The project assessed the small arms and light weapons exports in 2012 of 55 countries. Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the least transparent, the Geneva-based research project said.

The Institute said the project intends to operate as an independent source of information about small arms and armed violence for governments, policy makers, researchers and activists.

Despite many countries’ modest reporting activities, the overall transparency in publicising information slightly improved from the previous year, with Switzerland taking the lead, followed by Germany, Serbia and the United Kingdom.

The transfer of small arms and light weapons flourished in the 2001-2011 period, with the total value of global authorised trade almost doubling to 4.63 billion dollars in 2011, according to the U.N. Comtrade data reviewed by Small Arms Survey. The United States, Italy and Germany are respectively the three largest exporters.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) last year in an attempt to foster security and promote information transparency in global arms trade. So far 118 countries have signed the treaty, of which 40 nations have ratified. The treaty will take effect once it has been ratified or acceded to by 50 countries.

Technical issues regarding how to report arms trade may also hamper transparency, according to the survey. Despite requiring each country to provide an annual report on authorised and actual arms exports and imports, the ATT does not specify the types of information to be provided.

The treaty allows the countries to send the same information they provide to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms.

“States parties will need to draw inspiration from other frameworks for small arms transfer reporting, such as U.N. Comtrade and national arms export reports,” it said. “ATT reporting practises that stop at the U.N. Register would fall well short of what is possible and feasible.”

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