End-user certificates need to be beefed up: SIPRI

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The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says the current international standards and national practices for the issuing and verification of end user certificates (EUCs) and other types of supporting documentation that are submitted when applications are made for arms export licences are not always adequate or properly monitored.

In a new report, entitled End-User Certificates: Improving standards to prevent diversion, the watch-dog says tightening control “would limit the chances of SALW reaching conflict zones or embargoed destinations.”

The paper argues that one of the most effective means of preventing SALW from reaching conflict zones or embargoed destinations is through the denial of export licences in situations where it is likely that the goods will be diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions and thus enter the illicit market. “Before these weapons can be exported from the manufacturing state, the exporter is usually required to show the relevant national authorities documentary evidence of the weapons’ intended destination and use.
“In certain cases, these documents— whether government-issued EUCs; similar non-government-issued documents; or other supporting documents, such as import licences—can be easily forged and are poorly scrutinised. Many governments, particularly in parts of Africa, the Americas and Asia, continue to issue EUCs that do not contain many of the elements commonly considered necessary for informed assessment of an export licence application,” the SIPRI report adds.
“Meanwhile, proper scrutiny of the documentation provided by the export licensing authority—an important element of the wider risk assessment process that should accompany any SALW export licence application— is often lacking. Higher standards in the issuing and inspection of EUCs and related documents by national authorities would make a significant contribution to the prevention of cases of SALW diversion.”

SIPRI notes at least one government has formulated an alternative approach to the issue. “Sweden produces its own EUCs rather than relying on documentation issued by the end-user. The EUCs are printed on banknote paper, and a Swedish exporter must see that they are completed by their proposed customers before an export licence may be issued. A signed copy of the EUC is then sent to the Swedish licensing authority via the Swedish embassy in the importing country.
“For exports of small arms and light weapons, the Swedish authorities also require a small arms and ammunition certificate that the end-user provides to the Swedish exporter on its official letterhead. This certificate has to be provided to the Swedish licensing authority as part of the licence application. However, most export licensing authorities rely on documentation issued by the importer government when making their assessments of an export licence application.