Written by David Franco, alumnus of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London, and former SCRAP Project Co-ordinator from 2011 to 2012.
If, in 2010, someone had predicted that in less than a decade the world would have adopted an arms trade treaty and a global ban on nuclear weapons, many critics would have dismissed them as being unrealistic. Yet that is precisely what has happened, demonstrating that human drive and a commitment to world stability and humanitarianism can trump self-interest and bridge the gap between aspirations and reality.
When I worked on the SCRAP project between 2011 and 2012, our strategy consisted of coalescing with like-minded disarmament platforms, including the small arms and humanitarian movements, to reinvigorate the stalled global disarmament agenda. Building on the successes of the 1980s and 1990s in the areas of conventional and weapons of mass destruction disarmament and arms control, we drafted and took a proposal to the United Nations advocating for the adoption of an internationally legally-binding agreement on general and complete disarmament.
The idea of general and complete disarmament is not founded on illusion or delusion, but on the realist certainty that the absence of such an aspiration, and its practical applications, exposes the world to disaster and injustice. Fortunately, many people are ready to commit and spend time and effort pursuing this objective. Thanks to the work of post-graduate and doctoral students and volunteers at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the SCRAP flame continues to burn vigorously, showing us the path to a more stable world. From digital campaigns and advocacy activity in international fora, through to academic research and publications, the SCRAP project marches on.
In the current environment, where multilateral diplomacy, international institutions and global stability are under attack, and where the international order is sliding dangerously back to a zero-sum game, pursuing a global disarmament agenda is more critical than ever. Disarmament is not a fairy tale nor a theoretical ideal. It is a practical paradigm aimed at moving weapons out of security agendas by scaling back and ultimately removing weapons of mass destruction and controlling conventional weapons. That is precisely what SCRAP proposes, and that is also what the UN is committed to pursuing with its recently launched disarmament agenda Securing Our Common Future.
The road will be long and there will be setbacks. We may even see the return of great power conflict: a prospect that is infinitely more likely if disarmament is ignored. Skeptics and opponents will criticise and try to undermine the movement, but that has always been the case throughout history. Our challenge rests in building on the recent successes and expanding the movement to incorporate those who have been hesitant to support this work.
Often would-be supporters ask why SCRAP advocates for general and complete disarmament instead of nuclear disarmament or the removal of small arms or land mines. The hyper destructive nature of nuclear weapons and their threat to humanity as a whole has meant nuclear disarmament movements have attracted large numbers of supporters. Similarly, civil society can relate more easily to the threat that the illegal arms trade poses to unstable nations experiencing civil conflict or the indiscriminate nature of land mines. A holistic approach to disarmament appears too daunting or unrealistic to many, yet it is critical given that weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms often feed each other.
The SCRAP team and anyone working in disarmament have a challenging road ahead, yet the personal and collective reward is incalculable. We must also recognize how far we have already come. Six years ago, we did not have an arms trade treaty, a global ban on nuclear weapons or a clearly delineated and UN-sanctioned disarmament agenda. We do not know what the future holds but if world powers, international organisations, academia and civil society at large do not take disarmament seriously, we will all pay the price. The SCRAP team knows it. We all know it. It’s time we all turned that knowledge into tangible action.