What is Disarmament? - Definition, Conferences & Meaning

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Prokes

Chris is an instructional designer and college faculty member. He has a Master's Degree in Education and also umpires baseball.

Disarmament is the process of reducing or eliminating military forces and weapons through cooperation, treaties, and oversight. Learn about disarmament in this lesson, and take a quiz at the end.

Introduction to Disarmament

Have you seen a picture of a mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion? It brings a gamut of emotions: fear, worry, awe, and wonder. The nuclear weapon has awesome power and, without mincing words, has the capability to destroy mankind. Many want these weapons reduced or removed altogether, and this sentiment is not a new one. The call for disarmament, or a general reduction of weapons and stockpiles, has always been an issue in world affairs. The United Nations has had conferences and treaties to pursue a reduction in such weapons.

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  • 0:01 Introduction to Disarmament
  • 0:36 Definition and Considerations
  • 1:57 Conferences and Treaties
  • 4:39 Implications and Issues
  • 5:29 Lesson Summary
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Definition and Considerations

Disarmament is not something that can be easily defined in a few words. In truth, there are four key parts to it:

  1. Reduction in quantity of military items
  2. Formal meeting and treaty to achieve
  3. Emphasis on weapons and tools
  4. Body or group overseeing the process

These four parts lead to a detailed definition, and a detailed plan of action as well. Disarmament is usually focused on weapons, but can include other areas, such as tools and technologies.

The United Nations (U.N.) has been a mediator in arms reduction since the 1960s. They pass resolutions (formal statements of their position), have special committees focused solely on negotiating for disarmament, and have special units that oversee and help with the process.

Ultimately, the main purpose of disarmament is world peace and the survival of mankind. It is a concept that has existed for more than 100 years in the modern world. With each passing conflict, the weapons and tools marked for reduction have evolved. For example, the big weapon in World War I was mustard gas, a chemical weapon that saw a post-war call for reductions. In the Cold War, nuclear weapons took center stage.

Conferences and Treaties

There have been many international conferences that have attempted disarmament among the nations of the world. Often, the meetings have ended in some sort of treaty or agreement. Such agreements sought to end the use of a certain weapon and create an enforcement body. Here are some examples:

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