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Many people believe that the world would be a more peaceful place if there were fewer weapons. For this reason, an important component of even the earliest peace movements was to advocate for disarmament -- convincing nations to keep only the weapons they need for an adequate police force.

Of course weapons are only a tool for the expression of violence in our world -- there have always been conflicts and wars. But in the past, most of the victims of wars were the soldiers that nations sent to fight each other. Today, most victims of weapons are innocent civilians, and modern weapons have the potential to kill massive numbers of people at one time.

"Peace through Disarmament" is a major focus for the United Nations. This excerpt from the Department for Disarmament Affairs' vision statement sums up this avenue of the UN's work: "We acknowledge that disarmament alone will not produce world peace. Yet we also maintain that the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, illicit arms trafficking, and burgeoning weapons stockpiles would advance both peace and development goals. It would accomplish this by reducing the effects of wars, eliminating some key incentives to new conflicts, and liberating resources to improve the lives of all the peoples of the United Nations and the natural environment in which they live."

The United Nations has made some progress towards disarmament, with treaties and conventions that create guidelines and international laws about weapons production and exportation to other countries. But the UN can only do what nations allow it to do, and unfortunately, the profits many nations make from exporting weapons has slowed progress in disarmament over the years.

Disarmament efforts focus on two basic types of weapons -- weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and small arms. Much attention has naturally been spent on working to halt the nuclear arms race because of the devastating amount of damage that these weapons can do. Progress has been made, but there are still more than 30,000-50,000 nuclear warheads - enough to destroy the entire planet many times over. In addition, after the end of the Cold War in which people feared the superpowers could destroy each other, new fears about the use of these weapons by terrorists or rogue nations has, in some minds, given us even more reason to fear these weapons.

WMDs may get much of the public attention, but small arms disarmament is also an important, although controversial issue, for many as well. There are more than 600 million guns in the world! 1 million people are injured by guns each year, and 300,000 people are killed using guns. 200,000 are homicides; 60,000 to 90,000 are killed in conflict areas (with the majority being civilians) and 50,000 people kill themselves with guns each year. Most of the major countries export arms around the world. Although some countries have strict laws regarding exporting small arms, the global trade in arms is not well regulated, so that many legally exported guns end up on the black market, and end up in the wrong hands.

Gun control is a very controversial issue in the US, with strong advocates on both sides of the debate. Advocates of gun control argue that American communities and the world at large would be safer if there were strict laws regulating the sale and use of guns, while those arguing for gun rights believe that it is a fundamental right for citizens to be able to protect themselves. Because the United States is one of the biggest exporters of small arms, it is in many ways the battlefield over the question of small arms disarmament.

Disarmament Week (which begins on October 24 -- the anniversary of the UN's founding) is an important occasion to raise awareness in the public and among governments, about the crucial need to recognize disarmament as a key element in creating a more peaceful, just and sustainable world.


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DO ONE THING for a Better World

1. Find out more about nuclear disarmament and gun control.

2. Hold an event or a debate about nuclear disarmament and gun control.

3. Support organizations working to stop the proliferation of weapons.



Disarmament Quotes


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Disarmament Week-October 24-30

Tadatoshi Akiba

Muhammad Ali

Kofi Annan

Oscar Arias

Daniel Berrigan

Philip Berrigan

Hans Bethe

General Lee Butler

Dr. Helen Caldicott

David Cortright

Alan Cranston

The Dalai Lama

John Denver

Michael Douglas

Bob Dylan

Albert Einstein

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Daniel Ellsberg

Harrison Ford

Matthew Fox

Bruce Gagnon

Eduardo Galeano

Akbar Ganji

Alfonso Garcia Robles

Mikhail Gorbachev

Jonathan Granoff

Denis Halliday

Arthur Henderson

Hubert Humphrey

Iccho Itoh

John F. Kennedy

Marc Kielburger

Martin Luther King, Jr.

David Krieger

Dennis Kucinich

David Lange

Robert Jay Lifton

Dr. Bernard Lown

Sean MacBride

Paul McCartney

Sir Roger Moore

Lucretia Mott

Alva Myrdal

Sir Philip Noel-Baker

Queen Noor of Jordan

Barack Obama

Gregory Peck

Ludwig Quidde

Josť Ramos-Horta

Douglas Roche

Joseph Rotblat

Arundhati Roy

Bertrand Russell

Carl Sagan

Jonathan Schell

Anna Howard Shaw

Cindy Sheehan

Martin Sheen

Inga Thorsson

Barbara Valocore

Christopher Weeramantry

Cora Weiss

Craig Williams

Robin Williams

Woodrow Wilson

Howard Zinn

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