December 2022 E-News
After two difficult years dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic impacts, this year proved to be yet another challenging one. We witnessed multiple armed conflicts around the world, accompanied by nuclear threats, rising military spending, and unrelenting arms trading and war profiteering. Once again, many governments are prioritising power and profits over people and planet.
However, 2022 was also the year in which the disarmament community made remarkable progress. The adoption of important disarmament instruments and many other significant developments provide examples of how much we can achieve when we work together in determination and solidarity. In this edition of our newsletter, we chose five highlights that demonstrate how, through collective action and investments not in weapons but in care for each other and the planet, we are making progress in building a more peaceful future for us all. This edition also highlights the many publications, statements, and other materials we’ve produced this past year. We hope this provides inspiration to all those working to challenge systems of oppression around the world.
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In this edition
TOP FIVE HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2022
1. Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas
2. Stigmatisation of nuclear weapons
3. Promoting disarmament as a human rights issue
4. Promoting feminist perspectives on weapons and war
5. Centering the environment in disarmament
MEETINGS THAT WE COVERED
STATEMENTS WE DRAFTED
ADVOCACY AND RESEARCH WE ENGAGED IN
After more than ten years of advocacy by civil society organisations, activists, and experts, states finally adopted a political declaration aiming at strengthening the protection of civilians against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The diplomatic talks led by the government of Ireland culminated in a signing ceremony that took place in November 2022, in which 82 states officially endorsed the instrument.
The declaration contributes to the goal of ending civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons through several ways, including by recognising the direct physical harm and psychological injury caused by such use, as well as the long-term impact on basic services from the destruction of civilian infrastructure. Read as a whole, the declaration sets a strong normative framing against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
So far, 82 states, including major producers of explosive weapons, past users of explosive weapons in populated areas, and countries affected by armed conflict, have endorsed the text. But the adoption of this political declaration is just the beginning of efforts to protect civilians from explosive weapons, rather than the end. To reduce the harm caused to civilians by the use of such weapons, states will have to effectively implement the commitments taken in the instrument, including adopting measures to assist victims, collect and share data, and hold meetings to follow-up on implementation.
Reaching Critical Will has actively participated in the process that led to the declaration by providing inputs to its drafts; shedding light on the gendered impacts of these weapons; and monitoring and reporting all related meetings.
Against the backdrop of this year’s threats to use nuclear weapons and attacks against nuclear power plants, the progress achieved by the nuclear disarmament community during the First Meeting of States Parties (1MSP) of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) demonstrated that a world free of nuclear weapons is possible. At the meeting, states parties adopted a strong Declaration and Action Plan that set out a roadmap for the Treaty's implementation and universalisation.
WILPF, as a steering group member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), actively engaged at the meeting and in the preparations for it. Over the course of this year, RCW has also been actively promoting the Treaty through different ways, including at events and webinars such as ICAN’s Nuclear Ban Forum and Netzwerk Friedenskooperative’s discussion on Feminist Politics and Nuclear Weapons, various working papers and articles including for Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security, ZeFKo Studies in Peace and Conflict, and Deportate, esuli, profughe, and during the promotion of the virtual reality (VR) experience, On the Morning You Wake (To the End of the World), including at a VR panel at SXSW and an interview with the podcast Press the Button, among others. (Picture credit: ICAN @nuclearban)
WILPF also published an online toolkit developed by RCW about current nuclear dangers and the importance of the TPNW for ending the threat of nuclear war, a subject that RCW has also written and spoken about extensively this year.
WILPF’s Sections also engaged in work to promote the Treaty at the local level. In January, members around the world used the Treaty’s first anniversary to celebrate, and used the occasion to call on their governments to join the TPNW. Activities took place in Costa Rica, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Cameroon. As in previous years, RCW continued to monitor all disarmament related forums that relate to nuclear weapons, including the UN’s event to mark the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, the UN General Assembly, and its First Committee. We also reported on the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and the TPNW Meeting of States Parties. In each of these, RCW called for the effective implementation and universalisation of the TPNW, and worked to keep up the montemum for the abolition of nuclear weapons. (Picture credit: WILPF Italy)
Despite weapons proliferation being closely tied to several human rights violations, there is still a huge gap between the disarmament and human rights communities. Throughout the years, WILPF’s disarmament and human rights programme worked together to highlight the linkages between these two areas, with a view to strengthen avenues for human rights protection and disarmament. In 2022, there was a growing number of such connections in different human rights mechanisms.
During the 51st session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), WILPF actively engaged in advocacy for the adoption of two important resolutions related to disarmament and arms control. Resolution A/HRC/51/L.25, adopted without a vote, addresses the human rights implications of new and emerging technologies in the military domain. The resolution is a positive step forward in promoting safeguards against the risks posed by autonomous weapon systems, and the efforts to develop a legal framework to address these concerns. It adds to the growing attention that UN human rights mechanisms are paying to the negative human rights impacts of arms, including new technologies that can be weaponised. (Image credit: Stop Killer Robots @BanKillerRobots)
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 HRC resolution, which was adopted without a vote, 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.
During its 50th session (Geneva, 13 June–8 July 2022), the HRC also adopted resolution A/HRC/50/L.12 on “Human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms”. This is the fifth HRC resolution on this topic and it focuses on manufacturers and dealers of firearms and, among other things, calls upon “States to consider adopting requirements for manufacturers and dealers of firearms based on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which include the responsibility to avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts, preventing or mitigating human rights abuse, and the responsibility to conduct human rights due diligence.”
Another significant contribution in the efforts to bridge the gap between disarmament and human rights is the information note published by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights on August 2022 titled “Responsible business conduct in the arms sector: Ensuring business practice in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” WILPF provided substantive input to the Working Group’s process of developing the information note. It is an important contribution towards building an understanding that arms producers and dealers have responsibilities to conduct robust human rights due diligence, and that these responsibilities exist over and above compliance with national laws and regulations.
Finally, another welcome development this year is the report published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the “Impact of arms transfers on human rights” (A/HRC/51/15), which has a focus on children and youth. WILPF contributed a submission to OHCHR for the report drawing on the experiences of several of WILPF Sections. The report significantly contributes 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.
Earlier this year, WILPF published a series of blogs in response to the growing scenario of militarisation associated with Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In "Don't Normalise Nuclear Weapons and War- Abolish Them," Reaching Critical Will director Ray Acheson wrote about the nuclear threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the attempts of the mainstream media to normalise the situation by suggesting that the consequences of a nuclear attack wouldn’t be as bad. Acheson describes the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons by quoting Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor from the Hiroshima bombing, and explains how the normalisation of nuclear weapons is also part of the larger, historical project of normalising war.
Another blog in the same series written by Nela Porobić with contributions from Ray Acheson defends the importance of holding onto feminism and nonviolence in the midst of war. “Our history is full of examples of the important role feminists have played in pushing back against war and militarism, at both national and global levels, keeping our communities and planet away from the brink of annihilation.” Porobić calls on everyone to question the narrative that only weapons can save lives, and argues, “in the long run, from the perspective of saving lives and pushing back against patriarchy, feminists have more to gain in demanding peace than demanding weapons."
Reaching Critical Will also contributed in the project “Confronting Militarised Masculinities: Mobilising Men for Feminist Peace,” launched by WILPF and the MenEngage Alliance. The report “Abolishing Militarised Masculinities,” written by Ray Acheson, identifies structures of state violence beyond the military, such as police, prisoners and borders, which utilise militarised masculinities in the interests of capital, privilege and power, and explores the potential of abolitionism as a framework for enacting change. Other RCW staff members contributed to a joint publication between WILPF and GENSAC which explores the issue of masculinities and the intersection with small arms and gun violence.
Along with WILPF’s Women, Peace, and Security Programme, RCW developed and co-hosted a podcast series called “Think and Resist,” which seeks to expand the awareness and deepen your understanding of how global security challenges and gender inequalities intersect, with a focus on the overlap between the WPS agenda and disarmament work. Each episode is hosted by staff members Allison Pytlak, Zarin Hamid, and Genevieve Riccoboni from RCW and WILPF’s Women, Peace, and Security programme. They moderate discussions with experts, including from within WILPF sections, about different themes in international peace and security from a feminist lens, such masculinities, the international arms trade, digital security, and more. The conversations explore relevant policymaking and practice, identify opportunities and gaps, and recommend ways to advance change.
RCW also continued its work on cyber peace. In a research report prepared for the government of Canada, WILPF outlined possible options and key considerations for establishing a UN Programme of Action (PoA) on state behaviour in cyberspace. RCW’s programme manager presented the report at a workshop held in Geneva on 19–20 May, which was organised by Canada, the Netherlands, and the CyberPeace Institute. Through presentations, written contributions, and participation in capacity-building activities this year, as well as monitoring and reporting of UN fora, RCW has continued to explore and advocate for the gender dimensions of cyber and technology issues, and has been an active voice in calling for better civil society access and participation.
WILPF believes that peace, gender, and the environment are interconnected. Climate change and environmental destruction is a result of human activity driven by capitalism, militarism, patriarchy, and colonialism, and no progress will be made unless these underlying causes are addressed.
This year, RCW continued to advocate for feminist solutions for sustainable peace and environmental justice at the international level. Together with other WILPF staff and the Conflict and Environment Observatory, Ray Acheson co-wrote a paper on “Environmental Peacebuilding Through Degrowth, Demilitarization, and Feminism: Rethinking environmental peacebuilding to stay within planetary boundaries and champion social justice,” for The Future of Environmental Peacebuilding White Paper and Compendium. Ray Acheson spoke out against the environmental impacts of nuclear power in various forums, including an interview with CounterPunch Radio and book launch event for Abolishing State Violence: A World Beyond Bombs, Borders, and Cages. In addition, RCW helped elevate environmental impacts as a concern of specific weapon systems and war in general at various UN disarmament fora throughout the year.
RCW has also collaborated at national and local levels with WILPF Sections and partners across the globe. For an overview of all the activities carried out, check out WILPF’s COP 27 page.
13 October 2022, Civil society statement on gender to the 2022 First Committee
5 August 2022, Joint civil society statement at the NPT RevCon
17 February 2022, WILPF’s presentation on Gender, gender-based violence and ATT reporting