Human Security and Disarmament Treaties: The Role of International Campaigns

Traditionally, security issues were confined within the realm of states. However, a broad understanding of security has given civil society a say on these issues. Recent campaigns have managed to draw attention to the humanitarian consequences of specific weapons, such as landmines, cluster munitions and small arms. Forming part of a new peace movement, these campaigns are more sophisticated, use a variety of strategies and resources, focus on concrete security issues, have a lower profile and are arguably more successful than their predecessors. In this article, some of the factors leading to success and failure in a number of disarmament initiatives are presented, as well as the interactions between campaigns and government policy makers, and the international dynamics of negotiations on treaties – in other words, the ‘rules of the game’. Also, current debates regarding learning processes within the campaigns and the democratic features of the processes under study are discussed. This article includes several recommendations aimed at helping civil-society activists increase their influence when negotiating humanitarian security treaties.

Individuals have the capacity to affect change at various levels. Actors in these processes should not be understood as unitary entities, but comprising individuals who can exert high levels of agency.
Coalitions deal with conflictive interests among the actors, and between larger professionalised organisations (who have large resources) and those smaller and more locally based ones (who do not). Coalitions should find a way to satisfy both demands: effective coordination and decentralised participation.
Research has focused on collaboration among NGOs from different sectors inside a single coalition, and the potential for synergies among different networks on interrelated topics remains underresearched. Strategies should be designed to facilitate cooperation among networks with related objectives.
The set of rules and procedures of the process determine the success of the campaigns. Effective processes should have flexible rules allowing decision making by majority voting and participatory procedures that include the activists as partners. This would strengthen partnerships with like-minded states.