UK arms exports revealed

By agency reporter
13 Mar 2012

A new web application has been developed by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) which will enable easy public access to a wide range of information on UK arms export licences.

Until now the data, compiled by the Export Control Organisation (ECO) in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), was difficult to access, use and understand. The new CAAT application, which is available via CAAT's website, transforms the accessibility of the data.

The salient features are:

* Open access - anyone can view data without registering and can make and refine searches in real time.
* Data has been disaggregated, providing itemised licences with ratings and values.
* Comprehensive searchability (including of commonly-required groupings, for example by region of the world or type of weaponry).
* Graphs of values of items licensed are provided alongside listings of licences.
* Explanations of terms are available throughout (often through mouse-overs).
* Revoked licences are identified with the initial licence approvals.
* Individual pages/searches (unique urls) can be linked to directly.
* It conforms to basic accessibility standards, including the use of a screen reader or text-only browser.

The full raw data is available as csv files for download.

Ian Prichard, CAAT Research Co-ordinator, said: "It is hard to think of an area of government activity that demands transparency more than arms export licensing. The new web app provides official information in a format that substantially increases transparency of the licensing system and, hopefully, will lead to greater accountability."

The lack of access to detailed, easy-to-access information has been a barrier to the public, media and parliamentarians being able to question government policies and practices. These practices include routine arming of authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt.

As well as providing more information in and of itself, CAAT hope the web application will prompt the government to apply its own open data policies to arms exports. and to substantially increase the level and accessibility of information available.

The application can be accessed here: http://www.caat.org.uk/resources/export-licences/

[Ekk/4]

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