UN Register of Conventional Arms

If States behave in a predictable and transparent way, including being open about arms transfers, this could build confidence among them and help prevent conflict. For this purpose, governments can report to the UN Register of Conventional Arms. The Register is an important tool, giving practical significance to the concept of 'transparency in armaments'.


Transparency in armaments

Transparency in armaments can help determine if excessive or destabilizing accumulations of arms is taking place. Being open about armaments may encourage restraint in the transfer or production of arms, and can contribute to preventive diplomacy. Since its inception in 1991, the UN Register has received reports from more than 170 States. The vast majority of official transfers are captured in the Register. Reports include data provided by countries on arms transfers as well as information on holdings, domestic purchases and relevant policies. Upon its establishment, States decided to continue working on expanding the Register's scope. They have done so through Groups of Governmental Experts (GGE) that convene every three years and report to the General Assembly, which may adopt a resolution incorporating the GGE recommendations. The last triennial review by a GGE was done in 2013.


Annual Consolidated Reports of the Secretary-General (Compilation of yearly national submissions)


Not all arms covered

The Register covers seven categories of arms, which are deemed the most lethal ones. In 2003, countries decided that small arms could be added to the Register. Many countries now include small arms in their yearly reports.

Governments may buy arms domestically

If countries without a domestic industry dutifully report their imports, it would be fair if countries who produce arms themselves report on their domestic purchases. In that way, all purchases are covered. Therefore the Register includes a provision for reporting on procurement through national production.

Defence policies, military holdings

Reporting on a transfer is even more transparent if the context for the purchase is given. This is why countries can report on their national defence policies, and on the total amount of weapons they have available.

Related Links

UNODA Occasional Paper No. 16: Assessing the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (PDF) SIPRI Arms Transfer Database IISS Military Balance