May 2018 E-News

This year WILPF celebrates 103 years of advancing feminist peace. As noted in a quote taken from the original 1915 Convening, “In the distress of mind that the war breeds in every thinking and feeling person, there is a poignant relief in finding a channel through which to work for peace.”

This statement continues to hold truth and relevance today. As outlined in this newsletter, we and our partners are still championing peace in a myriad of ways: through advocating for the ban on nuclear weapons and calling out the hypocrisy of nuclear-armed states; challenging the arms trade and standing up for those impacted by the indiscriminate use of weapons and armed violence everywhere; demanding a space for women in disarmament and arms control at all levels; confronting patriarchy, and preventing the militarisation of technology. 2018 has been a turbulent year for human security, whether through increased violence in many national and proxy conflicts, intensifying regional tension, and a heightened possibility of nuclear weapons use, which would be devastating for our entire planet. Continuing the push for peace provides relief and purpose, and binds us together in global solidarity which has been at the core of WILPF’s success. 

In this edition

  • WILPF celebrates its 103rd anniversary
  • WILPF Cameroon launches national campaign against killer robots
  • Lack of urgency at NPT PrepCom
  • More countries ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
  • Annual Week of Action Against Gun Violence a success
  • Control Arms Coalition launches the "Sprint to 100" campaign 
  • South and North Korea agree to peace and denuclearisation
  • President Trump announces withdrawal from the Iran deal
  • Upcoming events
  • Featured news
  • Recommended reading                                                              

WILPF celebrates its 103rd anniversary

Happy Anniversary BannerOn 28 April WILPF turned 103 years old! In a video marking the anniversary, WILPF’s International President Kozue Akibayashi reminded WILPFers and the public of the long history of global solidarity among feminist peacemakers. WILPF was founded in 1915 in The Hague, where “over a thousand women gathered to stop the war, condemning patriarchy and militarism”, said Ms. Akibayashi. 

More than a century later, WILPFers across the globe are still working tirelessly for feminist peace by challenging militarism and patriarchy at the international and local levels. This past year has been a memorable one for WILPF’s disarmament programme in particular, which organised a Women’s March to Ban the Bomb, played an active role in the successful negotiations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and celebrated the awardng of the Nobel Peae Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which WILPF is an international steering group member. 

WILPF Cameroon launches national campaign against killer robots 

WILPF CameroonWith support from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and in collaboration with the Cameroon Action Network on Small Arms (CANSA), WILPF Cameroon launched a national campaign against killer robots on 14 May in Yaoundé. The launch included an information workshop press conference. These activities follow on from the participation of WILPF Cameroon’s president Sylvie Ndongmo at the April meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons (the formal name for “killer robots”) in Geneva. The campaign aims to convince the government to join with other states in calling for a ban on autonomous weapon systems; an issue which it does not presently have a position on. (Photo credit: WILPF Cameroon) 

Lack of urgency at NPT PrepCom

NIR 2018 4States parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) met in Geneva for two weeks as part of the second preparatory committee (PrepCom) in the lead up to the treaty’s 2020 review conference. The two week-long PrepCom did not yield any decisions beyond appointing Malaysian Ambassador Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob as chair of the 2019 PrepCom, and setting dates for that meeting and the 2020 review conference. The meeting revealed deepening divisions between the nuclear-armed states parties, as well as between them and non-nuclear-armed states parties including over issues that are external but related to the NPT, such as the Iran deal and achieving peace in the Korean peninsula. Many states parties took issue with the chair’s draft factual summary released on the final day of the conference for being unbalanced and not portraying accurately the nature of statements made, particularly regarding the very high levels of concern expressed about nuclear weapon development and modernisation programmes as being in conflict with NPT disarmament obligations, and support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Other states pointed to the staleness of PrepComs, and need to reform working methods to enable decision-making and progress.

Reaching Critical Will published regularly its NPT News in Review that featured coverage and analysis of the meeting. A statement was delivered by Allison Pytlak, RCW’s Programme Manager, on behalf of WILPF that highlighted details of nuclear modernisation programmes as well as the necessity of gender analysis and improved women’s participation in nuclear disarmament. In advance of the PrepCom, RCW published a 2018 NPT Briefing Book, and an update to its annual report Assuring Destruction Forever.

More countries ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted by 122 countries at the UN on 7 July 2017 and opened for signature on 20 September 2017. In only eight months the TPNW has reached fifty-eight signatories and nine states parties, and domestic processes to ratify the treaty are currently underway in many more countries. The eighth and ninth ratifications came from Palau on 3 May and Austria on 8 May, both countries that played important roles in the negotiation process.

Palau, the first Pacific country to ratify the TPNW, advocated for the inclusion of provisions for victim assistance and environmental remediation in the treaty. Palau is in the unique position of having a “nuclear-free constitution”, which local women anti-nuclear activists fought to uphold for decades against pressure from the United States.

Austria ratificationAustria has been one of the key drivers of the nuclear weapon ban treaty for years, most notably hosting the Third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons where they issued a Humanitarian pledge to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”, which has been endorsed by the majority of the world’s countries. Austria continues to be a champion for the TPNW and will be promoting its universalisation.

Costa Rica will likely become the tenth state party to the TPNW. Outgoing President Luis Guillermo Solis signed the instrument of ratificaiton as one of his last acts in office. New Zealand announced recently that its ratification measures are nearly complete.

Annual Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence a success

IANSA Youth petitionThe International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) hosted its annual Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence on 7-14 May. IANSA’s members around the world organised actions to raise awareness about gun violence, including in Nigeria, Israel, Iraq, South Africa, Nepal, Trinidad and Tobago, the Philippines, and Cameroon. The Youth Ambassadors of IANSA have teamed up with Nonviolence International-NY and Peace Boat to launch a Global Youth Petition on Arms Control. IANSA members have also been lobbying their governments and preparing briefing papers for the Third Review Conference on the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons to be held in June. (Photo credit: International Action Network on Small Arms)

Control Arms Coalition launches the "Sprint to 100" campaign 

sprintto100On Saturday 12 May, Control Arms launched the Sprint to 100 campaign, in the lead up to the Fourth Conference of States Parties (CSP4). The goal of the campaign is to reach 100 ATT states parties by the time of the conference—there are presently 94! 

Throughout the next 100 days, Control Arms will feature activists, survivors, artists and government officials through interviews, stories, photos, videos, blogs, and more on all social media platforms to build momentum in advance of the fourth CSP and to raise awareness about the importance of ATT universalisation.  In the coming weeks, the coalition will launch a webpage on controlarms.org with more resources to utilise throughout the campaign. (Photo credit: Control Arms Coalition)

South and North Korea agree to peace and denuclearisation 

At the historic Inter-Korean summit held in Seoul on 27 April, the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DRPK) Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to negotiate a peace treaty that would end the Korean War after nearly seventy years.

In a congratulatory statement Women Cross DMZ, a WILPF partner, emphasised the role of North and South Korean women peace activists: “Three years ago, we joined 10,000 Korean women, North and South, as we walked on the streets of Pyongyang, Kaesong, and Paju calling for an end to the Korean War with a Peace Treaty, for the reuniting of families, and for women’s leadership in the peace process.” The group is urging the two governments to include the significant participation of women leaders in the official peace process.

The two leaders also announced their intention to pursue a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. According to the Panmunjeom Declaration issued after the summit, “South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realising, through complete denuclearisation, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.” Shortly afterward, US President Trump announced that the US-North Korea summit has been scheduled for 12 June in Singapore. At the time of publication it is uncertain whether the summit will take place after the North Korean vice foreign minister’s statement on 16 May that North Korea may “reconsider” proceeding to the summit.

US announces withdrawal from the Iran deal 

On 9 May US President Trump announced that the US will withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action (JCPOA), also known as the “Iran deal”, and reinstitute the US sanctions against Iran that were waived under the terms of the agreement. The JCPOA was signed in 2015 by six countries - the US, Iran, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China – who agreed that sanctions against Iran would be lifted in exchange for Iran not developing nuclear weapons, halting uranium enrichment, and allowing close monitoring of its atomic energy programme. According to the UN inspectors, Iran has been in compliance with the agreement.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded by expressing Iran’s continued commitment to the JCPOA. “If we come to the conclusion that with cooperation with the five countries we can keep what we wanted despite Israeli and American efforts, [it] can survive,” Rouhani said. However, he also said Iran would resume uranium enrichment if the deal falls through. The other five signatories have all announced that they will uphold the JCPOA. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a statement that he was “deeply concerned” by the US withdrawal and called on the other signatories to the JCPOA to “abide fully by their respective commitments under the JCPOA”.

The Israeli military claimed that Iranian forces in Syria fired 20 rockets at the Israeli army in the occupied Golan Heights during the night following President Trump’s announcement. In retaliation Israel fired missiles at Iranian military targets in Syria and announced the destruction of almost all Iranian infrastructure in Syria. 

Upcoming events

Open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict

22 May 2018, New York 


Presentation of the UN Secretary-General's disarmament agenda

24 May 2018, New York


Third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons 

18-29 June 2018, New York


Featured News

Campaigners to challenge UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in Court of Appeal

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) won the right to appeal the High Court ruling of July 2017 that allowed the UK government to continue approving exports of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia. British arms export policy states that licenses cannot be granted when “there is a clear risk that the items might be used in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law.” CAAT is arguing that the Saudi Arabian air strikes that are killing civilians in Yemen constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, and thus arms export licenses for weapons going to Saudi Arabia are illegal. New research has revealed that around 7,000 British personnel are based in Saudi Arabia to maintain the exported military equipment, including combat aircraft that are deployed to Yemen. 

UK drones fire thermobaric missiles in Syria

In a Freedom of Information response to UK-based organisation Drone Wars, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed that its Reaper drones have been firing thermobaric missiles in Syria. Drone Wars UK reports that roughly a quarter of the weapons fired in Syria by UK drones in the first three months of 2018 were thermobaric weapons, and the total number of all weapons fired by UK drones in Syria in the same period equaled the number of weapons they fired in the previous 18 months combined.

Thermobaric weapons, also known as ‘vacuum’ bombs, have been condemned by human rights groups because of their indiscriminate nature. When a thermobaric bomb is detonated it sucks all the oxygen from its vicinity and creates a powerful high-temperature blast wave that causes fatal internal organ damage to anyone in the blast radius. When reporting on thermobaric weapons in 2000, Human Rights Watch wrote that “in urban settings it is very difficult to limit the effect of this weapon to combatants” and it is “virtually impossible for civilians to take shelter from their destructive effect.” 

The UK has previously used thermobaric weapons in Afghanistan in attacks against the Taliban, and according to The Times the MoD had debated the legality of the use of these weapons for 18 months, eventually deciding to use the term “enhanced blast weapon” instead of “thermobaric weapon” for the AGM-114N weapons. 

US government fails to release information on casualties from US drone strikes

The Trump administration missed a 1 May deadline to release information about its drone operations and the casualties resulting from them. An annual public report of each year’s figures is required under an Executive Order the Obama administration issued in 2016, which according to a National Security Council spokesperson could be modified or rescinded. There has been a dangerous trend of an increasing lack of transparency of the US government and increasing number of drone attacks. The Bureau reported more than triple the number of US airstrikes in 2017, the first year of the Trump presidency, than in 2016. A diverse coalition of non-governmental organisations issued a statement in March calling for greater transparency and accountability for US drone operations and the use of lethal force.

SIPRI data shows increase in global military spending

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has published new data on global military spending in 2017. SIPRI found that total military expenditure rose to US$ 1.739 trillion in 2017, which constitutes a 1.1 percent increase from 2016. The ten countries with the highest military expenditures in 2017 were the US, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, France, UK, Japan, Germany, and South Korea. The United States spent US$ 610 billion on its military, which was more than the next seven highest-spending countries combined, and US expenditure is expected to increase significantly in 2018 due in part to the modernisation of its nuclear arsenal. Saudi Arabia was the third biggest spender at US$ 69.4 billion, which was an increase of 9.2 percent from 2016, and was 10% of its GDP.

Suicide bombings in Afghanistan target civilians

Civilians in Afghanistan have been suffering from string of deadly explosions in Kabul and other cities in 2018. On 30 April, two suicide bombers in Kabul appeared to have intentionally targeted civilians, including journalists, when the second attack was carried out by a man posing as a journalist who blew himself up among a group of reporters and rescue workers at the scene of the first blast. A new Human Rights Watch report on attacks on civilians in Afghanistan since 2016 by the Taliban and groups affiliated with the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) found that these group have escalated their attacks in urban areas, resulting in thousands of civilians being killed or injured. A UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and UN Human Rights Office report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2017 also highlighted the high number of casualties caused by suicide bombings and other attacks using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) directed at civilians or civilian objects. 

Google employees protesting use of AI in US drone warfare

Google employees are resigning in protest to the technology company’s involvement in a US military program called Project Mavenwhich aims to use artificial intelligence to automatically classify images of objects and people gathered by drones. Over 4,000 employees have signed a petition asking Google to withdraw from Project Maven and to adopt a policy of never developing warfare technology. “Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance - and potentially lethal outcomes - is not acceptable,” the Google employees state in their petition. The International Committee for Robot Arms Control has issued an open letter supporting the tech workers and urging Google to join other tech executives calling for an international treaty prohibiting autonomous weapons systems. 

Recommended reading

John Lindsay-Poland, “How US guns sold to Mexico end up with security forces accused of crime and human rights abuses,” The Intercept, 26 April 2018

Ray Acheson, “A new generation against the bomb,” The Nation, 27 April 2018

Alexandra Bell and Kelsey Davenport, “Behold, the marticle (a primer on how to avoid only quoting men as sources),” Poynter, 30 April 2018

ICAN Briefing: These 35 States are Sabotaging the NPT, ICAN, April 2018

Mark Bromley and Giovanna Maletta, The challenge of software and technology transfers to non-proliferation efforts: Implementing and complying with export controls, SIPRI, April 2018

Kolja Brockmann and Robert Kelley, The challenge of emerging technologies to non-proliferation efforts: Controlling additive manufacturing and intangible transfers of technology, SIPRI, April 2018

Jeffrey D. Sachs, “Denuclearisation means the US, too,” Project Syndicate, 7 May 2018

Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor: Preliminary Research, Norwegian People’s Aid, May 2018

Ray Acheson, “The nuclear ban and the patriarchy: a feminist analysis of opposition to prohibiting nuclear weapons,” Critical Studies on Security, 2018 

Ray Acheson, “Impacts of the nuclear ban: how outlawing nuclear weapons is changing the world,” Global Change, Peace & Security, 2018