October 2022 E-News
The UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security is taking place in New York against the backdrop of increased global tensions. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea recent ballistic missile tests and Russia’s explicit threats to use nuclear weapons in connection with its invasion of Ukraine have caused apprehension worldwide. In these moments, governments, organisations, individuals, and the media need to consistently and categorically condemn any and all threats to use nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have devastating humanitarian and environmental impacts and any attempt to minimise the immediate and intergenerational horror of such weapons is unacceptable. It is necessary that the international community combine efforts to stigmatise nuclear threats and take real actions for de-escalation, denuclearisation, and disarmament. Disarmament Week begins 24 October; our call this year, faced with rising risks and persistent harms of nuclear weapons, is Nuclear Abolition Now!
In this edition:
- Current and upcoming disarmament meetings
- Recently concluded disarmament meetings
- Antinuclear community continues to mobilise
- Human Rights Council adopts two important resolutions related to disarmament and arms control
- OHCHR publishes new report on arms transfer and human rights
- Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month
- Upcoming events
- Featured news
- Recommended reading
UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security
The 77th Session of the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security is taking place between 3 October–4 November 2022 in New York. RCW published the First Committee Briefing Book ahead of the session and is issuing weekly reports during the conference. The first week of this year’s meeting focused much of its attention on Russia’s war in Ukraine and the increasing threats to use nuclear weapons. While this issue will likely continue to be at the forefront of the Committee’s work, states will also address all other key issues related to weapons and militarism. You can subscribe to our First Committee Monitor to receive these materials and check out RCW’s website for statements, resolutions, and more information.
Signing ceremony for explosive weapons declaration and civil society events
On 18 November, Ireland will host a high-level international conference in Dublin to adopt the Political Declaration on strengthening the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Consultations on this declaration concluded in June 2022.
As part of its outreach and advocacy work, the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) will organise a Global Day of Action, on Tuesday, 18 October 2022, one month ahead of the Dublin Signing Conference. More information about the global day of action will be published soon at the INEW website.
On 17 November, INEW and Dóchas will host a Civil Society Forum in Dublin. The Civil Society Forum will bring together states, international organisations and civil society and aims to ensure that the adoption of the political declaration is just the beginning of a long-term, committed and effective process of work. You can check INEW website for more details about the event, as well as for recent materials launched by the campaign, including a FAQ on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas and the Political Declaration and leaflet which lays out practical information on the political declaration, why and how to join it, and recommendations to states.
Third Session of the the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction
The Third Session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction will be held in New York from 14–18 November 2022. Civil society organisations interested in attending can register until 21 October. More information about the event and how to register are available at the UNODA website. For any WILPF members interested to attend, please let RCW know by 20 October by emailing disarm(at)wilpf.org.
Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty
The 20th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) is scheduled to take place in-person on 15–22 November 2022 in Geneva, with Colombia presiding. Check out the conference website for updates and documents.
2022 Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the CCW
The 2022 Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) will convene in Geneva from 16–18 November 2022. Reaching Critical Will will provide coverage of the conference through its CCW Report. Subscribe to receive our analysis, advocacy information, and highlights from the expert discussions. On RCW’s website, you can also find statements, documents, archived CCW Reports, and more information.
International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
On 26 September 2022, the UN General Assembly marked the annual International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons with a high-level event, bringing officials from around the world together to critique the state of nuclear affairs. Given that nuclear risks and rhetoric are at all-time high, many statements rejected nuclear weapons and deterrence doctrine, and called on all states to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). You can check our report for more information about who attended and the main issues raised by participants.
UN General Assembly high-level debate
The 77th UN General Assembly high-level debate took place from 20–27 September 2022 in New York. At this year’s debate, countries discussed issues around weapons and war, and called for a fundamental change to international relations and global governance. Check out our report to learn more about what was discussed in the meeting, as well as our country-based index to have access to all references to disarmament and militarism that were said during the debate.
In the midst of increased global tension and threats to use nuclear weapons, the international community has continued to mobilise for nuclear abolition. In September, during the United Nations General Assembly, seven new countries joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)! We welcome Barbados, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti and Sierra Leone, which signed the Treaty, and the Dominican Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which have deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN Secretary-General to become states parties. (Image credit: ICAN @nuclearban)
The support for the TPNW continues to grow, as the cities of Kiama, Port Augusta and Brisbane in Australia, and Swansea in Wales, have joined the ICAN Cities Appeal by adopting a motion supporting the treaty!
For the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on 26 September, activists around the globe organised actions to raise awareness about the devastating humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, calling for their abolition. For example, In Sweden, an installation of Amnesia Atomica by artist Pedro Reyes accompanied a manifestation held at the Swedish parliament. In Australia, ten federal independent parliamentarians urged the new Labor Government to progress its pre-election commitment to sign and ratify the TPNW. In the US, the Veterans for Peace project “the Golden Rule” set sail along the Mississippi River to raise awareness about nuclear threats and the TPNW, and ICAN campaigners held protest actions at nuclear weapon manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
In the beginning of October, the international community also mobilised to remember the 70th anniversary of the first of Britain's nuclear weapons tests in Australia. Conducted off the Monte Bello Islands, traditional lands of the Noala peoples in 1952, “Operation Hurricane” and subsequent tests left a legacy of nuclear harms in Australia. Recent research has shown that 70 years after the test, radiation is still present on the Montebello Islands, and it is not clear if the islands are completely safe. If you want to learn more about the history of nuclear testing in Australia, check out Dimity Hawkins’s article and ICAN’s collection of stories from nuclear test survivors. (Image credit: ICAN @nuclearban)
On 7 October 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution on the human rights implications of new and emerging technologies in the military domain (draft resolution A/HRC/51/L.25, as orally revised). The main sponsors of the resolution were Panama and Austria; at the time of writing, the text has also been co-sponsored by Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay as well as Armenia, Greece, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Paraguay, South Africa, Switzerland, and the State of Palestine. Despite some delegations raising in the negotiations the risk with this resolution duplicating or undermining the Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapons systems (AWS), or about whether it is appropriate for the HRC to deal with international humanitarian law (IHL) or disarmament issues, the resolution was eventually adopted without a vote.
Among other things, the text stresses “that the human element remains central in the use of force” and recognises “that the use of new and emerging technologies in the military domain some of which rely on inter alia data sets, algorithms-based programming and machine learning processes, may, in certain circumstances, cause, contribute to or facilitate the commission of human rights violations and abuses, as well as violations of international humanitarian law.” The resolution also highlights concerns around discrimination, marginalisation, inequality, and unpredictability of outcomes, as well as the responsibility of all business enterprises to respect human rights. The resolution also requests the HRC Advisory Committee to prepare a study examining the human rights implications of military technologies and to present it to the 60th session of the HRC (September 2025). There will be opportunities for NGOs and other experts to contribute to the development of this study.
During the negotiations, some states opposed the inclusion of references to meaningful human control, while others stressed its importance. Mexico, for example, said that it considers the most critical stage for the implementation of human rights obligations and IHL the moment of the use of these technologies, and that human decision making at that stage is essential due to the fundamental cognitive limitations and biases embedded within these technologies. Pakistan also said it remained convinced that ensuring meaningful human control is central to mitigating the risks and challenges tied to the military application of such technologies.
The resolution is a positive step forward in promoting safeguards against the risks posed by autonomous weapons systems, and the efforts to develop a legal framework to address these concerns. It adds to the growing attention that United Nations human rights mechanisms are paying to the negative human rights impacts of arms, including new technologies that can be weaponised. When the HRC acted on the draft resolution, in addition to Panama and Austria, Russia, Mexico, India, Paraguay, Pakistan, France, Republic of Korea, UK, Poland, and USA also made statements; to listen to those statements, check out the recording of the session. Make sure to also check out the Stop Killer Robots expert panel discussion on the threats posed by autonomous weapons to international human rights law hosted last month.
Another important resolution adopted by the HRC was the text sponsored by Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Nauru, Marshall Islands, and Australia on “Technical assistance and capacity-building to address the human rights implications of the nuclear legacy in the Marshall Islands” (A/HRC/51/L.24/Rev.1). The resolution was adopted without a vote. The United States conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands from 1946 to 1958, and communities still suffer the health and environmental effects such as high cancer rates and enduring displacement from contaminated areas. In 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes following a country visit, issued a report on the human rights impacts of US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. In 2021, in the context of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the USA did not support a recommendation to “respond accordingly to the substance of the relevant recommendations of the Special Rapporteur,” which WILPF raised concerns about when it called on the US to respond fully to those recommendations.
The HRC resolution requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to provide technical assistance in advancing the national strategy for nuclear justice and the pursuit of transitional justice in the Marshall Islands, and to prepare a report on addressing the challenges and barriers to the full realisation and enjoyment of the human rights of the people of the Marshall Islands, stemming from the state’s nuclear legacy, to be submitted to the HRC’s 57th session (September 2024) . During the negotiations, the United States, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, and India all argued that the HRC was not the appropriate forum to raise the issue. However, states supporting the resolution pointed to the recent activity by both the HRC and the UN General Assembly recognising the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment and referred to those resolutions to further justify the relevance (HRC resolution 48/13 on 8 October 2021 and General Assembly resolution 76/300 on 28 July 2022).
During the adoption by the HRC of the draft resolution, Fiji introduced the resolution. The representative of the Marshall Island made a moving statement, in which he said that, unlike what some delegations had said, the matter hasn’t been resolved, since the people of Marshall Islands are still suffering; he added that the HRC should speak up for the human rights of all persons, it is not a court of law, and a legalistic take on settlements has no place in the HRC: “we need technical assistance to help overcome the challenges and barriers to the full realisation and enjoyment of the human rights of our people.” He recalled that as the resolution was being presented, the Ambassador of the Marshall Islands had just laid her daughter to rest back home following a battle with cancer, and that the Ambassador has lost a total of four of her immediate family members to cancer, one after the other, and this was “one drop in the sea of struggle and human rights challenges” that the people of the Marshall Islands face.
Germany, India, China, USA, Pakistan, and UK also made statements; for more information on their statements check out the recording of the debate. In its statement, the US said that it had settled all claims past present and future with respect to the nuclear legacy in the Marshall Islands; it referred to what it considered factual casual and legal assertions with which the US disagrees, which include certain statements about environmental and health outcomes as well as references to the right to life. It said that the US understands the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6 (right to life) to refer to the arbitrary deprivation of life by state actors and not loss of life resulting from natural or social phenomena. This narrow interpretation is not in line with the the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 36 (2018) on article 6 of ICCPR that states that threat or use of nuclear weapons is incompatible with the right to life; the Committee recommends, among other things, that States Parties to the ICCPR must “afford adequate reparation to victims whose right to life has been or is being adversely affected by the testing or use of weapons of mass destruction, in accordance with principles of international responsibility.”
Furthermore, the US has left radioactive waste in the Runit Dome, which is now facing structural damage due to rising sea levels from climate change, and more broadly has not dealt with the unjust nuclear legacy it left behind from its testing. The resolution is an important development in efforts aimed at shedding light to the humanitarian and environmental impact of nuclear tests, and the need to address the impacts experienced by communities of survivors until this day.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently published the report on the “Impact of arms transfers on human rights” (A/HRC/51/15), which has a focus on children and youth. The report is another significant contribution towards greater awareness and understanding of the obligations that all states have under international law regarding strict regulation of arms transfers, obligations stemming, inter alia, from human rights treaties they are party to as well as from international humanitarian law and public international law.
The report recalls, in the context of transparency around licensing decisions of arms transfers, the right to participate in public affairs and of access to information, stating that “Information regarding alleged violations of human rights or violations of international humanitarian law in the destination state is subject to an overriding public interest in disclosure and cannot be withheld on grounds of national security.” With regard to “unregulated or illicit arms transfers,” the report recalls that “the Disarmament Commission’s guidelines for international arms transfers in the context of General Assembly resolution 46/36 H provide a broad definition of “illicit arms trafficking,” which includes international trade in conventional arms outlawed by international law and relevant national laws.”
In addition to these points, WILPF welcomes several aspects of the report, including the attention drawn to the requirement under the Arms Trade Treaty to assess the risk of arms being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of violence against children, since there hasn’t been enough attention to this requirement, which is part of Article 7(4); the examples of impacts on economic, social, and cultural rights; the reference to some of the devastating effects of explosive weapons, including on the right to life and the right to health; and the analysis in the report about the human rights obligations of states and the responsibilities of companies operating in the arms industry, including its reference to the Information Note that the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has recently published on the arms industry. In its submission to OHCHR in a response to a call for inputs for this report, WILPF had highlighted several of these issues.
In July 2022, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and the MenEngage Alliance launched a joint programme called Confronting Militarised Masculinities: Mobilising Men for Feminist Peace. The programme aimed advancing global understanding of practices and representations of masculinity associated with power, war, violence, and control, and shed light to the vital work of men working in solidarity with women activists and those beyond the gender binary to advance feminist peace. Two years after its launch, the programme has produced two dozen reports in all, a mix of literature reviews, case studies, and in-depth qualitative research conducted by academics and thought leaders from WILPF partner countries, including Afghanistan, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe. The programme also produced Power On Patrol, a one-hour documentary that reveals the true human cost of militarised masculinities in conflict societies and spotlights the men working with women activists to advance feminist peace through powerful personal testimony intertwined with leading expert voices in the field. Check out all these resources here.
UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, 77th Session
3 October–4 November 2022 | New York, USA
2022 Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)
16–18 November 2022 | Geneva, Switzerland
Third Session of the the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone of Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction
14–18 November 2022 | New York, USA
Signing ceremony for the Political Declaration on explosive weapons
18 November 2022 | Dublin, Ireland
Ninth Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Review Conference
28 November–16 December 2022 | Geneva, Switzerland
Events and webinars
What's Next for Arms Trade Transparency?
26 October 2022 | Online
Global Day of Action
18 October 2022 | Multiple locations and online
INEW Civil Society Forum
17 November 2022 | Dublin, Ireland
Iranian government shuts down internet in attempt to curb protests
In an attempt to stop the recent protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini, the government of Iran has shut off the internet in parts of Tehran and Kurdistan, and blocked access to platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp. The death of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman caused by the police while in custody for allegedly wearing a hijab headscarf in an “improper” manner gave rise to wide-scale uprising of the Iranian people against the hegemonic, violent, and oppressive regime. The internet shutdown follows a series of measures perpetrated by the government to repress the demonstrations that are happening throughout the country. According to Amnesty International, “security forces in Iran have unlawfully and deliberately fired live ammunition and birdshot and other metal pellets to violently quash largely peaceful protests.” The organisation said it has recorded the deaths of dozens of men, women, and children killed by the security forces.
On 5 October, WILPF published a statement to support the Iranian people’s uprising against tyranny. In the statement, WILPF pointed out that Iranian government’s actions are not about morality, but about “policing women’s bodies and choices, depriving them of health and reproductive rights, and pushing them out of the public space. It is a tool to strengthen the militarised control of the state.” The organisation stresses that “morality doesn’t require policing, and that the immorality that must stop is that of the military state that is unashamedly persecuting its people.” WILPF supports the transformative demands of the Iranian people, and stands behind their call for “Women, Life and Freedom”. The full statement is available here.
Six robotics companies sign letter against weaponisation of technology
Boston Dynamics, Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree signed a letter this week acknowledging the risk of harm and serious ethical issues of adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work. The six companies pledge that they will not weaponise “advanced-mobility general-purpose robots or the software we develop that enables advanced robotics” and will not support others to do so. As stated by Stop Killer Robots, “this letter marks an important further development of commercial and tech sector companies recognising that autonomy in weapons systems threatens not just human dignity and human control in the use of force, but also the positive social development of robotics in general.” However, the campaign noted that this pledge is restricted to “advanced-mobility general-purpose robots” and related software, not ruling out future collaboration with militaries or with police forces. This would leave the possibility for machines being used for surveillance and reconnaissance for example, as is noted by James Vincent in The Verge.
Civil society mobilises against proliferating use of surveillance technologies to violate human rights
A group of civil society organisations and individuals called on the ITFlows Consortium to immediately halt the use of EUMigraTool and stop pursuing the use of any and all technologies that can be used in securitisating migration. The group affirmed that it is not possible to predict migration without risking fundamental rights, and that it was alarmed by the potential, and probable, misuse of the forecasting tool—designed to ‘predict migration flows’ and ‘detect risks of tensions related to migration’—by authorities to interdict border crossings. It expressed deep concern that the EUMigraTool will be used not as an instrument of protection, but rather of coercion, and called on the ITFlows Consortium to withdraw the EUMigraTool and refrain from developing any systems that are being considered for strict regulation under the Artificial Intelligence Act.
On 28 September, a group led by civil society organisation Access Now and the Government of Catalonia announced the “The Geneva Declaration on Targeted Surveillance and Human Rights.” According to Access Now, “the Declaration specifically condemns the proliferating use of surveillance technologies to target communities engaging in protected activities, and calls on governments, in coordination with civil society and the private sector, to implement a moratorium on the export, sale, transfer, servicing and use of targeted digital surveillance technologies developed by the private industry, until rigorous human rights safeguards are put in place to regulate such practices.” You can access the full text of the declaration here.
US Peace Prize awarded to Costs of War
The Board of Directors of the US Peace Memorial Foundation has voted unanimously to award the 2022 US Peace Prize to Costs of War “For Crucial Research to Shed Light on The Human, Environmental, Economic, Social, and Political Costs of U.S. Wars.” Costs of War is a research collaboration housed at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs that researches and analyses the impacts of the United States’ wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. The group “seeks to educate the American public and its leaders about the often unacknowledged human, economic, political, social, and environmental costs of war, both in the U.S. and internationally.” The US Peace Memorial Foundation awards the US Peace Prize annually to recognize and honour the most outstanding American antiwar leaders.
Mexico’s government files new lawsuit against US gun dealers
After the dismissal in late September of a lawsuit filed by Mexico against US gun manufacturers, the country brought a new claim to the federal court of the state of Arizona against five gun manufacturers from the state. The new lawsuit “focuses on "straw" sales of firearms to customers who purchase them for someone else”, said Alejandro Celorio, legal advisor to the case. According to Mr. Celorio, the lawsuit aims to address root causes of gun violence, and it requests that the defendants be required to implement measures to prevent arms trafficking, monitor sales, and pay damages to the government.
Republic of Korea’s Supreme Court acknowledges the violation of human rights of “comfort woman”
In September, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea upheld the ruling of the Appeal Court, which acknowledged the violation of human rights and human dignity of the “comfort women”. The Court acknowledged that the Republic of Korea actively justified or encouraged prostitution with the operation of US “military camp towns” for the sake of the military alliance and foreign currency acquisition. The positive outcome of the lawsuit, which was filed in 2014, is a result of years of activism from women activists in the country.
Failure to extend Yemen truce
On 3 October, the United Nations (UN) said that Yemen’s warring parties failed to agree on an extension of a ceasefire. The UN’s envoy to Yemen urged the leaders to “fulfill their obligation to the Yemeni people to pursue every avenue for peace.” In April this year, the parties had agreed to the first nationwide truce after six years of conflict. However, the deadline for extending the agreement expired on October 2 and the ceasefire was not extended.
Tension increases on the Korean Peninsula as the DPRK carries out new ballistic missile tests
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted a series of ballistic missile tests in the last months, the last one being on 9 October. A test on 4 October prompted an emergency alert from the Japanese government in the north of the country. The tests, together with recent national law that declares the DPRK to be a nuclear weapons state, raises concerns that the country may resume nuclear testing (which has not happened since 2017). The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the launch as a "reckless act" and a violation of Security Council resolutions. The Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) warned that these actions further exacerbate the risk of nuclear weapons use, particularly in the current context. “As the risks of use of nuclear weapons grow, driven by threats, inflammatory rhetoric and the increasing prominence of nuclear weapons in security policies and doctrines, the international community’s response must be to stigmatise and delegitimize nuclear weapons and to build a robust global norm against them. The TPNW offers the most practical way forward for this,” said the Campaign.
Power line restored at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
The International Atomic Energy Agency announced that an external power line to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was repaired on 12 October. The plant had been disconnected from external power for the second time in five days and had to resort to emergency diesel generators after being the target of shelling in the past week. The IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said that he will travel to Russia and Ukraine in an effort to establish a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around the plant.
Australian Conservation Foundation, “Wrong reaction: Why “next-generation” nuclear is not a credible energy solution,” October 2022
Center for Civilians in Conflict, “Risking the future: Climate change, environmental destruction, and conflict in Yemen,” October 2022
Jessica West and Gilles Doucet, “A Security Regime for Outer Space: Lessons from Arms Control,” Project Ploughshares, October 2022
Webinar: Ray Acheson and David Vine, “Abolishing State Violence: A World Beyond Bombs, Borders, and Cages,” 29 September 2022
Webinar: Stop Killer Robots, “The threat of autonomous weapons systems to international human rights law,” 29 September 2022
Sébastien Philippe, Sonya Schoenberger and Nabil Ahmed, “Radiation Exposures and Compensation of Victims of French Atmospheric Nuclear Tests in Polynesia,” Science & Global Security, 15 September 2022
Elizabeth Minor, “NPT sees Growing Response to Nuclear Weapons’ Harmful Legacy,” 5 September 2022
Stop Killer Robots, “Stop killer robots in the UK universities,” September 2022
Anne-Marie Buzatu, “From boots on the ground to bytes in cyberspace: a mapping study on the use of information communications technologies (ICTs) in Security Services provided by Commercial Actors,” ICT4Peace Foundation, September 2022