(First published in Norwegian 21 Feb 2007)
By Pia Gaarder
Several rankings of countries that export weapons are in use. These lists are based on various databases, and the numbers are disputed. Some countries furnish numbers based on information supplied by the weapons industry; others are based on numbers that emerge from customs regulations. Even the best rankings are not without flaws.
The UN’s Comtrade database on the world’s foreign trade is a very poor source for weapons statistics, according to SIPRI, the Swedish peace research institute, which is one of the major authorities in the field.
“The Comtrade data are extremely unreliable, and many countries do not supply their export figures to the database. SIPRI does not use these data, because we simply do not know what to do with them,” SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman told us.
The ranking based on Comtrade data, which placed Norway as the sixth largest weapons exporter in 2003, is in other words based on very uncertain data.
SIPRI itself does not make an annual ranking of weapons-exporting countries. However, on the basis of the figures available from SIPRI’s yearbook for 2006, Norway emerges as the 14th largest weapons exporter in the world.
On SIPRI’s list of the largest weapons-exporting countries in the 5-year period of 2001-2005 Norway is ranked as 18th, a notch above a corresponding list for 2000-2004, where Norway was 19th. In the 5-year period of 1999-2003 Norway was ranked as 21st. The tendency is therefore clear: Norway is constantly becoming a larger international producer of weapons.
Whether Norway, with 0.7 per mille of the world’s population, is neither 6th nor 11th on the weapons exporters’ top-ten list, we can with certainty say that Norway is big and is to be found among the 20 largest.
But, as SIPRI researcher Wezeman said, “More important than the ranking is the question of where the weapons end up. As Norwatch has previously pointed out, the Norwegian export of ammunition to the USA, for example, leads to a much more important question, that of Norway’s involvement in the Iraq conflict.