October 2018 E-News

About this same time last year, the US President threatened nuclear war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Since then, progress has been made particularly between North and South Korea to reach understandings and agreements leading to peace, demilitarisation, and denuclearisation. Much work remains to be done. But as we have shown, hard work achieves great things. Also around this time one year ago, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won the Nobel Peace Prize and the Treaty on the Prohibition for Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) opened for signature. The TPNW has now 69 BNB Paribassignatures and 19 states parties, setting a record pace for ratification of a WMD-related treaty. More states joined during the high-level segment of the 2018 UN General Assembly. But, as the president of Bolivia noted that week, “many leaders, above all those that possess most of the weapons in the world, come to this Forum to talk to us about peace.” As long as militarism is prioritised over peace, these words will remain empty rhetoric.

For the disarmament community, October is a great opportunity to collectively and persistently challenge the narrative by powerful war profiteers. The First Committee on Disarmament and International Security  is upon us, and we are working hard to change the message of violence to one of peace, and of unilateral aggression to multilateralism, dialogue, and cooperation.
(Photo credit: PAX)

In this edition:

 Nuclear ban—Celebrating each step towards a nuclear weapon free world

On 26 September, the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a high-level ceremony for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (PNW) welcomed seven new signatories and four countries ratifying the Treaty. Reaching Critical Will’s Director Ray Acheson delivered ICAN’s statement at the United Nations event commemorating the International Day in New York, and ICAN Ray 26 Septcampaigners all over the world hit the streets to demand that BNP Paribas, the French bank that invests $8 billion USD in nuclear weapons, to stop banking on the bomb. Days like these show the world that we can and will endnuclear weapons! Just one day later, Saint Lucia and Angola joined in signing the Treaty, setting a record pace for ratification when compared to other weapons of mass destruction treaties.

Earlier in September in Toronto, World Beyond War convened a conference called No War 2018. It brought together activists from across Canada and the United States to strategise for the abolition of war. Ray Acheson gave a talk about the TPNW and ICAN's work to achieve it. She also spoke at the Women Shaping Peace brunch with Medea Benjamin and Setsuko Thurlow, hosted by the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. Both were a great opportunity to organise with Canadian activists to work to get Canada to join the nuclear ban.

Over in Scotland, WILPF members, together with Scottish CND, Scottland Allisonorganised the Nae Nukes rally on 22 September in which hundreds of people participated in a peaceful demonstration at the gates of the military base at Faslane—which is where the UK keeps its nuclear submarines. The rally was part of an entire weekend of action and events, attended by many ICAN and WILPF UK members, including the launch of a new report about Scottish investments in nuclear weapons, theatrical performances, and a meeting with Scottish parliament. Reaching Critical Will was represented by its Programme Manager, Allison Pytlak, who participated in a Common Space podcast while there and a public event about feminism and nuclear weapons, alongside other women activists from Israel, Russia, the US, and the UK. Janet Fenton of WILPF Scotland, who helped organise the events, published a blog reflecting on their impact. 
(Photo credit: Soo-hyun Kim, Taniel Yusef, WILPF UK)

 UN General Assembly 2018's high-level general debate

The United Nations’ 73rd year is only the fourth time that a woman, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés from Ecuador, has presided over the General Assembly. Her vocal commitment to gender equality—as well as to nuclear disarmament and other crucial issues—is an important step to ensure women’s equal representation within the UN and beyond. This year’s high-level general debate once again accentuated the divide between the tiny minority of powerful war profiteers and the great majority of states that believe in multilateralism—“the battle with ideas and arguments rather than with weapons,” as described by Belgium. As it does every year, WILPF tracked governments’ references to disarmament issues during the high-level debate. The full Index is available here.

 First Committee underwayScreen Shot 2018 10 08 at 13.12.39

The UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security is meeting from 8 October to 9 November in New York. With contributions from a number of civil society organisations and experts, Reaching Critical Will is providing coverage through its weekly First Committee Monitor, as well as posting statements and resolutions online. RCW published a First Committee briefing book that gave an issue-by-issue preview.

A particular initiative this year is to improve the gender-sensitivity of First Committee resolutions. Their overall lack of gender perspective has been a long-standing weakness that does not reflect the reality of the differentiated impacts of many weapons on women, men, and others, but does unfortunately reflect the fact that women’s participation in disarmament and arms control is not equal. WILPF continues to work to ensure effective gender diversity in disarmament and peace. Coinciding with the First Committee is an event marking the 18th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325, for which WILPF is bringing a diverse delegation of women from Colombia, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen.

 Upcoming events

UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security
8 October—8 November 2018, New York

Humanitarian Disarmament Forum 
13—14 October 2018, New York

Paris Peace Forum
11—13 November 2018, Paris

First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases
16—18 November 2018, Dublin

12th Conference of CCW Protocol V
19 November 2018, Geneva

20th Annual Conference of CCW AP II
20 November 2018, Geneva

CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties
21—23 November, Geneva

17th Meeting of States Parties to the AP Mine Ban Convention
26—23 November 2018, Geneva

Meeting of the States Parties to the BWC
4—7 December 2019, Geneva

Regional meeting on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
5—6 December, Santiago

TEDxPlacedesNationsWomen- “Empower” with Ray Acheson and others
6 December, Geneva

 Featured news

Shrapnel found in Yemen ties US bombs to string of civilian deaths over course of bloody civil war

Along with the recent news evolving in the US about licencing and transferring weapons to the Saudi/UAE-led Coalition, during the last month, Mwatana Organization for Human Rights worked on a statement that highlights the involvement of US weapons in 19 unlawful airstrikes in which civilians and civilian objects were harmed. The statement also includes results of reports by Mwatana-commissioned experts who analysed the remnants of the weapons. CNN is going to cover this work exclusively for two days. You can also see the exclusive report and the interactive interface here.  

After committing to stop arms sales to parties involved in the Yemen conflict, Germany approves new arms licences to Saudi Arabia

Germany approved new licences for weapons to be sold to Saudi Arabia. The government signed off on the transfer of four artillery positioning systems. Germany approved these arms sales after it had committed in its coalition agreement not to approve arms sales to parties involved in the Yemen conflict. It also approved arms sales to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. WILPF has exposed the impact of Germany’s arms transfers on women in recipient countries, and the impact of German arms exports on economic, social and cultural rights in third countries.

Newly-elected governor pledges to resist the construction of a new US military base in Okinawa, Japan

Denny Tamaki has won the election for governor of the strategic Japanese island of Okinawa. Tamaki has promised to resist the joint US-Japanese plan to install the US Marines’ Futenma Air station from an urban area to a rural region of the island. The island hosts about 28,000 troops, more than half of the nearly 50,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan, despite accounting for less than one per cent of Japan’s total land area.

Relations between Iran and the US continue to deteriorate, threatening nuclear deal

The International United Nations Court of Justice ordered the US to ease some sanctions, including those related to the safety of civilian aviation and humanitarian goods against Iran, after the US’ decision in May to quit the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. In response, the US announced that it would terminate a decades-old treaty with Iran affirming friendly relations between the two countries. European states have reaffirmed their commitment to the JCPOA. The EU announced a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to to facilitate trade with Iran that could be in place before November. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani praised Europe for taking this “big step” toward maintaining business with Iran.

The Koreas have started implementing commitments towards a denuclearisation of the peninsula

At the third inter-Korean summit in September, the leaders of the two Koreas made declarations that Pyongang was on its way to denuclearisation. This was the first time after eleven years that a South Korean leader has travelled to the North Korean capital. The so-called September Declaration included commitments of varying degrees of denuclearisation, including a pledge to shut down a missile launch pad and to allow international inspectors to the site. Troops have also started clearing the more than 800,000 landmines buried along their shared border. The clearing has started in the severely fortified Joint Security Area in the South, where all landmines are to be removed within three weeks. This will be followed by the removal of guard posts and weapons.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also visited North Korea in early October, after which Kim Jong-un promised to let foreign inspectors visit the country's key nuclear test site in Punggye-ri as soon as logistics-related details are worked out. Pompeo further indicated that he had discussions on the issue of verifying the planned dismantlement of the North's long-range rocket test facilities near the border with China.

2018 Nobel Peace Prize: Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad are awarded for their fight against sexual violence

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. The physician Denis Mukwege has spent large parts of his life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticised governments for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war. Nadia Murad is herself a victim of war crimes. She is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq and one of an estimated 3,000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the IS army. The abuses were systematic, and part of a military strategy. Following her escape, she chose to speak openly about what she had suffered. In 2016, at the age of just 23, she was named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking and has since fought to bring Islamic State to justice. Nadia Murad released a statement on winning the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

US Department of Defense releases new cyber strategy

The US’ 2018 cyber strategy outlines how the Department of Defense (DoD) plans on implementing the country’s national security and defense strategies in cyber space, focussing on the competition with China and Russia, as well as North Korea and Iran. It also states that it will use the Pentagon’s cyber capabilities, collect intelligence and prepare for future conflicts. The DoD’s strategy follows other new measures in cyberspace from the department. These include the elevation of US Cyber Command to a full unified combatant command—which affords new and exquisite authorities—the full staffing of Cyber Command’s cyber teams, an update to DoD’s cyber doctrine and new authorities delegating certain responsibilities from the president to DoD to conduct cyber operations abroad.

US report finds mission-critical cyber vulnerabilities in almost all US weapon systems under development

In a new report, testers from the Department of Defense (DOD) were able to take control of weapon systems relatively easily and operate largely undetected. The report, released by the US Government Accountability Office (GOA) and drawing on nearly 30 years of published research, points out that the DOD failed to make serious efforts in the past to safeguard the vast patchwork of software that controls planes, ships, missiles, and other advanced ordnance against hackers.

The Implementation Plan of the UN Secretary General’s Disarmament Agenda is now online

The implementation plan details how various entities in and beyond the United Nations system will carry out each of the 40 actions contained in the UN Secretary General’s Disarmament Agenda “Securing Our Common Future”. Each action has its own page showing a summary of that action’s main objectives, a description of specific steps and activities being carried out, and other relevant information. The implementation plan website is a dynamic platform for monitoring and tracking the current status of various steps and activities.

 Recommended reading

Shadow report from Sweden about the implications for joining the TPNW, IPPNW Sweden and WILPF Sweden, September 2018

Feminist Peace Movement in Africa - Forum Report, WILPF, September Report Cover Africa Feminist Peace Movement2018

Roger Kimmel Smith, “Randy Forsberg and the Quest for Peace on Earth,” The Progressive, 21 September 2018

Christine Ahn, “To Secure Peace Between the Koreas, US Must Declare an End to the War,” Truthout, 24 September 2018

Beatrice Fihn, “Canada’s feminist foreign policy cannot include nuclear weapons,” The Globe and Mail, 28 September 2018

Ray Acheson, “To Preserve Our Humanity, We Must Ban Killer Robots,” The Nation, 1 October 2018

Addressing Humanitarian and Environmental Harm from Nuclear Weapons - Fallout on Countries Downwind from French Pacific Nuclear Weapons Testing,” Pace University and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, September 2018

Sneha Khale, “Felicity Ruby on STEM, Edward Snowden, and Threats in the Digital Age,” Women Love Tech, 8 October 2018