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The Transparency Barometer

Assessing and comparing countries' export reports is complicated as their formats differ widely: from a few pages of statistics to several hundred pages of text and tables. The basic question around which the Small Arms Trade Transparency Barometer is constructed is: how useful is the export report for understanding a country's small arms exports?

In order to assess countries’ transparency in their small arms exports, the revised Barometer guidelines take into account:

  • national arms export reports, including national contributions to the EU Annual Report on military exports as well as submissions to the SESSAC Regional Report
  • submissions to the UN Register of Conventional Arms (UN Register)
  • submissions to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN Comtrade)

The Transparency Barometer uses the following seven categories for the overall points distribution: (i) timeliness, (ii) access and consistency, (iii) clarity, (iv) comprehensiveness; (v) deliveries, (vi) licences granted, and (vii) licences refused.

These categories assess promptness and consistency in reporting (categories i–ii), clarity and comprehensiveness (iii–iv), and the level of detail provided on actual deliveries, licences granted, and licences denied (v–vii).

The Transparency Barometer guidelines award points to governments that indicate that they do not export or have not exported a particular type of small arm or light weapon. This 'nil reporting' is considered complete information for purposes of attributing points under relevant categories of the Barometer.

It is important to stress that the Barometer evaluates the provision of arms export information and does not seek to independently verify the veracity of that information. In other words, the Barometer assesses the quantity, precision, and usefulness of the data made public by states, but not its accuracy.

Because of its focus on small arms and light weapons exports, the Barometer cannot be used as a general measure of transparency for all arms exports. It includes only countries that have exported small arms and light weapons, their parts, accessories, and ammunition of a value equal to or greater than USD 10 million on at least one occasion since 2001.

The 2016 edition of the Transparency Barometer reviews information on trade activities that states carried out in 2013 and made public during the course of the following calendar year. It identifies Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands as the most transparent of major exporters, with scores of 19.75 and 19.50 points (out of 25), respectively. The average score of all evaluated countries in the 2016 Barometer is 11.16. This rather low average means that the vast majority of states, including those scoring better than average, still have some way to go before achieving full transparency in their export reporting.

   

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