“[As] heatwaves kill people and burn entire forests, towns, and ecosystems to the ground—heatwaves resulting from unending investments in fossil fuels and blind faith in “technological fixes” to the climate crisis,” governments chose to spend their time talking about building machines that will be programmed with sensors and software to kill and destroy, notes RCW’s Ray Acheson in their editorial about the latest informal UN meetings on killer robots. Unfortunately, this observation holds true across the spectrum of weapons types. The weapons that the militarily powerful states continue to produce, buy and sell, from fighter jets to nuclear weapons, maintain “the privilege and power of some over … anyone that the possessors of these weapons determine to be threats to their power, or whomever they determine to be simply expendable.”
But we still have a choice: “We can either build weapons to protect the privileged and the powerful or we can start investing in real solutions that would render weapons unnecessary: degrowth economic and environmental policies, decolonisation and redistribution of wealth and land, demilitarisation and disarmament, and other initiatives for conflict prevention and global equality, care, and peace,” concludes Ray. We’ll opt for the latter and we trust you join us in building a better world.
In this edition
- Redoubling efforts for effective small arms control
- Anti-nuclear community continues to grow
- UN meetings on killer robots restart after almost a year of multilateral inaction
- Meeting modalities for next round of Arms Trade Treaty meetings are confirmed
- Diverting attention? Human Rights Council adopts resolution on arms transfers
- Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month
- Upcoming events
- Featured news
- Recommended reading
Redoubling efforts for effective small arms control
People are gearing up their work on small arms and light weapons (SALW), in preparation for the upcoming 7th Biennial Meeting of States (BMS7) for the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) on SALW. It will take place from 26–30 July in hybrid format.
RCW will participate in the meetings. If you missed the registration deadline, you can still follow along by subscribing to our Small Arms Monitor or by visiting our website for conference documents and other information.
WILPF will also be participating in various side events throughout the week. On 29 July, WILPF, together with the Gender Equality Network for Small Arms Control (GENSAC), is co-hosting the event “Advancing gender-responsive small arms control through advocacy and research: opportunities and challenges.” The event will feature speakers from WILPF Kenya and WILPF’s partner Asuda, who will speak to some of the practical challenges of doing work in this area, including challenges related to gender-disaggregated data collection. RCW’s manager will also speak at an event that will compare global arms control instruments’ review processes, and identify lessons and challenges on 28 July.
If you are unsure what to expect for this round of meetings, be sure to check out analysis by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) of five key issues and read our preview edition of the Small Arms Monitor, coming soon!
Over the past few months, WILPF Sections in Africa joined together with GENSAC to co-host a series of activities under the theme of “bulletproof inclusion” to highlight the important role of women in disarmament and the importance of gender-responsive small arms control as a part of International Women’s Day commemoration. Many Sections held workshops to raise awareness and discuss the role of gender in SALW control, building momentum in their countries around women leadership and representation in small arms control. If you’re interested to learn more, you can find a more comprehensive summary of activities and impacts in the Small Arms Monitor’s preview edition.
Antinuclear community continues to grow
As the antinuclear community celebrated the fourth anniversary of the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on 7 July 2017, more and more states are joining the Treaty. Now in force, the Treaty is only growing in strength, with its most recent addition of the Seychelles as a new state party! The TPNW now stands at 55 states parties.
In the lead-up to the TPNW’s first Meeting of States Parties, currently scheduled to take place from 12-14 January 2022 in Vienna, ICAN activists continue to work hard to accelerate states’ accession to the Treaty, including WILPF Sections. Most recently, the WILPF Section in the Central African Republic organised a workshop with various government representatives, urging the government to ratify the Treaty as soon as possible.
There’s also powerful action coming from ICAN Germany at the German military airbase Büchel, including blockading the main entrance to the site where nuclear weapons are hosted on German soil. Meanwhile in Australia, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) unanimously passed a motion calling on Australia to sign and ratify TPNW. This is the first time Australia's peak body of local government representatives from 537 councils has passed a motion that backs the treaty, and happened thanks to the tireless work of ICAN Australia. In Te Ao Maohi/French Polynesia, thousands of people joined a march demanding France own up to the damage caused by its nuclear weapons tests. The rally was organised by nuclear veterans group and the pro-independence opposition to mark the day in 1974 when fallout from an atmospheric nuclear test covered all of Te Ao Maohi.
Around the world, ICAN partners everywhere get more and more cities on board to join the ICAN Cities Appeal. If you’re interested to learn how young people are supporting the Appeal, head over to ICAN’s recent Instagram live. (Picture credit: WILPF CAR)
UN meetings on killer robots restart after almost a year of multilateral inaction
After the last session of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) in September 2020, the UN group is finally convening again.
The GGE met online from 28 June–2 July for informal consultations, and is set to meet in-person in Geneva from 3–13 August for its first official meeting in 2021.
RCW participated in the June/July meeting, which focused on the written submissions that participants of the GGE have made over the past few months. We published comprehensive analysis of the meeting in a new edition of the CCW Report.
Given the complexities regarding travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, RCW will participate and monitor the August meetings remotely. The meeting will be webcast via UN Web TV and anybody can watch it remotely without requiring registration. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is also unable to provide financial support or sponsorship for this meeting. If you’re a WILPF member and would like to participate in-person, write to disarm (a) wilpf.org by Friday, 23 July, and we can help to register you.
In parallel to the UN process, WILPFers continue to build momentum in their region. WILPF Zimbabwe recently organised a youth online conference which addressed, amongst others, the role that young people can take in speaking out against killer robots and mobilising their governments for a ban. WILPF Cameroon and WILPF Togo co-hosted a launch of the killer robots campaign in Togo, so that WILPF Togo can spread the message for an urgent ban in its country.
Meeting modalities for next round of Arms Trade Treaty meetings are confirmed
After open and transparent consultations about meeting modalities for the upcoming Seventh Meeting of States Parties (CSP7) to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) from 30 August–3 September, states parties decided to hold a hybrid meeting. This means that some delegates will participate in-person in Geneva, while others can participate remotely. Daily sessions will be held from 13:00–16:00 CEST, and all sessions will be video recorded and made publicly available on the ATT website.
Registration is now open! If you’re a WILPF member and would like to join this year’s WILPF remote delegation, please write to disarm (a) wilpf.org by 6 August 2021.
As usual, RCW will collect all relevant documents on its website, and we’ll provide summaries and analysis through the ATT Monitor.
Diverting attention? Human Rights Council adopts new resolution on arms transfers
The Human Rights Council (HRC) passed a new resolution on the impact of arms transfers on human rights during its 47th session in July 2021. While the resolution reinforces the strong message that addressing the human rights impact of the arms trade is central to the fulfilment of HRC’s mandate to prevent human rights violations and abuses, its overall emphasis on diverted, unregulated, and illicit arms transfers breaks from the original spirit of the resolution—and distracts from the many serious human rights impacts caused by legal and regulated arms transfers. Read more about the resolution and its adoption here.
Recommendation of the month: Gender and Disarmament Database
In this podcast episode “AI, technology, and patriarchy,” of the On AiR Podcast series: IR in the age of AI, Medlir Mema and Chris Lamont interview RCW’s director Ray Acheson. They speak, amongst many other topics, about patriarchy and patriarchal discourse, defense technologies and AI, and how a feminist approach has helped to bring about the nuclear ban treaty.
BMS7 on the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNPoA)
26–30 July 2021, online
Meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS)
3–13 August 2021, hybrid (Geneva and online)
Seventh Meeting of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty
30 August–3 September 2021, hybrid (Geneva and online)
Biological Weapons Convention Meetings of Experts
30 August–8 September 2021, hybrid (Geneva and online)
ICAN Australia Ban School
19 July–-20 September 2021, online
Exploration of arms reduction and Jobs I: Divestment and Transition
21 July 2021, online
Launch of nuclear games
23 July 2021, online
Series of side events at the margins of BMS7
26–30 July 2021, online
BMS7 side event: Comparing global arms control instrument review processes: lessons and challenges
28 July 2021, online
BMS7 side event: Advancing gender-responsive small arms control through advocacy and research: opportunities and challenges
29 July 2021, online
A Virtual Commemoration of the 76th Anniversary of the US Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
4 August 2021, online
Commemoration of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
6 and 9 August, global
Canadian premiere: The vow from Hiroshima
8 August 2021, online
Peace Wave Global Joint Actions
2–9 August 2021, global
International Day Against Nuclear Tests
29 August 2021, global
Canadian Prime Minister urged to scrap purchase of fighter jets amidst climate crisis and pandemic
More than 100 authors, academics, and celebrities are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to scrap his plan to spend billions on new fighter jets, which they say are useless in protecting Canada from security threats such as pandemics and natural disasters. The letter comes as the country is still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented heatwaves, and forest fires.
Korean-Americans mobilise against the war
As talks between the United States and North Korea remain at a standstill, more than 230 people across the USA—mostly Korean Americans—participated in the “National Action to End the Korean War” in July. Following the actions, the US House of Representatives passed the Divided Families Reunification Act (H.R. 826), a bipartisan bill that seeks to help Korean American families reunite with their loved ones in North Korea.
The UK is selling more weapons than it officially reveals
New research from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) reveals that the majority of UK arms sales are supplied via secretive Open Licences, meaning official figures on UK arms exports only tell part of the story. CAAT argues that with no information on the specific quantity or cost of equipment exported, or on the companies involved, Open Licenses obscure the reality of UK arms sales, and prevent any meaningful scrutiny of the UK’s involvement in arming violence around the world. For example, UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are three times higher than previously thought.
German-American arms company fined 11 million euros for illegal sales to Colombia
In the case of illegal small arms exports from Germany via the USA to Colombia, the German Federal Court of Justice has ordered the German-American gun maker SIG Sauer to pay more than 11 million euros, thus largely confirming a verdict of the Kiel Regional Court from 2019. This is the highest sum ever confiscated from a small arms manufacturer. Sig Sauer shipped the 36,000 small arms to its US company in New Hampshire, which then completed the transaction with Colombia, in violation of export regulations.
New platform exposes patterns of indiscriminate attacks in Yemen
A new platform, developed by Forensic Architecture and the ECCHR, together with Yemeni Archive and Bellingcat, exposes the patterns of indiscriminate attacks by the Saudi-led Coalition against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Yemen. The platform aims to support both international and domestic prosecution authorities in investigating the criminal responsibilities of corporate and government European actors who are fuelling possible war crimes in Yemen. It is also meant as a tool for civil society to better understand the role of European arms trade in the war in Yemen.
UN adopts non-binding arms embargo on Myanmar
More than four months after the Myanmar military overthrew the country’s elected leaders, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that “calls upon all member states to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.”
US military conducts drone strike in Somalia after six months of no declared attack
The United States conducted a drone strike against Shabab militants in Somalia, the first such military action against the Qaeda affiliate in East Africa since the Biden administration took office in January. According to the Pentagon, the strike was in support of Somali ground forces.
Vermont City Council decides to divest from weapons manufacturers
In the US, CODEPINK activists achieved a big milestone: Vermont City Council passed a resolution to divest from weapons manufacturers! The resolution keeps the city from investing in weapons manufacturers and requests that the Burlington Employees’ Retirement System divest from any weapons manufacturing companies if any assets are currently invested.
Artwork about the UK’s nuclear colonialism is removed
Australian artist Gabriella Hirst’s An English Garden consisted of benches and a row of flowerbeds planted with Atom Bomb roses, a rare variety of rose created at the height of the cold war arms race in 1953, alongside Cliffs of Dover irises. A plaque on the bench explained this and highlighted the assembly, at a site nearby, of Britain’s first atomic bomb and the devastation caused by its detonation on unceded Indigenous land in Australia. The plaque also stated that Britain continues to proliferate nuclear arms, following the government’s decision to lift a 30-year ban on the development of new nuclear weapons this year, and increase its nuclear armament by 40%. It described the country as having a “historical and ongoing identity as a colonial nuclear state”.
Conservative councillors demanded the installation be removed. One said his two main objections to it were: “Using public money on public land to display a left-wing rant which accused our current government of investing in industries of hate, rather than care”; and “attacking our country as currently being a colonial nuclear state”.
UK Labour leader vows to help nuclear test veterans win justice after 70 years
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to win justice for nuclear test heroes after a historic meeting. It was the first time any party leader has met with those affected by the UK’s nuclear testing programme, which ran from 1952 to 1991 in the United States, Australia, and the South Pacific. Veterans have a legacy of cancers, blood disorders and rare disease, while their partners report three times the usual rate of miscarriage.
UNIDIR’s Cyber Policy Portal launches new features
The Cyber Policy Portal, hosted by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), has launched new features to improve users’ experience. The Portal is a searchable platform hosting cyber and digital security policies, laws, and similar documents produced by national governments and regional organisations. UNIDIR has put in place new labels to indicate policies that are “in progress”, and for users to suggest updates, as well as improved the user experience for comparing policies that are on the Portal. The mobile version of the Portal has also been improved, and the site now includes a page containing other websites with relevant materials including Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament programme of WILPF. Visit https://unidir.org/cpp/en/ or follow @UNIDIR on Twitter.
Executives of company indicted for supplying surveillance technology to Libya and Egypt
Four executives of Amesys and Nexa Technologies were indicted by investigating judges of the crimes against humanity and war crimes unit of the Paris Judicial Court for complicity in torture in the Libyan portion of the investigation and complicity in torture and enforced disappearance in the Egyptian portion. The two companies are accused of having supplied surveillance technology to authoritarian regimes in Libya and Egypt. The judicial investigation has also been extended to include the sale of surveillance technology to Saudi Arabia.
Massive data leak reveals Israeli NGO Group's spyware used to target activists, journalists, and political leaders globally
NSO Group’s spyware has been used to facilitate human rights violations around the world on a massive scale, according to a major investigation into the leak of 50,000 phone numbers of potential surveillance targets. These include heads of state, activists and journalists. The Pegasus Project is a ground-breaking collaboration by more than 80 journalists from 17 media organizations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media non-profit, with the technical support of Amnesty International, who conducted cutting- edge forensic tests on mobile phones to identify traces of the spyware.
#StepUp4Disarmament Youth Campaign calls for participants to commemorate International Day Against Nuclear Tests
The #StepUp4Disarmament Youth Campaign invites young people to utilise their sporting passion and ability through either running 8.29 kilometres or walking 10.9k steps (an approximate equivalent) to raise awareness of the International Day against Nuclear Tests on 29 August 2021, and its cause to ban nuclear tests. Youth of all nationalities between the ages of 18 and 29 are invited to take part. Participants can register starting 16 July, 76 years after the first nuclear test.
Webinar series of ICAN Australia’s Ban School, July 2021
Webinar: Book club with Cynthia Enloe and Ray Acheson, WILPF, 22 June 2021
Doug Weir, “Did NATO members just pledge to reduce their military GHG emissions?,” Conflict and Environment Observatory, 15 June 2021
V. Ramana, “Setting the stage for wars during a global pandemic,” Inter Press Service, 16 June 2021
NFLA Policy Briefing 217: Increased nuclear transports in the UK and around Europe – risks and concerns, Nuclear Free Local Authorities, 18 June 2021
“Protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas: 10 essential elements for a successful political declaration,” International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), June 2021
Fact sheets: Victim assistance and environmental remediation under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, July 2021
Webinar: “Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy: An evening with Ray Acheson and their new book,” The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, 1 July 2021
Podcast: AI, technology, and patriarchy, On AiR: IR in the age of AI, On AiR, 4 July 2021
Jean-Marie Collin, Susi Snyder, and Tuva Widskjold, “NATO and its nuclear policy: in contradiction to its own security objectives,” Euractiv, 8 July 2021
Branka Marijan and Emily Stanfield, “Kargu-2 debate raises awareness of autonomous weapons,” Project Ploughshares, 15 July 2021
Wim Zwijnenburg, Noor Nahas, Roberto Jaramillo Vasquez, “War, waste, and polluted pastures: An explorative environmental study of the impact of the conflict in north-east Syria,” PAX, 19 July 2021