November 2018 E-News

International efforts for peace and disarmament are akin to a roller-coaster these days. At one point we‘re riding high with an increased level of attention to gender perspectives on armed violence and disarmament; the next we‘re plunging into deep frustration over the defiant support for nuclear weapons by nuclear-armed states and some of their allies. We despair over nuclear-armed states stepping back from their own arms control agreements, and over heightened tensions amongst these states, demonstrated through accusations and denials in diplomatic fora. But we draw hope from the overwhelming support of the worlds’ countries to eliminate the deadliest weapon of mass destruction for once and for all, yet again illustrated with the adoption of a First Committee resolution on the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), supported by 122 states. We draw hope from 50 countries expressing concern with the humanitarian harm caused by the bombing of towns and cities and demanding action to prevent the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

changeWe live in constant tension between frustration and hope, desperation, and optimism. Reiterating Ray Acheson’s words:  “The willingness and tenacity to keep trying to create change despite the obstacles is where hope lies and where change is achieved. Giving into the powers is not an option, for it is only in giving up that we fail.“ It is in that spirit that we will leave this year’s First Committee behind and are ready to face what’s to come, aware that the humanitarian disarmament community is growing ever stronger, and that our vision for peace will never cease to drive our work and commitment. (Photo credit: Ray Acheson)

In this edition:

   Review of the 2018 First Committee 

The 73rd session of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security came to a close on 8 November after five weeks of contentious debate rarely seen with such intensity in this forum. Real world events have generated outright clashes between delegations, and more adverse statements, rights of reply, and voting patterns. Tensions were most pronounced over the United States’ (US) administration’s announcement of its intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, over attribution of the use of chemical weapons use in Syria and elsewhere, over growing belligerance about the use of force or placement of weapons in outer space, and over competing resolutions that sought to determine how the UN will take forward discussions on cyber space.

However, while some aspects of the First Committee were increasingly divisive, countries also showed they can coalesce around strong calls for humanitarian disarmament and gender equality.  The world’s overwhelming majority also once again expressed its support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) as 122 states voted in favour of a new resolution, co-sponsored by 70 states, that welcomes the adoption of the Treaty and calls upon all states to join it. Fifty states came together in an unprecedented joint statement to express their grave concern over the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Fifty-six states delivered an statement on the need to include gender perspectives in disarmament, and to examine how “underlying assumptions about how gender shapes [delegations’] own work and the dynamics of joint disarmament efforts.” This year, 17 resolutions have included gender perspectives, which is unprecedented. Six of those resolutions have included gender language for the first time ever, and three resolutions have made their language on gender stronger.

WILP Gender Graph 2 v3

Apart from monitoring work, the RCW team participated in several side events. RCW’s Director Ray Acheson spoke to the UN Secretary General’s Disarmament Agenda at an event organised by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs; Programme Manager Allison Pytlak spoke at events covering the role of conventional arms control in preventing conflicts and the Arms Trade Treaty’s role in preventing gender-based violence. WILPF Cameroon’s Sylvie Ndongmo spoke at an event on gender, development, and small arms control.  Ms. Ndongmo was in New York as part of a WILPF delegation attending events marking the 18th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Resolution 1325, which included women from Colombia, Cameroon, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria as organised by WILPF’s PeaceWomen programme.

Further coverage and analysis of these and all issues are available in the 2018 First Committee Monitor, which was published weekly by Reaching Critical Will. See also statements, resolutions, voting results, and more on the RCW website.

   As ATT approaches 100 states parties, states will focus on gender-based violence prevention

Just three years after entering into force, the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty is on the cusp of reaching 100 states parties. During the course of the First Committee, Suriname and Guinea-Bissau deposited their instruments of ratification, bringing the total to 99. It is anticipated that Lebanon will be the 100th country and deposit its ratification in late November. The Control Arms Coalition has been running a #SprintTo100 campaign to encourage reaching this landmark and will organize a global celebratory social media action when it happens.

WILPF and Reaching Critical Will played an active role throughout the ATT negotiations, by providing monitoring and analysis and also advocating for the inclusion of gender-based violence as a legally–binding criteria in the Treaty. We’re pleased at the announcement from Latvia, president of the Fifth Conference of States Parties, that the conference and its preparatory meetings will focus on this aspect of the Treaty as a special theme. WILPF has published guidance and case studies for ATT states parties to support their implementation of this particular aspect of the Treaty implementation, and we look forward to offering our ideas and support in the months ahead.

Unfortunately, the ATT has not prevented arms transfers from continuing to flow into contexts of conflict and extreme armed violence. Several states parties continue to supply arms to Saudi Arabia, as just one example, where they are used domestically in human rights abuses as well as to exacerbate the conflict in Yemen. The recent murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has sparked a new wave of activism to halt such arms transfers and have been successful in Germany. The United States and Canada (both of which are ATT signatories), seem intent to continue with business as usual despite public opinion polls to the contrary and other citizen activism.

     The Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace and Security to be released in December

Nov OxfordThe Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace, and Security, to which many WILPF women have contributed, will be released in December 2019. The book brings together scholars, advocates, and policymakers to provide an overview of effective avenues to promote women’s participation in peace and security, to protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence and other human rights violations, to prevent conflict drawing on women’s experiences and knowledge of building peace from local to global levels. Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General of WILPF, Joy Onyesoh, WILPF’s International President from WILPF Nigeria, Reaching Critical Will’s Director Ray Acheson, and Director of Programmes Maria Butler have contributed to various chapters of the book. Within the framework of Women, Peace and Security, they address issues as diverse as the Arms Trade Treaty, Transnational Feminist Networks, and Conflict Prevention.

   Upcoming: CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties and Meeting of States Parties of the Biological Weapons Convention

The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Meeting of High Contracting Parties will be held in Geneva from 21–23 November. States and civil society will discuss a variety of weapons that pose grave humanitarian threats including autonomous weapons, incendiary weapons, mines other than anti-personnel mines, and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. RCW will monitor the debate, collect statements, and provide an analytical report at the closing. Information is available on on our site. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, of which WILPF is a steering committee member, will also be present and continue to push for a mandate for the commencement of negotiations in 2019 for a legal instrument to prohibit fully autonomous weapon systems.

The Meeting of States Parties (MSP) to the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BWC) is scheduled to take place in Geneva from 4–7 December, despite concerns about the Convention’s finacial stability . It will follow a one-day forum on “Scientific Advances Important To The Biological And Toxin Weapons Convention,” organised by the John Hopkins Center for Health Security. At this MSP, states parties should take the opportunity to advance institutional strengthening of the Convention and enhance efforts to effectively address rapid developments in science and technology, which could potentially enable more capable and accessible biological weapons. As has become apparent during First Committee, these developments are taking place against a backdrop of increased polarisation among states, heightened militarisation, a more complex world order, and a weakening of the international taboo against other weapons of mass destruction. Upholding the norm against biological weapons is therefore more important than ever. (Photo credit: Campaign to Stop Killer Robots)

   Talking about the ban

ray berlin 1 Amidst First Committee, our Director Ray Acheson has been busy talking about the nuclear ban. She spoke at a Heinrich Böll foundation event in Berlin, “My nuclear button is bigger than yours- A feminist critique of the atomic bomb”. She also provided an article about this subject to the Foundation, and did a podcast interview with the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy (to be released soon). Ray also spoke at New York University about disarmament, militarism, and gender and in Princeton at Coalition for Peace Action‘s 39th Annual Conference on Peace.

Next up she’ll be in Toronto on 16 November to speak at an event called Politics of the Possible hosted by Science for Peace, and in Baltimore on 17 November at a conference hosted by Prevent Nuclear War Maryland.  In December, she’ll be in Geneva on the 6th to give a TEDx talk on nuclear weapons and feminism as part of the TEDx PlacedesNationsWomen event, and in London the 13th at the London School of Economics‘ Women and Weapons roundtable. All of these talks promote the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and speak to what people can do around the world to help achieve nuclear disarmament. They each offer a feminist analysis of the situation, arguing that nuclear weapons are part of the patriarchy, which needs to be challenged and dismantled at every turn so that we can together build a collective security that works for all! (Photo credit: Ray Acheson)

   Upcoming events

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 2018, Geneva

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
25 November–10 December 2018, Global

17th Meeting of States Parties to the AP Mine Ban Convention
26–30 November 2018, Geneva

Global Forum on Scientific Advances Important to the BWC
3 December 2018, Geneva

Meeting of the States Parties to the BWC
4–7 December 2018, Geneva

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

6 December 2018, Geneva

Women and Weapons
13 December 2018, London

  Featured news

UN Secretary General reiterates urgent call to ban “morally repugnant” killer robots

At the opening of the Paris Peace Forum on 11 November—the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I—the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, "Imagine the consequences of an autonomous system with the capacity to locate and attack, by itself, human beings. I call on heads of state to ban these weapons that are morally revolting." The UN Secretary-General first called for a ban on killer robots the ban earlier in Novmember at a Web Summit in Portugal, in which he stated “For me there is a message that is very clear—machines that have the power and the discretion to take human lives are politically unacceptable, are morally repugnant, and should be banned by international law.”

US government announces its intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

In late October, the US administration announced its intention to leave the INF Treaty, a bilateral arms control agreement with Russia dating from the Cold War that bans the deployment of nuclear weapons with a range of between 300 and 3400 miles. The US government argues that Russia has been violating the Treaty with the development and deployment of a new cruise missile. In its proclaimed attempt to preserve the Treaty, Russia submitted a draft resolution to the UN First Committee one week after the deadline, but a majority of states rejected the resolution to be further considered. Many states and civil society have expressed grave concern at this decision.

North Korea threatens to resume nuclear development in light of continued US sanctions

The Democratic People’s Republic (DPRK) released a statement on 2 November warning that it could revive to build its nuclear arsenal if the US does not lift sanctions, describing it to be “foolish” that the US believes its strategy of ‘sanctions and pressure’ would lead to denuclearisation.

The US administration reimposes new set of sanctions on Iran

The US reimposed its last set of sanctions on Iran on 5 November after having withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement with Iran earlier this year.  Temporary waivers will be granted to eight countries to allow them to continue importing Iranian oil however. Iran’s Foreign Minister signaled that it would be willing to discuss a new nuclear agreement if the US “changes its approach” in addressing the issue, adding that “mutual trust is a requirement.” Russia, China, and the European Union, amongst others, continue to support the JCPOA.

ICAN launches Cities Appeal as more cities stand up for the nuclear ban

CitiesInternational Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has launched launched the Cities Appeal, a campaign that engages cities as allies of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The Campaign was launched in front of dozens of mayors gathered at the World Forum on Urban Violence and Education for Coexistence and Peace in Madrid that took place from 5–8  November 2018. Supporter cities so far include Toronto, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Sydney, and Melbourne, while others such as Milan, Madrid, Barcelona, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki have expressed more general support and are expected to come on board the Appeal soon. (Image credit: ICAN)

Cluster Munition Coalition celebrates 15th anniversary

November marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). The Coalition helped to change the discourse on cluster munitions by bringing a humanitarian perspective to the issue, leading to the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munition (CCM) in 2008. There have been some considerable successes since—120 countries have signed or acceded to the CCM and no state party has used cluster munitions since the Convention was adopted. A total of 1.4 million cluster munitions and more than 177 million submunitions have been destroyed. But challenges remain. New casualties are still occurring, 289 in 2017 alone and civilians accounted for some 99 per cent of these, where status was recorded.

UN Human Rights Commission declares nuclear weapons incompatible with the right to life

On 30 October, the UN Human Rights Commission released General Comment No 36 on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to life. It states that the catastrophic impacts of nuclear weapons are “incompatible with the right to life and may amount to a crime under international law.” It calls on states to take all necessary measures to prevent proliferation and “to refrain from developing, producing, testing, acquiring, stockpiling, selling, transferring and using them, to destroy existing stockpiles, and to take adequate measures of protection against accidental use, all in accordance with their international obligations.” In this regard it cites the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons along with other relevant instruments.

US coalition responsible for majority of civilian casualties in Syria

Action on Armed Violence reports that in October 2018, the US-led coalition was responsible for 46% of civilian casualties from all explosive weapon use in Syria. All reported civilian casualties from airstrikes were perpetrated by the US-led coalition on ISIS-occupied areas in Deir Ezzor, particularly Hajin and Al Sousa.

British Army carries out massive test of military robots and drones

On 12 November a four-week test of over 70 examples of futuristic technology began in the United Kingdom (UK) that includes enhanced surveillance drones and unmanned vehicles on the fields. It is reportedly the largest such test of these types of weapons that the UK has ever conducted.

France launches new call for trust and cooperation in cyber space

As part of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), French President Emmanuel Macron launched the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace on 12 November. It is a high-level declaration on developing common principles for securing cyberspace. While it has already received the backing of 50 states, 90 civil society organisations and university, and 130 private corporations, the US, Russia, and China have not supported it. The Paris Digital Week includes three major events linked to digital technology, occurring alongside the commemorations to mark the centenary of the First World War Armistice and Paris Peace Forum.

New resources available: Tool to track implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and guides on the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons

Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) launched the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor 2018, the first report of a newly established watchdog for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) has published a
Quick Guide to provide an overview of key outcomes of the Third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). IANSA also released a Summary providing a thematic overview of the outcome of the Conference. 

   Recommended reading

Jessie Boylan, “This Is Not Nowhere,” LOTL, 14 September 2018

Ray Acheson, “A feminist critique of the atomic bomb,” Heinrich Böll Stiftung, 12 October 2018

Zia Mian, “The INF Treaty and the crises of arms control,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 24 October 2018

Cesar Jaramillo, “Should Canada cancel its arms deal with Saudi Arabia? Yes,” Toronto Star, 30 October 2018

Jonathan Hunt, “Why the arms race is still white hot decades after the Cold War ended - and how to stop it,” The Washington Post, 2 November 2018