May 2024 E-News

As Israel’s genocide of Palestinians continues, resistance and oppositions continues to grow around the world. In particular, students and other activists have focused on getting universities and other institutions to divest from the weapon manufacturers that are profiting from the slaughter. Divestment is critical to ending material support to violence. And the companies making the weapons, parts, and components being shipped to Israel today are also many of the same companies profiting from conflicts around the world, as well as from the production of nuclear weapons. Taking on the arms companies is a great way to disrupt the war machine all around. Check out WILPF’s toolkit for action and read the rest of this E-News for more information and updates on a range of disarmament and demilitarisation issues! 

In this edition:

Upcoming disarmament meetings

ATT Informal Preparatory Meeting 

The Informal Preparatory Meeting Please see RCW’s briefing paper for ATT delegates about arms transfer to Israel, as well as UCLA Promise Institute’s paper on environmental harms and arms tranfers to Israel.’

Action on small arms and light weapons at the UN

From 17–28 June, states and civil society will gather at the UN in New York for the Fourth Review Conrerenceof the UN Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Reaching Critical Will’s website will post statements and documents from the conference, and will provide coverage of the meeting in our Small Arms Monitor. You can subscribe now to receive our analysis and advocacy during the meeting, where we will be working to make sure gender perspectives and calls for demilitarisation are included.

2024 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee

The Preparatory Committee for the 2026 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is scheduled to hold its second session from 22 July to 2 August 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland. Modalities for civil society participation are outlined in this information note, as well as on RCW website. Requests for accreditation must be submitted before 2 June 2024. If you are a WILPF member and intend to attend, contact Emma Bjertén (emma(dot)bjerten(at)wilpf(dot)org). Information regarding side events is also available on the RCW website.

Recently concluded disarmament meetings

Calling for an end to explosive violence

 From 22–24 April, governments and activists gathered in Oslo to talk about the implementation of the Political Declaration that is meant to curb the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The bombing of towns and cities around the world, including Gaza, Ukraine, Sudan, and many others, is killing civilians and destroying infrastructure, leading to massive devastation and long-lasting harm. Reaching Critical Will, which participated in the negotiation of the Political Declaration over many years, attended the Oslo conference and reported on the meetings. Ahead of the conference we published a briefing paper for states that highlighted the horrific impact of Israel’s use of explosive weapons in Gaza and called on all states that have endorsed the Political Declaration to stop providing weapons to Israel and to work to end the genocide of Palestinians and hold Israel accountable under international law.

Building momentum to ban autonomous weapons

 On 29 and 30 April, Austria hosted the international conference “Humanity at the Crossroads: Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Challenge of Regulation.” For two days, states, civil society, and academia discussed the risks posed by autonomous weapon systems (AWS) and how to address them. More than 140 states were present in the meeting, and over 1000 participants—including members from WILPF Sections and Reaching Critical Will. Throughout the Conference, a message was clear: we urgently need to start negotiations of a legally binding instrument. Check out RCW’s report for the full scoop! Also read the WILPF statement delivered at the meeting by WILPF Zimbabwe member Edwick Madzimure.

Stop Killer Robots also collected a series of media articles about the Conference. The Secretary General of the Swedish section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Malin Nilsson, and the chairperson of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, Kerstin Bergeå, published a piece in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter calling on the Swedish government to address the issue of killer robots and take a stand for stronger international law, before it is too late.

Taking action against Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza

Students from universities across the world have been protesting against Israel’s war on Gaza. In the United States (US), students have been calling for their universities to divest from weapons manufacturers and other companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Similar protests have been happening in other part of the world,  including in Europe, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Japan, India, Lebanon,Egypt, and many others. (Picture credit: Ray Acheson)

The US announced it was pausing weapons delivery to Israel over concerns related to the offensive in Rafah. The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who started an offensive in Gaza last Monday, 6 May, said it would continue until reached his goals. The UN said more than 100,000 people had fled Rafah since 6 May amid constant bombardment and called again for a ceasefire. Meanwhile, at the UN General Assembly, the Israeli ambassador physically shredded a copy of the UN Charter in protest of the Assembly’s vote in support of Palestine becoming a full UN member state. 

Join the Week of Action Against Nuclear Weapon Spending!

From 17–23 June, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is organising a Week of Action against nuclear weapon spending. Nuclear weapons programmes divert public funds from health care, education, disaster relief and other vital services. The nuclear-armed countries spend more than $150,000 per minute on their nuclear bombs, over $80 billion each year. It’s up to all of us to push back against the absurd sums of money wasted on nuclear weapons. On ICAN’s website you can get the facts, learn how to take action, and add your events to the calendar!

Gender and Disarmament database: Recommendation of the Month

Our recommendation of the month is the essay “Keeping Nuclear Memories Alive,” from Brooke Takala. In this essay, the author explores “how Pacific Island oral histories are intertwined with global hibakusha legacies that undoubtedly underpin current international disarmament efforts. The origin of the anti-nuclear movement is largely attributed to Japanese mothers who, after the heinous bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, went house to house to gather upwards of 4 million signatures denouncing nuclear weapons as a threat to our collective future. However, it was Pacific Islanders who led the charge against nuclear imperialism through a lens of decolonisation, to lay the foundation for disarmament policy – a history that is seemingly forgotten in the context of prevailing nuclear activism and advocacy agendas. This essay serves as a reminder of our shared historical trajectory and impacts of legacy radiation, and to encourage younger generations to engage with both science and history as we collectively anchor discourse in nuclear policy and security debates through a humanitarian lens. Now, more than ever, voices from the Pacific must weave together the scientific facts of ionising radiation with the truths of our histories, our present, and our futures.”

The Gender and Disarmament Database, created and maintained by Reaching Critical Will, features a wide range of resources such as reports, articles, books and book chapters, policy documents, podcasts, legislation, and UN documents. The database allows the exploration of relevant resources based on their references to distinctive gender aspects in disarmament, such as gender-based violence, gender norms, or gender diversity, and different related topics or types of weapon systems. It currently contains more than 800 resources, and suggestions of new additions can be sent to disarm[at]WILPF[dot]com.

Upcoming events


Arms Trade Treaty informal meeting
16–17 May | Geneva

Fourth Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons
17–28 June | New York

 Preparatory Committee for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference
22 July-2 August | Geneva

Other events

Artificial intelligence in military decision-making: legal and humanitarian implications
14 May | Online

Resisting Radioactivity: Mobilizing Against Nuclear Waste in the USA, Australia, and the Pacific Islands
20/21 May 2024 | Online

Beyond Borders: Stories of Feminist Resistance from Palestine, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Iran
29 May 2024 | Geneva, Switzerland

International Peace Camp
3–25 July 2024 | Lakenheath base, United Kingdom

Featured News

Putin announces “tactical nuclear drills”

On 6 May, Russia said it would conduct drills with tactical nuclear weapons. Russia’s Defence Ministry said that the goal of the exercise would be to iron out “the practical aspects of the preparation and deployment of non-strategic nuclear weapons,” as reported by RT. ICAN said that exercises near Ukraine are dangerous and irresponsible, and should be widely condemned. “This kind of brinkmanship, typical of "nuclear deterrence" thinking, can spiral out of control and result in catastrophe,” said the Campaign.

The New York Times also reported that Russia is building new nuclear facilities that could house nuclear warheads. However, as stated by Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, “the nuclear developments in Belarus ‘appear designed to unnerve NATO’s easternmost member states, but will not give Russia a significant new military advantage in the region.’” 

UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs deeply concerned about AI weapons

UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu said in an interview that the UN wants to develop awareness about the impact of the military use of artificial intelligence. She expressed hope that such awareness “will speed up discussions about the need for international regulations.”

UN warns about risks from unexploded weapons in Gaza

Mungo Birch, Chief of the UN Mine Action Programme (UNMAS) in the State of Palestine, warned that Gaza is now at its “most dangerous period,” as accidents with unexploded ordnance will likely occur once the population returns to the North. The head of UN peacekeeping and demining reiterated calls for a ceasefire “as a first step to returning the war-ravaged enclave to some normality.”

Soldiers responsible for operating mortars show signs of brain damage

An article published in the New York Times by Dave Philips says that soldiers “exposed to thousands of low-level blasts from firing weapons like mortars say that they wind up with debilitating symptoms of traumatic brain injury,” although they have yet to receive a diagnosis. According to the article, “The military says that those blasts are not powerful enough to cause brain injuries. But soldiers say that the Army is not seeing the evidence sitting in its own hospital waiting rooms.”

In Nigeria, military personnel will face court martial because of drone attack

According to AP, two Nigerian military personnel responsible for the killing of 85 villagers in a military drone attack last December will face a court martial. Anietie Ewang, a Nigerian researcher with Human Rights Watch, said that the “Nigerian military authorities must provide more information on the investigation, compensate victims, and put in place systems and processes to avoid future misfires."

Japan and US plans to build missile capabilities will cost 3 billion USD 

Japan and the US have “estimated the total cost of jointly developing a new type of missile capable of intercepting hypersonic weapons will exceed $3 billion,” with Japan covering around 1 billion of this cost. The two countries are aiming to complete the missile's development by the 2030s, as reported by Kyodo News.

Republic of Korea (ROK) is considering sharing military technology with AUKUS countries

As reported by AP, the ROK’s Defence Minister said the country is considering sharing advanced military technology with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia through the AUKUS partnership. This possibility was discussed during two days of meetings between ROK and Australia in Melbourne early this month.

Word’s military expenditure increased for the ninth consecutive year in 2023

SIPRI published its yearly report about world military spending, highlighting that in 2023 the world reached a total of $2443 billion. According to the organisation, “the 6.8 per cent increase in 2023 was the steepest year-on-year rise since 2009 and pushed global spending to the highest level SIPRI has ever recorded.”

Norway intends to increase its military spending 

Norway announced intention to add around 630 million USD to the country’s armed forces over the next 12 years. This announcement follows another one made last month that the country would increase its defence budget by 54 billion USD over the same period.

World Beyond War updates maps on military spending and military bases

World Beyond War has updated two maps: the first one about military spending, highlighting which countries have spent the most, the biggest exporters, the ones that spend the most per capita, the biggest importers, among other data. The second map focuses on US’s military bases, showing the location of US military bases around the world.

Applications open for Princeton’s 2024 School on Science and Global Security

The Princeton University Program on Science and Global Security (SGS) announced that applications are open for its 2024 School on Science and Global Security, taking place on 10–16 October. The programme seeks graduate students or post-doctoral researchers in natural or applied sciences, engineering, or mathematics interested in understanding, reducing, and ending the threat from nuclear weapons. The Princeton Program on Science and Global Security will cover the cost of visa, travel, accommodation, and meals for all participants. Applications are due 17 June and requirements can be found at the event .

Recommended Resources

Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda, Eliana Johns, and Mackenzie Knight, “United States nuclear weapons, 2024,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 7 May 2024

Aurélien Saintoul, “Interdiction des robots tueurs : la France ne peut plus se cacher,” Libération, 3 May 2024

Alexander Blanchard, “The road less travelled: ethics in the international regulatory debate on autonomous weapon systems,” Humanitarian Law and Policy, 25 April 2024

Michael Ofori-Mensah and Denitsa Zehlyaskova, “Trojan Horse Tactics: Unmasking the imperative for transparency in military spending,” Transparency International, 24 April 2024

Laura Boillot, Laurent Gisel, Paul Holtom, Frederik Siem, Dina Abou Samra, Juliana Helou van der Berg, “Protecting civilians in conflict: the urgency of implementing the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas,” Humanitarian Law and Policy, 22 April 2024

Amnesty International, “Autonomous weapons systems in law enforcement: submission to the United Nations Secretary-General,” 24 April 2024

Ray Acheson, “Solidarity to Stop AUKUS,” CounterPunch, 21 April 2024

Roberto J. Gonzalez, “How Big Tech and Silicon Valley are Transforming the Military Industrial Complex,” Watson Institute International & Public Affairs Brown University, 17 April 2024

Explosive Weapons Monitor, “Explosive Weapons Monitor 2023,” April 2024

Norwegian People’s Aid and Conflict and Environment Observatory, “Project summary: Analysing the environmental impacts of explosive weapons use in Ukraine,” April 2024

PAX, “Russia’s destructive war across Ukraine leaves lingering public health and environmental crisis,” April 2024