The issues and activities presented in this volume represent only a very small slice of global efforts to expand the disarmament agenda beyond weapons and weapon systems. Our concern is to promote broad human security connections that largely define the quality of community life for billions of the world's people. We all recognize that security policies impact much more than levels of military preparedness. Bloated defence budgets compromise social development. Illicit small arms bring many layers of insecurity to diverse communities and directly threaten participation in society by women and ethnic minorities. Nuclear weapons remain a tainted “gold standard” that allow certain countries to feel entitled to dominate security decisions far from their own shores. In a world where disarmament at all levels remains elusive, the implications of weapons for abundant and sustainable community life are both numerous and troubling.
The United Nations disarmament machinery, with which we regularly interact, is currently under considerable strain. Despite this, we are moving steadily towards once distant policy changes including a formal Arms Trade Treaty, new commitments to action in fulfilment of the United Nations Programme of Action on Illicit Small Arms, re-energized commitments to the development of Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zones, and more. At the same time, the implications of disarmament (or lack thereof) are profound for the health of the security sector and, by extension, the ability of women to participate in society, of children to receive an education in schools free of violence, of internally displaced persons to receive desperately needed assistance, or of persons involved in armed conflict to return safely to their homes. These and other impacts are both far-reaching and convey a sense of urgency to both advocates and communities.