James Bevan

Ashoka Fellow
United Kingdom,
Fellow Since 2014
Conflict Armament Research


This profile was prepared when James Bevan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Around the world, the globally connected illicit trade in conventional weapons, involving national governments, rebels, militia and insurgent groups, fuels devastating armed conflict. Drawing on more than a decade’s experience as a weapons expert in conflict areas, James Bevan set up Conflict Armament Research (CAR) in 2011 with the mission to understand, and therefore better control, destabilizing weapons transfers. Ultimately, by mitigating weapons supply into conflict areas, James aims to de-escalate levels of violent conflict, so that the incentives of peace building begin to outweigh the attractions of violence, allowing communities to re-build normal social and economic relations.

In order to begin to address armed conflict, James recognized the need to fill the information gap between what is happening on the ground, and top-down policy and practice. Starting in Africa and the Middle East, James is therefore drawing together a critical mass of global weapons data, which is needed in order to understand trade patterns accurately for the first time. As the only non-governmental organization focused exclusively on the identification and tracking of weapons on the ground in armed conflicts, CAR plays a critical role in international efforts to understand illicit weapons proliferation.

Whereas UN weapons monitoring occurs mainly in embargoed countries, James has drawn together an independent team of experts, which operates beyond embargoed states and across entire conflict-affected regions. CAR’s teams react within a matter of days to analyze and investigate seized weapons, including their markings, manufacturing codes, countries of origin and supply routes. CAR relies on high-level diplomacy and the negotiation of formal agreements with national governments to gain access to seized, recovered, or intercepted weapons. CAR is committed to impartiality and uses its commitments to transparency to gain access to groups that are not usually at the table.

James has built up what is thought to be the world’s largest database on weapons documented in armed conflicts: a technology platform called iTrace. CAR is populating the sophisticated back-end database with an extensive series of field investigations, including in the Central African Republic, Congo DRC, Côte d’Ivoire, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria. Once verified by James’s network, of CAR and independent arms experts, the information will be published on a free public access online map (due for public release on 27 September 2014). James believes that only by publishing information transparently can systemic change be achieved, by creating equal pressure on all players in the system, raising public awareness and providing an aggregated global database of evidence on illicit weapons transfers. In addition to this data, on-the-ground knowledge, know-how and experience enables James’s team to form a holistic understanding of conflict. To accelerate systemic change, CAR uses this understanding to inform policy directly and pressure national governments to take responsibility for weapons under their jurisdiction or control. Already, James’s work has affected UN policy, government practices in Africa, gained the support of all 28 EU member states, and successfully engaged Chinese government authorities—China being one of the a major weapons suppliers to the Middle East and Africa.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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