DisarmingConflict is an occasional column by Ernie Regehr.
DisarmingConflict explores the initiatives, policies, and international rules that are designed to fulfill the United Nations’ Charter pledge to control and reduce arsenals and to minimize and resolve armed conflict. Article 26 mandates 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.”
The progress thus far in implementing Article 26 is modest.
■almost 80 million men and women are currently under arms (2008 figures for regular armed forces, reserves, and para-military); hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more are linked to non-state armed groups;
■the world annually spends over US$1.5 trillion dollars on armaments and armed forces (2008 figure);
■the nuclear weapons that remain deployed and on high alert are still capable of obliterating the world many times over, and
■almost 30 wars are currently being fought, and to prosecute them governments collectively divert vast sums of scarce resources away from development, without delivering on the security promised.
But, as noted when DisarmingConflict was launched in 2006, 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 governance that the Charter envisions. The postings in this space have and will therefore continue to focus on initiatives, policies, regulations, and security cooperation measures that are designed to regulate 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.
The familiar push to continue to militarize the pursuit of security occupies the daily headlines, but 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. 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 – i.e. disarmament.