The independent resource on global security

14. Conventional arms control and military confidence building



I. Humanitarian arms control

II. Small arms control measures

III. Confidence- and security-building measures in Europe


In 2014, conventional arms control continued to be underutilized in security and peacebuilding. In general, states do not emphasize the role of arms control as an important part of their national security policy—at either a global or a regional level. Instead of taking a balanced approach—in which arms control plays a role alongside military defence, crisis management, conflict prevention and conflict resolution— states prefer to predominantly rely on the capabilities of their national armed forces to promote their security.


Humanitarian arms control

The largest challenge posed to existing humanitarian arms control conventions continues to be the use of certain inhuman weapons in conflict by states not parties to the conventions and by non-state actors. Participation has increased as countries have joined and implemented existing humanitarian arms control conventions. However, the new adherents mainly appear to be countries for which participation carries relatively few obligations. Discussions on widening the coverage of humanitarian arms control, to take account of new and emerging technologies, continued in 2014—notably the discussion on how to reduce the risks associated with lethal autonomous weapon systems.


Small arms control measures

In 2014, further progress was made in developing and implementing ‘small arms’ and ‘firearms’ control measures, with particular regard to the United Nations Programme of Action (POA) on small arms and light weapons and the UN Firearms Protocol. Calls to coordinate and consolidate the main international instruments in small arms control, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication, were given additional weight by the December 2014 entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty, which also covers areas dealt with by the POA and the UN Firearms Protocol. However, while overlap and duplication does exist between these instruments, it has not formed an insurmountable barrier to effective regional work on small arms and firearms issues, particularly in Africa and Latin America. Here, and in other parts of the world, a range of regional and non-governmental organizations have successfully drawn on both sets of instruments to deal with practical issues such as stockpile management and destruction of surpluses.


Confidence- and security-building measures in Europe

Confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs) in Europe were tested in 2014 by a deteriorating security environment. Recently there has been a significant increase in the number of large-scale military exercises organized by Russia at short notice, and a growing number of incidents where Russian military aircraft and naval vessels appear to have engaged in potentially hazardous manoeuvres. Decisions taken in 2014 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) may further increase the number and diversity of military exercises in coming years. In these circumstances, renewed attention to the role of CSBMs in Europe may be warranted.