With its Global Militarisation Index (GMI), bicc is able to objectively depict worldwide militarization for the first time. The GMI compares, for example, a country’s military expenditure with its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its health expenditure.

It contrasts the total number of military and paramilitary forces in a country with the number of physicians. Finally, it studies the number of heavy weapons available to a country’s armed forces. These and other indicators are used to determine a country’s ranking, which in turn makes it possible to measure the respective level of militarization in comparison to other countries.

Select index
Militarisation Level
Very strong top 20 per cent
Strong 2nd 20 per cent
Moderate 3rd 20 per cent
Weak 4th 20 per cent
Very weak bottom 20 per cent
No data available

The GMI contains both historical and current data, starting in 1990 and ending in the most recent year for which data were available.

GMI Categories and method

The GMI is divided into three overarching categories: expenditure, personnel and heavy weapons (see Codebook_English version / Codebook_German version)

Military spending in relation to GDP and health spending are the most important indicators for determining the level of militarisation. Financial resources which are made available via the military budget by a government are an important factor which affects capacities and size of a state’s armed forces. The other indicator the GMI uses is the comparison between the total military budget and government spending on health services.

Figures for military expenditure are compiled from the data base of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute SIPRI. Even though SIPRI may currently be regarded as the most reliable source, data on military expenditure has to be treated with extreme caution. For many countries, especially in the developing world and autocratic states, the figures are but rough estimates. In cases where SIPRI does not provide any up-to-date information, we adopted the latest available figures provided they were no older than three years.

Data on gross domestic product was taken from the International Monetary Fund. Data on health expenditure used have been extracted from the data base of the World Health Organization.

Besides military expenditure, the level of militarisation is also represented by the relation of military personnel to the total population and physicians. The first and most important indicator in this category is the active (para)military personnel to the total population. Paramilitary personnel were included here, since in many countries the regular military alone does not adequately reflect the total size of the armed forces. The main criterion for coding an organizational entity as either military or paramilitary is that the forces in question are under the direct control of the government in addition to being armed, uniformed and garrisoned.

For a comprehensive presentation of the available personnel and an adequate representation of the relative level of militarisation, a second indicator in this category takes into account the percentage of reserve forces in the total population. This factor is relevant for some countries, such as Switzerland that have a comparably small standing army but a more substantial amount of available reserves within society. The third indicator compares the total amount of military and paramilitary forces with the number of physicians in a country in order to express the relation between military and non-military expertise in a society.

All data on military personnel was compiled from the Military Balance, the yearbook published by the Institute for Strategic and International Studies (IISS). Population size figures were taken from the Vital Statistics Report of the United Nations; data on the number of physicians from the World Health Organization.

Finally, to determine the level of militarisation of a country, which does not only consist of resources and personnel, specific types of heavy weapons have to be taken into account. This is why the GMI, as its third category takes into consideration the number of an armed forces’ heavy weapons in relation to the total population. Heavy weapons are defined here as any piece of military equipment which fits into either one of four categories: armored vehicles (armored personnel carriers, light tanks, main battle tanks), artillery (multiple rocket launchers, self-propelled artillery, towed artillery) above 100mm caliber, combat aircraft (attack helicopters, fixed-wing fighter aircraft), and major fighting ships (submarines, major surface combatants above corvette size). Data on weapons holdings was collected by bicc from different sources, mainly the Military Balance from ISS. Data on small arms and light weapons (SALW) is not only extremely difficult to obtain but also unreliable and was thus not included in the GMI.

The Method of the GMI

In order to increase the compatibility between different indicators and preventing extreme values from crating distortions when normalizing data, in a first step every indicator was represented in a logarithm with the factor 10. Second, all data was normalized using the formula x=(y-min)/(max-min), with min and max representing, respectively, the lowest and the highest value of the logarithm. In a third step, every indicator was weighted in accordance to a factor, reflecting the relative importance attributed to it by bicc researchers. In order to calculate the final score, the weighted indicators were added together and then multiplied by 1,000.

Category Indicator GMI weighing factor
Expenditures Military expenditures as percentage of GDP 5
Military expenditures in relation to health spending 3
Personnel Military and paramilitary personnel in relation to population 4
Military reservers in relation to population 2
Military and paramilitary personnel in relation to physicians 2
Weapons Heavy weapons in relation to population 4

Generally, the GMI provides further detailed analyses of specific regional or national developments. The goal of bicc is to contribute towards the debate on militarisation and to highlight the often inconsistent distribution of resources.

In several countries, excessive militarisation hinders the necessary structural change of the economic and social framework conditions and enforces development deficits in its industry and agriculture. On the other hand, a low degree of militarisation can also be problematic and thus hinder development as it can point to fundamental deficits in the security sector. A weak or not functioning security sector cannot prevent violence and conflicts which negatively affect the population and its development as it cannot successfully enforce and uphold a monopoly of violence. One result is often fragile and weak states in which economic growth and development cannot prosper.

These examples illustrate the dilemma of the debate. The GMI is attempting to dispel the wide assumption that a high level of militarisation is bad and a low level per se good, and to contribute to a new approach on studying militarisation. An assessment of the situation requires the specific consideration and analysis of individual countries and regions — and the GMI is the right tool for evaluating the development orientation of states as well as regional developments.