Many people believe that
the world would be a more peaceful place if there were fewer weapons. For this
reason, an important component of even the earliest peace movements was to advocate
for disarmament -- convincing nations to keep only the weapons they need for an
adequate police force.
course weapons are only a tool for the expression of violence in our world --
there have always been conflicts and wars. But in the past, most of the victims
of wars were the soldiers that nations sent to fight each other. Today, most victims
of weapons are innocent civilians, and modern weapons have the potential to kill
massive numbers of people at one time.
through Disarmament" is a major focus for the United Nations. This excerpt
from the Department for Disarmament Affairs' vision statement sums up this avenue
of the UN's work: "We acknowledge that disarmament alone will not produce
world peace. Yet we also maintain that the elimination of weapons of mass destruction,
illicit arms trafficking, and burgeoning weapons stockpiles would advance both
peace and development goals. It would accomplish this by reducing the effects
of wars, eliminating some key incentives to new conflicts, and liberating resources
to improve the lives of all the peoples of the United Nations and the natural
environment in which they live."
United Nations has made some progress towards disarmament, with treaties and conventions
that create guidelines and international laws about weapons production and exportation
to other countries. But the UN can only do what nations allow it to do, and unfortunately,
the profits many nations make from exporting weapons has slowed progress in disarmament
over the years.
efforts focus on two basic types of weapons -- weapons of mass destruction,
including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and small arms. Much
attention has naturally been spent on working to halt the nuclear arms race because
of the devastating amount of damage that these weapons can do. Progress has been
made, but there are still more than 30,000-50,000 nuclear warheads - enough to
destroy the entire planet many times over. In addition, after the end of the Cold
War in which people feared the superpowers could destroy each other, new fears
about the use of these weapons by terrorists or rogue nations has, in some minds,
given us even more reason to fear these weapons.
may get much of the public attention, but small arms disarmament is also an important,
although controversial issue, for many as well. There are more than 600 million
guns in the world! 1 million people are injured by guns each year, and 300,000
people are killed using guns. 200,000 are homicides; 60,000 to 90,000 are killed
in conflict areas (with the majority being civilians) and 50,000 people kill themselves
with guns each year. Most of the major countries export arms around the world.
Although some countries have strict laws regarding exporting small arms, the global
trade in arms is not well regulated, so that many legally exported guns end up
on the black market, and end up in the wrong hands.
control is a very controversial issue in the US, with strong advocates on both
sides of the debate. Advocates of gun control argue that American communities
and the world at large would be safer if there were strict laws regulating the
sale and use of guns, while those arguing for gun rights believe that it is a
fundamental right for citizens to be able to protect themselves. Because the United
States is one of the biggest exporters of small arms, it is in many ways the battlefield
over the question of small arms disarmament.
Week (which begins on October 24 -- the anniversary of the UN's founding) is an
important occasion to raise awareness in the public and among governments, about
the crucial need to recognize disarmament as a key element in creating a more
peaceful, just and sustainable world.