Information on military matters, particularly transparency on military expenditures, helps build confidence between countries. It can help governments determine whether excessive or destabilizing accumulations of arms are taking place. Openness about defense spending, together with transparency on arms transfers, would allay concerns about international security, encourage restraint on military expenditures, and facilitate reductions in defense budgets.

Since its inception in 1980, UN Member States have reported annually their military spending to the United Nations Report on Military Expenditures, formally known as the United Nations Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures.

In 2011, a group of governmental experts reviewed the operation of the UN Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures, and put forward a number of recommendations, including the new title of the instrument, the United Nations Report on Military Expenditure, and overhauling the existing database on military expenditures. In December 2011, the General Assembly endorsed the Group’s report and recommended, inter alia, the Secretary-General to encourage the Office for Disarmament Affairs to continue to improve the existing database on military expenditures with a view to making it more user-friendly and up-to-date technologically”.


What is military expenditure?

In the framework of this UN reporting system, “military expenditures” refer to “all financial resources that a State spends on the uses and functions of its military forces.” Information on military expenditures represents an actual outlay in current prices and domestic currency.