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The United Arab Emirates is located along several transnational smuggling routes and in proximity to countries with major criminal markets. The country is affected by weapons, human and drugs trafficking, as well as illicit trade in gold, diamonds and exotic wildlife. Decentralised criminal networks, foreign criminal actors and state-embedded actors are active in the country.1 The United Arab Emirates is the third largest importer of arms in the world. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, the country has engaged in military interventions in Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen; since September 2014, the United Arab Emirates has been involved in an armed conflict against the Islamic State group in Syria and, in 2015, it joined the Saudi-led coalition against the Houtis in Yemen.2 Cases of weapons being diverted to third countries have increased.3

The country’s guiding gun control legislation includes the Law on Weapons, Ammunition and Explosives. The United Arab Emirates has signed but not yet ratified the Arms Trade Treaty.4


1 “United Arab Emirates: Global Organized Crime Index,” Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, 2021,

2 “United Arab Emirates,” Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project (RULAC), Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, updated February 1, 2018,

3 Frank Slijper, Under the Radar: The United Arab Emirates, Arms Transfers and Regional Conflict (Utrecht: PAX, 2017),

4 Philip Alpers and Miles Lovell, United Arab Emirates – Gun Facts, Figures and the Law (, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, 2022),

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Map of United Arab Emirates

Further information

Accidental explosions

Since the Small Arms Survey began collecting data in 1979, no accidental explosions have been reported in the United Arab Emirates.

Source: “Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) Database,” Small Arms Survey, updated December 15, 2021,

Cases of diversion

The United Arab Emirates has been known to divert weapons to third countries and breach arms embargoes.1 There is insufficient information, however, on cases of diversion in the United Arab Emirates.


1 Slijper, Under the Radar.


Insufficient information on the disposal of ammunition in the United Arab Emirates.


To further enhance safe and secure ammunition management, the following need has been identified for the United Arab Emirates:

  • Capacity development for the destruction of surplus stockpiles.

Source: United Arab Emirates, National Report on the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) (New York: Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates to the UN, 2022),

Published Date: Monday 21 of August 2023