One area often overlooked in prevention of genocide is arms policy.

David Hamburg, in his 2008 book Preventing Genocide: Practical Steps Toward Early Detection and Effective Action, singles out restraints on weaponry as one of six key “pillars of prevention.”

As Hamburg notes in one interview, “The ultimate is nuclear weapons, but there’s a huge problem with ‘small arms and light weapons,’ which is a euphemism. AK-47 automatic weapons, mortars, and so on can kill thousands—millions—of people in a short time; and the world is covered wall to wall with such weapons.”

The website Global Issues has a useful guide to issues connected with small arms, as well as a section on efforts to develop a code of conduct for arms sales, which highlights the risks of selling arms to known human rights violators, with obvious implications for prevention of genocide.

Internationally, the most important effort right now is work on an Arms Trade Treaty, a multilateral, legally binding document that would regulate the transfer of conventional weapons and small arms and light weapons (SALW). The treaty is scheduled for agreement in July 2012.

In addition to the governments negotiating the ATT, many nongovernmental organizations are also involved. Visit the website of Control Arms to see a list.