July E-News

With all that has been happening in the world in the past few months, it feels like there is no time to sit down and reflect. But reflecting is actually where we should all start. This is why WILPF has launched the long-read series Thoughts for Change, with the first series of articles on abolition. RCW’s Ray Acheson focuses on harms caused by border imperialism, police brutality, incarceration, weapons and war, and more. The articles demonstrate how each of these rely on and help sustain the interconnected systems of militarism, capitalism, racism, and patriarchy.

But they also sketch out an alternative to these systems of oppression. The articles invite to envision, and to work for, a world “based in promiscuous care for each other instead of a world ordered by state violence through the tools of police, prisons, borders, and militaries. Through the investment in the well-being of people, animals, land, and water rather than the monsters of capitalism, colonialism, racism, and patriarchy.

The series will continue with more articles over the next few months, so stay tuned!

In this edition

Antinuclear community prepares for the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings

75 years ago, on 16 July 1945, the United States tested the first nuclear bomb in New Mexico, contaminating Indigenous lands and surrounding communities. Only a few weeks later, it dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August. Over the next decades, nine governments conducted more than 2000 nuclear tests, leaving a legacy of radioactive racism. 

This is 75 years too long to live under the threat of total destruction. Survivors and activists are saying “never again.” Now is the time to eliminate these weapons of genocide and invest the billions of freed-up dollars into the well-being of people and our shared planet. 

It is in this spirit that WILPF has called on its members, partners, colleagues, and friends to send in short videos, stating what they would rather do with all the money that is currently spent on nuclear weapons. The video compilation will be released as part of an action-packed campaign from WILPF between 6 and 9 August, so be sure to watch out for it!

There will be many commemorative events on 6 and 9 August held around the world. RCW’s Ray Acheson will speak at an online event hosted by the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons on 6 August alongside Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow and other Canadian antinuclear activists.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which WILPF is a steering group member, and its partners have multiple activities planned for the 75th anniversary. For example, Peace Boat is hosting a series of Hibakusha testimony sessions throughout July, with two remaining ones to take place on 23 and 31 July. ICAN Australia hosted a webinar with survivors of nuclear testing on 16 July, to mark the 75th anniversary of the first nuclear explosion, Trinity, which paved the way for the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Organizing Committee of the World Conference against A and H Bombs calls on everyone to join a global “Peace Wave” from 6-9 August. Check this page if you want to participate!

On 9 August, there will also be a special 24-hour screening of the inspiring feature-length documentary, The Vow From Hiroshima. The film and a brief commentary will be available for viewing worldwide for 24 hours beginning at midnight (New York time) on Nagasaki Day, 9 August. More details on how to access the film will be provided in the weeks to come on ICAN’s 75th anniversary website.

ICAN has made available materials for activists to organise an ICAN-branded exhibition for the occasion.

As we are preparing to commemorate the bombings, the disarmament community continues to grow and to rally ever-increasing support for nuclear abolition. So far, July has been good to us: There are now 40 ratifications of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), with only ten ratifications needed before the Treaty becomes international law! The latest addition to the nuclear ban family is Botswana, which deposited its instrument of ratification on 15 July. Fiji submitted its instrument of ratification shortly before that on 7 July during an online event celebrating the third anniversary of the Treaty’s adoption. (Photo credits: ICAN Germany, celebrating the TPNW’s third anniversary)

Campaign to ban killer robots keeps up momentum as UN talks are further postponed

On 3 July, after informal online consultations, the Chair of the 2020 Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on lethal autonomous weapons systems announced that due to the ongoing pandemic, the 10-14 August GGE meeting will not be held, even virtually. Instead, it is postponed until 2-6 November. The 21-25 September GGE meeting remains on schedule at this point, but could still be cancelled or postponed, subject to developments. The Chair has asked states to submit written commentaries on the eleven guiding principles. Next to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, six states have made submissions so far. 

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, of which WILPF is a steering group member, has expressed concern that 2020 will be another “lost year for diplomacy” toward a ban on killer robots The Campaign is urging states to urgently heed the call by the UN Secretary General, campaigners, tech workers, scientists, and recently also by the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation to ban killer robots now. 

To keep momentum going and raise awareness, the Campaign has recently organised three more Instagram Live sessions with Elizabeth Minor of Article 36, and  Peter Asaro and Thompson Chengeta of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC). The Campaign is also organising a session at RightsCon, which takes place from 27-31 July. (Photo credits: Campaign to Stop Killer Robots)

Arms Trade Treaty process risks losing momentum

The president of the Sixth Conference of States Parties (CSP6) to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) announced on 13 July a new format for the Conference in light of continued health risks and travel restrictions due to COVID-19. It will be held entirely in written format, in which stakeholders will have the “opportunity” to submit written statements, which will be published on the ATT Secretariat’s website. However, all decisions will be circulated only to states parties, and a silence procedure used to adopt decisions. Silence procedure, which is now being used for UN General Assembly decision-making processes, effectively enables any one state to veto a decision and reinforces the problematic interpretation of consensus as unanimity. This type of format risks losing momentum, and poses significant obstacles to transparency, accountability, and meaningful civil society participation. 

WILPF contributed to the CSP6 preparatory process earlier this year. In our contributions, we urged for continued equal, secure, and transparent access to all meetings for states and civil society, and called on states parties to implement the commitments on gender and gender-based violence, agreed upon at CSP5. The RCW team is currently exploring how it will participate and contribute to CSP6. Be the first to know by subscribing to our ATT Monitor newsletter!

New OHCHR report on arms transfers highlights need to address gendered root causes of violence

A new report on the impact of arms transfers on human rights from the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) considers the gendered impact of diverted and illicitly trafficked arms on the human rights of women and girls and calls for states to tackle these harms by addressing the “root causes of gender-based discrimination and violence.” The report is noteworthy as it is an important addition by the human rights community to the growing acknowledgement of the gender dimensions of armed violence and conflict. WILPF made a submission to the OHCHR towards the development of its report, and is pleased to see that many of our concerns and recommendations are reflected. We just published a blog, analysing key points of the report, and making recommendations for further research and action.

WILPF stresses disarmament and demilitarisation as part of #CanFFP campaign

WILPF has joined with several Canadian civil society organisations in a new Twitter campaign meant to generate dialogue about Canada’s forthcoming feminist foreign policy (FFP). The government has plans to move toward adopting a feminist foreign policy this year, which would build on its existing feminist international assistance policy. The objective of the Twitter campaign is to draw Canadians into a discussion about what they view as important priorities for the future policy to address, and what needs to change from current practice. This will inform and complement other activities that Canadian civil society is doing to shape the policy.

From 13-17 July, WILPF co-led the Twitter discussion with Mines Action Canada, which focused on issues of peace, security, and disarmament. Over the course of the week, Tweets and interactive discussion outlined the link between FFP and key issues like nuclear weapons and disarmament; Canada’s billion-dollar arms deal to Saudi Arabia; and the mandate given to the Canadian Foreign Minister to engage in international talks to ban killer robots. 

Coming weeks will explore other core foreign policy topics such as humanitarian response and international assistance; sexual and reproductive health and rights; human rights; trade and corporate accountability; the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, among others. Look for #CanFFP to join the discussion!

Online course looks at war and the environment

World Beyond War is currently hosting a six-week online course on war and the environment that looks at the impacts of armed conflict on the environment and how this is largely hidden from public view. RCW’s Ray Acheson will be facilitating one week of the course, focused on the environmental and humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. Among other things, this week of the course will look at the ways in which patriarchal and racialised systems of militarism, capitalism, and patriarchy intersect in nuclear weapon policies, past and present.

RCW Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month

The webinar “The flow of US guns and violence against women in Mexico and Central America,” hosted on 25 June 2020 by the Center for American Progress, is a deep-dive into the manifold gendered challenges related to arms proliferation. It’s a brilliant discussion amongst women experts from the region about changing trends and patterns of arms-related gender-based violence. Panelists also address obstacles to arms control, and offer, amongst others, in-depth national experiences of impacts of arms trafficking and challenges to sex and gender-disaggregated data collection and availability on arms-related violence.

Upcoming events

Webinar: Canada and autonomous weapons
21 July 2020, online

Hear the voices of the survivors: Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years on: with Takashi Morita
23 July, online

Hear the voices of the survivors: Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years on: with Lee Jongkeun
31 July, online

75 years since the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki–We remember
6 August, online

Global Peace Wave
6–9 August, global

Screening: The Vow from Hiroshima
9 August, online

Remembering the atomic bombs: History, memory, and politics in Australia, Japan and the Pacific
11 August 2020, online

ATT Sixth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty
17-21 August, online

Featured news

172 states express support for the UN Secretary-General’s global ceasefire appeal

On 6 July, the co-initiators of a statement supporting the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire met with him to officially hand over the statement, which was endorsed by 172 states. The seven co-initiators are Bangladesh, Ecuador, Egypt, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Oman, Senegal, Slovenia, and Sweden. They reiterated their continued support for the appeal and welcomed the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2531 on COVID-19 and the global ceasefire on 1 July 2020.

Over 120 organisations call for humanitarian disarmament as a model for an improved post-pandemic world 

An open letter on COVID-19 and Humanitarian Disarmament, signed by over 120 civil society organisations including WILPF, calls for a “new normal” that goes beyond the field of public health to deal with other matters of ongoing international concern, including the humanitarian consequences of arms and armed conflict as well as peace and security more broadly. The letter was launched 2 July 2020, during an event at the margins of the Intersessional Meetings of the Mine Ban Treaty.

China to become 107th state party to the Arms Trade Treaty

On 6 July 2020, the People’s Republic of China deposited its instrument of accession to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). It will become the 107th state party on 4 October 2020, 90 days after ratification. In his statement following the accession ceremony, Ambassador ZhangJun, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations noted that his government “supports the purpose and goals of the Treaty, agrees on taking necessary measures to regulate international arms trade and combat illicit arms transfers.”

UK government allows new arms sales to Saudi Arabia

On 7 July, the UK government announced that it will resume the granting of new licences for arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the coalition that is bombing Yemen. In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi forces for use in Yemen without making an assessment as to whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of international law. Just a few days later, the Ministry of Defence revealed that it registered more than 500 Saudi air raids in Yemen, in possible breach of international law. The UK-based NGO Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said it is considering further legal steps.

Ethical review committee recommends second largest pension fund to add killer robots to its list of proscribed weapons

The ethical committee of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, the world’s second largest pension fund, recommended significant policy improvements in relation to  lethal autonomous weapons, or killer robots. The committee’s recognition of killer robots as “problematic as a matter of principle” is groundbreaking. It also recommends stronger restrictions on investing in companies involved in the production of nuclear weapons and the international arms trade. 

UN expert says that the US killing of Iranian general Soleimani is ”unlawful”

The new report from the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions calls the January 2020 US drone strike, that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and nine other people, a violation of international law. The report calls for accountability for targeted killings by armed drones and for greater regulation of the weapons. It says the drone strike violated the UN Charter. The US rejected the report, calling the UN expert’s conclusions “spurious,” and continues to defend the operation. 

Call for applications for the 2020 GCSP Prize for Innovation in Global Security

The Geneva Centre For Security Policy (GCSP) and its Geopolitics and Global Futures Programme is accepting applications for the 2020 GCSP Prize for Innovation in Global Security. The winners will be selected based on applicants’ dedication to sustainable global security, preservation of human dignity, security and justice, and creativity and originality. The prize for the application coming in first position is CHF 10’000 and a certificate of excellence. The two other finalist applications will receive a certificate of recognition.

Launch of Uranium Atlas maps legacy of nuclear power and nuclear weapons

On 16 July, the first global Uranium Atlas was launched at an online event, hosted by the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation. The Atlas maps out uranium—where it is, what it has been (mis)used for, who has suffered as a result, and the history and legacy that nuclear power and nuclear weapons have caused.

Recommended reading

Atomic bomb spotlight, various articles, The Mainichi

Podcast series: At the brink: A podcast about humanity’s most terrible weapon, and the stories of those who have shaped its history 

Various authors, The nuclear age at 75 years, Arms Control Today, Volume 50, Number 6, July/August 2020

Jean-Marie Collin and Patrice Bouvert, The waste from French nuclear tests in Algeria: Radioactivity under the sand. Analysis with regard to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Heinrich Böll Foundation, July 2020

Updated factsheet: Nuclear power and the nuclear fuel chain, Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, July 2020

Ray Acheson, Dismantling prisons, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, July 2020

Ray Acheson, Disbanding police, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, July 2020

Ray Acheson, Deconstructing borders, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, July 2020

Baskut Tuncak, Nuclear testing’s discriminatory legacy must never be forgotten, United Nations Office for the Commissioner of Human Rights, 16 July 2020

Eli Clifton, Pay for play? Heritage’s cozy ties with foreign weapons maker raises concerns, The American Conservative, 14 July 2020

Michael Kwet, The Microsoft police state: mass surveillance, facial recognition, and the azure cloud, The Intercept, 14 July 2020

Jennifer Dathan, Blast injury: the reverberating health consequences from the use of explosive weapons, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), 10 July 2020

Vanessa Griffen and Talei Luscia Mangioni, ‘Will to fight together’: Fiji has taken another bold step in the battle against nuclear weapons, The Guardian, 8 July 2020

Peter Newell and Andrew Simms, Fossil fuel disarmament, Le Monde diplomatique, 7 July 2020

Jennifer, Dathan, The broken land: The environmental consequences of explosive weapons use, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), 3 July 2020

Video: Alex Gatopoulps, Project force: Could the world survive a nuclear winter? AlJazeera, 2 July 2020

María Pía Devoto and Alejandra Otamendi, Battling the true enemy: A comparative analysis of government spending on health and military in the context of a health crisis, Sehlac, 1 July 2020

Matthew Breay Bolton and Jean Tekura Mason, As Trump mulls new US nuclear tests, we can learn from a “small” country’s resistance to the bomb, Just Security, 25 June 2020

Video: Hyun Lee, Why are tensions high between North Korea and South Korea? Women Cross DMZ, 12 June 2020

Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis and Stephen Miles, Dismantle the war economy, openDemocracy, 19 June 2020

Bela Kapur, What Donald Trump can learn about feminist leadership from women peacebuilders, London School of Economics (LSE), 12 June 2020

James E Muller and David G Nathan, COVID-19, nuclear war, and global warming: lessons for our vulnerable world, The Lancet, 12 June 2020

Ray Acheson, What we mean when we talk about abolition, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, June 2020

Wim Zwijnenburg and Yifang Shi, “A river of death”: How oil pollution is impacting health and livelihoods in conflict-affected north east Syria, PAX, June 2020