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December 2016 E-News

By nearly all accounts, 2016 was a pretty bad year. The nightmare for civilians in Syria and Yemen and other ongoing conflicts. Political earthquakes from Brexit to the rejection of the Colombian peace deal to the election of Trump. The deaths of peace activists such as Daniel Berrigan, Bill Williams, and John Ainslie. The year does not have a very good record.

Except in one respect: the decision by the UN General Assembly to negotiate a legally binding treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons next year. That was awesome.
 
With an eye to finding silver linings, we’d like to offer our annual “top five”—an overview of what we think are the most critical highlights in our work during the past year.
 
We’d also like to thank all of our colleagues in civil society, international organisations, governments, and our donors for the valuable support for our work. We look forward to working together with you in the coming years to make even more progress on the key challenges ahead.
 
One of these challenges includes funding. 
 
Today, governments around the world spend $1.6 trillion on weapons—while only 2% of their peace and security aid targets gender equality.
 
Meanwhile, the entire global women’s movement has a budget of just under the cost of a single F-35 fighter jet ($110 million according to an AWID study, versus $137 million).
 
It is quite simple: military investments exacerbate sexual, gender, and other forms of violence, while investment in feminist movements are the number one predictor of policies on reducing violence against women.
 
WILPF is a global network of women peacemakers, which has relentlessly campaigned for more than 100 years to move the money from a war economy to feminist activism and gender justice.
 
We intend to continue our work in 2017, but we need your help, especially with all of the momentum building for a ban on nuclear weapons and other important initiatives underway. If you would like to support our work for next year, please consider giving a gift to WILPF.
 
There are many ways you can give: you can sign up for a one-time donation or a monthly pledge through our online credit card service Just Give. You can also donate online through PayPal or write a cheque to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and mail it to WILPF, 777 UN Plaza, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10017, USA.
 
Thank you for considering us in your holiday giving this year. Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year ahead!

TOP FIVE HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2016

1. UN General Assembly decides to prohibit nuclear weapons 

On 27 October, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons in 2017. 123 states voted in favour of the resolution, with 38 against and 16 abstaining. This feat represents a meaningful advancement towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. It also represents a revolt of the vast majority of states against the violence, intimidation, and injustice perpetuated by those supporting these weapons of mass destruction. It is the result of several years of concerted advocacy by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which WILPF is a steering group member, and the dedication of a group of states to finally make progress on nuclear disarmament despite the intransigence of those who possess nuclear weapons.
 
What’s next? Negotiations on the ban treaty will be held from 27–31 March and 15 June–7 July 2017 in New York. Ahead of and during the negotiating conference, WILPF will be working with our partners in ICAN, other civil society and international organisations, and governments to ensure the development and adoption of the strongest possible treaty. We will provide information, expertise, and analysis; we will monitor and report on the negotiations; we will coordinate civil society involvement; and we will work with partners around the world to raise awareness and ensure the ban treaty’s effectiveness!
 
Read more from Reaching Critical Will

2. Human rights body calls out UK on arms transfer to Saudi Arabia due to bombing in Yemen

Civil society groups in the UK and internationally have been doing excellent work to highlight the UK government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the midst of its bombing campaign in Yemen, which has led to a humanitarian catastrophe. One of WILPF’s contributions to this effort was to submit a shadow report on the United Kingdom to the Committee of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR), which reviewed the UK’s compliance with these rights from 6–24 June 2016. WILPF’s report, written by Reaching Critical Will and the WILPF Human Rights programme, focuses on the violations of the rights to adequate housing, health, and education in Yemen that are facilitated by UK arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. As a result, the CESCR Committee recommended that the UK government “conduct thorough risk assessments prior to granting licences for arms exports and refuse or suspend such licences when there is a risk that arms could be used to violate human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.” 

What’s next? We will continue to raise awareness amongst governments, civil society groups, and the public about the connections between arms transfers and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in as many forums as possible, including those on human rights, arms control, and disarmament. We will also continue our research and advocacy on the international arms trade and on explosive weapons use, particularly in relation to the Middle East, where we work with women’s rights activists in the region to promote nonviolent feminist solutions to conflict. In December we participated in WILPF's regional meeting in Beirut, where we conducted a roundtable on explosive weapons with The Syria Campaign. We’ll also continue our work with the International Network on Explosive Weapons to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
 
Read more from Reaching Critical Will

3. Gender perspectives in disarmament surge ahead

We’ve done a lot of work over the decades to ensure gender diversity in disarmament discussions, including through promoting a range of perspectives and voices. This work is having more impact than ever these days, with a number of new groups taking up the work and more governments recognising its importance. Throughout 2016, we produced articles and research policy papers on preventing gender-based violence through arms control, examining feminism and war, and exploring the gendered dimensions of weapons use and trade. We have also engaged with activists around the world from Latin America to Africa to the Middle East around implementing the gender-based violence provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty and including gender perspectives in efforts to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
 
What’s next? We will continue this work for years to come! We have several projects underway, such as research report looking at the connections between sexual violence against women and girls and foreign military bases in Djibouti; more research and policy development on incorporating gender perspectives into arms embargoes and other initiatives against the international arms trade; and gender perspectives on remote warfare technology such as armed drones and autonomous weapons. Stay tuned in 2017!
 
Read more from Reaching Critical Will

4. Global to local efforts move ahead, connecting antimilitarism and disarmament movements around the world

In September and October 2016, antiwar activists from across Australia gathered near the centre of the country to demand the government close the secretive Pine Gap military base, 50 years after its establishment. Pine Gap is a central part of the US war-fighting machine. It facilitates the operation of nuclear weapons and armed drones, as well as mass surveillance and military communications. It is a prominent node in the global network of militarism created by the United States and sustained by its allies. Ray Acheson participated in direct actions at the gates of Pine Gap with WILPF Australiaand ICAN Australia members, and spoke at the Independent and Peace Australia Network National Conference, bringing news of progress towards negotiations of a legally binding treaty to ban nuclear weapons, as well as information about drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia that are launched from Djibouti—which are targeted from Pine Gap. At the same time, activists campaigning for the end of the US military base on Diego Garcia also gathered in Mauritius. WILPF issued a statement of support for their conference and spoke about their efforts at events in Australia, helping to create a sense of solidarity around antimilitarism efforts.
 
What’s next? We’ll continue to engage with campaigns against military bases and military spending, focusing on the intersections between nuclear weapons, armed drones, and gender perspectives of foreign military operations. We’ll be coordinating a study on the humanitarian impacts of armed drones in 2017, and releasing a big research report on foreign militaries and sexual violence in Djibouti. We’ll also keep engaging with our WILPF Sections and partners around the world to enhance the local to global and global to local connections that WILPF finds imperative to achieving feminist peace!
 
Read more from Reaching Critical Will

5. States agree to a formal process on killer robots

States parties to the Fifth Review Conference of the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) decided to take another step forward in deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons, establishing a group of governmental experts (GGE) to meet for two weeks in 2017. While it does not have a negotiating mandate itself, groups affiliated with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, and at least 19 countries, will continue to push for the negotiation of a prohibition on autonomous weapons. Establishing a GGE was the minimum that states could do to address the challenges of this emerging weapons technology, but we will make the most of this opportunity.

What’s next? The GGE on autonomous weapons will meet for one week in either April or August (depending on UN finances) and again on 13-17 November 2017. Past GGEs have led to negotiations of new CCW protocols. In 1995, nations at the CCW preemptively banned lasers that would permanently blind. WILPF will work with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots to continue to try to prevent the development of weapons that operate without meaningful human control. We have a very narrow window to prevent the increased mechanization of violence and warfare by banning these weapons now. WILPF will continue to monitor discussions and engage in advocacy with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, and to publish on this subject as resources permit.

Read more from Reaching Critical Will