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Conflict Armament Research (CAR)

Location: London, UK


Type: An NGO monitoring the movement of weapons and ammunition globally

Conflict Armament Research (CAR) was established in 2011 in response to “growing worldwide demand for weapon-specific technical expertise to support research, analysis and policy making.” The organisation, which is funded by the EU and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, maintains a database which provides a global reporting mechanism on the illegal trade of arms, including light weapons and conventional weapons. Their aim it to reduce the risk of such arms being traded and used illicitly.

Much of the research carried out by CAR is investigations on the ground in active armed conflicts. The group “documents weapons at the point of use and track their sources back through the chains of supply.” Data on thousands of individual weapon transfers is aggregated, providing the evidence base for the development of effective arms controls and counter-proliferation strategies. CAR works in some of the countries most affected by conflict globally, including Iraq and Syria.

While most of the research carried out by CAR does not directly involve IEDs, they track weapons which could be adapted and made into improvised explosives. CAR findings have been used to demonstrate, for example, that ammunition of US and Chinese manufacture has been used by ISIS.

In 2016, however, they produced a compelling piece of research into the IED component parts being used by ISIS. It revelead that ISIS is manufacturing ever more sophisticated and devastating suicide bombs and improvised explosives using civilian components from countries around the world. The report showed that most of the equipment, including chemicals, fertilisers, wire and electronics, is being funnelled through Turkey to the group’s territories. The EU-funded group had analysed improvised explosive devices (IED) collected over 20 months on Iraqi and Syrian frontlines to reveal how the so-called Islamic State has been able to amass its arsenal at an unprecedented speed.

CAR uses iTrace to provide policy makers with “precise, verified information on transfers of diverted conventional weapons and ammunition.” iTrace, which is funded by the EU, maps weapons data collected by CAR investigators geospatially. A number of investigation techniques are used by CAR investigators in the field, including interviews with weapons users, analysis of documentation like packing lists and bills of lading, talking to weapons manufacturers, and liaising with national defence, security, and intelligence agencies. The aim with each weapon is to identify the chain of supply from manufacture to illicit possession. Once such information is verified, it is released via the iTrace system, and can be accessed by the public.

In addition to collecting and analysing information on the illicit movement of weapons, CAR provides services to NGOs, governments and research institutes. Such services include supporting arms control policy, providing training on arms management and weapon marking programmes, and technical and investigative support to groups including NGOs and human rights monitors.

This profile is part of AOAV’s investigation into counter-IED (C-IED) actors around the globe. To see the list of all C-IED actors recorded by AOAV, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE). To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here.