Global Arms Trade and Corruption

The global arms business is a priority for WPF because of the way the industry fuels violent conflict, not only by providing means but also cause for violence, by distorting diplomatic and democratizing processes. Corruption within the industry is often treated in terms of isolated incidents, when it is, in fact, representative of the business model for the industry. Our program aims to contribute to documenting the global impact of the industry as a way to change the conversation about its role in foreign and domestic policies.
The Global Arms Trade and Corruption program is led by Program Manager, Sam Perlo-Freeman.

This program includes:

A Compendium of Arms Trade Corruption:  Relaunched in December, 2018, this  database aims to cover, as comprehensively as possible, both domestic and international arms deals, where there have been substantive, well-grounded allegations of corruption. Cases are published on the site as they are completed, and include information on buyers and sellers, the equipment and sums of money involved, and the timeline of corruption allegations, investigations and prosecutions, where these have taken place. The aim of the database is both to highlight the prevalence of corruption in the global arms business, and to illustrate the particular features of the arms business and the political environment in which it operates that facilitates this corruption.  The cases are also displayed on an interactive map, designed by Tufts GIS Data Lab.

Myths of the Global Arms Trade: this program relays and defuses the seven “myths of the global arms trade.” Resources developed for this program include an interactive website and book, Indefensible: Seven Myths that Sustain the Global Arms Trade (Zed Books 2017),by Paul Holtom with WPF project collaborators. Learn more about the myths and access additional resources on this project page.

Research & Publications: Drawing on program manager Sam Perlo-Freeman’s research and expertise, and case study research conducted as part of the Compendium of Arms Trade Corruption, this research program adds an analytical component drawing out key themes and providing analysis of particular country contexts. It locates military corruption within the ecology of corruption of each particular country; the characteristic forms it takes and how it is related to corrupt practices in the wider commercial arena (including the common phenomenon of military-owned companies operating in non-military sectors) and in the political sphere (including the role of military corruption in funding political parties and patronage systems).


Arms Trade Corruption and Political Finance: Talk of corruption in the global arms business conjures up salacious images of personal enrichment. But arms deals produce profits for multiple purposes, not least of which is to keep a political machine running. Greed as a motive for graft captures headlines more readily than ambition – if for no other reason that it is more relatable. Nonetheless, a failure to appreciate the importance of corruption in creating and maintaining political power can in turn lead to underestimating the impact of corruption within political systems.

Related video:

Sam Perlo-Freeman, Project Manager for the Global Arms Business and Corruption project at the World Peace Foundation, on who is arming actors in the war in Yemen. 

Vijay Prashad, journalist, historian and director of  Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, discusses the flow of weapons from ‘friends’ to ‘enemies’ across today’s war zones.