While the link between gender and disarmament may not be apparent at first, gender has played an important role in disarmament affairs since the early 20th century. The learning unit will start by exploring the importance of gender mainstreaming and highlight historic examples of women's movements. The module will then examine the UN Framework on gender and disarmament, key treaties, conventions, and action plans, as well as the idea behind a feminist foreign policy and positions and actions of the EU.    


After completing this unit, you will

  • understand gender concepts, such as gender norms, gender identity and gender mainstreaming, 

  • recognize the unique impact of conflict on woman as well as their role in preventing conflict,

  • be familiar with key resolutions, treaties and action plans that include gendered aspects in the peace and security discussion,

  • gain awareness of initiatives and policies being pursued to enhance the role of women in peace and security,

  • learn of the work of the European Union on gender mainstreaming and key actors involved in its implementation.

Author: Mara Zarka

International non-proliferation and disarmament law forms part of international law and constitutes one of international law’s many sub-regimes. It addresses very specific issues of major significance. However, the founding and functioning principles of non-proliferation and disarmament law are aligned with those of international law. 

This learning unit addresses the importance of international law for non-proliferation and disarmament and delves into related areas such as treaty law, the law on the use of force and international human rights law. The learning unit also looks into the state, where national implementation of international non-proliferation and disarmament law is needed in order to carry out international obligations and where national enforcement needs to be undertaken through national authorities, inspections, investigations and court cases. Finally, the learning unit addresses the EU’s legal order on non-proliferation and disarmament.  

All these topics are illustrated with numerous examples, appealing to those both with and without a legal background. 

After completing the unit, you will:

  • understand the relevance of international law in non-proliferation and disarmament
  • be familiar with key concepts, such as accession, ratification and “pacta sunt servanda”
  • know the difference between legally binding and non-binding instruments
  • understand how international non-proliferation and disarmament law is implemented through national law
  • learn how both international and national law can be enforced at the national level
  • recognise EU law as a subset of international law on non-proliferation and disarmament

Authors: Yasemin Balci and Sonia Drobysz

Humankind has always been perturbed by the use of particularly cruel means of war. As a result, a number of actions have been taken to restrict such use. The establishment of the United Nations Disarmament Machinery is definitely one step in this direction.

As a key proponent of disarmament since its creation, the UN has over the years heavily and naturally contributed to the definition of the disarmament architecture, pursuing two main goals: first, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. And second, the regulation of conventional arms, particularly the illicit traffic of small arms and light weapons.

In this learning unit, you will learn about the work and the efforts of the United Nations Disarmament Machinery in promoting arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament.

After completing this learning unit, you will:

  • be familiarized with the basic concept of disarmament and its objectives from the United Nations perspective
  • understand the role that the United Nations plays in promoting non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament
  • be introduced to the UN’s institutional framework, the main bodies and the main instruments pursing disarmament goals
  • comprehend the importance of cooperation in disarmament efforts
  • understand the interplay between the UN and the European Union in achieving arms control and disarmament objectives

Author: Federica Dall’Arche

Hardly a day passes without bad news from the cyber sector: Cyberattacks against state and military institutions are now almost the norm, and private individuals must be enormously wary of phishing or encryption attacks. The internet, labelled by Chancellor Merkel in 2013 as “uncharted territory”, seems to have become a conflict zone where malevolent state and non-state actors are up to mischief. The press therefore often indulges in hyperbole about “cyberwars” or “cyberattacks”. On the other hand, the worst fears of a cyber-Pearl Harbour have (so far?) not materialized. So where do we stand at the moment?

In this learning unit we try to distinguish between the different levels of cyber threats by looking at different actors capable of aggressive cyber operations. We also look at the international legal framework and the options available to make cyberspace more secure – both at the state and civilian level. After completing this learning unit, you will:

  • be familiarized with the basic concepts of different cyber incidents
  • understand why the cyber realm is no lawless territory from the perspective of international law
  • be introduced to different state and non-state actors which might, or might not, pose a threat to cybersecurity
  • comprehend limits and possibilities of arms control and disarmament in the cyber realm
  • understand the specific EU policy on cybersecurity
  • Authors: Niklas Schörnig and Tommaso De Zan

This learning unit aims to provide a brief history of arms control in a classical chronological order, focusing primarily on the West, from antiquity to the present. In doing so, it postulates that arms control may be considered a relevant discipline from that time, along a more or less continuous chronological line. In reality, there is nothing obvious about these assumptions. In the strictest sense, it could be argued that arms control as a discipline emerged in the 1950s in the context of the bilateral US–USSR strategic relationship, within the very specific framework of the bilateral nuclear deterrence dialogue in a very dated context of ideological and strategic bipolarization of the world. This is why the very question of what is arms control is posed as such in the introduction to this module, and must feed into the unfolding of a long history.

To be fair, it would be appropriate to elaborate on this point by warning that this course is intended to illustrate the various ways in which the West, in particular, has approached the question of the volume of violence in military affairs, between human communities which become essentially interstate from the moment the modern state is born.

Naturally, because the discipline is structured in the second half of the twentieth century, this course focuses on shorter periods and makes the subject more dense. The aim is to detail the different phases that led to a multiplication of initiatives at the end of the last century, to the point where arms control became near synonymous with international security.

At the time of writing, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been ongoing for three weeks. This historic event, likely one of the foundational events of the present century, will leave its mark on the contemporary history of arms control in a way that is still too early to define. Though it reminds us that the historical evolution of war itself has always been accompanied by attempts to limit its effects, whatever the method. The history of arms control is the reverse side of a history of war between peoples.

Author: Benjamin Hautecouverture