On 5 November 2020, four international parliamentary organizations and two international policy bodies launched a parliamentary handbook to support disarmament for security and sustainable development.
The approach and focus of the new publication draw primarily from Securing Our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament, released by the UN Secretary-General in 2018. It also considers how disarmament is connected with sustainable development and with pandemics.
Called Assuring our Common Future, the handbook provides background and examples of effective policies and parliamentary actions on a wide range of disarmament issues, including weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, small arms and light weapons, future weapon technologies and disarmament in outer space and cyberspace.
Developed with input from the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), the publication affirms the importance of disarmament and introduces the vital roles that legislators play in developing, monitoring and implementing effective disarmament policies.
The guide notes, “Parliaments and parliamentarians have responsibilities to authorise ratification of disarmament agreements and adopt national implementation measures, allocate budgets to support disarmament, monitor government’s implementation of disarmament obligations, highlight and replicate exemplary policy and practice, and build cooperation between legislators and parliaments regionally and globally.”
“Parliamentary action is vital to shift national security priorities from a primary focus on military security to a stronger focus on cooperation and human security,” the handbook adds.
“Parliamentarians are crucial partners for the implementation of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament. By illustrating several guiding principles for legislators through a wealth of practical examples, this handbook equips lawmakers and their constituents with valuable resources for parliamentary action to secure our common future.”
– Izumi Nakamitsu, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
The handbook incorporates the following sections addressing each pillar of the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament:
- Disarmament to save humanity, which focuses on nuclear weapons, biological and chemical weapons and outer space;
- Disarmament that saves lives, which focuses on regulation of weapons based on humanitarian, security and legal objectives, and includes conventional weapons, small arms, inhumane weapons (e.g., landmines and cluster munitions), the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and an outline of applicable international law;
- Disarmament for future generations, which focuses on emerging weapons technologies including autonomous weapons systems and the use of force in cyberspace;
- Strengthening partnerships, which focuses on the range of constituents and stakeholders in disarmament and how parliamentarians can engage with them on disarmament initiatives.
The handbook also includes sections on parliamentary action in relation to Disarmament, climate and sustainable development and to Pandemics and disarmament, public health and economic sustainability.
In total, 53 recommendations for parliamentary action are offered and 85 examples of effective policies and parliamentaryaction are summarized and listed. These examples cover all regions of the world and reflect an inclusive and cross-party approach.
In developing the handbook, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) organized virtual and in-person consultation events with legislators; disarmament experts; UNODA officials; representatives of treaty bodies including the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization; representatives of United Nations Member States; and key civil society organizations. Feedback from these events contributed to the guide, including its examples of effective policies and parliamentary action.
The handbook was edited by Alyn Ware, PNND Global Coordinator, and prepared and jointly launched by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Parliamentarians for Global Action, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, the Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons and the World Future Council, with additional support from UNODA.
Here is what leaders from some of these organizations have shared about this new resource:
“This is a must-have handbook on disarmament. It is a superb resource for parliamentarians to advance effective disarmament policies and laws nationally, and to foster cooperation at the regional and international levels.”
– Ms. Maria Espinosa, Member of the World Future Council and President of the seventy-third United Nations General Assembly.
“Engagement of parliamentarians from across the political spectrum is vital to take forward disarmament measures in order to enhance peace, security, democracy and economic well-being of people around the world, and to protect the planet. The importance of disarmament has become even more self-evident in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Good public health systems, science and evidence-based policies, international cooperation, informed civil society and peace are the ‘weapons’ to combat pandemics, not guns or bombs.”
– Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
“I strongly support the launch of the Parliamentary Handbook on Disarmament for Security and Sustainable Development. This Handbook is an excellent resource, highlighting the many ways that Parliamentarians, both as advocates and lawmakers, can make decisive and catalytic contributions in achieving disarmament goals.”
– Naveed Qamar MP, Convenor of the International Peace and Security Program for Parliamentarians for Global Action and a former Minister of Defence of Pakistan.
“The Disarmament Agenda launched by United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) in 2018, is vital and much needed in the world of today. Parliamentary action is fundamental to prevent the uncontrolled flow of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) as to promote disarmament, peace and sustainable development globally. Thus, this Handbook is highly welcomed to stimulate future disarmament efforts on behalf of parliamentarians.”
– Daisy Lilián Tourné Valdez, President of the Parliamentary Forum Small Arms and Light Weapons.
“Appropriate disarmament measures – coupled with a stronger focus on human security, diplomacy, international conflict resolution and law – can help reduce armed conflict, save lives and cut the $1.9 trillion global military budget. This could liberate additional financial support for climate protection, public health and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
– Phil Twyford MP, New Zealand Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control and former Chair of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament New Zealand
“I am pleased that the GCSP[Geneva Centre for Security Policy], as one of the actors of International Geneva, is a partner of this useful handbook on parliamentary action on arms control and disarmament. We need all the energy and innovative thinking that all can contribute to make the much needed progress in this field possible.”
– Ambassador Christian Dussey, Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy
“Policymakers have a responsibility towards current and future generations. This handbook is a perfect tool for them to work towards a more peaceful world.”
– Alexandra Wandel, Executive Director of the World Future Council.
Text and images by Mr. Alyn Ware