“Recent developments in Afghanistan demonstrate the folly and fallacy of ‘responsible’ arms trading and militarism, as the weapons and equipment provided to Afghan armed forces are being captured and used against them by the same adversary they sought to defeat,” wrote RCW’s Allison Pytalk in her latest editorial of the ATT Monitor. “Tragically, this is not a new story in Afghanistan or elsewhere: when weapons are poured into a conflict, it is a near certainty that they will remain there for decades to come, affecting the lives of future generations, damaging the environment, and undermining efforts at future peace.”
Violence only begets more violence. Yet despite being taught this lesson again and again, the most heavily militarised countries in our world continue to pour vast resources into weapons and war, insisting that “military power” is the only way to be secure in the violent world of their own creation. The breaking news about a new Australian-United Kingdom-United States military alliance, complete with nuclear-powered submarines and aggressive posturing against China, is only the latest example. This is why RCW will continue to work for complete disarmament and demilitarisation. There is much to do for those of us invested in peace and justice.
In this edition
- UN meetings on autonomous weapons pick up momentum
- CCW gears up for December Review Conference
- UN General Assembly updates
- Arms Trade Treaty community concludes its work at its Seventh Meeting of States Parties (CSP7)
- Action against nuclear weapons
- Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month
- Upcoming events
- Featured news
- Recommended reading
The UN Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) returned to formal work from 3–13 August 2021 on the issue of autonomous weapons. Previous sessions of this GGE have been disrupted by COVID and by disagreements over meeting arrangements in the context of COVID. This has resulted in the status of certain sessions being disputed, and in the undertaking of informal online discussions to keep the conversation moving. The August session saw a return to formal, in-person, work—though without the capacity for remote interventions and with constraints on room numbers weakening civil society access. However, some members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots participated in-person, and contributed with statements, including WILPF UK’s Taniel Yusef.
The discussions were useful in developing concrete positions on possible elements for a “normative and operational framework,” which has been on the GGE’s mandate to develop since 2019. For an in-depth scoop of what happened, be sure to check out the latest editions of the CCW Report.
The next round of UN meetings are scheduled to take place from 27 September–1 October, again in hybrid format in Geneva, with in-person participation and webcasting of the meetings. This meeting will be crucial as states narrow down the new mandate of the GGE, to be adopted at the CCW Review Conference in December.
The Campaign, of which WILPF is a steering group member, continues to urge states to agree on a negotiating mandate for a legally binding instrument to prohibit some autonomous weapons and restrict all others.
Be sure to subscribe to our conventional/emerging technologies list to receive the next edition of the report by email!
In a bid to ensure states stay on track to safeguard meaningful human control over the use of force, Austria is currently hosting a two-day conference “Safeguarding human control over autonomous weapons systems”. RCW is preparing a summary of the conference, which will be published shortly on RCW’s website!
The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) held a preparatory meeting from 6–8 September 2021 in Geneva. Delegates set out expectations for work for the Review Conference, scheduled to take place in December 2021. In RCW’s CCW Report, we provide an overview of key themes, including on killer robots, incendiary weapons, explosive weapons, and more.
Along with the upcoming meetings we reported on in our last E-News, we have a couple of additional updates!
Published ahead of the 2021 UN General Assembly First Committee, the 2021 edition of the First Committee briefing book highlights a number of critical disarmament topics and suggests how governments can achieve progress on them. It provides a quick overview of the state of play on some of the most pressing issues that will be addressed at this year’s First Committee session. It also outlines recommendations for governments from some of the key civil society groups working on these topics.
International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
The UNGA has designated 26 September the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This Day provides an occasion for the world community to reaffirm its commitment to global nuclear disarmament as a high priority. It also provides an opportunity to educate the public—and their leaders—about the real benefits of eliminating such weapons, and the social and economic costs of perpetuating them. The UN will hold a commemoration of the Day on 28 September 2021. This year will once again also provide an excellent opportunity for states to sign or ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
CSP7 took place from 30 August–3 September 2021 in hybrid format in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting finished one day earlier, due to an active intersessional work period that helped to enable swift decision-making in many areas. The final report is available online.
In many ways, CSP7 discussions were broadly substantive and put human rights and humanitarian concerns at the fore, in a way not felt during recent meetings, which have grown increasingly technical. But states parties still need to do more to meaningfully consider the ATT’s impact and compliance.
Looking ahead, Germany will preside over CSP8. Its closing remarks to CSP7 set out three areas of focus: universalisation, stock-taking of achievements and shortcomings, as well as verification and post-shipment controls.
From the multilateral to the grassroots level, the antinuclear community never tires in its efforts.
We’re hoping that during the high-level week of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) a few more states will sign or submit ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) so that as many states as possible will join the first Meeting of States Parties (MSP)! After some uncertainty over COVID-19 related scheduling challenges, the new dates for the MSP1 of the TPNW have been confirmed: It will now take place from 22–24 March 2022 in Vienna, Austria.
On 7 September, the UNGA held a high-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day against Nuclear Tests. Danity Laukon, former member of the Marshallese Student Association, and Sue Coleman-Haseldine, nuclear test survivor from South Australia, presented their testimony to the UNGA. RCW monitored the meeting and published a report.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which WILPF is a steering group member, has launched a university pledge in partnership with the US Schools of Mass Destruction working group. This pledge is a way for students and alumni professors at the universities linked to nuclear weapons production to pledge to work to get their schools to end their involvement in nuclear weapons and get connected to activists at other schools.
The Canadian Voice of Women for (VOW) Peace, Canada’s oldest national feminist peace organisation that includes members of WILPF Canada, has called on the federal government to sign the TPNW and release a feminist foreign policy.
Greenham Women Everywhere celebrated the 40th anniversary of the iconic Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, where 36 women walked 110 miles from Cardiff to RAF Greenham Common in the UK in protest against the Americans holding cruise missiles on common land. Amongst other celebratory events, an online series under the teme “Weaving the web/inars” is talking about disarmament, feminist peace-building, opposing violence against women and girls, Indigenous peoples struggles against nuclear colonialism, and much more, from 27 August until the end of 2021. The first three webinars already took place, and can be re-watched here, here, and here. For all other upcoming webinars and events, head over to this page.
The Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico is currently featuring works by antinuclear Indigenous artists and activists from around the world. Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology, documents international Indigenous artists’ responses to the impacts of nuclear testing, nuclear accidents, and uranium mining on Native peoples and the environment. The traveling exhibition and catalog give artists a voice to address the long-term effects of these man-made disasters on Indigenous communities in Australia, Canada, Greenland, Japan, Pacific Islands, and the United States.
Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month
WILPF has launched a new podcast! Caesura is, partly, a poetry podcast. Each episode is introduced by a poem written and recited by Angela Ramos, a young feminist poet and activist born and raised in Colombia. The poems are followed by a discussion on the topics of the poem and different guests: including people like feminist thinker Cynthia Enloe, and Diana Salcedo, director of WILPF Colombia. Topics include intergenerational trauma and heritage, the role women can play in demilitarisation and peace processes, and much more. New episodes are released each Thursday, starting 9 September.
UN General Assembly high-level debate
21–30 September 2021, New York, USA, and online
International Day of Peace
21 September, global
International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
26 September 2021, global
Meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapon systems
27 September–1 October 2021, Geneva, Switzerland and online
UN commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
28 September, New York, USA and online
UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, 76th session
4 October–4 November 2021, New York, USA and online
Uniting to dismantle racism and militarism in US foreign policy
17 September 2021, online
Actions towards gun destructions
21 September 2021, online
Atomkraft ist kein Klimaretter (nuclear power doesn’t save the climate)
6–10 October 2021, online
Australia to acquire nuclear submarine fleet as part of a new military alliance with the US and UK
Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States have created a new alliance, where the US will share secret nuclear technology to help Australia in the switch to nuclear-powered boats. The fleet will be the first initiative of a newly formed trilateral security partnership called AUKUS, aimed at “containing China”. This new agreement also means that a $90 billion programme to build up to 12 French-designed submarines is being scrapped. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize reacted with disapproval, with ICAN Australia’s Gem Rumold noting that “this is the wrong direction at the wrong time”. ICAN Australia pointed out that the construction of nuclear-powered submarines in Australia, with potential imposition of military nuclear reactors on Adelaide or other cities, would make construction sites and host ports certain nuclear targets. In addition, “The new alliance and deal sends a message of hostility and preparations for war among nuclear-armed nations.” The Nuclear Free Collective has also noted that nuclear-powered submarines use highly enriched uranium, which is also used to make nuclear bombs and poses a WMD proliferation risk. No arrangement exists for radioactive waste storage.
Project Maven: Amazon and Microsoft scored $50 million in Pentagon surveillance contracts after Google quit
After Google decided to quit working on Project Maven in 2018 thanks to staff protests, Amazon and Microsoft took on Department of Defense contracts worth $50 million to help the military identify objects from drone and other aerial footage, according to a new analysis of federal government contract records by Tech Inquiry.
New Amnesty International report finds misuse of striking weapons by police across the globe
Amnesty International has investigated law enforcement officials’ misuse of batons and other striking weapons, analysing illustrative incidents spanning the past decade from around the world. Examining hundreds of photos and videos, researchers have verified 188 incidents of the misuse of striking weapons, including police batons, lathis (long sticks), sjamboks (rigid whips), and improvised weapons in 35 countries, covering all regions of the globe. These include examples from violent crackdowns of mass protests in countries as diverse as Belarus, Colombia, France, India, and Myanmar.
Greenland bans uranium mining to combat climate change
Greenland’s government announced that it has sent out a draft bill for consultation that would ban preliminary investigation, exploration, and extraction of uranium. Uranium is a widely-used radioactive element that is now primarily used as fuel for nuclear energy. There are several ways to extract uranium, but all of them produce radioactive waste. Greenland has also suspended all new oil and gas exploration, citing both economic considerations and the fight against climate change.
Sahel: Serbian rifles identified among weapons of armed groups
Amnesty International’s arms experts have identified Serbian-manufactured weapons in videos posted by armed groups operating in the Sahel, including an Islamic State affiliate which has claimed responsibility for hundreds of civilian deaths. The new rifles match trade records of Serbia’s sales to Burkina Faso, suggesting the weapons were recently sold to the government before falling into the hands of armed groups. Amnesty International’s analysis of commercial trade data also shows that the Czech Republic, France, and Slovakia have exported large quantities of small arms and light weapons to Sahel governments since widespread conflict broke out.
UN Group of Experts on Yemen calls out states for providing weapons to parties to the conflict
The UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen directly named Canada, France, Iran, the United Kingdom and the United States as third states that have continued their support of parties to the conflict, including through arms transfers. In its recently released 2021 report, it notes that “arms sales are fuel that perpetuates the conflict”.
Ukraine continues to sell arms to Myanmar, despite its military illegitimate coup
The organisation Justice for Myanmar has found that Ukraine is continuing to transfer arms to the Myanmar military, despite its illegitimate coup and ongoing mass killings, arrests and attacks against civilians. Its investigation using Ukrainian export records and newly leaked documents, found shipments of aircraft, ship and tank parts dating from 2015 onwards. Air surveillance radars were also sent to the Myanmar military and private Myanmar arms dealers. The most recent shipment was turbojet engine parts that Ukrainian firm Motor Sich sent to the Myanmar army’s directorate of procurement. This was on 31 May 2021, as the air force increased indiscriminate airstrikes in ethnic areas.
Activists protest one of the world’s largest defence fair in London, UK
Campaigners continue to significantly disrupt the Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEI), currently taking place in London, United Kingdom. Opposition has also come from politicians, including London’s Mayor. DSEI brings together hundreds of arms companies, including most of the largest ones in the Western world, with potential buyers from governments and militaries worldwide, including many of the worst human rights abusers.
Activists mark third anniversary of the Yemen school bus massacre
Activists across Canada marked the third anniversary of the Yemen school bus massacre on Monday with protests at weapons manufacturers and government offices, calling on Canada to stop all weapons exports to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi bombing of a school bus in a crowded market in northern Yemen on August 9, 2018 killed 44 children and ten adults and wounded many more.
New campaign underway to engage children and youth in ending gun violence
The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), in collaboration with the Human Centred Design Program at Algonquin College (Canada) and Gun Free South Africa, has developed the new Aim for Change campaign, a youth-focused workshop to express their views on issues such as how gun violence affects them, masculine identities, peer pressure, and role models. For more details on how to join the campaign, download the Aim for Change playbook.
US-based defence industry publisher releases annual list of top-100 defence companies
The US-based defence industry publisher, Defense News, produces an annual listing of the top-100 defence companies in the world. The top of the list is dominated by the biggest American names in the weapons business: Lockheed Martin ($65 billion, 96 per cent profits from defence), Raytheon ($65 billion, 65 per cent from defence), and Boeing ($58 billion, 56 per cent from defence). The publisher’s report finds that total revenue increased 5 per cent in 2020, despite a global health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
“No credible evidence: Canada’s flawed analysis of arms exports to Saudi Arabia,” Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares, August 2021
William Hartung, “Afghanistan is just the latest case of US arms ending up with US adversaries,” Forbes, 27 August 2021
Various authors, “Taking stock of the Arms Trade Treaty,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), August 2021
Lisa Sharland et al., “System update: towards a women, peace and cybersecurity agenda,” United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), 2021
Catherine Eschle and Claire Duncanson, “Bombs, brexit boys and bairns: a feminist critique of nuclear (in)security in the Integrated Review,” BASIC, 24 August 2021
ICAN Australia Ban School webinar: “Banning the bomb, smashing the patriarchy,” ICAN Australia, 31 August 2021
“ATT monitor report 2021,” Control Arms, 30 August 2021
Eugenio Weigend Vargas and Joel Martinez, "A new lawsuit illustrates the problem of U.S. guns in Mexico," Center for American Progress, 2 September 2021
“Transfers of major arms to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2020,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), 3 September 2021
Susan T. Jackson et al., “Forum: Militarisation 2.0: Communication and the normalisation of political violence in the digital age,” International Studies Review, 3 September 2021
Podcast: Fallout, BBC Radio 4, 6 September 2021
“The impact of explosive weapons on education: a case study of Afghanistan,” Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, September 2021
Elias Yousif, Issue brief: the arms left behind in Afghanistan, Security Assistance Monitor, Center for International Policy, September 2021
Yifat Susskind and Diana Duarte, “On Afghanistan, Biden must listen to pro-peace feminists,” Inkstick, 8 September 2021
“‘Every bit of dignity we had was shattered’: WILPF’s Jamila Afghani and Hareer Hashim share concerns and demands after evacuating from Afghanistan,” WILPF, September 2021
Pat Elder, “The U.S army has contaminated groundwater and surface water at US Army Garrison–Ansbach, Germany,” WILPF US, 12 September 2021