Disarmament Insight


Friday, 21 November 2008

Learning to adapt and succeed in disarmament as humanitarian action

This week hasn't seen much Disarmament Insight blogging action, as we've been at the other end of Switzerland's Lac Leman in beautiful Glion (above Montreux), hosting DI's fifth event since the initiative's inception in March 2007 - a two-day residential seminar entitled Learn, Adapt Succeed: Potential Lessons from the Ottawa and Oslo Processes for other disarmament and arms control challenges.

Our seminar drew together more than thirty individuals from invited governments, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, researchers and representatives of transnational civil society. Consistent with our aims as an initiative, the idea was to create some breathing space from what has been a frenetic year for everyone, in order to foster some initial collective dialogue about whether lessons-learned from recent humanitarian disarmament achievements such as the Oslo and Ottawa Processes have any relevance to other international initiatives in the field of reducing or preventing armed violence. Those other initiatives include (but are by no means limited to) curbing the illicit trade in small arms, the Geneva Declaration on armed violence and development, the Arms Trade Treaty and the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. And, just as importantly, how can experiences from each of these respective initiatives be transferred and capitalized upon? Some of our participants also introduced some new tools for humanitarian dialogue in disarmament and arms control, including in analysing responses to the delivery of explosive force in populated areas.

The seminar was conducted according to the Chatham House Rule. And there isn't space in this post to go into detail about its discussions - especially as participants (like me) are still in the process of digesting the many important and interesting observations raised during the meeting. But if there is one thing I came away with it's that opportunities like this for cross-community dialogue are all too rare, not least because in a wired-up age, day-to-day matters press ever more on multilateral practitioners, and can get in the way of ensuring time for reflection and to listen to other perspectives.

Hopefully the Glion meeting has recharged peoples' batteries a bit, and stimulated some further creative thinking in achieving disarmament as humanitarian action. 2009 is going to be another busy year.

John Borrie

Image credit: 11820013 (cmmorel): Lake Leman by sunset, view from Victoria Hotel, Glion, Montreux, Switzerland downloaded from Flickr. John wishes his photos had turned out this nicely...