While overall rates of gun violence are declining in most of the developed world, certain underdeveloped regions are facing a crisis of epidemic proportions. Latin America and the Caribbean together with Central and Southern Africa feature homicide rates that are between two to ten times the global average.
Meanwhile, a number of countries in Central Asia, the Middle East and North and West Africa are also witnessing a surge in conflict-related violence, much of it perpetrated with small arms and light weapons. The majority of people killed since 2011 in Libya, Syria and Mali have died as a result of assault rifles and explosives, not missiles or tanks.
A major challenge confronting global efforts to prevent and reduce armed violence is curbing the unregulated availability of small arms and light weapons. A big part of the problem is that authorized transfers of arms between states end up being illegally diverted on route. In some cases, arms are illegally transferred from states to armed groups.
One way to limit dodgy dealings is to increase the transparency of arms and ammunition exports and imports. Efforts led by the United Nations, together with regional organizations and research organizations, have shed light on the scope and scale of the authorized arms trade. Some critics insist that the legal trade cannot be mapped, but the work of these agencies suggests otherwise.
The Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO) and the Igarapé Institute are
committed to promoting public reporting and transparency on the small arms, light weapons and ammunition trade.
On the basis of past collaboration with Google Ideas, PRIO, and the Igarapé Institute are launching a small arms and ammunition trade visualization tool.
In the Mapping Arms Data (MAD) project, PRIO and the Igarapé Institute have mapped out tens of thousands of authorized small arms and ammunition transfers over the past two decades. MAD reveals patterns and trends in the global trade of arms and ammunition, and draws attention to gaps in our knowledge.
The MAD interactive visualization is made up of individual import and export data on authorized arms transfers. It includes information from 38 different sources (national arms export reports, customs, and the UN Register of Conventional Arms) between 1992 and 2011 and documents the global transfer of firearms and ammunition from across 250 nation states and territories.
Nicholas Marsh, leader of PRIO’s Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers and Robert Muggah, research director of the Igarapé Institute, note that the tool represents real innovation in the arms control world: “it shows that it’s possible to take a massive amount of data from many different sources and present it in an easy to understand and appealing way.”
The MAD visualization highlights major shifts in arms transfers over the past two decades, such as leading role of the United States and many European Union countries in exporting and importing arms and ammunition. It also reveals the rise of newcomers such as Brazil, the second largest small arms and ammunition arms exporter in the Western hemisphere.
What is more, it shines a light on hot spots and allows historical trends in imports and exports to be more easily examined. For example, MAD documented spikes in military small arms exports to Libya in 2009, some two years before the 2011 intervention. It also registers a steady growth in arms and ammunition exports to Afghanistan since 2001.
What is more, it shows how imports to Sudan from Iran sky-rocketed in 2003, the year the Darfur genocide kicked-off. Meanwhile, MAD illustrates the massive increase in arms and ammunition imports by Mexico since 2006 when then-President Calderon announced a war on drugs. It is only by visualizing these trends and opening them up to the public that real scrutiny can begin.
The MAD tool was launched on June 1 2013 on the occasion of the Human Target conference in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany.
For more information, contact:
Nicholas Marsh, +47 99314945, firstname.lastname@example.org (PRIO)
Robert Muggah, +55 21 8104 7054, email@example.com (Igarapé Institute)