13 June 2012
UK arms exports approvals: day by day
The exact dates of UK arms export approvals are made available for scrutiny today by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). The CAAT arms export web application provides easy public access to detailed information on UK arms and dual-use export licences. The app initially provided the month for a licence decision but now gives the specific date on which each individual strategic export licence was approved, refused or revoked.
This will enable researchers and the media to analyse licence data in greater detail and relate them to stated government policy. It will be especially useful in controversial cases , for example when arms are licenced to countries who are known human rights violators or who are likely to use the arms for internal repression.
Ian Prichard, CAAT Research Co-ordinator, says:
CAAT's web app has helped to open up arms export licensing to greater public and media scrutiny and this improvement moves that a substantial step forward. We will be able to know more about the government's response to aggression or human rights violations by the arms buyer.
However, this is still only part of the picture. Accountability demands that the government is open about who is the end user of the arms and which companies are selling them.
CAAT web app
The CAAT app, released on 8 March 2012, and available via CAAT's website, transforms the accessibility of the data.
The salient features are:
Open access - anyone can view data without registering and can make and refine searches in real time.
Data has been disaggregated, providing itemised licences with ratings and values.
Comprehensive searchability (including of commonly-required groupings, for example by region of the world or type of weaponry).
Graphs of values of items licensed are provided alongside listings of licences.
Explanations of terms are available throughout (often through mouse-overs).
Revoked licences are identified with the initial licence approvals.
Individual pages/searches (unique urls) can be linked to directly.
It conforms to basic accessibility standards, including the use of a screen reader or text-only browser.
The full raw data is available as csv files for download.
Further information on the Arms Export app and limitations of the government data can be found here.
For further information please contact CAAT's Media Coordinator, Kaye Stearman on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email
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. Around 75% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters.
- The arms export licensing process is carried out by the Export Control Organisation in the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), with input from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and, where development issues are involved, the Department for International Development (DFID).
- The BIS database contains information on strategic export licences granted, refused or revoked by the government, both military licences and dual-use licences (ie have both military and civilian uses). Official licence application information is updated on a quarterly basis, usually three months after the end of the quarter.
- In its current format the ECO data is difficult to access, use and understand. ECO is consulting with industry, government and NGOs on how it can achieve greater transparency in the presentation of data, in line with government commitments on open government. CAAT has submitted its own recommendations to ECO.