February E-News

As 2021 unfolds, presenting new challenges and new opportunities, WILPF invites you to reflect on the extraordinary events of 2020 – and to celebrate the power and progress of the global movement for feminist peace. We just launched WILPF’s interactive 2020 report, Stories of Feminist Peace 2020, which highlights the incredible resilience, courage, and determination of WILPF’s global community.

The report includes a look at WILPF’s contributions to the 50th ratification of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2020, leading to its entry into force on 22 January 2021 – a major milestone for the global peace movement achieved following decades of antinuclear activism. And it offers a call to action: Keep going. Our work is far from over. 

In this edition

Antinuclear campaigners all over the world celebrate the entry into force of the nuclear ban treaty!

On 22 January, the antinuclear community celebrated a major milestone: the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Nuclear weapons are now unlawful to possess, develop, deploy, test, use, or threaten to use for the states that have ratified the Treaty, which will also have a normative impact on those who have not yet joined. 

WILPF hosted celebratory and education events around the entry into force of the Treaty, amplifying the great work of fellow activists and organisations, and sharing ways each one of us can advance our continued struggle for a nuclear-free world. Activities from the International Secretariat included a live Q&A with RCW’s director Ray Acheson over at WILPF’s Instagram, a blog, talks and webinars, and many other actions. 

WILPFers all over the world joined the celebrations, from the United States, to Spain, from the United Kingdom to Canada or Australia. There’s simply too much that happened to recount it all here. To catch up on all the action, search for #NuclearBan on WILPF’s and RCW’s Twitter!

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which WILPF is a steering group member, also had lots activities planned for the big day, including a live stream show “Studio 21.22”. As well, ICAN partners mobilised over 90 events worldwide to celebrate this wonderful day. 

However, the TPNW’s entry into force does not mean the end of our struggle to rid the world of nuclear weapons. And we’re not taking a break to work for nuclear abolition! 

New states are joining the Treaty as ratifying parties, such as most recently Cambodia, making it 52 ratifications in total. Big cities all over the world continue to join the ICAN Cities Appeal, from San Francisco in the United States to the City of West Torrens and Mount Isa in Australia. For the latter achievement, members of the Brisbane branch of WILPF travelled hundreds of kilometres to visit mayors and councillors in remote Queensland and spread the message of the Cities Appeal and the Treaty. 

ICAN also just released a new booklet explaining how the TPNW works and is meant to educate the media, parliamentarians and the general public about this major new piece of international law.
(Picture credits: Dyane Brown, WILPF Canada; WILPF UK)

Process on explosive weapons use is set to restart

The intergovernmental process to develop a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is set to restart after COVID-19 related delays. The government of Ireland initiated the process in 2019, and while consultations were held in early 2020, subsequent talks had to be put on hold due to the pandemic. In January 2021, Ireland released a revised draft declaration, for which it will hold consultations online from 3-5 March 2021.

WILPF welcomes the revised draft and the restart of the process. Next to the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW)’s submission, of which Reaching Critical Will is a steering group member, RCW has also provided comments on the revised draft, including in relation to its core commitment, which WILPF believes should be to stop or end the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.

We will participate and provide documents and information from the consultations in March. For WILPF's other resources on explosive weapons, see our research and advocacy page with related publications and information.

WILPF urges demilitarisation in the context of Canadian feminist foreign policy

The government of Canada will formally outline its feminist foreign policy in March 2021, and WILPF staff and sections have been actively contributing to its development over the last several months.

Throughout November and December 2020, RCW’s programme manager collaborated with Canadian organisations to organise an online series of public webinars and expert roundtables on key aspects of foreign policy. In January, the organisations released a report summarising what was heard during those online consultations, which has also been shared with the Canadian government. The organisations also released a second publication containing the views and perspectives of the individuals that had been involved in the process, and calling on the government to “be brave, be bold” as it finalises the policy. RCW’s programme director participated in the roundtable focused on peace and security issues and submitted a written submission for consideration by the government. WILPF Canada also contributed a written submission.

A resounding message from all WILPF inputs is that demilitarisation is a core principle of any feminist foreign policy. In particular, steps toward disarmament such as joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, reducing military expenditure, stopping arms transfers, and leading efforts toward a ban on autonomous weapons, were recommended as vital steps for the Canadian government to take as a truly feminist foreign policy. 

To learn more about these actions, visit this information page or follow on Twitter by searching #CanFFP.  

International arms trade: First round of meetings the Arms Trade Treaty postponed but work continues

The first round of preparatory meetings, originally scheduled from 16–19 February, of the Seventh Conference of States Parties (CSP7) to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is postponed until further notice due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  

However, this year’s president is currently exploring options for alternative meeting modalities for which he’s invited both states parties and civil society to contribute their views. At this stage, it’s likely that this will include at least one virtual intersessional round of meetings. 

In our submission, WILPF calls on ATT states parties not to proceed with a ‘business as usual’ approach, and that the current crisis triggered by the pandemic has exposed the fault lines of our global economic and social systems. WILPF therefore stressed that the work of the ATT should not continue as if the current crisis didn’t exist, and to finally address on-going arms transfers in violation of the Treaty and that exacerbate the current crisis.

We also offered our views on alternative meeting modalities, based on the findings of WILPF’s report Locked out during lockdown: an analysis of the UN system during COVID-19, that tracked the impact of the COVID-19-related changes in process and procedure at the United Nations.

We hope CSP7 will find transparent, inclusive, and accessible meeting modalities, and we’ll be reporting back on any new developments!

WILPF Sections also continue to challenge the arms industry in their own countries. WILPF Italy for example is campaigning for the re-conversion of a weapons factory in Sardinia, following the news of Italy revoking arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.   

Killer robots: UN meetings for 2021 yet to be confirmed but the movement doesn’t stop!

After the CCW Meeting of High Contracting Parties was cancelled in November 2020, dates have not yet been set for the next round of Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) discussions on autonomous weapon systems.

In September last year, RCW participated in the only UN meeting on killer robots in 2020 but the second round of the GGE on LAWS, scheduled for early November, and the annual Meeting of High Contracting Parties (HCP) had to be postponed until further notice due to COVID-19. To catch up on this process, and learn what’s at stake, read our analysis of the last meeting in our CCW Report.

While COVID-19 has crippled the UN process, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots won’t let this get in its way! The Campaign will have its annual campaigners’ meeting 24 March, with more information and registration details to follow, so stay tuned! The Campaign also continues to co-host important series of webinars on the issue of race and intersectionality, as part of a learning process the humanitarian disarmament community has embarked on since the 2020 Humanitarian Disarmament Forum.

New publications

Korea Peace Now!—a global coalition of women’s peace organisations, including WILPF—has published a new report Path to peace: The case for a peace agreement to end the Korean war. The report explores how a peace-first approach can resolve the security crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Written by an international group of experts, including WILPF International staff, the report makes the case that a peace agreement would lower tensions and make room for progress on issues such as improved human rights and denuclearisation. It also argues for women’s inclusion in the peace process. The report has received wide media attention, including from Newsweek, The Nation, and Fair

Ahead of the Defence Ministers meeting of the intergovernmental military alliance North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), NATO Watch, a not-for-profit, independent information service, has released a report providing peace perspectives on plans for a new Strategic Doctrine. Among others, RCW’s Ray Acheson has contributed a chapter about NATO's patriarchal militarism and nuclear policy history. 

Last but not least, Programming action: Observations from the small arms experience leverages RCW’s knowledge and experience with the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons (SALW), and offers an in-depth analysis if the format of a Programme of Action (PoA) could also work in addressing challenges in cyberspace, including action for a possible cyber instrument.

Gender and Disarmament database: Recommendation of the month
IANSA’s 2020 campaign theme for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based VIolence (GBV) was "Ceasefire Now! Stop gun violence in our homes, on our streets, and on the battlefields". This built on the appeal for a ceasefire to stop armed violence in conflicts and within the home made by the United Nation’s Secretary-General in 2020. The
report offers an overview of a range of activities, including community events, online competitions, workshops, social media campaigns and marches to raise awareness of arms-related GBV. 


Upcoming events


International Feminist Journal of Politics roundtable on Feminists Connecting to Ban the Bomb 
17 February 2021, online

Feminist Leadership in Disarmament webinar
17 February 2021, online

For Peace in Korea, No More War Drills
18 February 2021, online

A virtual discussion on Canada’s growing role in the international trade and transfer of conventional weapons
22 February 2021, online

Getting intersectional: equity in decision making
24 February 2021, online

Voices of women: on guns, violence and activism
25 February 2021, online

Disarmament–Feminist perspectives on peace policies and security
6 March 2021, online

International Women’s Day
8 March 2021, global

Virtual Book Launch for Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy
22 March 2021, online


Informal consultation for non-governmental stakeholders on the zero draft of the cyber OEWG final report
25 February 2021, online

Consultations on the draft declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
3–5 March 2021, online

Third substantive session of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on ICTs
8–12 March 2021, online

Featured news

Capitol riot: Military officials unaware of potential danger to Pence’s “nuclear football”

Military officials overseeing the authorization process to launch nuclear weapons were unaware on January 6 that then-Vice President Mike Pence's military aide carrying the "nuclear football" was potentially in danger as rioters got close during the violent Capitol insurrection, according to a defense official. The "football" contains the equipment to carry out orders to launch a nuclear strike. It must be ready at all times. US Strategic Command became aware of the gravity of the incident after seeing a video played at the Senate impeachment trial Wednesday showing Pence, his Secret Service agents, and a military officer carrying the briefcase with classified nuclear launch information running down a flight of stairs inside the Capitol to get to safety.

US and Russia confirm extension of New START treaty

The Russian and US leaders are working to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for another five years, which was due to expire 5 February 2021. The agreement limits the US and Russia’s deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550 each. It was signed in 2010, entered force on 5 February 2011, and was set to expire on its 10th anniversary.

Canada approves $36.16 million dollar contract for drone technology from Israel’s largest weapons company

Canada’s Transportation Ministry recently approved a $36.16 million dollar contract for drone technology from Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons company. The money will purchase a “civilian” version of Elbit’s lethal military drone, the same one which was used to kill civilians during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014. There has been an outcry amongst Canadian civil society, calling on the Canadian government to cancel the contract. 

United Kingdom approves military exports to 80 per cent of countries on own restricted list

The UK approved exports of military goods to 80% of the countries on its own embargoed, sanctioned or trade restricted list in just over five years, according to analysis by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). Of the 73 destinations that the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) lists as “subject to arms embargo, trade sanctions and other trade restrictions, 58 have had approval to receive goods that fall under ‘military use exports’ between January 2015 and June 2020. 

New US administration freezes weapons sales fuelling war in Yemen but loopholes persist

The new US administration is temporarily freezing weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, pledging to review a set of controversial arms deals the former US president struck with the ally. However, despite the pause, many transactions are likely to ultimately go forward, and the US Secretary of State affirmed that the US will continue to help Saudi Arabia against Houthi attacks. 

Protesters urge Canada to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia amid ongoing crisis in Yemen

Activists in the Canadian province of Ontario have staged a protest at the site of a transport company they say is involved in transporting Canadian-made, light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia. Approximately 30 demonstrators blocked Paddock Transport International trucks in Hamilton, a city about 70km west of Toronto, as part of a global day of action against the ongoing war in Yemen. The Canadian government had lifted a freeze of approvals of new arms exports to Saudi Arabia in April 2020.

Poll: Opposition to killer robots remains strong

A new survey in 28 countries finds that more than three in five people oppose using autonomous weapons systems, commonly called “killer robots.” 62% of respondents said they oppose the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems, while 21% support such use and 17% said they were not sure. The survey, conducted in December 2020 by the market research company Ipsos and commissioned by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, indicates that even with COVID-19 and economic uncertainty dominating headlines in 2020, public awareness of and sentiment against the development of killer robots remains steady and strong.

2021 Doomsday Clock stuck at 100 seconds to midnight– a “historic wake-up call”

Scientists announced that the 2021 Doomsday clock — a visual depiction of perceived threats facing the planet — is holding at a record-close 100 seconds to midnight. In 2020, the hands of the clock moved from two minutes to midnight to 100 seconds — the closest it's ever been to symbolic doom. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Wednesday that it's staying at that same spot in the annual update, calling the COVID-19 pandemic a "wake-up call."

2020 Arms Control Persons of the Year: Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS) were selected as the 2020 Arms Control Persons of the Year through an online poll that drew participants from over 65 countries. The annual contest is organised by the independent, non-governmental Arms Control Association. Ambassador Jenkins and WCAPS were nominated for catalysing support and action from leaders and practitioners in the national security and foreign policy communities to increase diversity into their ranks and boards of directors and pursue concrete steps to “root out institutional racism” in the governmental and non-governmental sectors in the field.

Recommended reading

16 days of activism against gender-based violence: 2020 IANSA report,” IANSA, 2020

Various authors, “Special forum on transnational nuclear imperialisms,” Anaïs Maurer and Rebecca H. Hogue (eds.), The Journal of Transnational American Studies, 2020

Webinar: “Ending the global security threats of nuclear power: lessons from the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” NB Media Co-op et al., 29 January 2021

Webinar: “Celebrating entry into force day for the nuclear weapons ban treaty,” Humanity Rising, 22 January 2021

Radio show on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: “Danny Sjursen, Rivera Sun, Ray Acheson,” Peace and Social Justice show, 22 January 2020

Podcast: “Entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” KKFI, 22 January 2021

William Hartung, “Fueling conflict: US arms sales to the United Arab Emirates and the US-UAE military alliance,” Center for International Policy, January 2021

Matthew Breay Bolton, Matilda Byrne, Ryan Gariepy, Emilia Javorsky, Volker Lehmann, and Laura Nolan,“Addressing the threat of autonomous weapons: Maintaining meaningful human control,” Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, January 2021

Investigating the environmental dimension of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Conflict and Environment Observatory, February 2021

Anna Stavrianakis, “Biden’s announcement on Yemen is a hopeful sign–now the UK must follow suit,The Guardian, 8 February 2021

Ara Marcen Naval, “Defence companies are not doing enough to stop corruption. Only a commitment to transparency will turn things around,” Transparency International, 9 February 2021

Rachael Hocking, “Karina Lester urges Australia to sign treaty banning nuclear weapons,NITV, 10 February 2021

Peace research perspectives on NATO 2030: A response to the NATO Reflection Group, NATO Watch, February 2021

Kjølv Egeland, “The ideology of nuclear order,New Political Science, 15 February 2021

Various authors, “Special section: Addressing the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons,” Elizabeth Minor and Matthew B. Bolton (eds.), Global Policy, February 2021.
Articles include: 
Matthew B. Bolton and Elizabeth Minor, “Addressing the ongoing humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons: an introductory review;” 
Becky Alexis-Martin et al., “Addressing the humanitarian and environmental consequences of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests: A case study of UK and US test programs at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands, Republic of Kiribati;” 
Nate Van Duzer and Alicia Sanders‐Zakre, “Policy approaches addressing the ongoing humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons: A commentary;
Elizabeth Minot et al., ”Commentary on addressing the legacies of nuclear weapons use and testing: Perspectives from survivors”.