Arms control and disarmament

Arms control and disarmament are important means of promoting national and international security. Arms control also supports the implementation of humanitarian law. 

Arms control is a part of security policy. Photo: Jukka Pajarinen

Arms control agreements are complemented by international export control cooperation, which has an important role in the fight against terrorism and the realisation of human rights. Through its actions, Finland seeks to strengthen international arms control agreements and arrangements. Finland actively promotes nuclear disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 

NATO membership will not change Finland’s policy on arms control and disarmament, which has for long-time emphasised the importance of agreements and the implementation of, and compliance with, them. Finland will continue its active and constructive disarmament and arms control policies in order to promote international security, without weakening or questioning NATO’s nuclear deterrence.

Weapons of mass destruction

WMD are nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) poses a serious threat to international security.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1540 requires that all Member States refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to acquire WMD. 

The resolution requires all States to develop their criminal legislation and to increase international cooperation to prevent the proliferation of WMD. The Member States must introduce effective export and trans-shipment controls of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials.

Key arms control agreements on weapons of mass destruction

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) aims to prevent nuclear proliferation, to promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament.

Security Council Summit on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. Photo: UN Photo

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors the peaceful use of nuclear materials to prevent their use for manufacturing nuclear weapons. Finland has taken its turn as a Member of the Board of Governors of the IAEA, most recently in 2021–2024.

For several years, Finland has supported the IAEA in developing nuclear safeguards through a special voluntary support programme.

Finland has also supported the improvement of nuclear security in Ukraine following Russia’s aggression and efforts to address Iran’s nuclear programme.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) aims to prevent all nuclear explosion tests worldwide. The CTBT permanently bans any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. The Treaty will enter into force after it has been ratified by all contracting parties.

Finland actively supports activities that contribute to the entry into force of the Treaty. The preparatory measures include a comprehensive verification regime. One of the International Monitoring System (IMS) stations is located in Sysmä, Finland.

The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation

The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC) is the first instrument to curb ballistic missile proliferation worldwide. 

The HCOC is a politically binding document aimed at complementing regimes for disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction through confidence building measures.

The HCOC aims to restrain the development, testing, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles. It does not prohibit the ownership of missiles or their use in outer space for peaceful purposes.

The Chemical Weapons Convention

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) aims to eliminate chemical weapons by prohibiting their development, production, use and transfer worldwide.
Finland has several measures in place to support the implementation of the CWC.

The Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (VERIFIN), funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, is one of the world’s leading laboratories in the analysis of chemical warfare agents. VERIFIN also provides training in analytics for chemists from developing countries and guides public authorities in the national implementation required by the Convention.

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention 

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) prohibits the use, development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons and delivery systems for them. The agreement does not include an implementation body or a verification regime binding on the contracting parties to monitor compliance. 

The Covid-19 pandemic further emphasised the importance and relevance of the BTWC. The Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention, held in December 2022, decided to establish a working group to support the Convention. To this end, the working group has resumed the stalled negotiations on the verification mechanism for the BTWC. 

Outer Space Treaty

The UN Outer Space Treaty prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or the stationing of them in outer space in any other manner.

The Treaty also provides that all countries are free towe explore and use outer space. The UN is currently discussing responsible behaviour and a ban on nuclear weapons in space.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Finland does not consider the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) to be an efficient means of promoting nuclear disarmament and has not signed the Treaty. The TPNW is also incompatible with Finland’s NATO membership. The other members of the Alliance have not signed the TPNW either.

Political initiatives

Finland participates in several political initiatives launched to prevent WMD from falling into the hands of terrorist groups. These include the G7-led Global Partnership, the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) initiative.

Finland co-chairs a CEND subgroup on reducing risks related to nuclear weapons.  

Conventional weapons

Conventional weapons are weapons other than weapons of mass destruction. Conventional weapons include mortar launchers, mines, tanks, lasers, space weapons or autonomous weapon systems.

Minesweeping is carried out in difficult conditions. Photo: Jukka Pajarinen

Key agreements on conventional weapons

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) prohibits and limits the use of conventional weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary serious injuries or have indiscriminate effects.

The Convention includes five Protocols and Finland has acceded to all of them.

Autonomous weapon systems, also known as robotic weapons, are also discussed within the framework of the CCW. It is important to take into account technological development in discussions on arms control and disarmament. Many technical, operative, ethical and legal issues arise in relation to autonomous weapons.

Mine Ban Treaty (Ottawa Treaty)

The Ottawa Treaty on the full prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction has proved its effectiveness — the market for anti-personnel mines has, practically, withered away. However, mines and other explosives remain a serious threat to civilians in many regions.

Finland complies with all the obligations of the Ottawa Treaty to which it committed at the time of accession and fulfils its assistance obligation by supporting humanitarian mine action. In 2021–2025, humanitarian mine action is carried out in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia.

Convention on Cluster Munitions (Oslo Convention)

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), also known as the Oslo Convention, contains a comprehensive ban on cluster munitions and significant obligations to clear contaminated land and assist victims.

Finland is not a State Party to the Oslo Convention. As the capability created by cluster munitions cannot be replaced in the near future, there are no grounds for acceding to the Oslo Convention at present.

Finland closely monitors the development of alternative and replacement capabilities and supports the humanitarian objectives of the Convention.

Arms Trade Treaty

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is an international treaty that was under preparation for years. The Treaty entered into force in 2014.  Finland was one of the seven original co-author states of the Treaty and amongst the first ones to sign it.

One of the aims of the Arms Trade Treaty is preventing illegal arms trade. Photo: Jukka Pajarinen

The ATT is the first Treaty to regulate legal trade in conventional arms and other arms transfers. The Treaty also seeks to prevent illicit arms trade and prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands. The Treaty lays down provisions on the export, import, transit and brokering of arms.

The Treaty contains strong criteria for the transfer of arms. The criteria are based on international humanitarian law and human rights and include the concept of gender-based violence. The ATT is the first international document that recognises the concept.

Finland works towards increasing the number of States Parties to the ATT and enhancing the implementation of the Treaty. 

Small arms and light weapons

Small arms and light weapons are defined as person-portable firearms. The majority of victims of armed violence die through small arms or light weapons.

Continuous conflicts sustained by the illicit proliferation and diversion of small arms and light weapons blur the boundaries between armed conflict and crime.

International organisations try to limit the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons

The UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) is a political declaration and an important first step in international efforts to reduce human suffering caused by the illicit trade and misuse of small arms and light weapons.

The ATT is a welcome addition to the PoA. Finland supports the PoA’s objectives through development cooperation.

OSCE Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons

The OSCE Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons aims to prevent uncontrolled spread of small arms and weapons (SALW) and the security problems it causes. 

The politically binding OSCE document is comprehensive, although it does not have a legal status.

The document includes more far-reaching provisions on the marking and disposal of arms and the control of brokering, export and production of arms than, for example, the corresponding UN Programme of Action.

Finland has consistently supported efforts to strengthen the OSCE regulations on SALW.

EU SALW Strategy

The European Union Strategy on Small Arms and Light Weapons, the EU SALW Strategy, seeks to prevent uncontrolled accumulation and illicit trafficking in SALW and their ammunition. 

The Action Plan for EU SALW Strategy is flexible and adaptable to changes in the international security environment.

Firearms Protocol

The Firearms Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (also known as the Palermo Convention).

The Protocol focuses on illicit trafficking in firearms, but it also contains provisions on the legal transfer of arms.

The Protocol deals with international crime, such as drug traffickers’ and terrorists’ arsenals of small arms.

The Protocol lays down provisions on export licences or authorisations, maintenance of records, exchange of information between the authorities, and marking of firearms in connection with manufacturing, export and import.

Content administrator