(Discussion 8) Demilitarization and Disarmament

How might we pursue the practical and urgent necessity of disarmament while also engaging in the transformative work of demilitarizing global security?

  • Approximately 1 hour per discussion (up to 2 hours)
relevant sections of “a global security system: an alternative to war”
  • Consider the benefits, challenges, and strategies for pursuing disarmament
  • Explore and become familiar with the trappings of militarism and its social, economic, ecological and gendered impacts
introducing study and action partner: Kozue akibayashi

Study and Action Partner Kozue Akibayashi is a feminist peace researcher activist and the International President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.  Kozue’s activism and research has focused on militarism and demilitarization of security from a gender perspective. She has been active in several transnational feminist peace movements including the International Women’s Network against Militarism who calls for demilitarization and decolonization of security, and Women Cross DMZ for peace on the Korean Peninsula. You can read Kozue’s full bio here.

Discussion Guides

Two discussion topics/guides are presented below. Each discussion should take approximately 1 hour. You are invited to do both and follow any sequence relevant to your purposes. If you are to choose one discussion we strongly encourage you start with “Discussion 1 (Essential).”

Discussion 1 (Essential): There can be no Peace without Disarmament

In preparation for this discussion watch the short introductory video by Kozue Akibayashi (above) and read the corresponding sections of AGSS. (Total 60 min)

“Conflicts typical of the contemporary world cannot be resolved at gunpoint. They require not a recalibration of military tools and strategies but far-reaching commitment to demilitarization.” – Tom Hastings, Author/Professor of Conflict Resolution


Issues covered by the topic of disarmament are very wide ranging. You are encouraged to choose from amongst any of the questions below.

  • Throughout this study guide we’ve contested the argument that “military force is necessary to make us secure.” As a warm-up, explore and discuss the many viable nonviolent alternatives to military intervention (listed in AGSS 2017 on p. 29 – and in the image below).       How might these alternatives be more effective as short, medium and long-term responses?
  • “An alternative security system requires a major level of disarmament in order for all nations to feel safe from aggression.” (AGSS 2017 p. 34). As the readings from AGSS make abundantly clear, there are many political and economic obstacles that impede disarmament. Even the United Nations definition of general and complete disarmament (GCD) is problematic. They define GCD as promoting “stability at a lower military level, taking into account the need of all States to protect their security.” This is a vision trapped in the military paradigm of security. Economically, the “United States is the world’s leading weapons seller. Most of the rest of the international weapons sales come from the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (AGSS 2017 p. 32). Given these challenges, how might we go about starting a reverse arms race? One possibility is to confront the global arms trade as a global health threat. (How might this be easier than approaching disarmament in purely political terms?)
  • What lessons can be learned from the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was adopted on July 7, 2017? Read the Treaty (see additional resources below).       How does it strategically approach the task of nuclear disarmament differently from past efforts?
  • AGSS explores the possibility of having the arms trade added to the International Criminal Court’s list of “crimes against humanity.”       Do you think this is a viable strategy for pursuing disarmament by targeting arms dealers?
  • AGSS also explores the need for dismantling military alliances such as NATO, arguing that such military alliances only further exacerbate the potential for violent conflict. In the transition to a more disarmed world, what alternative security arrangements might be pursued to replace these military alliances?
nonviolent alternatives to military intervention
A Global Security System: An Alternative to War – 2017 Edition (p. 29)
  • Kozue Akibayashi urges citizens to lobby their representatives to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. See where your country (and others) stand on the treaty and write your government representatives and officials to encourage them to pursue adoption.
  • Check out Don’t Bank on the Bomb, an effort of ICAN and PAX, which identifies financial institutions that invest heavily in companies involved in nuclear weapon programs and those that have policies limiting or prohibiting such investments. Don’t Bank on the Bomb provides practical research and campaign tools for pressuring financial institutions to divest from war profiteering.
Additional Resources

Discussion 2 (Going Deeper): There is no Real Security without Demilitarization

In preparation for this discussion watch the extended interview with Kozue Akibayashi (below).

“Demilitarization is not only about dismantling the military, but dismantling our thinking.” – Kozue Akibayashi

“Giving up arms alone does not change mindsets and belief systems about the use of force.”
– Kozue Akibayashi

Extended Interview: Kozue akibayashi

( 22 min)

  • Akibayashi points out that military security has not protected those who need protection the most. She encourages activists to ask three essential questions: What is security? Whose security (provided by whom for whom)  And who decides? These questions are intended to challenge the assumptions of militarism as a means of achieving security as well as call into question many other social, political and economic assumptions generally not considered when security decisions are made. Apply these questions to a military conflict of your choosing.
  • Akibayashi and colleagues have been working for decades to address the gendered and security impacts of US military bases in Okinawa. What are the unseen impacts of U.S. military bases on host communities?
  • What are the impacts of militarism outside the military? How does a military based security ethos impact society, family life, and other relationships?
  • The work of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is focused on addressing the gendered impacts of militarism.  How are women disproportionately impacted by military based security?       How are they excluded from the dialogue on authentic security?   (See the additional resources from WILPF below).
  • How might we challenge the pervasive mindset of militarism?   Create a “militarism observation journal” and record in it assumptions you identify in your own thinking; observations on militaristic thinking in media articles reporting on conflict; and general observations on militarism in society. How pervasive is militarism in your life? Share these observations with others and invite them to challenge their assumptions.
Additional Resources
  • Reaching Critical Will is the disarmament programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). In addition to their work on nuclear disarmament, WILPF focuses its efforts on gender and disarmament, articulating “the links between militarism and violent masculinities, armed conflict and military expenditure, and the advancement of women’s equality and rights and the development of sustainable peace and justice.”
  • WILPF also has a long established program on Women, Peace & Security known as peacewomen.org.   PeaceWomen.org is a space for peacemakers to engage, learn and be part of a global movement to advance a holistic Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

What did you learn from this discussion? Please share with others so we can build a global security system together...