The Ministry for Disarmament blog and accompanying Twitter feed are part of a package of communications tools initially prepared for the 2012 Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Summit convened by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in New York on the 20th anniversary of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Nobel Peace Laureate.

The blog focuses on weapons and technologies that inflict civilian harm and inhibit post-conflict recovery. It covers the concept of humanitarian disarmament as presented collectively by activists in the Communique and Report of 2012 Humanitarian Disarmament Summit and in the forums held since then.

The blog’s description as a “Ministry” reflects how civil society drives governments forward with disarmament and arms control measures.

The title is also an nod to New Zealand’s continued work as “an influential leader in disarmament.” New Zealand’s Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control portfolio is unique in the world. Hon. Phil Twyford has served as New Zealand’s disarmament minister since January 2021. Ten ministers have held this dedicated position since it was created in 1987. The portfolio was disestablished by the government in 2011 and subsequently reinstated by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden in February 2018.


Mary Wareham has updated this blog ever since it was created in 2012 and in her personal capacity only. Wareham is advocacy director in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and coordinated the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots from its inception in 2012 until March 2021.

Wareham is serving as vice-chair of New Zealand’s Public Advisory Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control (PACDAC) for its 2022-2025 term. She was awarded a Peace and Disarmament Education Trust (PADET) scholarship for her 1995 Masters thesis in political science on the humanitarian, legal, and security implications of a potential ban on antipersonnel landmines. Wareham previously served as a member of PACDAC in 2007-2012.

Wareham played a central role in the adoption of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. She scrutinizes compliance with these treaties by editing annual reports prepared by Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor.

About Humanitarian Disarmament

Humanitarian disarmament seeks to both prevent future harm and assist people affected by conflict. The framework addresses a range of different weapons and technologies from small arms to nuclear weapons, as detailed in the Portfolio of challenges.

Humanitarian disarmament treaties often focus on abolition as the most lasting and clear solution. Such measures differ markedly from alternative approaches aimed at regulating arms transfers and the proliferation of weapons. In this sense, humanitarian disarmament aims to change the discourse by challenging orthodox national security-focused arms control approaches.

Over the past 25 years, multilateral processes have resulted in the creation of three innovative treaties that embrace both humanitarian and disarmament objectives: the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. They include humanitarian or remedial provisions requiring clearance of affected land and victim assistance as well as disarmament obligations, such as stockpile destruction. Other arms treaties such as the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention and 2013 Arms Trade Treaty have been underpinned by similar rationale to protect civilians from harm.

Humanitarian disarmament treaties have been created through unconventional fast-track diplomatic processes, involving common and coordinated action by  alliances of like-minded small and medium-sized governments, key UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Civil society opposition is usually coordinated by dedicated single-issue international coalition. Advocacy and research by NGOs and individuals as a form of  “citizen diplomacy” is a prominent feature of humanitarian disarmament.

In the same period, traditional multilateral disarmament diplomacy has faltered as demonstrated by the Conference on Disarmament‘s failure to engage in any substantive work. Major military powers including China, India, Israel, South Korea, Russia and the United States have been steadfast in their refusal to endorse and participate in humanitarian disarmament treaties with the exception of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

For more information, see:

Humanitarian Disarmament website maintained by Harvard Law School International Human Rights Law Clinic.

Report of the 6th Humanitarian Disarmament Forum convened by HRW, PAX and Harvard Law School’s International Humanitarian Law Clinic in October 2017.

Aurélie Beaujolais, “5th Humanitarian Disarmament Forum,” Handicap International, October 17, 2016.

Where are the women?” A binder of female experts to consider including in the Convention on Conventional Weapons talks on lethal autonomous weapons systems, November 2014

Anna MacDonald, “Arms trade treaty may point a way forward for the U.N.Reuters Opinion, April 9, 2013.

Report and Communique of the Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Summit convened by Human Rights Watch in New York on October 20-21, 2012

Richard Moyes and Thomas Nash, Global Coalitions: an introduction to working in global civil society partnerships (Action on Armed Violence: December 2011)

Kenneth Rutherford, Disarming States: The International Movement to Ban Landmines (Praeger Security International: 2010)

John Borrie, Unacceptable Harm: A History of How the Treaty to Ban Cluster Munitions Was Won (UNIDIR: 2009)

Jody Williams, Stephen D. Goose, and Mary Wareham (eds.), Banning Landmines: Disarmament, Citizen Diplomacy, and Human Security (Rowman & Littlefield: 2008)

John Borrie & Vanessa Martin Randin (eds.), Disarmament as Humanitarian Action: From Perspective to Practice (UNIDIR: 2006)

Maxwell A. Cameron, Brian W. Tomlin, Robert J. Lawson (eds.), To Walk without Fear: The Global Movement to Ban Landmines (Oxford University Press: 1998)