March E-News

As countries all over the world continue to struggle with COVID-19, lacking the resources to protect and save lives; as we watch women being harassed and murdered in the streets, from London to Atlanta; the United Kingdom announces a 44 per cent increase of its nuclear warhead stockpile. The announcement comes just a few days after the same government is “regrettably” only in a position to raise National Health Service (NHS) staff’s salary by one per cent “at a difficult time for the public finances”. 

The UK’s decision to waste billions of pounds on increasing its ability for mass murder is in violation of international law, and is deeply immoral. And, as WILPF’s e-publication on Abolition, written by our director Ray Acheson, points out, these violences of state and society are all intimately connected.

Since its founding more than a 100 years ago, WILPF has exposed and challenged the violent, militarised, and patriarchal narrative that weapons keep us safe. What keeps us going in times like this is the knowledge that we’re not alone in this belief. Far from it– from the massive public outcry against the UK’s announcement, to the vast majority of the world working for a world free of nuclear weapons, with a steady increase of states parties and signatories to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we’ll continue to work for a world free of violence and oppression.

In this edition

Process on explosive weapons use restarted

The intergovernmental process to develop a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas restarted after COVID-19 related delays, taking place virtually from 3-5 March 2021.

While the timetable for concluding this process remains unclear, the Irish government, which initiated this process in 2019, is planning to issue another draft and hold further negotiations later this year. 

In the meantime, bombing and shelling in populated areas continues to kill and injure civilians and damage homes, schools, hospitals, markets, and other civilian infrastructure, driving home the importance of setting strong new standards and commitments to end this horrific practice.

WILPF has actively participated in the process, including the latest consultations. For an in-depth analysis of the meetings where states and civil society provided their views on the revised draft declaration, head over to RCW’s website. 

For WILPF's other resources on explosive weapons, see our research and advocacy page with related publications and information. Also make sure to check out the website and Twitter of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), of which WILPF is a steering group member for detailed information about what’s at stake.

Cyber security: UN working group concludes its work on cyber security with a consensus report

After a hiatus of nearly one year, the UN's Open-ended working group (OEWG) on developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security held its third and final substantive session from 8-12 March in hybrid format.

Amidst an otherwise bleak international security landscape, the OEWG adopted a final report by consensus, a milestone that can be celebrated as a win for diplomacy and multilateralism. The report will lay the foundation for future work on cyber security at the United Nations. While WILPF would have liked to see a stronger report in many respects, some aspects of the report are significant and will set a basis for future work in this area.  

WILPF contributed to this process throughout, most recently with a written reaction to the first draft of that final report, and participated in and monitored the meetings. For in-depth analysis of the meeting dynamics and outcome, check out the latest two editions of the Cyber Peace & Security Monitor

WILPF submits views on cyber mercenaries and human rights

In February 2021, WILPF submitted its views on the human rights impact of cyber mercenaries to the UN Working Group on the use of Mercenaries. This submission will inform the Group's forthcoming report about cyber mercenaries which will be delivered to the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly later this year. 

In its submission, WILPF identifies six types of actors that can be considered a cyber mercenary, and outlines concerns about the diverse human rights impact of their products and services as well as situates the use and outputs of cyber mercenaries within a broader critique of the weaponisation of technology and privatisation of security. The submission includes several recommendations that touch on issues of corporate accountability; use of proxy actors; gender; and human rights and international humanitarian law.

Tenth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster: WILPF says no to nuclear power

On 11 March, ten years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, WILPF reiterated its call for the abolition of nuclear power and all elements of the nuclear fuel chain. In 2011, a massive earthquake struck the northeast of Japan, causing a tsunami of immense devastation and leading to the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station. The loss of life, livelihoods, homes, and communities was catastrophic, and is ongoing.

WILPF has long argued that nuclear power contains the inherent potential for catastrophe. There is no such thing as a safe nuclear reactor. All aspects of the nuclear fuel chain, from mining uranium ore to dropping an atomic bomb to storing radioactive waste, are devastating for the Earth and all species living upon it.

Six months after the Fukushima disaster, Reaching Critical Will published an anthology of reports and essays from activists and academics around the world about the costs, myths, and risks of nuclear power. It included views from people living in countries involved in all aspects of the nuclear fuel chain and relied on critical research and studies produced around the world. The bottom line: nuclear power must go.

To learn more about why WILPF opposes nuclear energy, head over to our blog, read the anthology mentioned above, and check out our fact sheet on nuclear power and the nuclear fuel chain.

To learn about the people impacted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the prospects for decommissioning the plant, and the possibility of phasing out nuclear power in Japan, see this article by Akira Kawasaki from Peace Boat.  

WILPF Sections continue to mobilise for a ban on killer robots

While there is still no indication when UN talks on autonomous weapon systems will restart in 2021, WILPF Sections all over the globe are busy raising awareness about the threats of killer robots, calling on their governments to support a ban on these weapons. 

WILPF Spain produced a powerful video explaining what killer robots are and why they need to be banned, while WILPF Ghana is holding a virtual art exhibition on the topic this Saturday! WILPF UK, as part of the steering group of the UK Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, supports efforts to mobilise students in a petition to call on their government to ban killer robots. The UK Campaign is also currently asking university staff to complete a questionnaire to better understand the role of universities in conducting research which furthers the pursuit of lethal autonomous weapons systems.

Gender and Disarmament database: Recommendation of the month

The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) has published a timely report that looks at the links between violence against women (VW) and arms control amidst a pandemic. It notes there has been a skyrocketing increase of VAW in the COVID-19 pandemic, and criticises that states haven’t considered the risk of firearms in committing VAW in their analyses and responses. The report provides concrete recommendations to integrating arms control measures into responses to prevent and reduce VAW during the COVID-19 crisis.

Upcoming events


CAAT presents...It starts here: digital conference 2021
19-21 March 2021, online

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

How to create a Franco-German dynamic on nuclear disarmament policy?
22 March 2021, online

The environmental impacts of explosive weapons in populated areas
23 March 2021, online

Third global meeting of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
24 March 2021, online

The ATT and gender-based violence–practical tools to strengthen export licensing risk assessments
25 March 2021, online

Death by algorithm? The future of weaponised Artificial Intelligence
26 March 2021, online

Arms Trade Treaty Working Group & CSP7 Preparatory Meetings
26-30 April, online

Featured news  

United Kingdom’s nuclear warhead numbers set to dramatically increase for the first time since the Cold War

The UK government plans to increase its nuclear weapon stockpile cap by 40 per cent - to 260 nuclear warheads - as set out in the integrated review of defence and foreign policy. It paves the way for a controversial £10 billion rearmament in response to perceived threats from Russia and China. The plans, violating international law, have been met with strong opposition from the public, civil society, prominent public figures, and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, amongst others. Iran and Russia also condemned the decision, with the latter saying it will harm international stability.

New report: French nuclear tests infected ‘almost entire Polynesian population’
A new report finds that France concealed the levels of radioactivity that French Polynesia was exposed to during French nuclear tests in the Pacific from 1966-1996, with almost the "entire population" of the overseas territory infected. The investigation was carried out by Disclose, Interprt, and Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security, which for over two years analysed some 2,000 pages of French military documents declassified in 2013 by the defense ministry concerning nuclear tests on the archipelago. 

More countries join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)

More countries are joining the TPNW as states parties. Most recently, the Philippines ratified the Treaty on 18 February 2021, and Comoros became a state party on 19 February 2021, making the total number of states parties 54 and 86 signatories.

New data: international arms transfers level off after years of sharp growth

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found that for the first time since 2001–2005, the volume of deliveries of major arms between countries did not increase between 2011–15 and 2016–20. However, international arms transfers remain close to the highest level since the end of the cold war. Substantial increases in transfers by three of the top five arms exporters—the United States, France and Germany—were largely offset by declining Russian and Chinese arms exports. Middle Eastern arms imports grew by 25 per cent in the period, driven chiefly by Saudi Arabia (+61 per cent), Egypt (+136 per cent) and Qatar (+361 per cent).

New UN report says that Erik Prince violated Libya arms embargo, exposing him to possible sanctions

Erik Prince, the former head of the security contractor Blackwater Worldwide and a prominent supporter of former US president violated a United Nations (UN) arms embargo on Libya by sending weapons to a militia commander who was attempting to overthrow the internationally backed government, according to a UN report. The accusation exposes him to possible UN sanctions, including a travel ban and a freeze on his bank accounts and other assets — though such an outcome is uncertain. 

Ruling: criminal investigation into arms manufacturer and Italian arms export officials must continue

A preliminary investigations judge in Rome ruled that the public prosecutor must continue a criminal investigation, filed by three non-governmental organisations (NGOs), into managers of RWM Italia SpA, a German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall AG’s Italian subsidiary, and senior officials of Italy’s National Authority for the Export of Armament (UAMA) for their role in a deadly Saudi/United Arab Emirates-led military coalition airstrike in Deir al-Hajari in northwest Yemen. The Italian Public Prosecutor’s Office had requested the dismissal of the 2018 criminal complaint but was opposed by the NGOs.

Myanmar’s military found to use surveillance technology sold by Western countries

Myanmar’s military, which staged a coup a month ago, was found to deploy surveillance drones, iPhone cracking devices and hacking software, some of which were sold from Western countries, including the United States, Sweden, Israel, amongst others, a new investigation shows. 

Italian ammunition found in Myanmar police assault, raising questions

The Myanmar police fired a shotgun at staff from a civil ambulance, with the shotgun shells found to be made by the Italian firm Cheddite Italy S.r.l. However, the company denies having ever sold its products to Myanmar and said it does not have the capacity to trace shotgun ammunition it sold. The story has generated significant response in Italy, with civil society groups demanding an official inquiry. 

Regional body of the African Union adopts first resolution on AI technologies 

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a quasi-judicial body of the African Union entrusted by the African Union Assembly of heads of state with protection of human rights in Africa, has adopted and published Resolution 473 on AI technologies. It is the first resolution on AI technologies to be adopted by a regional body of the African Union. Amongst others, the resolution recalls the African Group’s statement to the 2018 Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) calling it “inhumane, abhorrent, repugnant, and against public conscience for humans to give up control to machines”. 

US carries out first known air strike in Syria under new administration
The US military struck a site in Syria used by two militia groups in response to rocket attacks on American forces in the region in the past two weeks. The strikes, which mark the US military's first known action under President Joe Biden, have killed “up to a handful” of militants, according to a US official. The attack generated concern both among lawmakers, who said Biden had not asked for the necessary congressional authorisation, and civil society and activists who say US actions will only escalate conflicts in the Middle East.

Recommended reading

Normative study: making the link between norms on violence against women and small arms control and regulation norms: Analysis of CARICOM states,” United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), 2020

Estudio normativo: La necesaria vinculación entre las normas sobre violencia contra la mujer y las normas de regulación y control de armas pequeñas: Análisis de países de Sudamérica: Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay y Venezuela,” UNLIREC, 2020

Preventing violence against women through arms control in Latin America and the Caribbean: Recommendations during the COVID-19 crisis,” UNLIREC, 20202

Dr Stuart Parkinson and Linsey Cottrell, Under the radar: the carbon footprint of Europe’s military sectors: a scoping study,” The Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) and Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR), 2021

Jennifer Dathan, “Explosive violence monitor 2020,” Action on Armed Violence, 2021 

Policy brief series: “Women, Peace and Security and the Generation Equality Action Coalitions,” PeaceWomen of WILPF, February 2021

William Hartung, “Three reasons to reduce Pentagon spending–now,Forbes, 16 February 

Magda Coss Nogueda, "El control de armas y violencia de género," Cuestione, 17 February 2021 

Webinar: Canada and the Arms Trade, Project Ploughshares, 22 February 2021

Webinar: Feminist leadership in disarmament,  SCRAP Weapons, 23 February 2021

Caryn Dolly et al. “Profiting from misery: South Africa’s complicity in war crimes in Yemen: an open secrets investigation,” Open Secrets, March 2021

Sean Howard, “Shining a light on the dark aftermath of nuclear war,” Cape Breto Spectator, 3 March 2021

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies, “Trump & Biden’s secret bombing wars,Common Dreams, 4 March 2021

How the mercenaries selling cyber-surveillance software are a threat to cyberpeace,” CyberPeace Institute, 12 March 2021

Routledge handbook of feminist peace research,” Tarja Väyrynen, Swati Parashar, Élise Féron, Catia Cecilia Confortini (eds.), Routledge, 12 March 2021

Video: Moruroa files–Investigation into French nuclear tests in the Pacific, Disclose, 15 March 2021

Bonnie Docherty, A singular opportunity: setting standards for victim assistance under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” in “Special section: Addressing the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons,” Elizabeth Minor and Matthew B. Bolton (eds.), Global Policy, February 2021