Humanitarian Disarmament

Humanitarian disarmament seeks to prevent and remediate arms-inflicted human suffering and environmental harm through the establishment and implementation of norms. This approach to disarmament puts people at the centre of policy and practice. Humanitarian Disarmament is an umbrella term for a collection of disarmament initiatives driven by humanitarian imperatives to strengthen international law and protect civilians. By advancing disarmament from a humanitarian perspective, governments and civil society work together to prevent further civilian casualties, avoid socio-economic devastation, and protect and ensure the rights of victims. The main purpose of humanitarian disarmament is the prevention of needless suffering and injury through the regulation and restriction of weapons that pose significant risks for civilian populations both during and after conflict. 

Humanitarian disarmament prioritizes protecting the security and well-being of people rather than states which sets it apart from traditional approaches to disarmament. It often focuses on the impact of weapons – what they do to people and the environment. Humanitarian disarmament research helps identify which weapons are indiscriminate or inhumane by nature and which cause problems due how they are used, their trade and proliferation, or their lingering effects.

Humanitarian disarmament tries to prevent suffering and environmental harm but it also recognizes that we can help mitigate the harm that has already happened. Prevention can include international law and treaties to prohibit certain kinds of weapons. Mitigation actions can include things like victim assistance or clearing weapons contamination and environmental contamination.

Humanitarian disarmament standards have often been adopted in international treaties but political declarations and national laws can be very helpful as well. Humanitarian disarmament initiatives have included the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines, the Arms Trade Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Humanitarian disarmament helps set norms to protect civilians and the environment before, during and after armed conflict. We know it works!

Humanitarian disarmament allows all of us to have a say in global peace and security. No one needs to be an expert on security theory to understand that weapons which are indiscriminate and inhumane should not be used. Communities affected by these weapons are the experts but everyone can speak up. Together, we can make change. 

Within Humanitarian Disarmament, MAC focuses on two cross-cutting themes, youth and gender

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