December 2021 E-News
After another long and difficult year, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some positives from 2021! This E-News rounds-up our top five achievements for peace and disarmament this year, and highlights the many publications, statements, and other materials we’ve produced. We hope this provides some inspiration and hope as we move into 2022, which is already shaping up to be another challenging year. Between the pandemic and ongoing global uncertainties, coupled with what feels like relentless commitment to militarism by certain governments, we will have our work cut out for us. Please consider helping to sustain our work in 2022. There are many ways you can give: you can sign up for a one-time donation or a monthly pledge through PayPal, or you can send money orders, cheques, or wire transfers—just email us for details! Thank you for considering us in your holiday giving this year. Happy holidays and best wishes for the year ahead!
TOP FIVE HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2021
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force on 22 January 2021, which is a milestone for this treaty and for nuclear disarmament. RCW has been engaged in this work every step of the way! We spoke at various events and interviews to mark the occasion and highlight WILPF’s involvement in the treaty, including through WILPF’s Instagram, a blog, talks, and webinars. RCW’s Director briefed the Canadian Senate’s foreign relations committee on the TPNW. We also developed campaign materials for WILPF Sections and Groups; WILPFers all over the world joined the celebrations, from the United States, to Spain, from the United Kingdom to Canada or Australia. In addition, the RCW Director’s book about the process for the TPNW, Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy, was published by Rowman and Littlefield in June 2021. The book highlights the work that went into creating the TPNW and the work needed to see the abolition of nuclear weapons.
RCW also worked with WILPF Sections throughout the year to promote accession of various governments to the Treaty and to continue working within the ICAN International Steering Group to prepare for the first meeting of states parties, 1MSP (currently scheduled for March 2022). This is important because decisions made at 1MSP will impact the treaty’s implementation over the long term, so it’s vital that WILPF perspectives and priorities are included in states’ considerations in advance of the meeting.
RCW also worked with local ICAN partners in New York City to advance legislation at the NYC Council in support of the TPNW and divestment of the city’s pension funds from nuclear weapons. As part of these efforts, the International Queers Against Nukes (IQAN), of which RCW’s Director is a co-founder, delivered an open letter to NYC Council Speaker Coney Johnson to honour LGBTQ+ leaders for nuclear abolition and to urge him to move nuclear disarmament legislation to the Council floor for a vote. This legislation was adopted in December!
We also collaborated with WILPF’s Human Rights programme on submissions for Canada, France, and the United States that address nuclear weapons, among other things. These submissions help advance human rights perspectives on nuclear weapons, which helps build support for nuclear abolition. RCW also contributed to the Korea Peace Now report on the Path to Peace on the Korean Peninsula in relation to nuclear weapons. For the Hiroshima-Nagasaki anniversaries, we launched a campaign “Paying the Price: What nuclear bombs are actually costing our planet” to bring attention to both past and present environmental effects of nuclear bombs and nuclear energy, and we co-sponsored together with Canadian civil society groups the Canadian premier of The Vow from Hiroshima.
And of course, RCW continued to monitor all disarmament related forums that relate to nuclear weapons, including the UN’s event to mark the International Day against Nuclear Tests, the UN General Assembly, and its First Committee. We also published the 2022 NPT briefing book in anticipation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference set for January 2022. In each of these, RCW is keeping up the momentum for the effective implementation and universalisation of the TPNW, and montemum for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
During 2021, work on autonomous weapon systems continued in the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts (GGE). The GGE met for informal virtual consultations from 28 June–2 July and held formal in-person sessions from 3–13 August, 24 September–1 October, and 2–8 December. Austria also hosted a virtual conference on autonomous weapons in September. In addition, a Preparatory Committee for the Sixth CCW Review Conference met from 6–8 September, while the Review Conference itself was held 13–17 December. At this Conference, a new mandate for future work on autonomous weapons was decided. The mandate is incredibly weak, simply extending discussions for ten days in 2022, which does not represent the views of the majority of states.
That said, the discussions throughout the GGE sessions in 2021 were useful for developing concrete positions on possible elements for a “normative and operational framework,” which has been on the GGE’s mandate to develop since 2019. RCW contributed actively through policy development and advocacy with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, as well as through our regular reporting and analysis from the GGE conferences and the CCW Review Conference. This work helped to mobilise many governments in favour of a new treaty prohibiting and regulating autonomous weapon systems, and deepend governmental understanding about the connections between emerging technologies and weapon systems, such as the risks of incorporating algorithmic bias and biometrics into weapons. We consistently bring a feminist, antimilitarist, and antiracist approach to the discussions, which are being increasingly taken up by governments in their statements and positions. We’ll be continuing to build momentum for a ban on autonomous weapons with the Campaign, committed governments, and with WILPF Sections and Groups in 2022!
The first open-ended working group (OEWG I) on Developments in the field of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in the Context of International Security concluded its work in March 2021. A second OEWG (OEWG II) began work in December. RCW has monitored and reported on all OEWG sessions since 2019l, and provided input on the draft OEWG I report and provided analysis and advocacy for next steps in the work of OEWG II. As the NGO liaison for the first OEWG, RCW advocated for improved civil society participation in OEWG meetings and helped to coordinate the participation and inputs of diverse stakeholders at the March 2021 session. Most recently, this culminated in a joint letter from more than 40 member states and dozens of civil society organisations to the second OEWG chairperson in support of more transparent and fair accreditation processes.
RCW also participated in various online events to promote WILPF’s views on cyber peace and security; on the vital role of non-governmental organisations in advancing cyber peace; and on gender perspectives in cyber This is important as RCW is one of the few civil society groups to promote feminist and intersectional perspectives on cyber security. RCW has become a leading voice within the cyber security space for gender perspectives, inputs on transparency and access, and expertise on specific policy proposals. It also leveraged its experience in other peace and security processes, such as on small arms and light weapons, to offer observations and thoughts on the proposal for a possible politically binding instrument on state behaviour in cyberspace.
In addition, RCW worked with the Human Rights team to submit views on the human rights impact of cyber mercenaries to the UN Working Group on the use of Mercenaries. This submission informed 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. This is important to help advance feminist perspectives in this space and ensure consistency across forums in work on cyber peace and security.
Throughout 2021, RCW’s work monitoring and reporting on UN and other international processes, as well as our advocacy guides, briefing books, and other civil society coordination efforts, all help to improve multilateral action on disarmament. Our efforts continue to increase transparency of intergovernmental work on disarmament; hold states to account for their positions and policies; and enable a cross-cutting, integrated analysis of multiple forums and issues.
RCW has also worked to improve civil society access to disarmament forums during the continued pandemic. We were critical of the fact that almost all of the Seventh Biennial Meeting of States on small arms and light weapons was held in closed format and therefore not broadcast on UN Web TV. We were consulted by other NGOs and governments about what other processes have done well during COVID-19, as part of planning for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Seventh Conference of States Parties. We promoted civil society access to the new cyber open-ended working group in December 2021 and we advocated for meaningful civil society participation at the NPT Review Conference in January 2022 and also acted as a bridge between the UN, the president of the Review Conference, and NGOs for information sharing. We will continue to advocate for access and transparency throughout 2022, with the aim of facilitating inclusive spaces for disarmament dialogue.
Throughout the year, RCW has led WILPF’s work on integrating environmental concerns into our work for demilitarisation and disarmament. Together with the Conflict and Environment Observatory, we developed a white paper on environmental peacebuilding, which provides unique thinking around the application of feminism, demilitarisation, and degrowth economic perspectives to conflict prevention and environmental peacebuilding. RCW published a blog about military emissions and greenwashing the military in conjunction with the International Day for the Prevention of the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. RCW also covered the issue of the environment in the First Committee Monitor, expanding our coverage of this topic.
RCW also helped lead WILPF’s Environment Working Group (EWG) with regular calls and policy planning. We worked with the EWG to organise a webinar featuring WILPF members on climate change and militarism, drafted a statement on the environment for the Commission on the Status of Women, and planned and coordinated WILPF participation at COP26. RCW also coordinated WILPF’s participation in joint civil society statements on military emissions and against nuclear power as a solution to the climate crisis. We will continue to expand this aspect of our work in 2022, recognising the interconnection of militarism, environmental degradation, and the well-being of people and the planet.
8 October 2021, Civil society statement on gender to the 2021 First Committee
31 August 2021, WILPF statement to the CSP7 on ATT implementation
4 March 2021, WILPF remarks on Section 3 of the revised draft declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
3 March 2021, WILPF remarks on Section 1 of the revised draft declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas