Revisiting Disarmament and Arms Control: Progress or Regression?- A Geneva Security Debate

On 19th September 2023 SCRAP Weapons, in collaboration with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and Control Arms, hosted a hybrid event in Geneva on the challenges and opportunities faced by the disarmament and arms control machinery and treaties.

In June 1945, as a catastrophic global conflict of unprecedented scale was coming to an end, the United Nations was created, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”. A central goal of the new organization was “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”.

In the decades that followed, the disarmament and arms control community sought to turn the tide on militarism and initiated mechanisms and key instruments on disarmament and arms control. With the establishment of the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva was recognized as the principal multilateral platform for disarmament and arms control. Both inside and outside the Conference on Disarmament, there have been considerable successes such as the Arms Trade Treaty, Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, Non-Proliferation Treaty, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Convention on Anti-personnel Landmines, Convention on Cluster Munitions and Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, as well as strategic bilateral, and regional agreements.”.

Despite the recognition of the founders of the United Nations that disarmament was a fundamental requirement for peace, the commitments undertaken have been steadily replaced by a short-sighted determination to pursue security through force of arms. Disarmament and arms control fora and treaties are abandoned, obstructed, neglected or simply ignored, in favor of increasingly frantic and expensive races to acquire more, newer and better weapons and the political freedom to use them.

At this time what are the challenges and opportunities to the disarmament and arms control machinery and treaties? What role do these mechanisms play at a time of uncertainty in international politics? Are and can these mechanisms and treaties contribute to peace and security? And if not, why not? Is the all-pervasive rule of consensus the problem? What could be the way forward?

Opening remarks:

  • Professor Dan Plesch, Professor of Diplomacy and Strategy, SOAS University of London


  • Ambassador Flávio Damico, Special Representative of Brazil to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
  • Ambassador Amanda Gorely, Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN and to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
  • Ambassador Aidan Liddle, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
  • Mr Husham Ahmed, Counselor in the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the UN and to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
  • Aixa Paumier López, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cuba to the UN Office and other International Organizations in Geneva
  • Simon Cleobury, Head of arms control and disarmament, GCSP