August 2016 E-News
It’s been another violent month, with explosive violence in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and other locations dominating headlines. While the Olympics proceed amidst protests in Brazil, ongoing conflicts remain brutal and peace seems a distant hope. Earlier this month, we commemorated the 71st anniversary of one of the world’s most violent attacks ever—the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What peace activists then and now strive for is a repudiation of this violence—both the patriarchal systems that sustain it, and also the tools that facilitate it. From nuclear weapons to conventional explosive weapons to small arms, we are demanding change in every space that we can, from conducting advocacy at multilateral forums to protesting at arms fairs. Our activism is the hope we must keep giving, even if at times it seems fruitless. We must see those that suffer and be seen by those that bring this suffering.
In this edition:
- On the road to banning nuclear weapons
- Use of explosive weapons is out of control, but is being challenged
- Second annual meeting on the Arms Trade Treaty
- Conventional weapons treaty up for review
- Feminist futures with AWID
- New publications
- Upcoming events
- Featured news
- Recommended reading
The final session of the 2016 open-ended working group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament is underway now, with consideration of the Chair’s draft report. Read Reaching Critical Will’s report and stay tuned for more news this week.
Last month, the UK parliament voted in favour of building four new nuclear-powered submarines to carry US Trident missiles armed with modernised nuclear warheads for the next half century. This is a disappointing decision—but not unexpected. It will, however, be seriously challenged by the growing momentum toward banning nuclear weapons.
It is the expectation of the majority of governments and civil society groups that the 2016 session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security will consider and adopt a resolution to begin negotiations of a new international legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. Follow along by subscribing to our First Committee Monitor!
As of 30 June, 6500 people had been killed and some 32,000 injured as a result of the conflict in Yemen. In Syria, the bombing is so bad in Aleppo that doctors have written a letter claiming that one medical facility is attacked every 17 hours. Meanwhile, the US has initiated a bombing campaign in Libya. Airstrikes began in late July, without congressional authorisation or debate, and, according to the Pentagon press secretary, has no “end point at this particular moment in time.”
In a review of data it collected from 2011 to 2015, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, 91% of those report killed are civilians. Civilians make up 77% of all casualties in their data. AOAV recorded 110 countries as affected by explosive violence between 2011 and the end of 2015, and a total of 188,325 deaths and injuries from 12,566 incidents of explosive weapons use.
WILPF will have a report out soon on the use of explosive weapons in Syria, Yemen, and other countries, and the arms transfers that facilitate this unacceptable practice. The use of EWIPA is being addressed internationally—most recently at the UN Security Council open debate on children and armed conflict in August 2016. Ahead of this meeting, the UN Secretary-General urged all parties to conflict to “refrain from using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, and to consider making a commitment to this effect.” During the debate, the head of UNICEF said, “We all should call on all parties to conflict to commit to protecting children by changing the way they wage their wars, including by ending the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas.” The next step is a meeting in October 2016 in New York hosted by Austria, which will focus on identifying and discussing the possible elements of a political declaration on ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Find out more at www.inew.org!
The second Conference of States Parties (CSP2) of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will be held in Geneva from 22 to 26 August 2016. This is an important moment for states to assess the implementation and universaliation of the Treaty and to make decisions on reporting and international assistance, among other things. WILPF is urging all governments to put human security above war profiteering and ensure that arms transfers contributing to conflicts are challenged during this meeting.
In the lead up to CSP2, a series of preparatory meetings have been held to discuss some of the crucial administrative and financial modalities of the Treaty and it's conferences. WILPF has covered these preparatory meetings and will provide daily analysis of CSP2 through our ATT Monitor. Subscribe today to receive this important resource during the conference. WILPF will organise a side event on the ATT and gender-based violence during the meeting, and will be involved with a panel discussion with Amnesty International on arms control and the role of civil society, featuring Guy Feugap of WILPF Cameroon.
A Preparatory Committee for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Review Conference will be held from 31 August to 2 September 2016 in Geneva. This convention, which focuses on weapons “deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects” has in recent years taken up work on lethal autonomous weapon systems, which WILPF has actively campaigned against. The CCW also addresses issues related to incendiary weapons, mines other than anti-personnel mines, and more. WILPF will provide coverage of the Preparatory Committee and the Review Conference—subscribe to our conventional weapons mailing list to receive our report at the end of the meeting!
The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is holding its 13th international forum in Brazil from 8–11 September. The forum, “Feminist Futures: Building Collective Power for Rights and Justice,” will bring together women human rights defenders and other feminist movements. WILPF delegates from around the world will join the forum to explore feminist visions that #MoveTheMoney from war to peace. WILPF is organising a cross-movement session on designing a Feminist Playbook for Peace, which will critically and specifically examine the context of gender and power: patriarchy, economic, political, and militarism. It will also explore practical and innovative local strategies to prevent conflict and collectively shape a vision that addresses feminist foreign policies and reform, accountability and engagement with UN multilateral systems.
First Committee briefing book 2016
The UN General Assembly's work on disarmament and arms control is conducted through its First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. Ahead of the 2016 session, Reaching Critical Will has gathered civil society organisations, coalitions, and campaigns to prepare a briefing book highlighting a number of critical disarmament and arms control topics and suggesting how governments can achieve progress on each of these vital issues.
Case studies on arms transfers and gender-based violence
We have published two new arms trade case studies ahead of the second Conference of States Parties (CSP2) for the Arms Trade Treaty. The case studies, looking at Sweden and Spain, are associated with our May 2016 report Preventing gender-based violence through arms control (which is now also available in Spanish). The case studies shed light on the export licensing process in these countries and government efforts to determine the associated risks of GBV with their arms exports.
Conference on Disarmament
2 August–16 September 2016, Geneva
Open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament
16 and 19 August, Geneva
Arms Trade Treaty Second Conference of States Parties
22–26 August 2016, Geneva
Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (first session)
29 August–2 September, New York
10th Conference of High Contracting Parties to Protocol V of the CCW
29 August 2016, Geneva
18th Conference of High Contracting Parties to Amended Protocol II of the CCW
30 August 2016, Geneva
Preparatory Committee for the Fifth Review Conference of the CCW
31 August–2 September 2016, Geneva
6th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions
5–7 September 2016, Geneva
UN General Assembly general debate
20–30 September 2016, New York
UK parliament votes to renew Trident nuclear weapon system
On 18 July, the British parliament voted in favour of building four new nuclear-powered submarines to carry US Trident missiles armed with modernized nuclear warheads for the next half century.
More than 10,000 people protest renewal of Trident ahead of vote
In what was thought to be the biggest national peace demonstration in Scotland since the last Iraq war, more than 10,000 Scots took part in anti-Trident protests ahead of the House of Commons vote on renewing the nuclear weapon system.
Hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow sends letter to President Obama
In June, Setsuko Thurlow, who is a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima, was awarded the Arms Control Person of the Year Award. She met with Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama’s speech writer, who accompanied him to Hiroshima this past Spring. Setsuko gave him a letter for Obama, which he promised to deliver.
US releases “kill-capture playbook” behind drone strike policies
The internal guidelines provide a look at the drone war bureaucracy behind hundreds of strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere. However, the “playbook” does not provide new insight into when, where, and under what authorities someone can be killed, or what kind of intelligence is necessary to make that decision.
US military opens formal investigation into deadly July airstrike in Syria
The US military has opened a formal investigation into a 19 July airstrike in northern Syriathat local and outside observers consider the deadliest coalition attack on civilians in its two-year war against Daesh.
UK government admits it was wrong to say Saudi Arabia is not targeting civilians or committing war crimes
The UK government has been forced to retract numerous written and oral statements to parliament that said ministers had assessed that Saudi Arabia was not in breach of international humanitarian law in Yemen. The admission, issued on the final day of parliament before the summer recess, led to calls by the Liberal Democrats for an investigation into Saudi behaviour in Yemen and a suspension of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
€1.2 billion of arms and ammunition sent from Eastern Europe to Syria
Eastern European countries have approved the discreet sale of €1.2 billion of arms and ammunition in the past four years to Middle Eastern countries that are known to ship arms to Syria.
US announces additional $15 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia
The US has already sold more than $20 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia since the war began in March 2015, despite the bombing campaign led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen that has killed almost 7000 people and left 21 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
Canada waters down its arms export policy
After facing criticism for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, the government released a watered-down version of its arms export policies. It has removed a phrase about how export controls are intended to “regulate and impose certain restrictions on exports” in response to clear policy objectives. It now says the goal of Canada’s export controls on military goods is to “balance the economic and commercial interests of Canadian business” with this country’s “national interest”. This edit removes the only reference in the entire document to restricting and regulating the export of military goods. Furthermore, while the previous policy was geared toward ensuring that Canadian-made weapons would not be “diverted to ends that could threaten the security of Canada, its allies, or other countries or people,” the edits eliminate the reference to other countries, which means that while the use of Canadian-made light armoured vehicles in Yemen would qualify as a diversion under the old language, it doesn’t under the new language.
CEDAW Committee questions Germany over its arms exports to Mexico
During its recent session, WILPF made a statement to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee about the situation of arms exports from Germany, expressing particular concern with the case of exports of firearms produced by the company Heckler and Koch to Mexico. The Committee subsequently asked Germany, that, since “there are several areas where operation of German companies abroad has a negative impact on the human rights of women,” it should “provide information on the regulatory framework, which ensures that operation of German industries and companies, do not negatively affect human rights or endanger environmental, labour and other standards, especially those relating to women’s rights.” The Committee also asked Germany “indicate the steps taken: a) to integrate a gender dimension in strategic dialogues with the countries purchasing German arms; b) to conduct gender sensitive risk assessments, in accordance with the Arms Trade Treaty (2013), in order to mitigate the potentially negative impact on women’s rights of arms transfers to countries marked by armed conflict or risks of such conflict; c) to protect the rights of all women and girls, in particular in rural areas, in international food value chain production, as well as in the context of its development cooperation policies and programmes.”
Alexander Kmentt, “The development of the international initiative on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and its effect on the nuclear weapons debate,” International Review, IRRC NO. 899, International Committee of the Red Cross, 5 July 2016
Lawrence S. Wittner, “The Appalling Violence of the World’s Three Superpowers,” History News Network, 17 July 2016
Rebecca Gordon, “The Trojan Drone: An Illegal Military Strategy Disguised as a Technological Advance,” TomDispatch.com, 17 July 2016
Yifat Susskind and Stella Duque, “Women are on the frontline of making peace in Colombia last,” The Guardian, 18 July 2016
Ian Jack, “It doesn’t make us independent, but Trident is the steroid we reach for,” The Guardian, 23 July 2016
William Hartung, “There’s No Business Like the Arms Business,” TomDispatch.com, 26 July 2016
Jacqui True, “Post-conflict economic reform is a woman, peace and security issue,” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 31 July 2016
William J. Astore, “Military Dissent Is Not An Oxymoron,” TomDispatch.com, 11 August 2016