March 2023 E-News

This month marks the twentieth anniversary of the Iraq War. Despite the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the injury and displacement of millions more, the torture of people at black sites, the destruction of housing, schools, and hospitals through explosive violence, the long-term harm caused by the use of incendiary weapons and deplete uranium, the vast environmental damage, many of the discussions about the war ignore the massive destruction and harm caused by the conflict. “The Pentagon and its enablers prefer to turn the killing and maiming of civilians into an abstraction by calling it ‘collateral damage’ so that it becomes a detail of history that we can pass over, " writes Peter Mass in the Intercept

But those that lived through the harm caused by the war do not forget their experiences. The millions of people injured, forced out of their homes, that had their loved ones killed; they will never forget the horrors caused by the armed conflict. As long as wars continue to be fought, generations of people will continue to be traumatised around the world. Meanwhile, billions of dollars that could be spent caring for us all continue to be spent on weapons and war, with private contractors reaping the profits as they facilitate pain and suffering globally.  

The war in Iraq is but one example of the catastrophe caused by wars. It shows clearly why each and every country in the world must work towards disarmament and demilitarisation. It is only through building sustainable peace and justice that we can start healing from past trauma and guarantee a safer future for the next generations.

In this edition:

Upcoming disarmament meetings

Working Group meetings and 2nd CSP9 Informal Preparatory Meeting

The Working Group meetings and Second Informal Preparatory Meeting of the Ninth Conference of States Parties (CSP9) to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will take place in Geneva on 9–12 May 2023. To find out what happened in the previous meeting of the working groups and first preparatory meeting, which took place from 14–17 February 2023, check out Control Arms’ summary.

CCW Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapon systems, second session of 2023

The second session of the 2023 CCW Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapon systems is scheduled for 15–19 May 2023 in Geneva. RCW will be monitoring the meeting and will publish a summary of the discussions on our CCW Report.

Fifth Chemical Weapons Convention Review Conference

The Fifth Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (RC-5) will take place from 15–19 May 2023 at the World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands. You can find documents and more information about the Conference at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ webpage.

Recently concluded disarmament meetings

Work on autonomous weapon systems gets underway in 2023

On 20 February 2023, the Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on autonomous weapon systems (AWS) hosted a virtual informal consultation to prepare for the formal work of the GGE this year. Check out Reaching Critical Will’s  first CCW Report of 2023 for a summary of the virtual consultations.

Later that week, the government of Costa Rica hosted a Latin American and Caribbean Conference on the Social and Humanitarian Impact of Autonomous Weapons, which adopted a communiqué calling for the commencement of negotiations on a legally binding treaty prohibiting and regulating these weapon systems.

On 6–10 March, the GGE had its first formal session of 2023 in Geneva. With a new batch of proposals on the table for consideration and dialogue across a range of key issues, the week saw some notable developments in states’ positions, as outlined by Stop Killer Robots in its closing remarks. However, the heavily militarised states and some of their allies continue to actively block the development of legally binding rules, despite overwhelming support for a new instrument to prohibit and regulate AWS. It remains to be seen what the GGE will accomplish this year; it still has another five days of formal work and two virtual informal consultations ahead of it. But based on the discussions last week, there is not a clear path forward at the veto-based CCW. Our second CCW Report of 2023 contains reports from the first session of the GGE and a reprint of a summary of the Digital Dehumanization Conference held in Costa Rica.

Fourth Substantive Session of the UN cyber working group

The UN's Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on information and communications technology (ICT) met in New York from 6–10 March 2023. RCW won’t publish a report of the meeting, but you can find conference documents on our website, and analysis from past meetings in our Cyber Peace & Security Monitor. For further information, visit the UNODA website.

Check out the workshop on Abolishing the Military-Industrial Complex 

RCW Director Ray Acheson held a workshop on Abolishing the Military-Industrial Complex as part of the “Expert Masterclasses” organised by the Emerging Voices Network at BASIC. In this masterclass, Ray Acheson discusses the nature of the US military-industrial complex, the political economy and colonial aspects of the nuclear-industrial complexes in nuclear-armed states, and the relationship between these complexes and other structures of state violence (i.e. the prison-industrial complex and border security-industrial complex). This session also examines movements to abolish these complexes and the connections between them. There is also a discussion and Q&A to encourage participants to think about the links between the military-industrial complex and other issues in their local/national contexts, and how to challenge these structures.

New publication: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Gender, Feminism, and Intersectionality

Reaching Critical Will has published a briefing paper that outlines the gender-related provisions of the TPNW and offers recommendations for states parties and others to consider ahead of the Second Meeting of States Parties (2MSP).

As highlighted in the paper, nuclear weapons are gendered. They have gendered impacts; their existence is predicated on and perpetuated in part due to gendered norms about power, violence, and security; and their abolition is challenged by the lack of gender and other forms of diversity in discussions and negotiations related to nuclear policy. In recent years, the TPNW has done some work to address these issues, but more is needed to advance gender transformative and intersectional approaches to nuclear weapons, which is an imperative for achieving nuclear abolition. This paper, which is a contribution to the intersessional work of the TPNW, offers specific recommendations for the advancement of these considerations.

ICAN announces calls for proposals to conduct research on nuclear weapons

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is issuing a call for proposals to conduct research on nuclear weapons with a view to support nuclear disarmament activism and support underfunded research on nuclear disarmament. According to the call, “ICAN will consider a broad range of research topics, including but not limited to: normative approaches to nuclear weapons, including legal approaches such as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; nuclear weapons and injustice; nuclear weapons and production of knowledge and the political economy of nuclear weapons.” The deadline for applications is 27 March 2023.

Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month

Our recommendation of the month is the article “Pacific women's anti-nuclear poetry: centring Indigenous knowledges,” written by Rebecca H. Hogue and Anaïs Maurer. The article expands feminist international relations research on global nuclear politics by presenting an archive of Indigenous Pacific women's anti-nuclear poetry and by arguing for the importance of this poetry as a transformative mover of international discourse on nuclear imperialisms. This article was shortlisted for the ‘Centenary prize’ for the best work published in the journal International Affairs in 2022.


Upcoming events


Working Group meetings and 2nd CSP9 Informal Preparatory Meeting
9–12 May 2023 | Geneva, Switzerland

CCW Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapon systems, second session of 2023
15–19 May 2023 | Geneva, Switzerland

Fifth Chemical Weapons Convention Review Conference
15–19 May 2023 | The Hague, Netherlands

Events and webinars

GAWCH Webinar Series - Explosive Events in Urban Areas 

14 April 2023 | Online

Featured news

Australia ignores proliferation risks and announces plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines

In early March, Australia announced a pact with the United States (US) and the United KIngdom (UK) to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. The program is forecast to cost up to 368 billion AUD. “Acquiring nuclear-powered submarines using highly-enriched uranium (HEU) is both a major proliferation risk and could be seen as a precursor to Australia acquiring nuclear weapons. The clearest signal that Australia could send to our region and the world that this is not our intent, is to sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW),” said ICAN Australia. Following the AUKUS announcement, several demonstrations have been taking place in Australia to protest against the deal. (Picture credit: Ray Acheson)

Expert panel recommends that planned ocean dumping of Fukushima wastewater should not proceed 

This year marks the twelfth anniversary of the accident at the Fukushima power plant, which caused hundreds of billions of dollars in economic loss and the release of large volumes of radioactive contamination to the ocean and air. In the upcoming months, Japan could begin dumping into the Pacific Ocean 1.3 million tons of treated but still radioactively contaminated wastewater. Construction of the kilometre long undersea discharge tunnel commenced last August despite the concerns voiced by China, South Korea, numerous Pacific island nations, UN Special Rapporteurs, and many regional and international health and environmental civil society organisations. An independent expert panel recommended unanimously that the planned ocean dumping should not proceed. They recommend that new approaches and alternatives to ocean dumping are needed and are the responsible way forward, taking into account the scientific evidence and the need to minimise transboundary and transgenerational impacts.

Civil society statement about the new EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

The European Union (EU) is about to adopt new legislation (referred to as the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive) obliging companies operating in the EU to carry risk assessments of their human rights and environmental impacts. WILPF and more than 40 NGOs are calling on the European Parliament and EU Member States to ensure that this new legislation fully covers the arms sector and so-called dual-use products (civilian products that can be used for military purposes such as new technologies). 

This is important to contribute to filling important gaps when it comes to the accountability of European arms companies, which have for too long evaded scrutiny and accountability and hidden behind States’ arms export authorisations. The statement also urges EU decision-makers to ensure that the new EU legislation obliges businesses to respect all human rights, and international humanitarian law and to exercise heightened due diligence when operating in conflict-affected and high-risk areas.

Italy dismisses criminal proceedings for arms exports used in unlawful airstrikes in Yemen

The Judge for Preliminary Investigations in Rome dismissed the case concerning the criminal responsibility of Italian public officials and the CEO of an arms manufacturer for exporting arms that were used in the war in Yemen. According to Mwatana, ECCHR, and Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo, the international human rights organisations that filed the complaint, the decision not only denies those affected by the air strike access to justice and a fair trial, but also stands in stark contrast to the evidence gathered over years of investigation of indiscriminate aerial attacks on Yemeni civilians conducted since 2015 by Saudi Arabia (SA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with bombs made in Italy. “We deeply regret the decision, which is devastating to all civilian survivors of deadly airstrikes in Yemen,” says Laura Duarte, Legal Advisor at ECCHR. “It closes the route to justice and widens the gap of impunity from which the European arms industry has benefited for years, and legitimizes arms exports that may contribute to international crimes. All this while the conflict in Yemen is still ongoing and civilians continue to be the first victims.”  

Arms transfers to Europe increase and the US boosts its dominance over the global arms trade

A recent study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found that imports of major arms by European states increased by 47 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22. According to the Institute, the rise in arms transfer to Europe is due to the tensions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The data on global arms transfers published by SIPRI also show that the United States’ share of global arms exports increased from 33 to 40 per cent. The United States supplied weapons to 103 countries, more than half the nations on the planet, including to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for use at the war in Yemen, and to major human rights violators from the Philippines, Egypt, and Nigeria.

New database of arms transfers to Ukraine

The Groupe de recherche et d’information sur la paix et la sécurité (GRIP), based in Belgium, have produced a comprehensive database of arms deliveries to Ukraine from January–November 2022 (in French). The Group also published a factsheet and methodology, both in English and French.

War in Ukraine raises concerns over global drive toward killer robots

The widespread use of drones in conflicts, including in the war in Ukraine, is raising concerns among experts that militaries will hand over more and more control to artificial intelligence, as reported by Wired. “The massive use of drones in the war in Ukraine is pushing for more AI-guided weapon systems,” said Wim Zwijnenburg, from PAX. According to Stop Killer Robots, “the militaries investing most heavily in autonomous weapons systems, including the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea and the European Union, are launching the world into a costly and destabilising new arms race.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, reiterated in her last report the UN Secretary-General’s call for a prohibition on autonomous weapons systems, and told the UN Human Rights Council in March that “we need a moratorium on the sale, transfer, and use of lethal autonomous weapons” and that “we need to make sure that AI is not subject to national security exemptions.” (Picture credit: Ari Beser)

US Air Force is using facial recognition in its military drones

The New Scientist magazine recently reported that the United States (US) military has developed facial recognition software to deploy on drones. According to Popular Mechanics, the drone software maker, RealNetworks, claims the uncrewed craft “will use artificial intelligence (AI) to fly itself and discriminate between friend and foe.” Several experts and organisations have raised legal and ethical concerns about the development of automated weaponry.

United States’ reveals one of biggest military budget requests in history 

In early March the Presidency of the United States released its budget request for 2024. The figure for the Pentagon alone is 842 billion USD, which represents 69 billion more than the previous year. The total spending on militarism—including work on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy—amounts to 886 billion USD. Considering likely emergency military aid packages for Ukraine, this could be the highest military budget since World War II, as written by William Hartung. 

A large part of this budget will go to military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. “This military budget represents a shameful status quo that the country can no longer afford. Families are struggling to afford basics like housing, food, and medicine, and our last pandemic-era protections are ending, all while Pentagon contractors pay their CEOs millions straight from the public treasury,” said Lindsay Koshgarian, Program Director for the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Members of Korean peace organisations protest for gender equality

In early March, thousands of women gathered and marched for gender equality in the Republic of Korea. Members of Women Making Peace joined the rally and organised signatories on the Korea Peace Appeal. The host organisation, Korean Women's Associations United, gave those involved in the lawsuit of the “comfort women” the award of steppingstone for gender equality this year. The case, filed by survivors of sexual slavery in US military camptowns, was ruled last year by Korea’s Supreme Court, which ordered the state to pay compensation for the plaintiffs. The court’s ruling came 65 years after the establishment of such camptowns, 10 years after the launch of the Camptown Women’s Human Rights Coalition, and eight years and three months after the filing of the compensation suit. (Picture credit: Youkyoung Ko)

Recommended resources

Jeff Sparrow, “The Aukus deal is a crime against the world’s climate future. It didn’t have to be like this,” The Guardian, 21 March 2023

Nico Edwards and B. Arneson, “The Challenge of Demilitarizing the Response to Climate Change,” 13 March 2023

Webinar: Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, “Toward a Real Feminist Foreign Policy,”  9 March 2023

Ambika Tandon, “Why feminists reject Big Tech,” 9 March 2023

Allison Pytlak, “Download in Progress: Addressing the gender dimensions of cyber security,” 8 March 2023

Bonnie Docherty and Mary Wareham, “Latin America and Caribbean Nations Rally Against Autonomous Weapons Systems,” Just Security, 6 March 2023

Ray Acheson, Mobilizing Feminist Action for Nuclear Abolition, Arms Control Today, Volume 53, March 2023

Article 36, “Completely outside human control?” March 2023

Cesar Jaramillo, “A negotiated settlement is the only path to peace in Ukraine,” 25 February 2023

Catherine Eschle, ‘Why haven’t you known?’ Transoceanic solidarity and the politics of knowledge in feminist anti-nuclear activism, Z Friedens und Konflforsch, 23 February 2023

Marco Iazzetta, “Gender-based Violence in Numbers: Data from Argentina’s National Agency of Controlled Materials (ANMaC),” Small Arms Survey, 13 February 2023

Podcast: Elizabeth Minor, Maiara Folly, Uldduz Sohrabi, “Autonomous Weapons: What is the orientation of the United Kingdom?” Article 36, 13 February 2023

Documentary: Naveed Faro, “Accounts of a Nuclear Whistleblower,” September 2022