Military Expenditures

United Nations Report on Military Expenditures

Countries can report to the UN their military spending in the previous year. Such transparency may increase confidence within regions and beyond. By making the figures publicly available, the UN encourages their verification and analysis.

Online reporting tool

Click to access the MILEX online reporting form

Reporting forms (for official use only)

Over the past century, Governments have tried finding ways in order to come to agreed reductions in military expenditures, or at least to be open about how much countries spend on their military. They did so in the League of Nations, and later in the UN. Early proposals in the UN focused on reducing expenditures of militarily important States, freeing up funds for development aid.

Such proposals proved unfeasible. However, they did prompt the General Assembly to develop, in 1981, the UN Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures—recently renamed United Nations Report on Military Expenditures —which allows countries to report what their military budget looks like. If submitted every year, they provide insight on military spending patterns of countries.

The original goal of the Instrument - to facilitate reduction of the biggest military budgets - was abandoned even before the report's template was fully developed. The only agreed application of the Instrument has been as a transparency measure, aimed at promoting confidence-building among all States.

It has never been established how this Instrument precisely relates to other confidence-building measures, to other budget-related instruments, including the tools of the IMF and the World Bank, or to the link between security and development. Could the Instrument be of future use, e.g. when assessing what security sector reform is needed in a country? In 2011, a UN Group of Governmental Experts reported to the Secretary-General on these questions.

Related Links

SIPRI Arms Transfer Database

IISS Military Balance

Transparency International - International Defence & Security Programme