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. 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 safer and more secure world for Canadians.
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.
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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”.
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 $1.5 billion in concrete projects to address chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear proliferation and terrorism threats.
The program funds and supports concrete threat reduction projects with, and in support of, international partners. Examples include:
- supporting international efforts to help countries implement UN Security Council sanctions that address nuclear and missile programs in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
- supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with its nuclear obligations
- support to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to mitigate and respond to Syrian chemical weapons threats and to hold to account those responsible for its use
- collaboration with ASEAN member states to mitigate serious biological threats across the ASEAN region
The Weapons Threat Reduction Program also supports the universalization and effective national implementation of various conventional arms control regimes, including:
- the Arms Trade Treaty
- the Convention on Cluster Munitions
- the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (the Ottawa Treaty)
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:
- the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
- the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
- the Chemical Weapons Convention
- the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
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 Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). However, the protracted deadlock on a Program of Work has prevented progress. As a result, Canada advocates for CD reform, including options to prevent abuse of the consensus rule, and the inclusion of women and youth.
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 confidence-building measures related to conventional weapons. More recently, the Commission has informally considered other topics as well, including transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space.
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.
The First Committee of the UN General Assembly is responsible for considering resolutions on 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.
- Canada has taken a leadership role in the First Committee, on resolutions on an FMCT and on gender and disarmament. Its 2012 FMCT resolution (PDF version) launched the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), which laid the groundwork for future negotiations. A resolution in 2016 (PDF version) created a Preparatory Group, to build upon the GGE’s work.
We also traditionally co-sponsor resolutions on priority issues, including:
- the entry into force of the CTBT
- gender, in particular, the important role of women in peace and security
- The advancement of nuclear disarmament verification
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