Table of Contents

  • The 23 years that have elapsed between the publication of the first volume of The Disarmament Yearbook, in 1976, and the present one represent some of the best of times and some of the worst of times for disarmament.
  • Nuclear disarmament issues have been discussed within and outside the United Nations since the very beginning of the nuclear age. A number of agreements have been signed by which the existing nuclear arsenals have been reduced, their deployment excluded from certain environments and regions and international norms against their proliferation and nuclear testing established. Legal aspects of the threat or use of nuclear weapons have been addressed in recent years as well.
  • While questions of the regulation and reduction of conventional arms and armed forces have been on the disarmament agenda of the United Nations since its creation, the need to address conventional disarmament in a comprehensive fashion was increasingly recognized during the 1980s. Despite the continued threats posed by nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the end of the cold war and the onset of a wave of intra-State conflicts in the 1990s have focused renewed attention on the issue of conventional weapons and particularly small arms and light weapons. In efforts to address the issue of conventional arms, the international community has taken two basic approaches: the banning, reduction or placing of restrictions on arms through treaties, on the one hand, and the promotion of transparency and confidence-building on the other. These approaches have been applied at the subregional, regional and global levels.
  • In 1998, there were a number of issues that had, in most instances, been before the international community for some time, but that, for a variety of reasons, were not directly addressed to any great extent in the different disarmament forums. They were, however, the subject of resolutions in the General Assembly. They are dealt with in this chapter under the title “Other issues”, because they do not lend themselves to placement in any of the topical chapters of this volume, nor do they share a common theme among themselves. This chapter thus covers: outer space and sea-bed issues; the relationship between disarmament and development; the role of science and technology; and arms limitation and disarmament agreements: observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of treaties.
  • Under the Charter, the General Assembly and the Security Council are the main organs dealing with matters of disarmament and the regulation of armaments. The existing disarmament machinery, as set out in the Final Document of the General Assembly at its first special session devoted to disarmament, in 1978, has remained essentially the same. It consists of the General Assembly and its two subsidiary bodies, namely, the First Committee and the Disarmament Commission (DC), and the Conference on Disarmament (CD)—the “single multilateral negotiating forum” on disarmament of the international community. In addition, questions of disarmament are dealt with in other international frameworks established on the basis of multilateral, regional and bilateral agreements.