Arms and atrocities: protecting populations by preventing the means

Image: Foto © UN Photo/Isaac Billy

April 1, 2015

How can disarmament and arms control contribute to the prevention of mass atrocities such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing? In a new publication PAX and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect address the above question and provides suggestions for how civil society can promote humanitarian disarmament.

In the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, States made the historic acknowledgment that they had a Responsibility to Protect (RtoP, R2P) populations from mass atrocities (genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing). Despite this landmark commitment, perpetrators continue to use weapons – from small arms to landmines to chemical weapons – to carry out these most heinous of crimes.

News of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, cluster munition strikes in Ukraine, and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Northern Africa make it clear that the irresponsible production, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer and use of weapons and ammunition severely curtail the ability of States and the international community to protect populations.

Disarmament and arms control can therefore help actors to implement RtoP by strengthening State capacity; controlling the development, proliferation, possession and use of weapons; controlling trade and flows of weapons; and providing assistance to victims. This document examines how such measures can be understood as contributing to the prevention of mass atrocities using the three-pillar framework for the implementation of RtoP as established by the UN Secretary-General in his 2009 report “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect.”  Additionally, this publication provides suggestions for how civil society groups can promote the mutually-reinforcing goals of humanitarian disarmament and atrocity prevention.

Read the full document: Arms and Atrocities: Protecting Populations by Preventing the Means

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