Some may regard a United Nations Charter call for the demilitarization of security as having about as much impact on international peace and security as would a Canadian call for the abolition of winter on the weather in January. But the framers of the Charter were not afraid of bold visions, so in Article 26 they mandated the Security Council to establish “a system for the regulation of armaments” as part of a larger effort to “promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources.”
Article 26, like a no-winter policy, still awaits implementation:
- 80 million men and women are currently under arms (regular armed forces, reserves, and para-military), plus hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more are linked to non-state armed groups;
- the world annually spends more than a trillion dollars on armaments and armed forces;
- the nuclear weapons that remain deployed and on high alert are still capable of obliterating the world several times over, and
- more than 30 wars are currently being fought, and to prosecute them governments collectively divert vast sums of scarce resources away from development without delivering any of the security they promise.
But, of course, that is not the whole story. The good news is that an international phalanx of politicians, diplomats, researchers, and advocates is focused on pursuing the kind of peace and security arrangements that the Charter envisions. The postings in this space will focus on initiatives, policies, regulations, and security cooperation measures that are designed to control and reduce arsenals, to reduce the incidence and impact of armed conflict, and to encourage states to devote a greater share of their resources to building conditions for sustainable peace. Topics addressed will include: nuclear non-proliferation, controlling conventional weapons, current armed conflicts, and defence and human security.
To disarm conflict is to defuse it, and while the push to militarize the pursuit of security occupies the daily headlines, it is the effort to ameliorate the insecurities that face most people on a daily basis that has the truly disarming effect on conflict. Attention to unmet basic needs, political exclusion, denied rights, social and political disintegration, and the criminal and political violence that invariably accompany these conditions of insecurity is at the core of preventing and terminating armed conflicts. The whole point of a “human” security framework is to challenge states to directly address the economic, political, and social conditions that render people and their communities insecure. Security policy worthy of the name must therefore include the pursuit of economic justice and poverty eradication, human rights and political inclusion, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and control over the instruments of violence.
This latter imperative, the control over the instruments of violence or, in other words, disarmament, is increasingly urgent just at the time when the global mechanisms to pursue it are in serious disrepair. More on that another day.