Welcome to Part II of the 2021 United Nations Disarmament Yearbook. Since 1976, this annual flagship publication of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs has provided comprehensive, objective information for diplomats and the interested public on multilateral efforts to advance the cause of peace through the regulation, control and elimination of weapons.
The pandemic complicated the delivery of humanitarian aid to conflict-scarred communities while eroding gains made in recent years towards greater economic and gender equality.”
In 2021, those efforts continued to face significant headwinds from the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond significantly limiting the ability of intergovernmental forums to tackle pressing concerns related to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control in formal, in-person meetings, the pandemic complicated the delivery of humanitarian aid to conflict-scarred communities while eroding gains made in recent years towards greater economic and gender equality. Furthermore, even as COVID-19 underscored the urgent need for societies around the world to direct additional public resources into critical sectors such as public health, global military expenditures surged to a new, record-breaking high while armed clashes persisted.
The year’s landmark developments included the entry into force, on 22 January, of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
Against that backdrop, 2021 nonetheless saw important moments of progress. The year’s landmark developments included the entry into force, on 22 January, of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. That seminal accomplishment was followed, in early February, by a five-year extension of the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty). The decision of the United States and the Russian Federation to extend their only bilateral, legally binding agreement on nuclear arms control within days of its scheduled expiration further highlighted the need to expeditiously lay the foundation for the next generation of arms control.
Madagascar, the Niger and Uganda strengthened their capacities to safely collect, store and destroy firearms”
Meanwhile, with the support of the African Union and my Office, the Governments of Madagascar, the Niger and Uganda strengthened their capacities to safely collect, store and destroy firearms that are illegally held within their borders. The assistance was the result of an ongoing partnership to help 10 States of the region remove thousands of weapons from illicit circulation in connection with Africa Amnesty Month, which is part of the African Union’s Silencing the Guns initiative.
Redirecting funds away from armed forces to help strengthen women’s social and economic security ... was not a utopian ideal, but an achievable necessity.”
I also joined the Executive Director of UN-Women to co-author an opinion article in which we urged Governments to cut excessive military spending in favour of social and economic development initiatives to benefit all. Redirecting funds away from armed forces to instead help strengthen women’s social and economic security and promote more inclusive and resilient societies, we observed, was “not a utopian ideal, but an achievable necessity”.
Youth participation at formal and informal disarmament meetings had jumped by more than 500 per cent since 2019”
The year also held promise for ongoing efforts within our field to attract a new generation of experts and advocates. In August, the Conference on Disarmament held its first thematic session on youth, where it heard from four United Nations Youth Champions for Disarmament. Later in the year, the General Assembly adopted its second biennial resolution on “Youth, disarmament and non-proliferation”, reinforcing earlier calls for action to promote young people’s participation and empowerment in the work of disarmament and non-proliferation. As at the end of 2021, youth participation at formal and informal disarmament meetings had jumped by more than 500 per cent since 2019, when my Office launched its “#Youth4Disarmament” outreach initiative.
Those developments and many others are explored in detail throughout these pages. It is my hope that readers will find the present volume of the Yearbook to be useful, not only for conducting research, but also for finding new inspiration in our shared effort to achieve sustainable peace and security for ourselves and future generations.