The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms: Limits of a transparency instrument

As a unique source of information on annual transfers of conventional arms, the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms is an important transparency instrument in the field of armaments. The introduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) as a category in itself into the Register has been debated since the end of the 1990’s. However, the group of governmental experts in charge of reviewing the Register and its further development did not agree on any substantial modification after their sixth meeting of 2009. The lack of progress in the field of SALW compromises the current relevance of the Register as an international transparency instrument and questions its capacity to adapt to the new regional and international security realities. In the context of the negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), it will be crucial to avoid repeating the current Register’s imperfections which actually undermine its value as a transparency instrument.