Weapons are strategic goods. They play an important role in law enforcement and national defence. At the same time, there are risks associated with the trade in these products. Weapons pose risks for peace and security, because they may be used for armed conflicts, human rights violations or crimes and acts of terrorism. In light of these risks, the government subjects the trade in arms and the use thereof to strict regulation and controls, on the one hand to control and facilitate legal forms of trade, possession and use and on the other hand to combat illegal or undesirable uses thereof.
The category of ‘strategic goods’ comprises a wide range of products, from weapons of mass destruction and traditional weapons systems such as combat aircraft and firearms to the components that are used in those larger systems and all kinds of arms technology innovations, such as drones and cyber weapons. Also included are products that were not specifically designed for military purposes, but which may have a military application. These so-called dual use products are controlled in keeping with international agreements. Since 2003, Flanders is competent for the control of the international trade in strategic goods. Good policy should be founded on scientific insights. The Flemish Peace Institute offers this type of scientific insights. What is the nature of the production and the scope of the trade in these strategic goods? What is the end use? What about the illegal arms trade? How effective are the regulations and what is the impact thereof? Is there margin for improvement and where? The Flemish Peace Institute studies the phenomenon of the arms trade and the use of weapons, to map the challenges and problems and find solutions. The researchers thereby take into consideration various perspectives, such as economic concerns, security needs, the prevention of violence, human rights and humanitarian law.