June 2018 E-News
Women mobilise for peace and denuclearisation in the Korean Peninsula
Women Cross DMZ, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, and the Women’s Peace Walk organised a global delegation of thirty women peace activists who traveled to South Korea for #WomenPeaceKorea: A New Era. WILPF was represented in the delegation by its International President Kozue Akibayashi, WILPF Columbia (LIMPAL) President Katherine Ronderos, and WILPF UK member Rebecca Johnson.
The aim of the movement is to push forward the commitments outlined in the Panmunjeom Declaration made by South and North Korea at their summit on 27 April, including a peace treaty to formally end the Korean war and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and to advocate for the inclusion of women in the peace process. #WomenPeaceKorea began on 24 May with a International Women’s Symposium and on 26 May they held the second demilitarised zone (DMZ) Peace Walk in Paju. The delegation issued the 2018 International Women Peace Walk Declaration detailing the actions they are calling for, which include a number of important disarmament measures, such as global nuclear disarmament, the removal of 1.2 million landmines and barbed wire in the demilitarised zone, and a reduction in military budgets and an end to the arms race.
The highly anticipated US-North Korea summit took place in Singapore on 12 June, resulting in a joint statement by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in which “the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” In order to facilitate this process, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which WILPF is a steering group member, presented at a press conference in Singapore its roadmap to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula. The roadmap outlined five steps: recognise the risk and humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons through a verifiable and irreversible plan, ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and rejoin the NPT. WILPF hopes that the recent diplomatic efforts around this issue will lead to a breakthrough in peace for the Korean peninsula, as well as global nuclear disarmament. (Photo credit: WILPF)
UNSG launches new disarmament agenda
On 24 May the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres launched Securing our Common Future - An Agenda for Disarmament. This new disarmament agenda has been published as a personal initiative of the Secretary-General in response to growing and changing threats to peace and security, and “a new reality [which] demands that disarmament and non-proliferation are put at the centre of the work of the United Nations”. Launched at an event at the University of Geneva, it has three priorities that correspond to weapons of mass destruction (“disarmament to save humanity”), conventional arms (“disarmament to save lives”, and emerging threats as a result of new technologies (“disarmament for future generations”). The agenda contains around 40 actions points for the Office of the Secretary-General or other UN disarmament agencies and departments to undertake; it was not intended to set out actions or obligations for UN member states.
The agenda has so far received mixed reactions from civil society. While it covers good ground and does well in explaining the current status of many arms-related problems, in some places it falls short in identifying or calling for ambitious action. For example, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons noted that the agenda welcomes and acknowledges positively the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—describing it as “an important component of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime” with “some of the highest available multilateral norms against nuclear weapons”—but does not call on states to sign or ratify the Treaty.
Similarly, there is generally a good framing of the specific challenges posed by autonomous weapons but only vague support encouraging states to pursue “legal measures” to ensure human control over the use of force, with no reference to a possible prohibition. There are only very scant references to landmines or cluster munitions, and none that reference either the Mine Ban Treaty or Convention on Cluster Munitions by name. A lengthier section on improvised explosive devices includes those that are victim activated but does not acknowledge that these are covered by the Mine Ban Treaty. The International Network on Explosive Weapons notes that the agenda outlines the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons—particularly those with wide-area effects—in populated areas, and reiterates his support for the development of an international political declaration. It missed the opportunity, however, to restate the call to action that is contained in Guterres’ recent protection of civilians report. The Control Arms Coalition is disappointed that the Arms Trade Treaty, “a global instrument that was negotiated within the UN, involving all UN Member States over a period of seven years, and adopted by the UN General Assembly on 03 April 2013” was not included.
The work of WILPF is acknowledged specifically in a section on “Ensuring the equal, full, and effective participation of women,” and there are several references throughout the document to the gendered impacts of weapons, gender-sensitive arms control, or women’s participation in disarmament including urging states to incorporate gender perspectives in their national legislation and policies on disarmament and arms control. However, the plan doesn’t mention that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has encouraged states to ensure women’s participation in nuclear disarmament or that the ATT is the first llegally-binding international instrument to meaningfully connect arms transfers to gender-based violence.
Overall, it is encouraging to see “humanitarian disarmament” used throughout the document’s introductory chapter, a term that has originated with civil society including many of the campaigns and organisations that WILPF engages with. Hopefully this framing will help advance the objectives of this plan and the broader disarmament agenda, moving states away from concepts of security that privilege national elites over the broader populations of our planet. (Photo credit: UN Photo/Cia Park)
WILPF rallies against war profiteers
Local ICAN campaigners in New York City, including Reaching Critical Will’s director, have organised an initiative to encourage the divestment of the city’s pension funds from nuclear weapon producers. Working with city council members and unions, this initiative is part of global Don’t Bank on the Bomb efforts to ensure divestment from nuclear weapons in accordance with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
This initiative also involves direct action. Several of the ICAN NYC contingent joined CODEPINK outside of the BlackRock office in New York where an annual shareholders meeting was taking place on 23 May. The activists called for divestment from the company which has been described by CODEPINK as “the world’s largest shadow bank,” with billions of US dollars invested in the world’s top weapons manufacturers. WILPF is part of a larger coalition of peace organisations carrying out the campaign Divest from the War Machine, which aims to persuade individual investors, financial institutions, and educational institutions to remove their investments in companies such as BlackRock that are profiting from “US military interventions, the global arms trade, and the militarisation of [US] streets.” The Divest from the War Machine coalition is demanding that elected officials in the US refuse to accept campaign contributions from the NRA and weapons manufacturers, because of the influence they have when members of Congress vote on issues related to military spending and war. (Photo credit: CODEPINK)
Progress continues towards entry into force of the nuclear weapon ban treaty
On 17 May, H.E. Mrs. Nguyen Phuong Nga, the Permanent Representative of Viet Nam to the United Nations, deposited the country’s instrument of ratification making Viet Nam the tenth country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The TPNW also gained a new signatory when the Dominican Republic signed it on 7 June, bringing the total number of signatories to fifty-nine. Another forty ratifications are needed for it to enter into force, and many countries have internal processes underway to prepare for ratification. On 3 June, the parliament of Vanuatu voted unanimously to ratify the TPNW, while on 6 June, Switzerland’s National Council, the lower house of parliament, voted in favour of a motion calling on the government to sign the treaty and submit it to parliament for ratification. The motion will be voted on in the second chamber of the Swiss parliament in the fall. Uruguay’s lower house of parliament also approved ratification recently and the step that remains is executive approval, and the Crown Counsel of Niue has started reviewing the Treaty, which will likely lead to a swift ratification. (Photo credit: VNA/VNS)
States call for political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
At the Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict on 22 May around a dozen states, as well as the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, ICRC’s Director-General Yves Daccord, and Iraqi civil society representative Hanaa Edwar, highlighted the grave risks to civilians posed by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and referenced the Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) finding that in 2017 a staggering “92 percent of those harmed by explosive weapons in populated areas were civilians.”
The Secretary-General supported the call that has been made by the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), of which WILPF is a Steering Committee member, and the governments of Austria, Ireland, Mexico, and Mozambique for the development of a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in order to prevent its humanitarian consequences.
This initiative was discussed further at a side event organised by INEW on 23 May, which drew attention to the often ignored long-term effects that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has when civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, and homes are destroyed. As Reaching Critical Will’s research has shown, the destruction of crucial infrastructure and displacement of civilians can have unique impacts on women, including an increased vulnerability to gender-based violence and lack of access to health care and assistance programmes. Another side event organised by the Permanent Mission of Austria drew attention to the need for civilian casualty recording and reporting, including age- and gender-disaggregated data, to better inform measures taken by the UN, civil society, and militaries to protect civilians in armed conflict. Recent events have illustrated the frequency with which civilians and civilian infrastructure are targeted. On 11 June, a clearly marked Doctors Without Borders (MSF) cholera treatment center in the town of Abs in Yemen was hit by a Saudi-coalition airstrike, rendering the centre unusable and prompting MSF to temporarily suspend its work in Abs. (Photo credit: Richard Moyes/INEW)
Calling for cyber peace
Reaching Critical Will’s programme manager participated in a day-long workshop on 24 May in Waterloo, Ontario that explored questions of war or peace in cyberspace. Her presentation described what international civil society working in arms control and development have contributed to this issue to date, and pushed back on the assumption that cyberspace need be a militarised domain, advocating instead for cyber peace. Elaborating what peace in cyberspace means will be the focus of a series of issue briefs to be published by Reaching Critical Will later this year. The workshop drew together representatives from civil society, computer technologists, private companies, academia, and the Canadian government. It was hosted by Project Ploughshares and The Simons Foundation and was followed by a public event at the Balsillie School.
Expectations for the small arms review conference
UN member states will meet to review the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) on small arms and light weapons, an instrument agreed in 2001 to address the challenges of illicit arms trafficking from 18-29 June. This will be the third review conference of the UNPoA and while it is not anticipated that any changes will be made to the instrument itself, the outcome document will likely reflect the following priority issues: synergies with other instruments, including the Arms Trade Treaty and the 2030 Agenda; gender; international assistance; new technologies; and ammunition. Ambassador Brunet of France will preside over the conference.
We are also supporting a civil society Call to Action on that identifies specific steps and actions for states to take in order to consistently apply a gendered approach to small arms control. Ray Acheson, RCW director, will speak to this further during a side event on 26 June organised by the Women’s Network of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). Katherine Ronderos of LIMPAL in Colombia, a WILPF partner, will share insights from the Colombian peace and disarmament experience during another side event on 25 June. The full calendar of events is available here.
IANSA is encouraging everyone attending the conference to wear orange as part of the Wear Orange campaign that began in the United States after a 15-year old high school girl lost her life to gun violence, and grows in strength and scale every year.
Champions of Change for gender equality
Reaching Critical Will’s Ray Acheson and Allison Pytlak were both honoured at the 2018 Champions of Change for Gender Equality Awards organised by USNC-UN Women, Metro NY Chapter for their contributions to women’s empowerment and gender equality. The Champions of Change campaign was introduced at the chapter’s 30th-anniversary celebration in October 2017 and honours 30 individuals who have made significant contributions to all aspects of women’s empowerment and gender equality in their professional and personal lives, including women’s economic and political empowerment, gender-based violence, peace and security, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Ray and Allison were selected for their work in advocating for gender diversity in disarmament forums and challenging militarism, and for being part of the historic nuclear ban campaign.
20-22 August 2018, University of Ghana, Accra
27-31 August 2018, Geneva
US service members guarding nuclear missiles took LSD
The Associated Press (AP) released new information based on US Air Force records they obtained regarding the fourteen airmen from F.E. Warren Air Force who were disciplined in March 2016 for taking the hallucinogen LSD when they were off duty. The airmen were in charge of guarding some of the most powerful nuclear missiles in the US arsenal. The AP had previously revealed problems in the Air Force in 2013-2014, including behavioural problems linked to alcohol abuse, and sexual assaults and domestic violence.
City of Toronto requests that Canada join the nuclear weapon ban treaty
Toronto’s City Council has reaffirmed Toronto as a nuclear-weapon free zone and requested “the Government of Canada to sign the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” The Canadian government did not attend the negotiations of the nuclear ban treaty and claims that being under the US nuclear umbrella is essential for its security. As the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) explains, the example set by Toronto illustrates that cities can put pressure on a national government when its policy on nuclear weapons does not have the support of its citizens.
European banks divest from nuclear weapon producers
The Belgian Bank KBC announced it will no longer invest in companies involved in the production or development of nuclear weapons, and its press release explicitly mentioned the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a guiding factor in this decision: “KBC is thereby following the line of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was endorsed by 122 countries on 7 June last year.” Deutsche Bank also announced that it will avoid doing business with companies directly linked to nuclear weapons, following persistent campaigning from ICAN Germany.
Under pressure from campaigners and employees Google will not renew military contract
Google announced that it will not renew its contract for the Pentagon-funded Project Maven after it expires in 2019, and published a new set of principles for its use of artificial intelligence. Project Maven uses artificial intelligence to analyse drone footage and concerns have been raised that the technology provided by Google could be used in drone strikes. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has been urging the tech company since March to support a call for a ban on fully autonomous weapons and to commit to never assisting in the creation of such weapon systems. Dozens of Google employees resigned in protest, more than 4,000 employees signed an internal letter demanding that the company does not develop “warfare technology” and ends its work for Project Maven, and more than 1,000 academics issued an open letter with the same demands.
Student activists hit the road after National Die-In Day
Following their successful March for Our Lives, the survivors of the Parkland school shooting of 14 February 2018 will embark on a 60-day, 20-state bus tour they have named “March For Our Lives: The Road to Change” in order to advocate for gun control and youth turnout at the US midterm elections taking place this fall. The student activists aim to vote out of office politicians with ties to the National Rifle Association. The tour will start on 15 June with a peace march in Chicago led by students from St. Sabina Academy. On 12 June, students organised a National Die-In Day during which they lay motionless on the US Capitol lawn and held a rally and voter registration, as well as at least twenty sister protests at state capitols across the US. This date marked the two-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, and the date was chosen by the organisers in order to draw attention to the impact of gun violence on the LGBTQ+ community and other minority groups.
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