December 2023 E-News
The past year was marked by increasing colonial violence being waged in the world. International law has been disregarded, war crimes have been committed, and the international community has struggled to respond in an effective way to protect people’s lives. However, important action is being undertaken to address this violence and to promote peace and justice. This E-News rounds-up our top five achievements for disarmament and demilitarisation 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 2024. Between relentless wars and growing militarism, we will have our work cut out for us. Please consider helping to sustain our work ahead. 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!
In this edition
TOP FIVE HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2023
1. Advancing gender perspectives and supporting bold outcomes at the TPNW Meeting of States Parties
2. Building momentum against autonomous weapon systems
3. Action at the UN General Assembly against genocide of Palestinians
4. Advocating for a bolder United Nations
5. Connecting with other movements to demand nuclear abolition
MEETINGS WE COVERED
STATEMENTS WE DRAFTED
ADVOCACY AND RESEARCH WE ENGAGED IN
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) Second Meeting of States Parties (2MSP) took place from 27 November to 1 December 2023 at UN Headquarters in New York. Among other things, the meeting heard updates from intersessional working groups about the implementation of the Action Planadopted at 1MSP, and adopted a strong declaration and decisions to take forward work for the Treaty’s implementation and universalisation.
These documents show a firm commitment to advancing the stigmatisation and eliminatation of nuclear weapons. Among other things, the declaration issued a bold critique of the theories, doctrines, and practices of those who support nuclear weapons, while the adopted decisions back up these proclamations, including through the establishment of an intersessional consultative process on security concerns of states. This process, for which Austria has been appointed the coordinator, will advance arguments and recommendations to promote and articulate the legitimate security concerns and the threat and risk perceptions enshrined in the TPNW that result from the existence of nuclear weapons and the concept of nuclear deterrence.
In addition, TPNW states parties also agreed to a structure for intersessional work between now and the Third Meeting of States Parties, which is scheduled to take place the week of 3 March 2025. This intersessional work will include the continuation of the working groups on universalisation of the Treaty, victim assistance and environmental remediation, and nuclear weapon elimination, as well as the work of the gender focal point. States parties also adopted a reporting format and guidelines for voluntary reporting on the implementation of Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW in relation to victim assistance, environmental remediation, and international cooperation, and they agreed to focused discussions on the feasibility of and possible guidelines for establishing an international trust fund for victim assistance and environmental remediation. (Picture credit: Mirjam Todt, @little.wild.stories)
In terms of process, the diversity of participation in TPNW meetings of states parties and intersessional work is unparalled in other nuclear weapon forums. The perspectives and expertise of affected communities are being increasingly centred in the work on humanitarian and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons and Indigenous Peoples and survivors have been involved in shaping narratives and designing policy. More is needed, but advances are being made.
Ahead of and during 2MSP, RCW conducted advocacy, published analysis and reports, and posted statementsand documents online. RCW also worked with the gender focal point during the intersessional period, publishing a paper on gender and intersectionality and the TPNW and working hard to ensure that marginalised knowledge is included meaningfully in deliberations and in outcomes of TPNW meetings. As was seen during 2MSP by comments hostile to gender diversity from the Holy See, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kiribati in response to the gender focal point’s presentation, integrating into the TPNW’s work progressive perspectives on gender and intersectionality is crucial. These include perspectives that recognise the realities of gender diversity and the intersections that gender has with race, class, sexuality, disability, and more, and perspectives that challenge outdated, binary notions of identity and existence. This is imperative for advancing truly inclusive and transformative solutions to nuclear weapons.
In 2024, RCW will continue to advance feminist and intersectional approaches to nuclear weapons, including within the TPNW intersessional work. We will also collaborate with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and other activists to dismantle deterrence theories and policies and build a world free of nuclear weapons.
On 1 November 2023, the First Committee adopted the first ever resolution on autonomous weapons, stressing the “urgent need for the international community to address the challenges and concerns raised by autonomous weapons systems.” The voting result on resolution L.56 was 164 states in favour and 5 against, with 8 abstentions. In addition, in October 2023, the UN Secretary-General and the International Committee of the Red Cross President made a joint call for new international law on autonomous weapons, with the UN Secretary-General calling, in A New Agenda for Peace, for states in “to conclude by 2026 a legally binding instrument.” (Image credit: Stop Killer Robots)
The resolution now sets the stage for the UN Secretary-General to collect the views of states, international organisations, civil society, and others, which will hopefully propel urgent action to stop the development and deployment of machines that can take human life. The joint ICRC-UNSG call lends legitimacy to the development of a legal instrument.
RCW has been advocating for years for a legally binding treaty on autonomous weapon systems. We also collaborated with Stop Killer Robots in the activities leading up to the adoption of the resolution, and promoted the campaign’s advocacy in each edition of the First Committee Monitor and the First Committee Briefing Book.
In 2024, RCW will continue to work for the prohibition of autonomous weapons and to articulate the ways in which these weapons undermine human rights and gender justice, among other things.
One week into the 78th session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, Hamas attacked Israeli civilians and soldiers, and Israel unleashed a horrific war of collective punishment upon Palestinians. Since then, while most governments have by now supported an urgent ceasefire, for many others it has been business as usual: war profiteering and double standards.
RCW wrote and published a series of editorials in the First Committee Monitor focusing on advocacy around ending the genocide, preventing arms transfers and use of indiscriminate weapons, etc. In addition to that, RCW monitored the First Committee for references to the genocide and updated WILPF’s bulletin; contributed to a letter to Permanent Missions to the United Nations on Violence against Palestine; inputted to a joint statement, signed by over 130 organisations, calling for a two-way arms embargo on Israel; joined a briefing organised by the State of Palestine in Geneva to a statement on behalf of the International Network on Explosive Weapons; among other actions.
As WILPF’s work against the genocide and for a free Palestine carries on, RCW is continuing to, among other things, urge an end to arms transfers to Israel and the imposition of a two-way arms embargo, and to call on states that have endorsed the declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas to demand an immediate ceasefire. We will work with others to demand an end to the occupation, and liberation for all those suffering under settler colonial violence.
In April 2023, the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism (HLAB) released a report providing recommendations for the upcoming Summit of the Future. On 20 July 2023, the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) launched A New Agenda for Peace as an input to preparations for the 2024 Summit for the Future. From 19–26 September, the UN General Assembly held its 78th high-level general debate. Each of these offers information on the policy priorities and initiatives of the UN Secretariat and UN member states, including in relation to weapons and war.
RCW published two papers providing a review of the High-Level Advisory Board and the New Agenda for Peace’s recommendations on disarmament and demilitarisation, as well as a report and analysis of the UN General Assembly high-level debate and a database extracting disarmament references. RCW also wrote a submission to the New Agenda for Peace process in January 2023. Each of our reports and papers convey feminist perspectives, providing transparency from these forums and recommendations to them for bolder action for peace and freedom. (Image credit: Dimity Hawkins)
RCW will continue to call for transformative change to the multilateral system in 2024, including by making a submission to the Pact for the Future to be adopted by the Summit for the Future next September. We will demand demilitarisation as critical to the implementation of international law and protection of people and the planet.
Beyond the TPNW meeting of states parties, 2023 was a big year for nuclear weapon issues. A new blockbuster film about nuclear weapons was released in July 2023, Oppenheimer. The UN also held three high-level meetings related to nuclear weapons, including the International Day against Nuclear Tests, the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Article XIV Conference.
Corresponding to these, RCW contributed to three WILPF blogs providing information and analysis, as well actions for WILPF members and other activists to undertake for nuclear abolition:
- Oppenheimer: Unveiling the Untold Horror, 6 August 2023
- Ending Nuclear Tests, Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, 29 August 2023
- It’s Time for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, 26 September 2023
RCW also delivered a joint civil society statement to the CTBT Conference.
RCW also undertook work connecting nuclear weapons and disarmament issues to other abolitionist campaigns. On 2 September 2023, RCW’s Director Ray Acheson took part in a panel discussion on Abolition and the Nuclear Age at the Socialism 2023 conference in Chicago. Ray explored the material and conceptual connections between nuclear weapons and other structures of state violence, including police, prisons, and borders. Co-panelist Josh Frank highlighted the dangers of nuclear energy and critiqued the renewed interest in nuclear power as a “solution” to the climate crisis, while Janene Yazzie focused on Indigenous experiences of nuclearism and highlighted the importance of decolonisation, nuclear disarmament, and Land Back. (Picture credit: Tim Wright)
In addition, this past year Ray wrote an article for CounterPunch connecting the Stop Cop City and Stop the Arms Fair movements, and has contributed other articles as part of their Abolition Everywhere column. In 2024, RCW will continue to connect our work for disarmament and demilitarisation with other movements to end state violence and build peace and justice for all.
1 December 2023, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Statement to the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on Gender and Intersectionality
11 October 2023, Joint statement on armed drones at the First Committee
11 October 2023, Joint statement on gender at the First Committee