The independent resource on global security

9. Conventional arms control and military confidence building



  • Overview [PDF]
  • I. Humanitarian arms control initiatives [PDF]
  • II. Small arms control in Africa [PDF]
  • III. Conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building measures in Europe [PDF]
  • IV. Confidence- and security-building measures in Asia [PDF]
  • V. Confidence- and security-building measures in the Americas [PDF]


In 2012 confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs)—that is, openness and restraint to provide reassurance that military capabilities will not be used for political gain—made a valuable contribution to reducing tensions and preventing the escalation of incidents in several regions of the world.


As well as helping to prevent specific incidents from escalating into something worse, CSBMs are being developed more broadly in several regions as a positive tool to enhance cooperative relations among states based on partnership, mutual reassurance and transparency.


While CSBMs cannot shoulder the burden of promoting cooperative security alone, in several regions they make a useful contribution to promoting and fostering stability and creating the conditions for positive growth and development.


As regards arms control—binding commitments to self-restraint in the structure, equipment or operations of armed forces—the situation in 2012 was less encouraging.


Humanitarian arms control initiatives

In the area of humanitarian arms control (in which states forgo capabilities that have indiscriminate or inhumane effects, regardless of their military utility), the pace of implementation of existing agreements remains slow and uneven.


During 2012 the main issue for the parties to the 1981 Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Convention was the possibility of extending the treaty to cover mines other than anti-personnel mines (MOTAPM). A consensus among CCW parties on MOTAPM has proved elusive, but their views appear closer on this issue than on cluster munitions.


The CCW Convention’s Protocol V on explosive remnants of war (ERW) aims to reduce the impact on civilians of unexploded and abandoned munitions. There has been a steady growth in membership: of the 115 states party to the CCW Convention at the end of 2012, 81 were also party to Protocol V. Membership of Protocol V remains sparsest in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia.


Ten states ratified the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in 2012. This suggests that, while membership is steadily increasing, the CCM did not experience an upsurge of new membership in 2012 after the failure of the parties to the CCW Convention to agree on measures related to cluster munitions in 2011.


Parties to CCW Protocol V on exclusive remnants of war


Small arms control in Africa

Over the past decade a framework for the control of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Africa has gradually been created. Four arms control agreements have been adopted, mainly under the aegis of subregional economic communities:


  • the 2001 Protocol on the Control of Firearms, Ammunition and other related Materials in the SADC
  • the 2004 Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of SALW in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa
  • the 2006 ECOWAS Convention on SALW, their Ammunition and Other Related Materials; and
  •  the 2010 Central African Convention for the Control of SALW, their Ammunition, Parts and Components that can be used for their Manufacture, Repair and Assembly (Kinshasa Convention).


Despite the strong subregional focus on SALW control in Africa, some key external partners, such as the European Union, nevertheless still prefer to conduct their strategic dialogue with African states at the continent level. Given the subregional instruments’ current dependency on external funds and the difficulty of reaching consensus on SALW-related issues in the African Union, finding a way to improve collaboration between subregional instruments and external partners will be crucial in order to ensure implementation.


Conventional arms control and CSBMs in Europe

In 2012 the difficulties in agreeing on further progress on conventional arms control in Europe reported in 2011 continued. However, at the end of 2012 Ukraine, the incoming chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for 2013, initiated a process that might provide a future framework for developing a new approach to conventional arms control.


At the OSCE Ministerial Council in December 2012, foreign ministers agreed to launch a process labelled ‘Helsinki+40’, one of the objectives of which is to develop practical measures to implement the commitment made in the 2010 Astana Commemorative Declaration to overcome the impasse in conventional arms control in Europe and open the way for negotiations on a new agreement. The measures should be elaborated by 2015—four decades after the signing of the Helsinki Final Act.


CSBMs in Asia and the Americas

Asia is a region with a significant number of bilateral and subregional tensions, unresolved conflicts that periodically lead to deadly incidents, and disputes over land and sea borders. Nevertheless, although several Asian initiatives include CSBMs as part of their agenda, there is no strong mandate or institutional structure supporting CSBMs in Asia.


Unlike Asia, border disputes in the Americas have not led to tensions that have required a military response. The region faces no major external military threat and in the past two decades it has developed an array of CSBMs at both the regional and subregional levels. For example, the members of the Union of South American Nations (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas, UNASUR) continued to implement measures agreed in 2011 and to elaborate new CSBMs.


Dr Ian Anthony, Dr Lina Grip, Tamara Patton and Carina Solmirano