Disarmament: A Basic Guide

First Edition

image of Disarmament: A Basic Guide

International peace and security - and therefore disarmament - stand at the core of the UN mandate. This publication is designed to inform, educate and generate public understanding of the importance of multilateral action, and to rally support for it, in the field of arms limitation and disarmament. Intended primarily for the general reader, this basic guide may also be useful for the disarmament educator or trainer. It is published by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs in collaboration with the NGO (non-governmental organizations) Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security pursuant to the purposes of the United Nations Disarmament Information Programme.



Why do we need disarmament?

The nature and implements of war have changed more dramatically in the last 100 years than in all of preceding human history. Before the 20th century, few countries maintained armies of more than 50,000, and they were armed with weapons that limited damage to the immediate vicinity of conflict. Although war has always been a barbarous activity that took a significant collateral civilian toll, the majority of those killed and wounded in pre-20th century conflicts were active combatants. In 19th century Europe with its mercenary soldiery, when the economic and political benefits of victory could outweigh costs, war was seen as a rational and indeed, necessary instrument of State policy. As the Prussian strategist, Carl von Clausewitz put it, war was “a continuation of policy, carried out by other means.”


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