Harvard Initiative Releases New Tools to Advance Humanitarian Disarmament

Posted by Bonnie Docherty, Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative, Harvard Law School

Humanitarian disarmament has become a highly effective and firmly established means of dealing with arms-induced human suffering. This year, it has celebrated many milestones that highlight its achievements. These milestones have also generated forward-looking discussions about how civil society campaigns can best work together to advance humanitarian disarmament’s overarching aim.

In March, Harvard Law School’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) assembled 25 humanitarian disarmament leaders from around the world for a two-day conference in which they could reflect on the state of the field and strategize about its future. The ACCPI has produced a summary of the conference and its conclusions in a new 27-page report Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead. It has also launched the website “humanitariandisarmament.org,” which will serve experts and the public alike.

Humanitarian disarmament seeks to prevent and remediate harm caused by arms and related activities through the establishment of norms. It is a people-centered approach, driven by civil society campaigns, that focuses on human rather than national security.

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Credit: Heratch Ekmekjian, 2018

The past twelve months have marked several key anniversaries for humanitarian disarmament including the twentieth anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty, the tenth of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the fifth of the Arms Trade Treaty, and the first of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Campaigns to address other issues, including fully autonomous weapons, the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, and toxic remnants of war, are underway.

As the summary explains in more detail, conference participants identified three primary goals for the next five years of humanitarian disarmament. They agreed their community should strive to increase its diversity and inclusion, collaborate more efficiently and effectively, and take steps to ensure sustainability and foster a new generation of advocates.

To achieve these goals, participants recommended prioritizing the development of shared messaging, education about the concept of humanitarian disarmament, expansion of the community and its supporters, cross-campaign collaboration, and maximization of limited resources.

The ACCPI created the humanitariandisarmament.org website in response to several of these priorities. The website is designed to increase awareness and improve understanding of humanitarian disarmament. It will also facilitate coordination across campaigns by serving as a hub of information on the topic.

The ACCPI plans to continue its support of humanitarian disarmament by advocating on behalf of the campaigns, cultivating the next generation of leaders, and promoting innovation within the community of practice.

Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead Conference Summary

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