International Disarmament Treaties: Trends and Lessons Learned

International Disarmament Treaties: Trends and Lessons Learned

What are the trends to be drawn from the existing disarmament instruments and recent developments?

International disarmament efforts heavily rely on international treaties and politically binding agreements. More than 70 years after the UN Charter, the international community has adopted an impressive number of multilateral instruments on disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation. Some, like the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, have become core pillars of international security. Others, such as the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, offer significant protection and assistance to civilians, changing how wars are fought. States and civil society continue to propose new initiatives for international regulations of weapons and technologies.

Yet multilateral disarmament regimes face significant challenges. New technologies, increasing geopolitical tensions between major military powers, and growing multipolarity create stress on legal regimes. In certain cases, such as the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, parties have decided these agreements no longer serve their interests and have withdrawn. Despite the Chemical Weapons Convention, there have been repeated chemical weapon attacks in Syria and elsewhere.

Are there lessons regarding which elements should be in a disarmament treaty from a legal perspective? What works, what does not, and what are inherent dilemmas? And how does this fit with international humanitarian law and other regulations related to weapons?

On 14 January 2020, the GCSP co-organised a panel discussion with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) on: “International Disarmament Treaties: Trends and Lessons Learned” at the United Nations in Geneva.

At the event, the GCSP launched the Guide to International Disarmament Law and the DisarmApp. The Guide to International Disarmament Law is available through Routledge. The guide seeks to fill a gap in the existing literature. Find out more hereThe DisarmApp is a web-based application that provides an interactive overview of disarmament and disarmament-related treaties and instruments as well as explains key treaty elements and definitions. This app is compatible on both mobile and desktop.

The session was moderated by Renata Dwan, (Director of UNIDIR) and commenced with an introductory remark by Ambassador Felix Baumann (Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Conference on Disarmament). It was followed by a discussion including Andrey Belousov (Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office at Geneva; Head of the Conference on Disarmament Team), Silvia Cattaneo (Policy Advisor, Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining), and the co-authors of the Guide to International Disarmament Law and the DisarmApp,  Stuart Casey-Maslen (GCSP Associate Fellow) and Tobias Vestner (Head of Security and Law at the GCSP).


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