What is meant by disarmament and arms control?

Efforts to reduce weapon arsenals all around the world and to prevent or inhibit arms proliferation have repeatedly led to two or more states coming together to proclaim their commitment to disarmament and arms control and set out the details either in agreements and treaties or by establishing organizations.

Whereas disarmament describes the process of reducing and ultimately abolishing military capabilities, arms control covers restraint-oriented arrangements to monitor and inspect weapons numbers, military equipment and troop numbers as well as arms production (including weapons upgrading and development) and arms stockpiling.

Confidence-building measures are also a form of arms control. They may involve states conducting reciprocal checks aimed at creating transparency and thus thwarting an arms race or potential conflict escalation.

Depending on the type of weapons being addressed, both arms control and disarmament efforts distinguish between conventional weapons, NBC weapons (nuclear, biological and chemical weapons) and weapons systems that can be used from space.

Developments in technology and shifts in the global political landscape often happen so quickly that disarmament or arms control agreements tend to reflect yesterday’s realities and, in many cases, prove to be weak as a regulatory mechanism. But there are also highly relevant arms control agreements, like the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty or the UN Weapons Convention outlawing cluster munitions, which have not become legally effective because certain states are reluctant to ratify.

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