When used in the context of warfare or international politics, it refers to a technology that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

For example, consider a pharmaceutical factory. Clearly, manufacturing medicines is an important activity for any society. However, with a few modifications to a pesticide factory, it can be made to produce chemical weapons that can be used for military purposes.

The problem lies in how the term is used in practice. Because dual use facilities or technologies can be used for military purposes, they are often targeted by other nations when being attacked, although there may be scant evidence that they are being used for military purposes.

For example, on 19 August 1998, the United States bombed the Al-Shifa factory in the Sudan -- claiming that it was, essentially, a dual use facility, that as well as manufacturing approximately 50 per cent of Sudan's medicine and approximately 90 per cent of its veterinary medicine, it also manufactured chemical weapons. This, of course, had a massive debilitating effect on Sudan. No evidence has ever been publicly presented that the factory was ever used for production of chemical weapons.