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Non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament efforts

Canada is a leader in efforts related to the non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament of conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction. This forms an important part of our commitment to the rules-based international order and to a human-centred approach to peace and security.

Weapons of mass destruction have the potential to cause indiscriminate mass death, disruption and devastation. Even a relatively small incident involving a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon could cripple a city, country or region, while a major event could have catastrophic and long-lasting global impacts.

The prevalence of conventional weapons means that they can be used to injure, kill or terrorize vast numbers of people, and cause severe political and economic instability.

On this website, you will find information about the different types of weapons that Canada is working to control or eliminate, some of the key treaties and institutions that are in place, and the contributions that Canada is making to ensure a more secure and peaceful world.

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The Global Partnership and Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program

In the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and the subsequent distribution of anthrax letters through the US postal system, the then G8 group of nations came together to take meaningful action to combat the threat of terrorist use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. At the 2002 Summit in Kananaskis, Canada, G8 Leaders launched the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction with a mandate to prevent terrorists and those that harbor them from acquiring weapons and materials of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

Initially created as a 10-year, $20 billion initiative with a geographic focus on Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, the Global Partnership delivered impressive results that eliminated or mitigated a wide range of serious threats. As a result of its success, the Global Partnership was extended and expanded. 

Today, it addresses threats posed by weapons and materials of mass destruction on a global basis. While the Global Partnership remains a G7-led initiative, it now includes 30 active member countries plus the European Union. To date, its members have collectively delivered more than $25 billion in concrete, tangible programming worldwide to prevent chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

Canada continues to play a leadership role within the Global Partnership, both in terms of strategic policy evolution and programming innovation.

On June 27, 2022, the Global Partnership celebrated its 20th anniversary. In this context, in their communique issued on May 14, 2022 in Weissenhaus, Germany, G7 Foreign Ministers “reaffirmed the unique and valuable contribution of the G7-led Global Partnership” and committed to “dedicate further efforts to address biological threats in the framework of the GP”. They likewise “committed to ensuring that the GP remains a key contributor to countering persisting and newly emerging threats posed by weapons and materials of mass destruction”. This commitment was reinforced by G7 leaders in their Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament (May 2023), in which they reiterated their “utmost commitment to the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which for more than 20 years has delivered concrete impactful programming to advance nuclear non-proliferation in every part of the world".

Canada’s reflections on 20 years of Global Partnership Excellence (June 2022)

Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program

The Weapons Threat Reduction Program is Canada’s flagship contribution to the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. Since the program’s establishment in 2002, Canada has delivered more than $1.6 billion in projects to address chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear proliferation and terrorism threats.

The program funds and supports threat reduction projects with, and in support of, international partners. Examples include:

The Weapons Threat Reduction Program also supports the universalization and effective national implementation of various conventional arms control regimes, including:

Disarmament negotiations

Canada is an active participant in the United Nations’ disarmament machinery.

Conference on Disarmament

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) is the world’s single, permanent forum for multilateral negotiations on disarmament. Canada is among its 65 members.

The CD (and its predecessors) gave rise to some of the world’s most important non-proliferation and disarmament treaties, including:

All decisions made in the CD are taken by consensus, a rule which has resulted in a prolonged deadlock - CD members have not agreed on a Program of Work since 1998.

Since the 1990’s, Canada’s priority in the CD has been the negotiation of a treaty banning fissile materials for nuclear weapons. However, the protracted CD deadlock has prevented progress. To help advance negotiations, Canada advocates for CD reform, including options to prevent abuse of the consensus rule. Canada also advocates for the inclusion of women and youth in all disarmament processes and negotiations.

First Committee

The First Committee of the UN General Assembly is responsible for adopting resolutions to advance disarmament and international security. While States are not legally bound by First Committee resolutions, such resolutions are important tools for pressing international security issues and undertaking work to advance non-proliferation and disarmament priorities.

Disarmament Commission

One of the UN General Assembly’s subsidiary bodies is the Disarmament Commission. Made up of all UN members, the Commission considers principles, guidelines, and recommendations on disarmament issues.

The Disarmament Commission always works on two topics at a time. For the past several years, the Commission has worked on nuclear disarmament and preventing an arms race in outer space. The Commission also informally considers other topics, including transparency and confidence-building measures in conventional weapons disarmament and arms control.

Like the CD, all decisions taken by the Commission are made by consensus. Due to an ongoing lack of agreement on proposals, the Commission has not produced any new recommendations since 1999.

Gender and Disarmament

Weapons use and proliferation affects individuals and groups differently based on their identity, culture, and bodies. Women and girls are differentially impacted by every type of weapon – whether it be nuclear, chemical, biological, or conventional.

The effects of weapons and armed conflict on women are often under-researched, leading to a lack of understanding and policy development on the field of gender and disarmament.

Women are not just disproportionately represented as victims of weapons use. They are also systematically underrepresented in discussions on peace and security, disarmament, arms control, and rebuilding in a post-conflict zone. Their full and meaningful participation will better shape these conversations and lead to more relevant outcomes and policy.

The duty to ensure women are equal and effective actors in international peace and security is a shared responsibility of the United Nations members, according to the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament.

Canada is a leader in gender mainstreaming in disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation. At multilateral forums, Canada is a strong voice in calling for the greater meaningful participation of women and integration of gender perspectives in this field.

Through Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program and other programs, Canada funds initiatives that advocate more diverse and gender-responsive approaches to disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control. Inspiring the next generation of women is a priority, informs Canada’s work in disarmament and STEM education, and ensures the protection of the rights of women and girls across the world.

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