Sie sind hier: Weapons and Markets / Transfers / Illicit Trafficking
23.9.2021 : 19:08 : +0200

Illicit Trafficking

The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons occurs in all parts of the globe but is concentrated in areas afflicted by armed conflict, violence, and organized crime, where the demand for illicit weapons is often highest. Arms trafficking fuels civil wars and regional conflicts; stocks the arsenals of terrorists, drug cartels, and other armed groups; and contributes to violent crime and the proliferation of sensitive technology.

Black market trafficking usually takes place on a regional or local level; publicly available data suggests that the multi-ton, inter-continental shipments organized by the ‘merchants of death’ account for only a small fraction of illicit transfers.  Among the most important forms of illicit trafficking is the ‘ant trade’—numerous shipments of small numbers of weapons that, over time, result in the accumulation of large numbers of illicit weapons by unauthorized end users. Data analyzed in the Small Arms Survey 2013 indicates that thousands of firearms seized in Mexico are traced to the United States annually. These weapons are often purchased from gun shops in small numbers and then smuggled over the border. While individual transactions occur on a small scale, the sum total of the weapons trafficked into Mexico is large. 

While most arms trafficking appears to be conducted by private entities, certain governments also contribute to the illicit trade by deliberately arming proxy groups involved in insurgencies against rival governments, terrorists with similar ideological agendas, or other non-state armed groups. These types of transfers, which are prevalent in Africa and other regions where armed conflict is common, are often conducted in contravention of UN arms embargoes and have the potential to destabilize neighbouring countries. In recent years, governments have covertly delivered tens of thousands of small arms and light weapons to various armed groups in Somalia despite a long-standing UN arms embargo.  As revealed in the Small Arms Survey 2012, these weapons range from Kalashnikov-pattern assault rifles to third-generation SA-18 MANPADS, one of which was used to shoot down a Belarusian cargo aircraft delivering supplies intended for peacekeepers in March 2007.  

The prices of illicit firearms and their relation to security dynamics have attracted interest among journalists and researchers for some time. In the Small Arms Survey 2013 finds a clear link between illicit market prices in Lebanon and reported fatalities during the first 19 months of the conflict in Syria. The particularly strong correlation between ammunition prices in Lebanon and fatalities in Syria underlines the value of monitoring ammunition prices. Yet available reporting from conflict zones has tended to neglect this important piece of the puzzle, focusing on prices for the most common weapons instead.

The Small Arms Survey 2014 reveals that newly produced ammunition is circulating in conflict-affected countries in Africa and the Middle East. Tracing investigations presented in this edition conclude that Sudan government stockpiles are the primary source of weapons for non-state armed groups of all allegiances in Sudan and South Sudan—both through deliberate arming and battlefield capture. Such arms monitoring is, however, increasingly hampered by the production of unmarked ammunition and the deliberate removal of weapons’ markings.

Small Arms Survey Publications

  • Tri-border Transit: Trafficking and Smuggling in the Burkina Faso–
    Côte d’Ivoire–Mali Region
    , by Roberto Sollazzo and Matthias Nowak. SANA Briefing Paper, October 2020 (also available in French).

    Download (7.69 MB)
  • Supporting Effective Implementation of United Nations Sanctions on North Korea: How-to Guides, by Hugh Griffiths. July 2020. (Also available in Arabic and French).

    Download (11.94 MB)
  • Arms Monitoring in Guinea: A Survey of National Forensic Services, by André Desmarais. SANA Briefing Paper, April 2020 (originally published in French in September 2019). 

    Download (2.26 MB)
  • The West Africa–Sahel Connection: Mapping Cross-border Arms Trafficking, by Fiona Mangan and Matthias Nowak. Briefing Paper, December 2019 (also available in French)

    Download (7.18 MB)
  • Beyond Blue Helmets: Promoting Weapons and Ammunition Management in Non-UN Peace Operations, by Eric G. Berman. Small Arms Survey/MPOME Report, March 2019 (also available in French and Spanish)

    Download (1.28 MB)
  • Weapons Compass: Mapping Illicit Small Arms Flows in Africa. Report, January 2019. A joint publication of the Small Arms Survey and the African Union Commission (also available in Arabic, French, and Portuguese)

    Download (4.19 MB)
  • Beyond State Control: Improvised and Craft-produced Small Arms and Light Weapons, by G. Hays and N.R. Jenzen-Jones. Small Arms Survey Report, November 2018.

    Download (4 MB)
  • Le monitoring des armes au Sahel: les institutions forensiques nationales, by André Desmarais. SANA Briefing Paper, June 2018 (also available in English)

    Download (1.12 MB)
  • Monitoring Illicit Arms Flows: The Role of UN Peacekeeping Operations, by Holger Anders. SANA Briefing Paper, June 2018 (also available in Arabic)

    Download (1.8 MB)
  • From Legal to Lethal: Converted Firearms in Europe, by Nicolas Florquin and Benjamin King. Small Arms Survey Report, April 2018 (also available in Arabic and French).

    Download (1.22 MB)
  • Web Trafficking: Analysing the Online Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Libya, by N.R. Jenzen-Jones and Ian McCollum, April 2017. Working Paper No. 26 (also available in Arabic).

    Download (1.18 MB)
  • Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: Ukraine, by Anton Martyniuk. Briefing Paper, April 2017 (also available in Ukrainian). 

    Download (286.46 KB)
  • Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: Niger, by Savannah de Tessières. Briefing Paper, March 2017 (also available in Arabic and French).

    Download (959.7 KB)
  • Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: Honduras, November 2016. Research Note No. 62 (also available in Spanish).

    Download (238.74 KB)
  • Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: Somalia, October 2016. Research Note No. 61 (also available in Arabic).

    Download (296.77 KB)
  • Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: SDG Target 16.4, May 2016. Research Note No. 57.

    Download (402.44 KB)
  • Dribs and Drabs: The Mechanics of Small Arms Trafficking from the United States, March 2016. Issue Brief No. 17.

    Download (1.6 MB)
  • Diversion of Arms and Ammunition in Peace Operations: Observations based on Missions in Sudan and South Sudan, September 2015. Research Note No. 54, Armed Actors (also available in French and Spanish).

    Download (527.22 KB)
  • Reducing Illicit Arms Flows and the New Development Agenda, March 2015. Research Note No. 50, Armed Violence.

    Download (672.43 KB)
  • MANPADS Proliferation Reduction by Design: On Countermeasures and Kill Switches, February 2015. Issue Brief No. 11.

    Download (391.77 KB)
  • Armed Groups and Guided Light Weapons: 2014 Update with MENA Focus, December 2014. Research Note No. 47, Armed Actors. (also available in Arabic)

    Download (300.07 KB)
  • The Highway Routes: Small Arms Smuggling in Eastern Nepal, November 2014. Nepal Armed Violence Assessment Issue Brief No. 4 (see also Annexe).

    Download (1.5 MB)
  • Fire and Forget: The Proliferation of Man-portable Air Defence Systems in Syria, August 2014. Issue Brief No. 9.

    Download (589.63 KB)
  • Rogue Rocketeers: Artillery Rockets and Armed Groups, by Matt Schroeder, July 2014. Working Paper No. 19

    Download (1.13 MB)
  • Feeding the Fire: Illicit Small Arms Ammunition in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia, July 2014. Issue Brief No. 8.

    Download (499.57 KB)
  • Documenting Weapons in Situations of Armed Conflict: Methods and Trends, June 2014. Research Note No. 42, Weapons and Markets.

    Download (925.64 KB)
File 1 to 30 out of 74
First < Back Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Next > Last

Other Publications

  • Florquin, Nicolas. 2014. Arms Prices and Conflict Onset: Insights from Lebanon and Syria. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research. May.

    More information
  • Goodman, Colby and Michel Marizco. September 2010. U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico: New Data and Insights Illuminate Key Trends and Challenges. Working Paper Series on U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation. September. Washington and San Diego: Woodrow Wilson Center & University of San Diego.

  • EUROPOL. 2010. Rise in the use of heavy firearms by organised crime gangs. Europol News, 15 July.

    More information
  • UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). 2010. The Globalization of Crime: A Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment.

  • Farah, Douglas and Stephen Braun. 2007. Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

    More information
  • IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks). 2006. Guns out of Control: The Continuing Threat of Small Arms.  June.

  • Amnesty International and Transarms. 2006. Dead on Time: Arms Transportation, Brokering, and the Threat to Human Rights.

  • Schroeder, Matthew, Dan Smith, and Rachel Stohl. 2006. The Small Arms Trade: A Beginner's Guide. London: Oneworld Publications

  • Vines, Alex. 2005. Combating light weapons proliferation in West Africa. International Affairs, Vol. 81, Issue 2. March, pp. 341 – 360.

    More information
  • Biting the Bullet. 2004. Small Arms and Light Weapons Transfers: Developing Understandings on guidelines for national controls and transfers to non-state actors. Small Arms Consultative Group Process, Chair’s Interim Report. London: International Alert, Saferworld and University of Bradford.

    More information
  • Marsh, Nicholas. 2002. Two Sides of the Same Coin? The Legal and Illegal Trade in Small Arms. The Brown Journal of World Affairs. Vol. 9, Issue 1. Providence: Brown University.

  • Verlöy, André. N.d. 2002. The Merchant of Death. The Centre for Public Integrity. 20 November.

    More information
  • Lumpe, Lora, ed. 2000. Running Guns: The Global Black Market in Small Arms. London: Zed Books.

  • Alves, Péricles and Daiana Cipollone eds. 1998. Curbing Illicit Trafficking in Small Arms and Sensitive Technologies: An Action-Oriented Agenda. Geneva: UNIDIR (United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research).

File 1 to 14 out of 14
First < Back Page 1 Next > Last
Share this content
Share this content: