Germany as an active partner for global disarmament and arms control

30.08.2018 - Article

Disarmament, arms control and non‑proliferation play an important role in Germany’s foreign and security policy.

Statue entitled Non‑Violence created by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd in front of the UN headquarters in New York
Statue entitled Non‑Violence created by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd in front of the UN headquarters in New York© picture alliance / dpa

Germany works with its partners, particularly in the EU and NATO, to strengthen and further develop existing international treaties and agreements. New challenges to our common security and constant technological developments create the need to develop new international rules, something that Federal Government Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control Susanne Baumann is actively working to achieve.

Relaunching conventional arms control in Europe

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the frozen conflicts in Georgia and the Republic of Moldova continue to show the importance of arms control and confidence-building instruments, particularly in crisis situations. However, the Euro-Atlantic arms control architecture of the 1990s must be adapted to the security, technical and military circumstances of today.

To this end, the Federal Foreign Office launched an initiative in August 2016 to relaunch conventional arms control under the auspices of the OSCE. This initiative has gained wide support. A group of like-minded states currently comprised of 22 countries from the OSCE area adamant about the need to relaunch conventional arms control in Europe and agreed a ministerial declaration on this topic in November 2016.

At the OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg in 2016, all 57 OSCE participating States agreed by consensus to conduct a Structured Dialogue on current and future security challenges and risks in the OSCE area. To date, this constructive dialogue, which has been conducted in Vienna between all OSCE participating States represented by senior officials from their capitals, has addressed topics such as the rules-based security order, current military doctrines, force postures and military exercises. The aim of the Structured Dialogue is to pave the path to discussing the difficult issues involved in conventional arms control in Europe.

Germany continued its work in this area in 2017, for example by holding an international conference, Making Conventional Arms Control Fit for the 21st Century, at the Federal Foreign Office in September in cooperation with the London-based European Leadership Network

Conventional disarmament worldwide

As so many lives are claimed by small arms in conflicts and violent crime, it is crucial to control legal weapons effectively and to combat illegal weapons at national and international level. Cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines often kill civilians years after first being deployed, thus making it all the more important to ensure that agreements such as the Oslo Convention and Ottawa Convention, which are effective in prohibiting the production, stockpiling and trade of such weapons, are upheld in full. As one of the first states Parties to these conventions, the German Government is working hard to ensure they become universal. Only in this way can future generations be protected from the deadly effects of such weapons.

As Chair of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Germany campaigned for the Convention to be implemented more fully. To this end, a structured consultation with non-contracting States and a country coalition concept were launched, with the aim of improving implementation of the obligations set out in the Convention.

An important step was achieved in Colombia on 25 September 2017 when the United Nations successfully completed the mission to disarm FARC. This success was possible in part thanks to the 30 million euros in financial support provided by Germany for the peace and disarmament process and additional practical support on the ground involving the destruction of 8800 arms and over 20,000 bullet cartridges by Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief.

In the negotiations on lethal autonomous weapon system (LAWS), Germany is calling for a ban on fully autonomous systems and a comprehensive discussion to resolve all relevant legal and technical issues. In order to protect conurbations more effectively in conflict situations, Germany is one of the main supporters of an initiative on explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA). Improved control of munitions is the topic of a current initiative by Germany within the framework of the United Nations.

Working towards a world without nuclear weapons

Germany is committed to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Real progress in nuclear disarmament and the goal of a world without nuclear weapons can only be achieved through a gradual and pragmatic approach – and not in isolation from security policy reality and Germany’s political alliance commitments. In this context, Germany regards the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a foundation stone of global disarmament and non-proliferation architecture. Along with its partners in the EU and the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), Germany is working to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Following negotiations by the United Nations on a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons, 120 UN member states adopted a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 7 July 2017 that has been open for signature since 20 September 2017. The Treaty prohibits the States parties not only from possessing nuclear weapons, but also from stationing, storing and transporting them. Like the vast majority of all NATO member countries, the German Government did not take part in the negotiations on the Treaty and has not signed the text, as it does not regard this type of treaty as a suitable instrument for achieving the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. None of the countries with nuclear weapons and whose cooperation would be vital in achieving genuine, practical progress on nuclear disarmament took part in the negotiations. Furthermore, there is a risk that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons negotiated in New York will have a lasting detrimental impact on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its control regime aimed at preventing nuclear proliferation and pose a threat to global non-proliferation and disarmament regimes.

Only a process that includes all nuclear-weapon states in a dialogue and leads to concrete steps will ultimately prove successful. An important element of Germany’s diplomatic endeavours in the field of non-proliferation is the Vienna nuclear deal of July 2015, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), between the E3/EU+3 – Russia, China, the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Germany and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (EU) – and Iran. The JCPOA ensures that Iran’s nuclear programme verifiably serves exclusively civil purposes.  Since Implementation Day in January 2016, the agreement has been carried out successfully. To date, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for monitoring the technical restrictions imposed by the JCPOA with its unprecedented transparency regime, has confirmed that Iran is adhering to the agreement.

North Korea’s continued and illegal nuclear and missile tests pose a threat to peace and security in the region and worldwide and give cause for the greatest concern. Along with its partners in the EU, the German Government thus called for wide-ranging sanctions to be imposed, with the aim of putting a stop to North Korea’s armament endeavours, and is implementing these sanctions comprehensively. In this way, Germany is also supporting international efforts to persuade North Korea to take part in negotiations by combining sanctions pressure with offers of talks. Furthermore, Germany is working actively to create the conditions for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to enter into force in the near future. A further priority of Germany’s commitment to concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament currently involves the international efforts to actively bring about a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, which would prohibit the production of fissile material for use in arms. In October 2016, the German Government, along with Canada and the Netherlands, co-sponsored a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly that was adopted by the vast majority of members.

Disarmament in the field of chemical and biological weapons

The destruction of all declared chemical weapons in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention has been completed in almost all 192 states Parties to the Convention. Although Syria acceded to the Convention in 2013, the Syrian regime is continuing to use chemical weapons, as ascertained by the 2016 and 2017 reports by the Joint Investigative Mechanism, which was set up by the United Nations Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Germany supported the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism and calls for consequences within the framework of the OPCW for the use of chemical weapons. In 2016, Germany chaired the OPCW Conference of States Parties, the Organisation’s highest decision-making body, for the first time. The fourth Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention will take place in The Hague in December 2018.

Germany also helped with the destruction of chemical weapons in Libya. Part of this support involved the German Government’s consent in 2016 for Libya’s remaining stockpiles of chemical warfare agents to be destroyed in Germany. GEKA, the German organisation responsible for disposing of chemical warfare agents, destroyed 500 tonnes of chemical remnants safely and without causing harm to the environment by the end of November 2017.

The German Government also calls for a ban on biological weapons. In particular, Germany is campaigning for the universal implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), which prohibits biological warfare agents and has been ratified by 179 countries. The BWC lacks both a treaty organisation and a verification regime. For this reason, Germany and the EU have called for measures to build confidence and foster transparency, such as voluntary peer review exercises.

The Federal Foreign Office’s German Partnership Program for Excellence in Biological and Health Security, through which Germany carries out long-term biosecurity projects in various countries under the auspices of the G7 Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, has been running successfully since 2013. The Programme has been allocated funding of 43 million euros until 2019.

Tasks of the Federal Government Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control

The Director-General for International Order, the United Nations and Arms Control and Federal Government Commissioner for Disarmament and Arms Control cooperates closely with representatives of UN member countries as well as the UN and its subsidiary organisations and specialised agencies to strengthen and further develop existing multilateral instruments in the field of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. You will find a list below of the international organisations with which the Federal Foreign Office works closely on disarmament and arms control endeavours. 

Besides analysing and developing new aspects of disarmament and non-proliferation policy, the Commissioner is very active in helping with the implementation, further development and strengthening of existing international agreements and coordination mechanisms. The most important conventions are listed on the right.

In spheres where instruments and mechanisms for multilateral disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation are still lacking, the Commissioner provides impetus and campaigns for new international arrangements and agreements.
She also works closely with regional organisations to bolster security in their respective areas of the world. Priority areas include southeast Europe, particularly as regards measures on cooperative security and confidence-building. In Africa, too, close collaboration is sought with the main regional organisations, above all the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), for example in the field of preventing the proliferation of small arms.

Detailed information on the current disarmament and arms control situation is available in the 2017 Annual Disarmament Report (text in German):

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