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18.9.2021 : 9:21 : +0200

New Small Arms Survey report—Trade Update 2019: Transfers, Transparency, and South-east Asia Spotlight

GENEVA—Authorized small arms imports to South-east Asia were worth at least USD 443 million in 2016, a 48 per cent increase from 2015, as revealed by the Small Arms Survey’s Trade Update 2019: Transfers, Transparency, and South-east Asia Spotlight. This increase, combined with the diversification in their small arms trading partners, highlights the region’s growing significance for international small arms flows.

Between 2014 and 2016, the 11 countries of South-east Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam) imported at least USD 1.3 billion worth of small arms (6.9 per cent of global imports for the period). The largest importer in the region in 2016 was Indonesia (the third largest importer globally in 2016), with an import value of at least USD 281 million, followed by Thailand (USD 85 million), the Philippines (USD 41 million), and Singapore and Malaysia (USD 15 million each). Sixty-two per cent of the region’s imports since 2014 went to Indonesia alone, making it the fourth largest importer of small arms in the world during this period, after the United States, Canada, and Saudi Arabia. 

‘However, given the opaque nature of small arms-related issues in South-east Asia, it is unlikely that these figures capture the full scale of small arms transfers into and around the region,’ said Small Arms Survey senior researcher Paul Holtom.

Survey research indicates that China, Israel, the Russian Federation, and South Korea are competing with traditional US and European suppliers for South-east Asian customers, several of which are also expanding their own domestic industries. Therefore, emergent suppliers are not only delivering small arms to South-east Asia in increasing quantities, they are also contributing to the development of domestic production capabilities in the region via licensed production and technology transfer arrangements. 

Global authorized small arms trade at record high since 2001

The increased value of imports for South-east Asia mirrors the growth in the value of the global small arms trade, which was worth USD 6.5 billion in 2016—a 13 per cent increase compared to 2015 and the highest ever since the Small Arms Survey began collecting trade data in 2001. Almost 90 per cent of the USD 751 million global increase can be attributed to the world’s top tier of small arms exporters—most notably from Austria, Croatia, and Germany. 

Transparency in small arms trade in decline

The Small Arms Survey’s Trade Update features this year’s edition of the Small Arms Trade Transparency Barometer—which scores the transparency of top and major exporters’ reporting on arms trade activities out of a maximum 25 points. The 2019 Barometer identifies Switzerland as the most transparent small arms exporter with 21.25 points for activities carried out in 2016, followed by Germany and the Netherlands with 19.5 points each, and Serbia and the United Kingdom with 18.25 points each. The least transparent major exporters were North Korea and Iran with zero points, Saudi Arabia with 0.5 points, and Israel with 1.25 points.

On average, exporters reviewed for the 2019 Barometer scored 12.3 points, i.e.: just less than half of the available score.

Note for editors:

The Small Arms Survey’s Trade Update 2019: Transfers, Transparency, and South-east Asia Spotlight provides an analysis of documented trade in 2016, reflecting data entered in the UN Comtrade database as of 26 November 2018. This is in line with established practice whereby the Survey and the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT) give countries almost two full calendar years in which to make and revise their respective UN Comtrade submissions.

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