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WEAPONS

Swedish weapons exports on the rise

Sweden sold weapons to the value of 13.5 billion kronor ($1.9 billion) in 2009, up 7 percent on the previous year, according to new figures released by the Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls (Inspektionen för strategiska produkter - ISP).

Swedish weapons exports on the rise
A row of Combat Vehicle 90s

“Of the total defence materiel exports, 80 percent went to well established partner countries, both within the EU and to countries like South Africa and the United States,” said agency director-general Andreas Ekman Duse in a statement.

“As in other years, larger deals play their part and have a bearing on the statistics, such as sales of the Combat Vehicle 90 to the Netherlands and the JAS 39 Gripen [fighter jet] to South Africa,” he said.

The export figures encompass products made by companies based in Sweden, regardless of the origins of the owners.

More than half (53 percent) of exports went to other EU countries, along with Norway and Switzerland.

27 percent was accounted for by countries defined by ISP as “established partners”, including the US, Australia, South Africa, Canada, South Korea and Singapore.

The final 20 percent went to twenty different countries, dominated by Pakistan (1.4 billlion kronor) and India (901 million kronor), but also including Malaysia (129 million kronor), Thailand (81 million kronor) and the United Arab Emirates (900,000 kronor).

Green Party spokesman Lars Ångström said he was appalled to see Saudia Arabia on the list of countries buying defence equipment from Sweden.

“Saudi Arabia seriously and systematically violates human rights as defined by the UN, and it is unacceptable that exports have gone there,” he said in a statement.

Ångström was also distressed to see Bahrain, Oman and Malaysia among the recipient nations.

The Netherlands was the biggest buyer of Swedish defence equipment in 2009, paying a total of 2.5 billion kronor. Completing the list of the top five purchasers were South Africa (1.7 billion), Pakistan (1.4 billion), and the United Kingdom, which spent a fraction more than India’s 901 million kronor.

ISP’s role in the process involves approving licences for the export of military equipment. Permission is conditional on a number of factors, with certain barriers put in place if a country finds itself at war. As in the case with the United States however, the agency can continue to authorise sales to warfaring countries if there are overriding defence and security policy reasons deemed to tip the balance in favour of continued trade.

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WEAPONS

Sweden world’s 13th most peaceful nation

Sweden has been ranked the 13th most peaceful country in the world by a global peace index, down from 11th in 2014.

Sweden world's 13th most peaceful nation
Sweden's arms trade is keeping it down in the rankings. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

According to the 2015 Global Peace Index (GPI), recently released by the Institute for Economics and Peace, Iceland remains the world's most peaceful country.

Sweden's other Nordic neighbours Denmark, Finland and Norway all ranked in the top 20, taking the second, sixth and 17th spots respectively.

Denmark also came in second in the 2013 and 2014 reports, each time snapping at the heels of Iceland, which has been declared the world's most peaceful country each year since 2008.

According to the report, 15 of the 20 most peaceful countries in the world are in Europe, while the Middle East and North Africa remain the most violent regions in the world. The United States was at number 94, while Syria was at the very bottom of the 162-country list.

“The most substantial changes in the Index occurred in the Middle East and North Africa where several countries suffered from an upsurge in violence related to sectarian strife and civil conflicts,” the report noted.

Like in previous years, Sweden, which in 2014 celebrated two centuries of peace, is kept down in the rankings largely because it sells arms to other countries.

Despite enjoying a global reputation for peacemaking and generous foreign aid, the Scandinavian nation is the world's 11th largest exporter of weapons, including Saab's Jas Gripen jets, and has counted a number of regimes criticized for human rights abuses as its customers since the Cold War ended, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.

READ ALSO: Sweden scraps controversial Saudi arms deal

The GPI comprises 23 indicators of the existence of violence or fear of violence, which include metrics such as the level of perceived criminality in the society, impact of terrorism, and military expenditure as percentage of the country's gross domestic product.

Each of the indicators for a given country is graded on a scale of one to five and then indexed into a final score, which can then be compared against other countries.

Sweden's indexed score was 1.36 while Iceland's was 1.148. In comparison, Syria's score was 3.645. Notably, Sweden scored around 1.0 or at least below 2.0 in nearly all areas apart from 'weapons exports' in which it received 5 out of 5.

A video explainer from the Institute for Economics and Peace is below and an interactive map can be accessed here