The independent resource on global security

9. Conventional arms control and military confidence building



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


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 explosive
remnants of war

Yearbook 2013, Chapter 9, Parties to CCW Protocol V on explosive 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.