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UNODA Occasional Papers No.28: Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the Twenty-First Century, October 2016

image of UNODA Occasional Papers No.28: Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament in the Twenty-First Century, October 2016
The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) Occasional Papers is a series of ad hoc publications presenting, in edited form, papers or statements made at meetings, symposiums, seminars, workshops or lectures that deal with topical issues in the field of arms limitation, disarmament and international security. They are intended primarily for those concerned with these matters in Government, civil society and in the academic community. This publication's authors, who include some of the world’s leading scholars, diplomats and activists on the topic, examine historic, strategic, humanitarian and economic aspects of general and complete disarmament to elaborate and elevate the case for prohibiting conventional weapons systems as well as nuclear weapons. The featured articles were originally presented at the seminar held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 21 October 2015 entitled “Comprehensive Approaches for Disarmament in the Twenty-first Century: Rethinking General and Complete Disarmament”. It was organized by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica.

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General and complete disarmament and defence policies

It may seem strange to expect defence ministries and military alliances to care about reducing arms on the path to total disarmament, but there are at least two good reasons why they should. First are their own stated aims; it would be a rare defence ministry these days that defined its mission as to make war and destroy things. More typically, these institutions claim that their military activities are designed to preserve the peace and they commit themselves to act within the framework of international law, including United Nations principles. Logically, then, they should respect the United Nations goal of general and complete disarmament (GCD) in no less than Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which validates selfdefence. Secondly and more practically, to start getting rid of weapons, you need people who understand weapons and can destroy them safely. This is obvious in cases like chemical weapons disposal, but it can also be surprisingly hard and expensive to dismantle a tank or even destroy rifles.

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