Arms Regulation and Disarmament - Confidence-building measures

Regional Confidence-Building

The objective of confidence-building measures is to contribute toward reducing or eliminating the causes for mistrust, fear, tensions, and hostilities, which are significant factors behind the international arms buildup. A UN study on confidence-building measures, issued in 1981, represented an attempt to clarify and develop the concept of confidence-building and to provide guidelines to governments for introducing and implementing confidence-building measures and promoting public awareness of the concept so as to advance negotiations and enhance peace and security. In that same year, the General Assembly invited all states to consider the possible introduction of confidence-building measures in their particular regions and, where possible, to negotiate among themselves in keeping with conditions and requirements prevailing in the respective regions. In fact, multilateral negotiations on these issues had been under way since the early 1970s.

The Vienna Talks on the Mutual Reduction of Forces and Armaments and Associated Measures in Central Europe, which commenced in 1973 among the member countries of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, were aimed at enhancing stability in the central region of the two alliances and in Europe as a whole while reducing armed forces and equipment but maintaining undiminished security. After decades of unsuccessful efforts in that framework, the two sides agreed to close down the talks in 1989 to pursue efforts in the context of a new set of talks on conventional force reductions within the security pillar of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), ongoing since the adoption of the 1975 Helsinki Act.

The CSCE, held in Geneva and Helsinki from 1972 to 1975 and involving 33 European countries, as well as Canada and the US, further developed the concept of confidence-building measures on a non-UN regional basis; its Final Act, issued at Helsinki in August 1975, included provisions on security, human rights, and scientific cooperation. The final Stockholm Document, adopted in September 1986, constituted the first security agreement for Europe among the 35 states participating in the conference that adopts militarily significant, politically binding, and verifiable confidence-building measures. Under its terms, the CSCE states agreed to a new set of standards on the notification and observation of certain military activities, and, most important, they agreed upon verification of compliance by means of mandatory on-site inspection arrangements.

Reviewed during 1977–78 in Belgrade and again from 1980 to 1983 in Madrid, the conference led to the Stockholm Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and Disarmament in Europe, held from 1984 to 1986, with the same states participating.

In Vienna in 1989, at the same time that negotiations between the two military alliances were initiated on conventional armed forces in Europe, a new set of negotiations began on confidenceand security-building measures (CSBMs) among all the CSCE participating states. The talks led to the adoption of the Vienna Document of 1990, which incorporated and expanded the provisions of the Stockholm Document. Among its provisions are an exchange of military information among its parties on the command structure of their military forces, plans for the deployment of major weapon and equipment systems, and the military budplans for the forthcoming year. The CSCE held a summit meeting in Paris immediately following the adoption of the Vienna CSBM document and adopted the Charter of Paris. Among other results, the participating CSCE states decided to establish a Crisis Prevention Centre in Vienna, which became essentially the operational component of the CSBM document.

In order to consolidate further the achievements of the 1990 Charter of Paris, the CSCE held a summit meeting in 1992. It issued an important document relating to confidence-building entitled the Helsinki Document–1992–The Challenges of Change, adopted unanimously by its full membership. In Helsinki, the states parties decided inter alia to start a new negotiation on arms control, disarmament, and confidence- and security-building; established a new CSCE Forum for Security Cooperation; and strengthened the Conflict Prevention Centre set up in Vienna.

In the interest of improving openness and transparency, and facilitating monitoring and compliance with existing or future arms control agreements and to strengthen the capacity for conflict resolution and crisis management in the CSCE, a Treaty on Open Skies was signed in March 1992 by 24 of the CSCE participating states. Covering an area from Vancouver to Vladivostok, the treaty allows observation flights by a state party over the territory of other state parties.

The UN has contributed to the process of confidence-building in a number of ways. The Secretary-General has assisted states parties to arms limitation agreements, at their request, in exchanges of information. This is the case for the newly formed Register of Conventional Arms, for the maintenance of an international system for standardized reporting of military expenditures, for the biological weapons convention as well as for the seabed treaty.

The Secretary-General also has contributed to confidencebuilding within regions by stimulating informal discussions of regional and global disarmament issues at seminars and conferences organized under the auspices of the Centre for Disarmament Affairs. Further, in order to promote cooperation among regional states towards arms limitation and disarmament, the UN has established three regional centers as follows: UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (Lomé, Togo); UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (Kathmandu, Nepal), and the UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and the Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (Lima, Peru). The centers focus their activities on dissemination of information, training, and regional meetings.

Zones of Peace

The 1971 Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace is considered annually by an ad hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean, which has proposed the convening of a conference of the regional states. There also have been proposals for zones of peace and cooperation in various other regions, including the Mediterranean and the South Atlantic.

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE ARMS RACE Since the 1950s, the General Assembly has appealed for the reduction of military spending and has suggested that the money thus saved be redeployed for economic and social development activities. A 1981 UN expert study on the relationship between disarmament and development saw a triangular relationship between disarmament, security, and development and concluded that the world could either continue to pursue the arms race or move toward a more sustainable international and political order; it could not do both. A 1982 expert study on the economic and social consequences of the arms race and of military expenditures concluded that UN mechanisms for peaceful settlement of disputes should be strengthened, that the use of the world's finite resources for military ends should be discouraged, and that there should be extensive diversion of these resources from military applications to socioeconomic development.

Conference on Disarmament and Development

In 1984, the General Assembly decided to convene an International Conference on the Relationship Between Disarmament and Development. The conference, which took place at UN headquarters in August–September 1987, considered ways and means of enhancing security and of releasing additional resources for development purposes through disarmament measures.

In particular, the conference called upon the UN to make greater efforts to promote collective knowledge of the nonmilitary threats to international security; to establish an improved and comprehensive database on global and national military expenditures; to continue to analyze the impact of global military expenditures on the world economy and the international economic system; to monitor trends in military spending, and to facilitate an international exchange of views and experience in the field of conversion from military to civilian production. To carry out the above work, a high-level task force was set up within the UN Secretariat. The Secretary-General reports each year to the General Assembly on the efforts carried out in this regard.

The improvement in the East-West relations in the late 1980s and the beginning of significant reductions in armed forces and armaments in the 1990s drew considerable attention to the issue of conversion of weapons, weapons testing and production facilities, and redeployment of armed forces. At its 44th session in 1989, the General Assembly, for the first time, adopted a resolution dealing with the subject of conversion of military resources.

Beginning with the 1990 international conference in Moscow on Conversion: Economic Adjustments in an Era of Arms Reduction, a number of similar conferences on different aspects of conversion of military resources to civilian production have been organized by the Centre for Disarmament Affairs and other interested UN bodies in cooperation with various host countries. The conference in Moscow was followed by an international conference on International Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Military Industrial Technology in Beijing, China, in 1991. This was followed by yet another international conference on aerospace complex conversion held in Moscow in 1992.

The UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) submitted to the General Assembly at its 47th session in 1992, through the Secretary-General, a study entitled Economic aspects of disarmament: disarmament as an investment . It found that on the cost side disarmament required a fundamental reallocation of resources from military to civilian production, which could result in major problems of unemployment or underemployment of labor, capital, and other resources. Economic dividends of disarmament were likely to be small in the short term, it concluded. In the long term, however, disarmament would lead to significant benefits in the civilian sector through the production of goods and services made possible through the reallocation of resources from the military sector. Thus, in its economic aspects, the report said, disarmament was like an investment process involving short-run costs and long-run benefits.

Reduction of Military Budgets

Proposals for the reduction of military budgets, based on the conviction that such measures would facilitate the disarmament process and help release resources for economic and social development, were made in the General Assembly during the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the General Assembly pursued this question on two tracks. There were those states that pressed for the identification and elaboration of principles for freezing and reducing military budgets, while other states favored an effort by the General Assembly to broaden participation in the standardized reporting system.

During the same period, the General Assembly initiated a series of expert studies and established an Ad Hoc Panel on Military Budgeting, aimed at arriving at a generally acceptable conceptual definition of military budgets and the development of a standardized system of measuring and reporting the military expenditures of states.

An international system for the standardized reporting of military expenditures was introduced in pursuance of resolution 35/142 B of 17 December 1980. A 1982 study reaffirmed that the reporting instrument was a practical method for monitoring and reporting on military expenditures and strongly recommended its continuous use. On the basis of national reports on military expenditures received, the Secretary-General has submitted annually to the General Assembly a document on the operation of the reporting system. The General Assembly also has continued to recommend that member states use the reporting instrument to forward annually to the Secretary-General military expenditures for the latest fiscal year for which data are available.

The Disarmament Commission also considered the reduction of the military budgets from 1979 until 1989. Despite the progress and refinement made on the reporting system, basic differences in approach to the problem of reducing military budgets remained. In the 1986 session of the Disarmament Commission, provisional agreement was achieved on a text embodying a set of principles to govern the action of states in freezing and reducing military budgets. However, there was disagreement on the use of the standardized reporting instrument. The item has not been on the agenda of the Disarmament Commission since 1990.

In 1992, the General Assembly endorsed a set of guidelines and recommendations for objective information on military matters as adopted by the Disarmament Commission at its 1992 session. The "Guidelines" are intended inter alia to encourage openness and transparency on military matters, to facilitate the process of arms limitation, reduction, and elimination, as well as to assist verification of compliance with obligations undertaken by states in these fields.

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