Revitalizing Debate on the Global Arms Trade

This research program is funded in part by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It aims to invigorate debate and policy about the arms trade through integrating the trade into other areas of policy, research, and activism, and re-energizing discussions through the engagement of a younger generation.

Breaking open conversations on the arms trade through research.
Breaking open conversations on the arms trade through policy.
Breaking open conversations on the arms trade through activism.
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Outputs | Project Team

Project Overview

Today the arms trade is bolstered by the perceived convergence of state and corporate interests, and protected by a highly technical and opaque veil of national security. The veil functions not only to obscure the details of particular trade transactions, it shifts attention so that the trade is rarely even visible. When policymakers speak of national security and strategic partnerships, too often these concepts take material form in the production and trade of weaponry. One result of this are troubling arms races in the MENA region, across Asia, and eastern Europe with the active participation of the world’s arms exporters. In public discussions and policy debates, these troubling trends are largely ignored – or if addressed at all, done so only obliquely.

The invisibility of the trade both causes and is caused by the isolation of debates about the trade into a niche area, rather than foregrounded as a dangerous limitation of today’s dominant security practices. This was not always the case. The risks of arms build-ups, fueling proxy wars and profiteering from conflict have been more visible at various points in contemporary history, notably following periods of armed conflict involving “Great Powers” – the very states that are among the primary producers of weapon systems. Further, it need not be the case today.  The first step towards invigorating debate and policy about the arms trade is to engage actors already concerned with the problems entangled with the trade, and to help make the role of the trade visible. 

Outputs

Websites

PRISME envisions a reconceptualization of security in the Middle East and North Africa to reflect the interests of diverse stakeholders and strategic partners, and which can provide guidance for a more peaceful and stable region.

Events

SALAM Debate 1: The Role of the Arms Trade (PRISME, April 14, 2023). An online round-table debate, under the guidance of the three SALAM expert associates.

SALAM Debate 2: The Opportunity Cost of the Arms Trade (PRISME, September 15, 2023). An online round-table debate, under the guidance of the three SALAM expert associates.

CT Workshop 1: Building Movements: Climate Crisis & Militarization (Corruption Tracker, May 23, 2023). Western militaries claim that they will reshape themselves into the ultimate climate ally, but what does this mean in practice? This panel explores what researchers, policymakers, and activists are doing locally, regionally, and globally to address the role of militarization in the climate crisis.

CT Workshop 2: Stability is Not Peace: Egypt, Military Partnerships, and Corruption (Corruption Tracker, November 23, 2023). As Egyptians head to the polls for their presidential election in December, this panel discusses: What is the wider context of harm caused by military partnerships with Egypt and other countries in the region? What does military corruption mean to Egyptian activists and how can we build better relationships based on solidarity with the Egyptian people? 

Hardwired for Corruption? Risks and Red Flags for Corruption in the Arms Trade (Corruption Tracker, January 30, 2024). Given that the arms trade is a high-risk sector for corruption, for reasons such as secrecy, its highly technical nature and political significance, EU anti-corruption efforts must pay special attention to spending on arms. This workshop highlights key red flags and provides a contextual analysis of the arms trade to inform parliamentarians about corruption risks in the sector. 

Breaking Open Conversations on the Arms Trade (World Peace Foundation, October 26, 2023). Exploring four fascinating aspects of the arms trade: from greenwashing and corruption, to the over-reliance on weapons as security and the military industry’s hold over government.

Reports

“Resisting Green Militarism: Building Movements for Peace and Eco-Social Justice” by Nico Edwards (World Peace Foundation, December 2023/January 2024).

This report maps the ongoing militarisation of ecological crises, finding that the emergence of green militarism has dire consequences for eco-social justice.
The Executive Summary highlights the need for building “ecologies of resistance” to tackle militarism, criminalisation, extractivism, and colonialism together.
List of organizations, initiatives, and/or campaigns addressing military, climate and justice links. This list is far from exhaustive.
This open access and interactive Campaign Toolkit features resources to foster knowledge-sharing across movements. 

Other Publications

Project Team


B. Arneson

Program Director at the World Peace Foundation, Research Coordinator at the Corruption Tracker, and part of the Forum on Arms Trade’s 2022/2023 cohort of Emerging Experts.

Bridget Conley

Research Director of the World Peace Foundation and Associate Research Professor at The Fletcher School. Her research focuses on civilian protection issues.

JAC

Founder of PlayDeadPixel, with over 12 years of experience in multidisciplinary design and visual communication.

Nico Edwards

ESRC-funded International Relations PhD student at University of Sussex, and active volunteer at Youth Fusion and Scientists for Global Responsibility

Sam Perlo-Freeman

Research Coordinator at Campaign Against Arms Trade and an Associate Researcher of the World Peace Foundation, with a particular focus on militarism and security, and the political influence of the arms industry.

Emma Soubrier

Associate Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Development at the Université Côte d’Azur (Nice, France) and at the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University.

Anna Stavrianakis

Professor in International Relations at the University of Sussex, UK. Her main research interests are the international arms trade, UK arms export policy, and militarism and security in North-South perspective. 

Corruption Tracker

A youth-led project that brings together a network of journalist, academics, and activists, who contribute to an online database documenting cases and allegations of corruption within the arms trade. 

This project is made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.