For many years, it looked like obligatory military service was on the way out. But in the last five years, the picture has changed: Norway has extended conscription for women; Sweden has reintroduced conscription for all; Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania and Kuwait have reintroduced conscription for men after short hiatuses; Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have introduced conscription for the first time. We look at why governments are turning to compulsion in filling their armies, and what this means for pacifist movements.

Journalists in the UK and Denmark have uncovered evidence that BAE Systems – the UK's largest arms companies and one of the largest in the world – has profited from the sale of surveillance technology, including to many oppressive governments in the Middle East.

During 2014, Spain made defence materials exports worth €3.203 million, whilst in total €3.666 million worth of exports were authorized. The value of the actual exports has decreased by 18% in comparison to that reached in 2013, from €3.907 million. Nonetheless, the tendency during the last 10 years has been a continued increase, as revealed in the following graph.

Spanish exports of defence material 2005-2014

In November, Qatar’s government approved a draft law making it compulsory for men to do military service for up to four months. This is the first instance of conscription in the state of Qatar. The four-month term would apply to Qatari men who have not attended school, college or university, and those who did attend but did not complete high school after reaching 21. Graduates will be conscripted for three months. No time frame for the introduction of compulsory military service has been given.


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31/03/1998 1 Conscription

conscription does not exist

Qatar has no conscription and has never had. [1]

Qatar does have the highest per capita military expenditure of any country in the world. [2]


The armed forces find it hard to obtain the requisite number of recruits. They are mainly composed of foreigners, Qatari citizens constitute only 30 percent of the total. About 20 nationalities are represented in the armed forces, mainly Pakistanis, Bedouins and various Arab groups.

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