Confidence-building measures (CBMs) are planned procedures to prevent hostilities, to avert escalation, to reduce military tension, and to build mutual trust between countries. They have been applied since the dawn of civilization, on all continents. At present, too few military CBMs are in place. Many regions lack even the most basic military CBMs. Each country is in a unique strategic environment. Military CBMs can be tailored to the security needs of any country or region.
How to Make Them Work
National defence is about deterrence and preparing for the worst. But if the key objective is to do everything possible to avoid the actual use of weaponry, it is vital to invest in increasing trust levels with countries in the region and beyond. This should be a core undertaking of any government.
In the short term, CBMs aim to adjust between two or more States possibly inaccurate perceptions of motives, to avoid misunderstandings about military actions and policies, and to foster cooperation and inter-dependency. Over time, CBMs can pave the way for more stable bilateral relations, transform ideas about national requirements for security, and even encourage steps to jointly identify shared security needs.
- CBMs are voluntary by definition: a government only commits to those it wants to commit to.
- CBMs can be decided on unilaterally, or agreed to bilaterally, regionally or multilaterally.
- CBMs can be concluded before, during, or after conflict.
- CBMs are situation-specific. Measures adopted in one situation to increase trust between different sides, may not work in another.
- CBMs do not necessarily require a shared assessment of a security situation.
- CBMs do not require equality in military capabilities.
- There is no correlation between the number of CBMs a State engages in, and that State’s levels of security and stability.
- CBMs can only be successful if the States concerned share a desire to avoid escalation or conflict. States will in particular engage in practical CBMs when they deem the expected rewards of their role-change to be greater than the political costs.
- One CBM may work just as well as a package of CBMs. There is no prescribed approach: any measure can be started with. Importantly, if carried out successfully, practical CBMs can be expanded upon and can generate the possibility of further improved trust and more comprehensive agreements.
- The procedures through which CBMs are established, maintained and reviewed, are essential: it is the development and application of joint procedures which facilitates mutual understanding and comprehension.
- Most CBMs have some – usually modest – financial costs associated with them. Assistance and cooperation may further enhance the effectiveness of some CBMs. However, CBMs will be most successful when all sides are able to display full national ownership on them.
This evolving global repository of Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs), collected from all regions of the world, may assist any pair or group of states in developing their own military CBMs.
The key to effective CBMs is the quality of the procedures underpinning them. The UN assists with information and training on establishing and managing functional processes for successful CBMs.
I. Communication and coordination measures
- Information exchange
- Exchange information on military organization, including:
- Major weapon and equipment systems
- Location of units
- Significant changes in size, equipment, or mission of military units.
- Exchange information on relevant policies, doctrines and tactics, defence policy papers and national legislations.
- Exchange information on arms transfers, national holdings of weapons, and procurement through national production.
- Exchange information on national military budgets and expenditures.
- Develop common methodologies for measuring defence spending.
- Exchange information on ammunition safety and security measures, including accounting systems.
- Exchange calendars of military activities.
- Exchange information on location of nuclear facilities.
- Share military (including satellite) intelligence.
- Share law-enforcement intelligence.
- Agree to submit national reports to international and regional disarmament and arms control treaties and instruments.
- Establish a joint consultative commission to resolve disputes over the interpretation of data.
- Exchange information on the presence of foreign military contingents on the state’s territory.
- Establish a direct communications system, or “hotline” between heads of state, ministers of defence, chiefs of military forces, and/or military commanders.
- Limit the use of coded messages in communication.
- Appoint military / defence points of contact.
- Troop movement, exercises, and weapon management
- Give advance notification of military exercises, missile tests, troop movement and activities.
- Give advance notification of naval activities outside of regularly covered areas.
- Give advance notification of, or agree on a mechanism to approve, aircraft operations and flights near sensitive and border areas.
- Agree on procedures for handling accidental air or ground intrusions and incidents at sea.
- Agree to use internationally developed standards and guidelines for weapons and ammunition management.
- Notify about reduction and disposal of weapons and ammunition.
- Exchanging and convening personnel
- Exchange military attachés, liaison officers.
- Hold regular meetings of military officials to exchange information, and discuss common operational issues and concerns.
- Convene meetings of women police and military officers for networking, knowledge exchange and information sharing.
- Organize exchanges and visits between combat personnel.
- Exchange military personnel as students or instructors at military academies, military schools, and war colleges.
- Agree on reciprocal visits by naval fleet to ports and naval bases.
- Organize joint sports, cultural endeavors and other social events for military personnel.
- Invite foreign officials to attend and/or invite foreign troops to participate in national military parades, armed-forces cultural and sport events.
- Establish military research contacts and collaboration.
II. Observation and verification measures
- Agree to exchange invitations to observe military maneuvers, exercises and trainings.
- Agree to invite a third party to observe military maneuvers, exercises and trainings.
- Agree to exchange invitations to observe demonstrations of new weapon systems.
- Agree to allow verification missions on information provided regarding military forces and equipment.
- Appoint a third party to monitor and verify implementation of arms control / disarmament agreements and weapons destruction.
- Agree on joint monitoring of demilitarized and other zones.
- Agree on a third party monitoring demilitarized and other zones.
- Agree on aerial surveillance flights over each other’s territory.
- Allow for aerial observation by international observers.
III. Military constrains measures
- Troop movement, exercises, weapons
- Restrict the number and scope of major military exercises.
- Refrain from holding air force / maritime exercises in agreed air / sea routes
- Restrict the type of weapons in use.
- Restrict the number of weapons in use.
- Limit troop movements.
- Restrict the locations / placement of troops.
- Restrict the location / placement of heavy weapons.
- Restrict mobilizations and calling up of reserve forces.
- Refrain from holding military exercises at dates sensitive in neighbouring country (e.g. election period, national day).
- Ban live-fire drills and exercises.
- Cover the barrels of artillery and ship guns.
- Reduce troop size deployed near sensitive region.
- De-alert troops.
- De-alert weapon systems.
- Agree on non-attack of nuclear facilities.
- Agree on acceptable and unacceptable military activities, especially in sensitive and border areas.
- Border areas / demilitarized zones
- Set up sensors to supplement foot patrol and observation posts. Refrain from establishing new military posts or military fortifications along borders.
- Establish demilitarized zone, security zone or UN buffer zone.
- Enlarge demilitarized zone or create zone of limited deployment beyond demilitarized zone.
- Develop a code of conduct for activities in demilitarized or other zone.
- Remove military installations and fortifications from demilitarized zone.
- Remove landmines from demilitarized zone.
- Remove guard posts from demilitarized zone.
- Disarm military personnel in demilitarized zone.
- Limit personnel in demilitarized zone.
- Agree on guarantees for the safety of researchers and workers operating inside demilitarized zones-to establish wildlife sanctuaries.
- Undertake joint mapping of demilitarized zone.
IV. Training & education measures
- Teach CBM approaches in military academies, staff schools, and war colleges.
- Discuss military training curriculums.
- Exchange military personnel as students at military academies, military schools, and war colleges.
- Exchange military personnel as instructors at military academies, military schools, and war colleges.
- Apply CBM techniques in command post and field exercises. Establish a bilateral / regional training centre for common security issues, including peacekeeping and the implementation of CBMs.
- Conduct joint / regional trainings for women officers on common security issues, such as peacekeeping or military CBMs.
- Encourage national foreign and military research institutes to host guest researchers from abroad, to study and contribute to topics related to host country’s regional security issues.
- Host or provide support to bilateral and regional meetings to discuss military CBMs.
- Host negotiation / mediation / facilitation workshops.
V. Cooperation & integration measures
- Commit to consistently comply with arms control and disarmament regimes and treaties.
- Establish joint peacekeeping units.
- Conduct joint military exercises.
- Conduct joint mapping exercises, including maritime.
- Conduct joint search-and-rescue missions for aircraft and shipping accidents.
- Cooperate on disaster relief, disaster prevention and hurricane tracking.
- Conduct joint operations for removal of landmines and explosive remnants of war along border.
- Cooperate on sea-mine clearance.
- Cooperate on investigations of ammunition-related accidents such as storage-area explosions, including on methodology.
- Establish joint or coordinated border patrols and/or observation posts along borders (green and blue borders)
- Create joint border committees.
- Establish cooperation between custom / border agencies to combat illicit cross-border trade in e.g. contrabands, trafficking of human beings, small arms, narcotics.
- Develop a common code of conduct for border personnel, in particular in disputed border areas.
- In joint missions and operations, commit to ensure the deployment of women officers.
- Develop common procedures for dealing with people living in peripheral border areas including nomadic people.
- Establish a ‘Dealing-with-the-past’ working group.
- Establish joint crisis-management / conflict prevention centres.
- Establish joint military and / or science & technology research centres / programmes.
- Explore joint procurement and maintenance initiatives.
Information received from Member States
National Views | Information on CBMs in the field of conventional arms
(click to expand list)
- Argentina 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013
- Armenia 2011, 2012
- Azerbaijan 2010, 2011, 2014
- Bangladesh 2007
- Belarus 2014
- Bosnia and Herzegovina 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2023
- Bolivia 2005, 2007
- Bulgaria 2011
- Cambodia 2006
- Chile 2005, 2014
- China 2013
- Cuba 2013, 2015, 2017, 2023
- Czech Republic 2007, 2013, 2014
- Cyprus 2011
- Dominican Republic 2023
- El Salvador 2007, 2014, 2016
- Georgia 2005, 2010, 2014
- Germany 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
- Greece 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
- Guatemala 2005
- Honduras 2023
- Hungary 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013
- Japan 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
- Jordan 2023
- Latvia 2007, 2008
- Lebanon 2006, 2014
- Mauritius 2010
- Mexico 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014
- Montenegro 2013
- Netherlands 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014
- Nicaragua 2007
- Oman 2009
- Panama 2006, 2010
- Pakistan 2006
- Poland 2006, 2007
- Portugal 2013, 2014, 2016
- Qatar 2008, 2014
- Senegal 2011
- Serbia 2007, 2010
- Spain 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
- Turkmenistan 2011
- Tajikistan 2009
- Tunisia 2010
- Ukraine 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2017
- Uruguay 2013, 2014
- European Union 2015
The United Nations can assist
The key to effective CBMs is the quality of the procedures underpinning them. The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs stands ready to assist governments and regional organizations in developing bilateral or regional military CBMs tailored to the situation.