Arms control

An overview of major conventions and treaties that Estonia has acceded.


The Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious Effects (CCW)

The Convention opened for signature on 10 April 1981 and entered into force on 2 December 1983. Estonia joined the CCW on 20 October 2000. The Convention has currently 125 States Parties. The purpose of the Convention is to ban or restrict the use of specific types of weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately. The structure of the CCW – a chapeau Convention and annexed Protocols – was adopted to ensure future flexibility. The Convention itself contains only general provisions. All prohibitions or restrictions on the use of specific weapons or weapon systems are the object of the 5 Protocols annexed to the Convention: non-detectable fragments (Protocol I); mines, booby-traps, other devices (Protocol II and amended Protocol II); incendiary weapons (Protocol III); blinding laser weapons (protocol IV), and explosive remnants of war (Protocol V). Estonia has ratified all five protocols of the convention.

In addition, at the 2016 Review Conference of the convention, the High Contracting Parties decided to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to meet in 2017 with a mandate to assess questions related to emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS). In 2019 the GGE convenes for the third time. The next CCW Review Conference will take place in 2021.

In 2017, Estonia was the President of CCW Protocol V. In previous two years, Estonia also coordinated the CCW sponsorship programme, which helps to promote universalization, enhance cooperation, and ensure broader geographical representation at meetings of the Convention. In 2017 and 2018 Estonia has also contributed financially to the sponsorship programme.

The Ottawa Convention – The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (APLC)

2017 marked 20 years since a series of significant events, known as the Ottawa Process, which led to the adoption and signing of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. The Convention opened for signatures on 3 December 1997, entered into force on 1 March 1999, and has ever since become an international norm. To date, the convention has 164 States Parties. Efforts to universalise and implement the Convention during the period from 2014 to 2019 are guided by the Maputo Action Plan, which States Parties adopted in 2014 during the 3rd Review Conference hosted by Mozambique. The 4th Review Conference will take place in 2019 in Oslo.

The Ottawa Convention is the cornerstone of the international effort to end the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines. The Convention provides a framework for mine action, seeking both to end existing suffering and to prevent future suffering. It bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. In addition, States that accede to the Convention accept that they will destroy both stockpiled and emplaced anti-personnel mines, and assist the victims of landmines.

Estonia joined the Ottawa Convention on 1 October 2004 and is a firm supporter of humanitarian demining activities. Estonia has been regularly contributing to demining efforts for more than 10 years. In recent years, Estonia has increased its contributions, including financial support to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), as well as to clean-up of various explosive remnants of war and mine-clearance activities under several bilateral and international humanitarian projects. Estonia has supported mine action in Mali, Gaza, Libya, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Since 2006, we have also regularly supported and gradually increased our contributions to the Ottawa Convention’s Implementation Support Unit (ISU) in achieving its mandate-based targets.

 The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM)

The Convention on Cluster Munitions is a legal instrument which prohibits all use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. In addition, it establishes a framework for cooperation and assistance to ensure adequate assistance to survivors and their communities, clearance of contaminated areas, risk reduction education and destruction of stockpiles. Adopted on 30 May 2008 in Dublin, Ireland, and signed on 3 December 2008 in Oslo, Norway, the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on 01 August 2010. To date the convention has 106 full States Parties. Estonia acknowledges its humanitarian rationale and participated actively in the negotiations, but has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions due to security considerations.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BTCW)

The BTWC prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, retention, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons and is one key element in the international community’s efforts to address the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The convention opened for signature on 10 April 1972 in London, Moscow and Washington and entered into force on 25 March 1975. The convention has currently 182 States Parties. Estonia joined the BTWC on 21 June 1993. The Republic of Estonia had also signed the earlier 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibited the use of biological weapons.

The BTWC is one of the weakest disarmament conventions in the sense that the only mechanism that follows compliance is the exchange of Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) “in order to prevent or reduce the occurrence of ambiguities, doubts and suspicions and in order to improve international cooperation in the field of peaceful biological activities”. The CBM-s are submitted once a year and are publicly accessible on the BTWC webpage.

States Parties have met every five years to review the operation of the BWC. The latest BWC Review Conference took place in 2016 in Geneva and ended with modest results. However, the Meeting of States Parties in 2017 was able to agree on the intersessional programme for the years 2018-2020. The next Review Conference will take place in 2021.