The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is an international treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional arms. It was adopted on 2 April 2013. Since then, 130 states have signed the treaty and 69 states have ratified it (state June 2015), and the Treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014. The Treaty will apply to battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopter, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons (SALW).

Armed forces

Armed forces are military fighting units of a state or a military alliance, including service providers and support units (such as military medical service). They can be divided into three categories: army (ground), navy (water), and air force (air). The armed forces are hierarchically structured. The German armed forces, or Bundeswehr, is under the command of the Minister of Defence during peacetime, and in times of war, the Chancellor becomes head of the armed forces. In the United Kingdom, the monarch is the head of the Royal Armed Forces whereas in the United States, it is the president.

Arms exports

Arms exports are all weapons, weapons systems, weapons parts and related material that a state sells to other states or persons or groups in other states. EU arms exports must be authorised by the governments of the Member States. States publish all authorised licenses or rejections (sometimes the volume of actual arms exports) in their annual reports on arms exports.

Arms industry

The arms industry is an economic sector where weapons, accessories, and ammunition are manufactured. The arms industry deals with three categories of weapons: small arms and light weapons, and heavy equipment, and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The arms industry in Europe is subject to an immensurable amount of national and European restrictions to prevent the delivery of defence equipment to regions of crisis and conflict where they could fan such conflicts.

Civil war

In a civil war, one state at most fights against one or more other national groups (rebels, guerillas). Causes are mostly of a religious , ethnic, political or social nature that can also be found between groups only. National groups strive towards a takeover of power or a secession of a region from the country. The effect on the population is often devastating as there are no clear borders and not clear signs for recognizing particular group memberships. Furthermore, rules of international law are often not observed.


A civilian is a person not in the armed forces or the police force, nor belonging to any organised armed group. In the context of armed conflict, the term ‘civilian’ is often used synonymously with the term ‘population’. This is not accurate, since members of armed groups, such as the military or police, are also part of the population of a country.

Conventional weapons

Conventional weapons are a group of weapons consisting of SALW, tanks and fighter planes – weapons that are used widely but that are not weapons of mass destruction (e.g. nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, see below). Conventional weapons are often the weapons of choice in armed conflict. Nowadays, these include advanced weapons such as MANPADS, sensors and lasers, and precision-guided munitions. There exists a Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (1983) which is a legally binding agreement between states to protect their military troops from being injured by certain types of weapons (e.g. mines and booby-traps, etc.). However, this Convention does not cover the more advanced conventional weapons used today, requiring the negotiation of new limitations on, or bans of certain conventional weapons.


Data are pieces of information describing measuring, categorizing situations or events mostly over a certain period of time. The collection and evaluation of data is of immense scientific importance. Through data, political theories, for instance, can be confirmed or refuted. At the same time, relationships between different events or factual circumstances can be identified. Data sets alone do not yet create any knowledge about their validity; for this they will first have to be analysed and then interpreted.

Defence or military budget

The defence or military budget of a country is generally composed of two categories. These are, on the one hand, recurring expenditures, such as the payment of salaries to soldiers or funds needed for the maintenance and repair of military equipment. On the other hand, they are so-called investment expenditures, which are funds that are invested in the expansion of military capacities, the research in and testing of new military technologies, or the purchase of new vehicles, equipment and weapons. A comparison of military expenditures and other state expenditures can provide information on the level of militarisation of a country.


An embargo is a type of sanction that deals with trade restrictions. They comprise confiscations, the retention of goods, and bans on the import and export of goods. Positive sanctions represent a future ‘reward’ for changed behaviour.

Emerging Markets/Countries

Emerging markets/countries are states that are no longer considered to be developing countries. An emerging market is either beginning or continuing a process of industrialisation. The economic structure changes from a mostly agricultural economy to industry. This progress in economic growth often results in a gap between the rich and poor and tensions between tradition and modernisation arise. This development was first observed in the so-called tiger states (South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore).

EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports

The EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports is a politically binding instrument that aims to establish “high common standards” for all EU Member States to refer to when making arms export decisions. It also aims to increase transparency among EU Member States on arms exports, and establishes notification and consultation mechanisms for export license denials through the pulibcation of the EU annual reports on arms exports. The Code of Conduct lays down eight criteria for the export of conventional arms that EU members should apply to their licensing decisions. It has contributed significantly to the harmonisation of national arms export control policies. The Council assesses implementation of the Code on an annual basis.

EU Common Position on Arms Transfers

The EU Common Position on arms transfers is another political agreement reached in 2008 between EU Member States that extends the high common standards for arms exports to brokering, transit transactions and intangible transfers of technology. It demonstrates the determination of EU Member States to prevent the export of military technology and equipment that might be used for undesirable purposes, such as internal repression or international aggression, or contributes to regional instability. The Common Position provides for the publication of an EU annual report.

Expenditure on education

In general, the category 'expenditure on education' is defined as expenditures on educational institutions. These are public and private (households and companies) expenditures on educational institutions in the narrow sense; public and private expenditure on research and development at educational institutions as well as expenditures on further education-related services, such as catering in educational institutions, transportation to schools, or housing on campus. In Germany, expenditure incurred by companies in the framework of dual training is also included in the expenditures on educational institutions. Payment in kind is included in these expenditures but not the trainees' salaries. In the framework of this information portal however, only national public expenditures are taken into account.

Expenditures on health

A state’s expenditures on health include expenditures for all health services, including non-cash contributions and manpower, such as private and statutory health insurance if applicable, incomes of doctors and nurses, financing of hospitals, dressing materials, etc. The volume of health expenditures can either be found in state budget plans or in national health reports. Health expenditures are an indicator of the policy of a government, indicating whether the government adequately invests in the well-being of its population compared to other investments, for example in military or economic interests which may or may not be to the benefit of the population.

Global Militarisation Index (GMI)

The Global Militarisation Index (GMI) was developed by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) and describes the level of militarisation of a country with the help of a ranking of nearly all countries in the world. The GMI shows the relative weight and importance of the military apparatus of a country in relation to its society as a whole. The following indicators are taken into account: Military expenditures as a share of a country’s GDP; military expenditures compared to expenditures on health; military personnel and reservists in comparison to a country’s population; military personnel compared to the number of doctors in a given country; and finally the ratio of heavy weapon systems to the population.

Gross domestic product (GDP)

The GDP is a measure of the economic output of a national economy over one year. It measures the monetary value of all finished goods and services produced within a country's borders. It shows the economic performance of a state and is thus an important factor for comparing specific national expenditures and the economic health of countries. The ratio of change of the GDP adjusted for inflation serves as a measure for the strength of a national economy. The GDP is used to calculate how citizens of a country are doing economically, also known as the gross national product (GNP).

Heavy weapon systems

Heavy weapon systems are larger machines that are used in immediate combat and that integrate various military requirements into one system (movement, firepower, etc.). Examples are tanks, helicopters, fighter planes, submarines, missiles and warships. They differ from small and light weapons that can be handled by one or two persons and from non-conventional weapons, namely weapons of mass destruction (nuclear bombs, toxic gas).

Human development

Human development is measured by the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Index goes beyond the statement on development by the GDP. The HDI covers three categories:

  1. A long and healthy life
  2. Life expectancy at the time of birth
  3. Literacy rate for adults and the number of children who go to school

It also takes into account the GDP per capita, which is to represent the standard of living. Having established the degree of development, the United Nations expect to be able to grant its development aid in a more targeted fashion.


Militarisation is the effect of increased armament and the provision of more (modern) weapons to the military as well as an increased importance of military norms and values. By providing more financial means to the military, a state can invest less in other areas. Reasons for militarisation can be either economic or ideological. Amongst other things, a state might see its essential interests threatened by an outside agent or might itself want to obtain economic advantages by an act of war. The GMI, developed by BICC, measures this level of militarisation.

Military expenditures

While efforts are underway to find a generally agreed definition of military expenditures worldwide, most countries use their own definition. There are three approaches which cover most definitions:

  1. Official defence budget
  2. Official defence budget plus expenditures for military purposes that are not integrated in the official defence budget.
  3. NATO countries have an official defence budget, complemented by further expenditures that, according to NATO definition, belong to defense expenditures.

Monopoly of violence

A state enjoys the monopoly of violence when it alone has the right to allow or to use physical violence on its territory. Its sovereignty is not challenged by any other power in the state. The democratic state’s superior strength that could possibly threaten the liberty of its citizens is balanced by its division of powers. The judicial and executive organs protect and enforce this monopoly of violence.


Paramilitary units are private units whose training, organisation, equipment and control are similar to that of a state soldier. Mostly, paramilitary forces can support or replace soldiers. These units have a broad scale of tasks; they may belong to a guerrilla group, to the opposition or to private military or security companies. Because of their field of activity, they are in part included in the state military personnel, for instance in the case of specially trained police forces.


A population consists of people who have a (permanent) residence in the territory of a certain state. The state, and its population, are separated from other states and their populations by geographical borders. In consequence, a population is the total of all inhabitants of a state, regardless of their origin, descent and membership in a particular profession or group.

Report on arms exports

The report on arms exports is a means used by EU Member States to publish the value and scope of their arms export licenses and, in part, their actual arms exports. A joint EU arms exports report is published on an annual basis. Exports are categorised according to recipient countries and weapons as well as parts of weapons. The reports are part of the EU Common Position and support better mutual and public control. The arms exports report by the German GKKE (Common Conference Church and Development) is a critical appraisal of European arms exports.


A reservist is a person who is a member of a military reserve force. They are otherwise civilians, and in peacetime have careers outside the military. In times of need, a reservist is available for military and civilian missions. Reservists are organised in formations and units that can be mobilised in emergencies. The length of service of reservists varies from country to country. In Germany, for instance, there is an age limit that depends on the individual’s former military career, while in other states, there is a life-long commitment. Furthermore, there are country-specific regulations on the readiness that, depending on the respective emergency, determines when certain reservists are called to duty. Therefore, a direct comparison of numbers of reservists must be drawn with caution.


A sanction is a threatened penalty that intends to make a state or a number of states behave in a certain way by either initiating or stopping a certain action. This measure is permitted in international law and can, for instance, be brought against a country by the UN Security Council.

Small arms and light weapons (SALW)

Any portable weapon with a calibre of up to 100mm is called a small arm or light weapon (SALW). SALW range from revolvers and pistols, assault and machine guns to bazookas and MANPADS (man-portable air-defence systems). Small arms are weapons that can be operated by one person and whose calibre is no larger than 12.7mm, while light weapons have a higher calibre (12.7 100mm) and are operated by a team of two or three.


Soldiers are men and women who actively serve in the military under the control of the Ministry of Defence. Soldiers are often divided into ground forces, navy, and air force. The tasks of a soldier differ according to rank. In the event of war, their main tasks are to secure the hinterland and the supply lines, to evaluate the situation, and to occupy tactically, strategically and economically important areas, and to obliterate the enemy.


A state is a politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory. This political body can be organised as an autocracy (a one-person rule such as a monarchy or a dictatorship), an oligarchy (rule by a small group), a democracy (leaders get chosen by vote of the people) or communism (a socioeconomic system structured on common ownership). Officially, there are 193 UN Member States. There are also a few states that are not recognized by the UN (Taiwan, West Sahara, Kosovo, etc.).


A threat is a subjective or collective perception of a possibility of danger. It is the fear of possible negative changes of the status quo The threat can either originate from an actual menace, a feeling or an assessment. A threat situation can either come from factors from within or the outside. While a threat from within, on a state level, can emanate from Mafia-like groups, a threat from the outside can be caused by the deterrent of a neighbouring state possessing weapons of mass destruction.

Wassenaar Arrangement

The Wassenaar Arrangement has been established in order to contribute to regional and international security and stability, by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilising accumulations. Participating States seek, through their national policies, to ensure that transfers of these items do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine these goals, and are not diverted to support such capabilities.


A weapon is an object that is intended or used to inflict harm on another person, whether this harm is bodily, physiological or psychological. Weapons are also used to inflict physical damage on an object. There are many ways and reasons for weapons to be used, which is based on the context in which it is used. Based on their destructive capacity, even the threat of using a weapon can affect people in their freedom to act or to make a decision. Ordinary objects can become weapon if they are used to inflict damage or harm.

Weapons of mass destruction (WMD)

Weapons of mass destruction are mostly nuclear, biological and chemical weapons that are far more destructive on humans and the environment than any other group of weapons. They often cause long-term damage and are rarely used due to their disastrous consequences. The only country to have used a nuclear weapon is the United States, which dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Many states show their intention of not using such weapons by signing international treaties against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Weapons trade

The trade in weapons is described as the purchase and sale of weapons between various actors, such as states, companies, and private individuals. Weapons are imported when an actor does not have weapons manufacturers or modern weapons at its disposal. Weapons can be traded legally, illegally, or illicitly. Within the legal trade, the most important exporters are rich countries with a high technical standard. As poor countries often trade natural resources for weapons, the exploitation of a resource and the weapons procured with this can exacerbate a conflict situation in that country. This is why sanctions are imposed on some countries and the trade of certain goods is forbidden. At the same time, the weapons trade is controlled and, in part, subject to a code of conduct (EU, etc.).

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