Confidence-building measures (CBMs) are planned procedures to prevent hostilities, to avert escalation, to reduce military tension, and to build mutual trust between countries. They have been applied since the dawn of civilization, on all continents.
At present, too few military CBMs are in place. Many regions lack even the most basic military CBMs.
Each country is in a unique strategic environment. Military CBMs can be tailored to the security needs of any country or region.
Transparency in armaments
Confidence and trust grow when States are open about their military capacities and plans. That is why governments can report every year their national military spending to the UN, as well as their recent weapons transfers. Regions wishing to develop military CBMs may build upon existing United Nations tools: the UN Report on Military Expenditures or the UN Register of Conventional Arms. They could conduct regular bilateral or regional discussions on information provided to these global instruments and on the strategic considerations underpinning the policy decisions reported therein.
Other military CBMs
Many more military CBMs are possible: from advance notification of exercises and opening up courses in military academies, to establishing demilitarized zones and joint peacekeeping battalions.
Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms
In 2017, the United Nations Disarmament Commission adopted consensus recommendations for transmittal to the General Assembly on practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms (A/72/42).
The practical confidence-building measures recommended by the 2017 session underscore the importance of disarmament measures for the maintenance and enhancement of regional and international peace and security. The recommendations acknowledge the benefit of confidence-building measures to, inter alia, defusing tensions, promoting cooperation among States, enhancing dialogue and greater transparency and promoting progress in conventional disarmament and arms control. The Commission recommends that States consider measures such as periodic exchange of information and notifications; enhancement of cooperation, including through financial and technical assistance; and support to seminars and workshops that promote transparency, dialogue and awareness-raising.
The United Nations can assist
The key to effective CBMs is the quality of the procedures underpinning them. The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs stands ready to assist governments and regional organizations in developing bilateral or regional military CBMs tailored to the situation.
Information on CBMs in the field of conventional arms
CBMs in the regional and subregional context
CBMs in outer space
Regional CBMs in Central Africa
UN Disarmament Commission – Recommendations on practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms