Small Arms Survey (SAS)

The Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, is a global centre of excellence whose mandate is to generate impartial, evidence-based, and policy-relevant knowledge on all aspects of small arms and armed violence. It is the principal international source of expertise, information, and analysis on small arms and armed violence issues, and acts as a resource for governments, policy-makers, researchers, and civil society. The Survey has an international staff with expertise in security studies, political science, law, economics, development studies, sociology, and criminology, and collaborates with a network of researchers, partner institutions, non-governmental organizations, and governments in more than 50 countries.

Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2E
1202 Geneva
No programmes have been added yet.
No support mandates have been added yet.
No vacancies have been added yet.

Policy and Research Papers

New War, Old Enemies: Conflict Dynamics in South Kordofan

This Working Paper describes the first year of renewed war in South Kordofan (June 2011–July 2012), focusing on the conduct and dynamics of the conflict and the primary armed actors. It also identifies shared weapons and ammunition holdings based on detailed accounts of materiel seized, as well as photographs and first-hand physical inspections.
 While the war in South Kordofan is fundamentally a conflict between primarily (Northern) Sudanese actors for control of the state, it also has clear cross-border implications—as SAF’s air strikes in Unity state and the Southern fighters’ temporary seizure of the Hejlij oil fields attest. This paper reviews these border aspects of the conflict and its impacts on relations between Khartoum and Juba.

To view this article, please follow this link.


Small Arms Survey: Women and Guns

The Small Arms Survey 2014: Women and Guns considers the multiple roles of women in the context of armed violence, security, and the small arms agenda. The volume’s thematic section comprises one chapter on violence against women and girls—with a focus on post-conflict Liberia and Nepal—and another on the recent convergence of the small arms agenda with that of women, peace, and security. Complementing these chapters are illustrated testimonies of women with experience as soldiers, rebels, and security personnel. The ‘weapons and markets’ section assesses the potential impact of the Arms Trade Treaty, presents the 2014 Transparency Barometer and an update on the authorized small arms trade, and analyses recent ammunition explosions in the Republic of the Congo. In addition, it examines ammunition circulating in Africa and the Middle East, maps the sources of insurgent weapons in Sudan and South Sudan, and evaluates crime gun records in the United States.

Download the paper here.


A New Development Agenda: Bridging the Development– Security Divide

This Research Note examines the concept of illicit arms flows in order to better operationalize the 2030 Agenda, building on this important new opportunity to bridge the security–development divide.

To access the full research note A New Development Agenda: Bridging the Development– Security Divide, kindly click on the link.


A Gendered Analysis of Violent Deaths

Does the risk of violent death differ for men and women in conflict and nonconflict settings, and across regions and countries? Does it change over the course of a person’s life? And are women targeted because they are women? In other words, is such violence gender-based? Through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international community has committed to reducing all forms of violence and related deaths, and to eliminating violence against women and girls. It has also undertaken to ensure the safety of public spaces. Achieving these targets requires a detailed mapping of patterns and risk factors for lethal violence. The collection and analysis of data related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is still in its infancy, but some broad trends and patterns can be identified nevertheless. This Research Note is the third in a series that presents the latest information from the Small Arms Survey’s database on violent deaths. It analyses available information on violent deaths, disaggregated by sex.

To access the full research note A Gendered Analysis of Violent Deaths, kindly follow the link.


Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: Ukraine

Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: Ukraine is the fourth case study in a series examining the measurement of illicit arms flows in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 16.
Based on interviews carried out in Kiev in addition to desk research , this analysis outlines the sources of illicit arms flows in Ukraine and the status of government plans or action to counter the problem, the trafficking routes used to smuggle weapons, and key indicators of illicit arms flows in the period 2010-2016. 

For full access to the paper, Measuring Illicit Arms Flows: Ukraine, kindly follow the link. 


Web Trafficking - Analysing the Online Trade of Small Arms Light Weapons in Libya

A new Working Paper from the Small Arms Survey’s Security Assessment in North Africa (SANA) project provides an in-depth analysis of the trade in small arms and light weapons in the online marketplace. The Working Paper ties together interviews with marketplace participants with a detailed analysis of a dataset derived from long-term monitoring of some of the closed social media-based groups listing small arms and light weapons for sale. It explores the types of weapons offered and their likely routes into the Libyan online markets. It concludes with a policy-relevant analysis of the current state of Libya’s online markets and discusses the caveats and utility of such online monitoring for supplementing field-based research.

For full access to Web Trafficking - Analysing the Online Trade of Small Arms Light Weapons in Libya, kindly follow the link. 


Crisis in Karamoja: Armed Violence and the Failure of Disarmament in Uganda’s Most Deprived Region

Violence in Uganda’s Karamoja region is, for many people, the exemplar of Africa’s pastoral wars. The area hosts a number of sub-clans that, together, comprise the Karimojong—a population fractured by protracted inter-clan conflicts over cattle, pasture, and access to resources. Karamoja suffers significantly higher levels of small arms violence (death and injury by firearm) than any other region of Uganda. Since the 1970s, with the proliferation of modern assault rifles, cattle raids have escalated in lethality. A commensurate rise in armed criminality, in which acts of violence are increasingly orchestrated irrespective of community norms on the use of force, has severely impaired the region’s socio-economic development. This paper explores the dynamics behind armed violence in Karamoja and the scale and distribution of its impacts. It is the product of two years of research focused on the Karimojong and neighbouring clans, and presents findings from an extensive range of research methods, including household surveys, interviews, and focus group studies throughout the region.

For full access to Crisis in Karamoja: Armed Violence and the Failure of Disarmament in Uganda’s Most Deprived Region, kindly follow the link. 


Availability of Small Arms and Perceptions of Security in Kenya: An Assessment

Kenya has experienced the effects of small arms availability and misuse for many years, but the unprecedented violence that erupted after the December 2007 general elections placed the issue of small arms reduction higher on the national agenda. The government of Kenya started a number of important initiatives, such as the establishment of the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons (KNFP) as an interagency directorate within the Office of the President, Ministry of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security. Despite significant progress, law enforcement efforts to control the proliferation of small arms still face significant challenges. This joint study by the Government of Kenya and the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey aims to assess small arms proliferation in Kenya (mapping their location, sources, and movements) and the capacity of various actors involved in small arms control and peace-building efforts in the country. For this purpose, the study adopted a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods involving approximately 2,500 interviews with households, representatives of civil society organizations, law enforcement agents, and other key informants from 31 out of the 47 counties of Kenya. 

For full access to Availability of Small Arms and Perceptions of Security in Kenya: An Assessment, kindly follow the link. 


Beyond the Battlefield - Towards a Better Assessment of the Human Cost of Armed Conflict

Prevailing methods for measuring conflict deaths do not capture the total human cost of armed conflict. In the context of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, one global indicator will deal with conflict-related deaths. Various stakeholders have thus called for the monitoring of conflict deaths to become more holistic and go beyond battle deaths, specifically by covering indirect factors such as a lack of access to healthcare, food, and clean water. This Briefing Paper supports their call, arguing that the current understanding of—and measurement approaches to—conflict-related deaths should be broadened to include more comprehensive mortality figures from conflict zones, particularly among forcibly displaced populations. Its findings are designed to inform work towards meeting Target 1 of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which commits all UN member states to significantly reducing ‘all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere’. Specifically, the paper is intended to help shape the development of SDG Indicator 16.1.2, which will guide the measurement of conflict-related deaths.

For full access to Beyond the Battlefield - Towards a Better Assessment of the Human Cost of Armed Conflict, kindly follow the link.


Women in State Security Provision in Nepal


The Government of Nepal has recently stepped up efforts to integrate women within the state security apparatus. This Briefing Paper examines recent legislative and institutional changes governing female participation in the security sector, the latest recruitment and advancement trends, and the persistent challenges facing female security providers. It shows that while formal and institutional changes have enabled more women to become part of Nepal’s security sector, women remain under-represented therein, and face challenges including objections to positive discrimination, difficult trade-offs between professional careers and personal lives, and societal attitudes that see security provision as a male-only occupation.

Key findings

- Since 2012, the number of women in state security forces has steadily increased, but remains relatively low, especially in higher-ranking positions. Women made up just over 8 per cent (5,467) of the Nepal Police (NP) and close to 4.5 per cent (4,094) of the Nepal Army (NA) in 2017, and around 5 per cent (1,837) of the Armed Police Force (APF) in 2014.

- Besides tackling crime and security as part of their formal mandate, female officers often act as role models, providing advice and guidance to women seeking to escape violence in their homes or communities.

- Legislative and policy changes introduced after 2013 have paved the way for more and more women to join the security forces, though barriers to meaningful participation remain.

- Working in the NP, APF, and NA brings women a range of not only opportunities but also daily challenges, ranging from continuing demands at home to discrimination from their families, society, and institutions.

To access the briefing paper, Women in State Security Provision in Nepal, kindly follow the link.


At the Crossroads of Sahelian Conflicts: Insecurity, Terrorism, and Arms Trafficking in Niger

This report, from the Small Arms Survey's Security Assessment in North Africa (SANA) project examines insecurity, terrorism, and trafficking in Niger. The report draws on extensive fieldwork including examinations of arms and ammunition seized across the country, as well as dozens of interviews with national and international government and security officials, civil society representatives, gold diggers, former rebels, and other experts.

For full access to, At the Crossroads of Sahelian Conflicts: Insecurity, Terrorism, and Arms Trafficking in Niger, please follow the link.


Women in State Security Provision in Nepal: Meaningful Participation?

Measures in Nepal have helped the country increase the number and scope of inclusion of women in its security sector; but female security providers continue to face challenges. Women in the police, army and armed police force tackle crime and insecurity in its various forms, but also serve as role models in their communities.  A new analysis from the Small Arms Survey finds, however, that barriers to female participation remain, ranging from continuing demands in the home to persistent gender discrimination inside institutions and within society more broadly. More can be done by the institutions in question to become more gender-responsive and ensure that women’s participation in these structures is, indeed, meaningful.

The Briefing Paper Women in State Security Provision in Nepal: Meaningful Participation? assesses the progress of the Nepali government in including women in security provision, looks at the evolution of female participation in the formal security sector, and explores the motivations and deterrents involved for women considering joining.

For access to the full report, Women in State Security Provision in Nepal: Meaningful Participation?, please follow the link. 


Life-Cycle Management of Ammunition (LCMA) - Lessons from Bosnia and Herzegovina

In 2012, the EUFOR Operational Commander directed the adoption of a comprehensive approach to address the mounting security concerns related to the stockpiling of surplus ammunition remnant from the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After decades of political deadlock driven by the country’s conflictual past, the directive empowered a group of experts to design and implement an ammunition life-cycle management system that facilitated a transition to local ownership to address the current and future management challenges in line with international standards.

This Briefing Paper analyses the emergence of the life-cycle management of ammunition (LCMA) system in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) during the period 2012–16, with reference to four of the five elements of the Small Arms Survey’s LCMA model: national ownership, planning, stockpile management, and disposal. The paper examines the key challenges faced by the international community and BiH government in addressing the safety and security risks posed by BiH’s post-conflict ammunition surplus, focusing on the international community’s role in facilitating the development, and transfer to national ownership, of an LCMA system. The paper notes ‘ten lessons learned’ that could apply to other post-conflict countries. These lessons stress the importance of building sustainable national capacity in states receiving international assistance. Training, infrastructure, and operating standards need to be country specific to achieve this goal and reduce the risk of unplanned explosions at munitions sites (UEMS) and diversion in the long term.

For full access to the report, Life-Cycle Management of Ammunition (LCMA) - Lessons from Bosnia and Herzegovina, please follow the link. 


Capital of Militias: Tripoli's Armed Groups Capture the Libyan State

On 30 March 2016, the Presidency Council (PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA) arrived at Tripoli’s Abu Sitta naval base by boat from Tunisia. The PC was created in December 2015 by the Libyan Political Agreement, which was signed in Skhirat, Morocco (ICG, 2016). From its creation, the PC was pressured by its external backers—the UN and Western governments—to relocate to Tripoli, even though it did not command any regular forces that could offer protection. By the time it arrived in Tripoli, the PC could rely on promises from a handful of armed groups in the capital that they would support it. A range of other militias were explicitly hostile, while most armed groups in Tripoli were non-committal.

From 2011, Tripoli’s security landscape was a highly fragmented and unstable patchwork of multiple armed groups. But in the year that followed the PC’s arrival, four militias that had associated themselves with the PC from the outset divided up the capital between themselves. These four militias—the Special Deterrence Force (SDF), the Tripoli Revolutionaries Battalion (TRB), the Nawasi Battalion, and the Abu Slim unit of the Central Security Apparatus—expanded their control across central, southern, and large parts of western Tripoli, gradually displacing rival armed groups during a series of heavy clashes. In parallel, they converted their territorial control into political influence and financial gain, consolidating into a cartel.

This Briefing Paper analyses the implications and the risks associated with this evolution. The first part traces the rise of the Tripoli militia cartel and frames this development against historical struggles for power within Libya’s capital. The second part analyses changes in the financial basis of Tripoli’s armed groups over the past few years, their move towards capturing state institutions, and the implications of this development for conflict dynamics and the prospect of a wider political settlement. The Paper is based on 55 interviews with leaders of armed groups, government officials, and local observers in Tripoli and Misrata, which were undertaken during March and April 2018. It also draws on the authors’ previous interviews and observations during regular research visits made since 2011.

For full access to the briefing paper, Capital of Militias: Tripoli's Armed Groups Capture the Libyan State, please follow the link. 


Trade Update 2018: Sub-Saharan Africa in Focus

Sub-Saharan Africa suffers disproportionately from the negative impacts of small arms and ammunition flows on peace, security, stability, and development, yet it only accounts for less than five per cent of the estimated value of the authorized global small arms trade. Due to historically low levels of openness regarding sub-Saharan African small arms production and transfers, identifying major African importers and exporters—as well as suppliers—remains a challenge.  This repor uses multiple open sources to tentatively map major sub-Saharan African producers, exporters, and importers of small arms.

If you would like to read Trade Update 2018: Sub-Saharan Africa in Focus, please follow the link.


Lost in Trans-Nation: Tubu and Other Armed Groups and Smugglers along Libya’s Southern Border

In this new report, the Small Arms Survey explores the role of Tubu militias before and since the fall of the Qaddafi regime; the roles and alliances of Chadian and Sudanese combatants in the border area; the Agadez–Fezzan corridor, placing particular weight on recent changes in migrant smuggling and drug trafficking; and data and analysis of regional weapons flows.

To read Lost in Trans-Nation: Tubu and Other Armed Groups and Smugglers along Libya’s Southern Border, please follow the link.


How the 2019 Civil War is Transforming Libya’s Military Landscape

The offensive that Khalifa Haftar launched in April 2019 to capture the Libyan capital, Tripoli, triggered the largest mobilization of fighters in western Libya since the revolutionary war of 2011. This latest round of civil war is transforming the landscape of armed groups fighting in and around Tripoli, provoking new rifts within and between communities, and laying the ground for future political struggles. This Briefing Paper examines the identities and interests of the forces fighting each other over control of Tripoli. It shows that the divides of 2011 are central in structuring the two opposing alliances and shaping the motivations of many forces involved in the war.

For full access to the report How the 2019 Civil War is Transforming Libya’s Military Landscape, kindly follow the link.