February E-News

On 23 January, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Clock closer than ever to Doomsday, setting it at 100 seconds to midnight. As Bob Rosner of the Bulletin’s Science & Security Board observes, “We have indeed normalised a very dangerous world in terms of the risks of nuclear warfare and climate change.” There is no denying that world leaders are increasingly fueling a race to the bottom. France recently called on European states to strengthen the role of French nuclear weapons in the EU’s security policy, while the US deployed a so-called “low-yield” nuclear warhead, making it the first new weapon added to the US nuclear arsenal in decades.

But there is still an opportunity for change. The antinuclear movement is growing ever stronger; and more and more states are joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), with only 15 states left for the Treaty to enter into force. We are building up pressure that nuclear-armed states and their nuclear-supportive allies can no longer ignore--and we will not stop until we see nuclear abolition. Learn more about our recent victories against nuclear weapons, as well as recent developments to stop the bombings of towns and cities, to build cyber peace, and to hold states accountable in the arms trade in this February edition of RCW’s E-News.

In this edition

Recently concluded: second consultation for a political declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas

On 10 February 2020, the government of Ireland hosted the second consultation in the international process it initiated last year to develop a “political declaration to ensure the protection of civilians from the humanitarian harm arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.” Ireland used the inputs from many different stakeholders, submitted during and after the 18 November 2019 consultation, to develop a paper containing draft elements for the declaration. This paper provided the basis for input during the second consultation. This process is taking place against the backdrop of horrific bombing in many places around the world, most recently Idlib, which is being turned into rubble by aerial bombardment by Syria and Russia.

Along with many states and all of the participating civil society organisations, WILPF is concerned that the draft elements paper does not not contain a clear commitment against the use of explosive weapons that have wide area effects in populated areas. Instead, in various parts it actually risks normalising the use of such weapons and weakening the protection already afforded to civilians in policy and law.

However, we are excited that Ireland has taken up this task, and that many governments and others are committed to preventing the human suffering caused by bombing in towns and cities. WILPF, as part of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), actively participated in the consultation, providing written comments on the draft elements paper and several statements. RCW also published extensive analysis and reporting of the meeting. The next consultation is scheduled to take place from 23-24 and from 26-27 March in Geneva, with the aim of adopting the declaration on 26 May in Dublin. RCW will continue to work actively to promote a strong political declaration that can have meaningful change for the communities and people suffering right now. (Photo credit: Permanent Mission of Ireland)

Antinuclear activism continues to be unstoppable

From 14-15 February, antinuclear activists, students, academics, artists, and others came together in Paris to learn from each other and to plot the way ahead for the abolition of nuclear
weapons. Campaigners left the meeting energised and ready to take on the nuclear-armed states and their allies! The packed ICAN Paris Peace Forum’s programme featured a diverse range of themes and panelists, such as Hiroshima-bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow and Diné antinuclear activist Leona Morgan. RCW's director Ray Acheson spoke on a panel about challenging structural oppressions and systems of power like patriarchy, racism, and militarism alongside other activists working on human rights and climate change. If you missed the action, you can catch up on all of the video-recorded sessions, and browse through the many pictures
(Photo credit: Joe Jukes, ICAN)

In the meantime, good news is coming in from other corners of the world as well! More and more countries are joining the nuclear ban movement. On 23 January, Paraguay ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), becoming the 35th ratifying state! Belize joined shortly after on 6 February as the 81st signatory state. We only need 15 more states to ratify to bring the Treaty into force! The ICAN Cities Appeal also continues to make waves. So far, over 260 cities and towns are onboard and are calling on their governments to join the TPNW. The most recent additions are Barcelona, Spain, and Kannur, the very first city in India to join. If you want to spread the message in your hometown, you could start by sharing Pressenza’s documentary on the nuclear ban, now available in a shorter version in  English, German, Spanish, and French.

The antinuclear movement achieved another big milestone in New York City. In late January, the New York City Council held public hearings on two measures (draft Resolution 0976 and Initiative 1621), which would oblige the city to divest its city pension funds from the nuclear weapons industry and establish an advisory committee to develop city action to further implement its status as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Thanks to persistent efforts of NYC-based activists, the two resolutions now have a veto-proof majority of support. With the withdrawal of opposition from the Mayor’s office they are almost certain to go through sometime soon. We will keep you posted! (Photo credit: Daniel Dromm)

WILPF sections are also working hard to keep the issue of nuclear weapons and gender high on the agenda in their countries. WILPF Sri Lanka participated in the launch of three publications on Sri Lanka and nuclear weapons treaties, hosted by the Forum on Disarmament and Development. Nadee Gunaratne of WILPF Sri Lanka spoke about the gender provisions in the TPNW and encouraging Sri Lanka to sign. (Photo credit: Vidya Abhayaa)

CSP6 first round of preparatory meetings of the Arms Trade Treaty: bureaucratisation instead of implementation?

The first round of this year’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) meeting cycle for the Sixth Conference of States Parties (CSP6) took place from 4-7 February 2020 in Geneva. The three ATT working group meetings—on treaty implementation, transparency and reporting, and universalisation—engaged in specialised discussions on details of arms transfer policy and practice, as well as administrative and financial issues. As demonstrated by RCW’s summaries of these discussions in its ATT Monitor, technical and compartmentalised discussions risk losing sight of the raison d’être of the ATT: to prevent human suffering caused by the arms trade. Achieving this objective necessitates the implementation of the Treaty itself, and additional commitments made in previous review cycles. However, decisions adopted by states parties less than six months ago at the Fifth Conference of States Parties (CSP5) on gender and gender-based violence (GBV) seem to have been partly or entirely overlooked. The side event on gender-disaggregated data collection in the context of GBV risk assessments, co-hosted by Small Arms Survey and the Permanent Mission of Canada at the margins of the meetings, are therefore important to ensure that states are held accountable.
The next round of preparatory meetings will take place from 14-17 April. In the run up to the meetings, WILPF will continue to work for commitments on gender and GBV to remain high on the agenda. For a thorough analysis and all summary reports, check out RCW’s ATT Monitor(Photo credit: Permanent Mission of Canada)

Positive engagement at the second session of the UN’s cyber working group

The second substantive session of the UN’s Open-ended working group (OEWG) on “developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” met in New York from 10-14 February. The engaging leadership of the chairpersonship, Swiss Ambassador Jürg Lauber, and a growing number of substantive proposals from states indicate the potential for this group to deliver practical outcomes that could improve international cyber security. In particular, states are finding common ground on the importance of improving coordination around cyber capacity-building initiatives, particularly where they advance a set of behavioural norms adopted by the UN in 2015. There has also been a noticeable growth in support for ensuring a human-centric approach in the OEWG. That said, there is a worrying undercurrent of dissent on core topics such as if the OEWG should be starting talks on legally binding cyber treaty or articulating new norms of behaviour. The group of countries advancing these views are a minority but this could become a challenge to adopting a consensus report in the final session in July. WILPF’s remarks to the session challenged the reasons by which some states are justifying the development of offensive cyber capabilities, the importance of multi-stakeholdership, and  encouraged that a human-centric approach emphasise gender diversity and gender analysis of cyber security issues. This latter point is rapidly gaining support across OEWG participants, not least because of a fellowship programme initiated by the governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, which is facilitating skills-building, mentoring, and participation of women in the OEWG meetings. Read more in our Cyber Peace & Security Monitor.

In addition, RCW’s programme manager has written two chapters in the recently published Routledge International Handbook on Cyber Security, which looks at why some states are more likely to engage in malicious cyber operations than others, and the absence of human rights considerations in certain multilateral cyber fora.

Campaigners to meet in Buenos Aires to stop killer robots 

More than 70 campaigners have already registered to attend the second global meeting of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots at Argentina’s Ministry of Science and Technology in Buenos Aires on 26-28 February. Campaigners will continue their work to convince states to launch negotiations now on a new treaty to preemptively ban fully autonomous weapons. Participants will be able to meet fellow campaigners from around the world, participate in public activities and workshops, and strengthen their campaigning skills. RCW will be there, as well as members from WILPF sections. If you want to join the fun, it’s not too late to register.

There is currently lots of  action on killer robots in South America! Brazil just hosted the Rio Symposium on autonomous weapons. The meeting was live streamed, and the agenda was structured around panels on human control, the need for a new treaty, and strategic/military dimensions. Members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots were also there, and participated in various panels.

The Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, which meets under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), will have its first meeting of this year in June. Various countries are now working to fill the time between then and now by convening their own meetings. Following Brazil’s conference, Germany has invited all CCW states and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots to meet in Berlin on 18-19 March, to discuss the necessary human control over the use of force and to develop a “normative framework” for addressing killer robots. Japan and Austria have also announced they will host future meetings on autonomous weapons issues, in December 2020 and February 2021, respectively.

RCW launched the very first database on gender and disarmament!

In late January, RCW launched the very first database on gender and disarmament. The new database allows users to explore relevant resources based on their references to distinctive gender aspects in disarmament. It hosts a wide range of resources such as reports, articles, books and book chapters, policy documents, podcasts, legislation, and UN documents. Each month, RCW will showcase one resource as “recommendation of the month”. This month, it is Ray Acheson’s ted talk on nuclear weapons and patriarchy, which she delivered in December 2018. Be sure to check in regularly to not miss out on RCW’s handpicked recommendations!
To ensure the Gender and Disarmament Database is growing and up to date with the latest resources, RCW invites you to share any resources that you believe are essential to making the database diverse and complete. Please send any suggestions to disarm(a)wilpf.org.

Upcoming events

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots global meeting
26–28 February 2020, Buenos Aires

Feminist alternatives: challenge militarism to save our planet
10 March, New York

Third open consultation for a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
23-24 and 26-27 March 2020, Geneva

ATT Working Group & CSP6 Preparatory Meetings
14–17 April 2020, Geneva

2020 NPT Review Conference
27 April–22 May 2020, New York 

Featured news

French president proposes central role of French nuclear weapons in European security policy

French president Emmanuel Macron called for a European dialogue about nuclear defence and deterrence. In an hour-long speech to L’École de guerre in Paris on 7 February, he invited other EU states to participate in exercises by France’s nuclear forces as part of Europe’s security policy. He dismissed calls for the global abolition of nuclear weapons as an ‘ethical debate’ that lacked ‘realism in the strategic context.’ Many antinuclear activists immediately expressed opposition to Macron’s proposal, including renowned atomic bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow, and the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

US deploys submarine-launched low-yield nuclear warhead

The US administration has deployed its controversial submarine-launched “low-yield” nuclear warhead, making it the first new weapon added to the US nuclear arsenal in decades. The US administration had called for the low-yield warhead as part of its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, arguing that it is necessary to deter Russia. Critics fear that the threshold for nuclear weapons use is lowered.

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds until midnight

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Clock closer than ever to Doomsday. The Board of the Atomic Scientists argues that “over the last two years, we have seen influential leaders denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats—international agreements with strong verification regimes—in favor of their own narrow interests and domestic political gain.” The Clock has become a universally recognised indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technologies in other domains.

US administration to reverse policy restriction on landmine use

The US administration will allow the US military to again use landmines in conflicts around the world. It has rescinded former US president Barack Obama’s 2014 directive to no longer “produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines,” as well as their use outside of a future conflict on the Korean Peninsula. The United States is not party to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines, and which has more than 160 states parties. 

UN Secretary-General reiterates call for a new treaty to ban killer robots

In a recent speech to the General Assembly on his priorities for 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warns that killer robots, or “lethal autonomous weapon systems” “are bringing us into unacceptable moral and political territory.” Since November 2018, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly expressed his desire for a new treaty to ban killer robots.

Launch of network of women experts in foreign and security policy 

The Center for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP), along with partners, has launched the WoX Network– a network of women experts in foreign and security policy. Experts can create a public profile indicating their expertise, and those looking for a women expert can find them via WoX and easily reach out to them. 

Call for research proposals on gender and disarmament

To mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325, Women in International Security Austria (WIIS), in cooperation with the International Institute for Peace (IIP) and the Austrian Institute for International Affairs (OIIP) are encouraging master and PhD students in the field of disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, feminism or gender in international peace and security to submit abstracts to present their current research, topic or idea at a conference on 2 April, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. Closing date for abstract submission is 28 February 2020. 

Call for applications–UN youth champions for disarmament

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) is looking for young persons (ages 18-24) motivated to use their talents to help raise awareness and promote change for a more peaceful and secure world. Ten youth champions will receive training in general principles of disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control through online courses and a two-week in-person study tour in Vienna, Geneva, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. The study tour will take place in June 2020. The application deadline is 18 March 2020. See here for more information.

Call for participation in survey about drones

A new research project, commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection in Germany, seeks to analyse the threats and misuse potentials of civilian drones. You can participate anonymously in the survey here

Join the gun free valentine campaign

The member organisation Gun Free South Africa (GSFA) of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) has launched the initiative “Gun Free Valentine Campaign” from 14 February–8 March. The Campaign seeks to alert women to the risks of a gun in the home, intimate partner violence, and how laws can be used to save lives. There are many actions individuals or organisations are encouraged to take, including meeting with legislators, push for the establishment, implementation, strengthening or funding of national action plans on UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and spread awareness on social media. More inspiration for action can be found here

Recommended reading

Matthew Bolton, “From Manhattan project to nuclear free: New York City’s policy and practice on nuclear weapons,” Pace University, December 2019

Robert Dodge, “The road to Armageddon–our two existential threats and the 2020 presidential race,” The Hill, 24 January 2020

“Routledge handbook of international cybersecurity,” Eneken Tikk and Mika Kerttunen (eds.), Routledge, 2020

Dan Diamond, “They did not realize we are human beings,” Politico, 26 January 2020

Fred Harter and Giles Whittell, “Kalashnikovs of tomorrow: Charting the terrifying rise of the autonomous drone,” Tortoise, 3 February 2020

Craig Greaves, “The Kiwis taking on war criminals, killer robots, overfishing and nuclear bombs,” New Zealand Listener, 4 February 2020

David E. Sanger, “Trump budget calls for new nuclear warheads and 2 types of missiles,” The New York Times, 10 February 2020

Rebecca Johnson, “Macron’s post-Brexit nuclear ambitions are destined to fail,” The Guardian, 10 February 2020 

Erin Hunt, “Killer robots, feminism...and a feminist foreign policy?”, Medium, 13 February 2020

“Countering 5 misconceptions about a political declaration on EWIPA,” Project Ploughshares, January 2020

“Briefing: Emerging technologies and nuclear weapon risks,” International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), January 2020