EU arms export info revealed but huge gaps in data remain

30 May 2013

Every year EU countries export billions of euros worth of weaponry, ranging from small arms and ammunition to warships and military aircraft. But EU citizens know little about this deadly trade. For the first time, a new web app from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) makes the existing data clearly and easily available to the public, politicians, civil servants and the media.

CAAT's EU Arms Exports browser uses data compiled by the European Commission and released in annual reports. While the reports are hard to navigate and highly technical, the browser provides a simple interface that allows the user to browse the data in an accessible format and quickly make comparisons between different exporters, destination countries, types of hardware and year.

However, the official data is far from complete and includes some glaring omissions. Though the EU data covers all military equipment, it does not include export licences for "dual-use" equipment, that is equipment that could be used for military or civil purposes, and information on actual deliveries is not provided by several countries including major suppliers Germany and the UK. In some cases, the EU data differs from national reporting.

CAAT's new EU Arms Exports browser, produced in association with the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT), shows all known weapons transfers out of the EU from 1998 onwards, broken down by source, destination and type of equipment.

Benefits:

  • It's very fast - specific information can be found in seconds with totals automatically calculated; the previous alternative was to search through thousands of pages of numeric tables with a calculator.
  • It's clear - graphic indicators give an overview of the data at a glance, data is ordered by value, and all the pertinent data fits on one page. Arithmetic errors in the source data have been corrected and disparities in reporting have been unified in a common interface.
  • It's intuitive - data can be filtered by any metric simply by clicking the values of interest. Every search has a unique URL so when you find something interesting you can share it with just the address.
  • It's open - the browser is available in multiple languages and the raw data is available for download in machine-readable formats for other researchers and designers.

And this is only the beginning

Open data professionals are invited to a Hack Day in London on June 22 to collaborate in an exciting design challenge with CAAT's growing data sources and expose the international arms trade as never before.

Wendela de Vries from Dutch Campagne tegen Wapenhandel says:

When European citizens want to hold the EU accountable for its arms export policies, information about these exports should be available in an understandable format. As the Commission fails to do this, peace groups decided to provide it through a multilingual web app. It is vitally important that EU campaigners work together to expose the workings of governments and arms companies. This browser gives us a new tool to enable us to disseminate information and develop campaigns across EU borders.

Kaye Stearman from CAAT says:

The UK is one of the EU's, and indeed the world's, largest arms exporters as this tool demonstrates very clearly. In a time of austerity the EU states compete to sell weapons to repressive governments in the Middle East and Asia who then use these weapons to suppress their own populations and build up arsenals against neighbouring countries. This is a betrayal of the EU's stated commitment to democracy and human rights.

ENDS

The EU arms export browser was developed by Ian Mackinnon of CAAT and jointly published with ENAAT as part of CAAT's commitment to the international movement against the arms trade. The developer and CAAT researcher are available for interview,. For further information please contact CAAT's Media Coordinator, Kaye Stearman on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email media(at)caat·org·uk.

Notes
  1. Background information to the EU data, including the different data categories, information about licensed and exported goods (deliveries) and a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) are available on the browser.
  2. The "Fourteenth Annual Report on Control of Exports of Military Technology and Equipment" is available in pdf and html format. Previous reports are posted on the SIPRI website. Giorgio Beretta of Rete Italiana per il Disarmo (Italian Disarmament Network) has summarised the EU reports covering 2009, 2010 and 2011.
  3. Hack Day will take place at the Anatomy Museum Theatre, King’s College London, Strand WC2R 2LS on Saturday 22 June, from 9am to 6pm. Tickets are free but places are limited so if you are interested get in touch with us now at research(at)caat·org·uk.
  4. The European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) is a grouping of European anti-arms trade organisations, including Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK.
  5. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. In 2012, CAAT was awarded a Right Livelihood Award – the "Alternative Nobel Prize" – for its "innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade".
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