June 2024 E-News

As we enter the eighth month of Israel’s genocidal campaign against Palestinians, the flow of weapons to Israel continues from the United States, Germany, Canada, Italy, Australia, and other Western countries. Even as some governments claim to have halted transfers or to not be sending weapons at all, they continue to provide licenses or parts and components that are instrumental to the continuing onslaught. In this edition of our newsletter, you will find examples of actions to stop arms transfers to Israel, as well as information about upcoming disarmament meetings, mobilisation against AUKUS, killer robots, and much more! (Photo credit: Ray Acheson)


In this edition:

Upcoming disarmament meetings

Action on small arms and light weapons at the UN

From 18–28 June, states and civil society will gather at the UN in New York for the Fourth Review Conrerence of 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 we will provide coverage of the meeting in our Small Arms Monitor. Check out the first edition of the Small Arms Monitor and 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.

Open-ended working group on ICTs 

The Open-Ended Working Group on Information and Communication Technologies is meeting for its eighth substantive session on 8–12 July 2024 in New York. Check out our website for information on previous sessions.

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 the RCW website. Information regarding side events is also available on the RCW website.

Ahead of the Conference, Reaching Critical Will published an updated NPT Briefing Book that provides an overview of critical issues and offers recommendations to governments for the PrepCom and beyond. It provides information on the Treaty and a brief history of past review cycles, and covers topics such as nuclear disarmament; the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons; nuclear weapon modernisation and spending; doctrines, transparency, and nuclear sharing; nuclear threats and risks; non-proliferation; the Middle East weapon of mass destruction free zone; AUKUS and nuclear submarines; nuclear energy; and gender and intersectionality.

Recently concluded disarmament meetings

Open debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

The UN Security Council (UNSC) held its annual open debate on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict on 21–22 May 2024. While a lot of states expressed concerns with violence against civilians, many are involved in fueling this violence through arms sales. Check out RCW's report to find out about what was discussed in the debate. 

Informal Consultation with observers to the CCW

On 6 June 2024, the Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), Ambassador Robert in den Bosch of Netherlands, held an informal consultation with observers. The consultation focused on two topics: 1) A common understanding on the working characterisation of LAWS; and 2) The application of existing international humanitarian law (IHL) rules and measures needed to ensure compliance with existing IHL and possible new rules. Check out our report on the consultation for details.

Mobilising to Stop AUKUS

As the government of Australia works to advance legislation in relation to the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) military alliance, pressure is mounting from civil society groups, First Nations, labour unions, and others to prevent the harms that are associated with the nuclear-powered submarines aspect of the deal, as well as those related to the development of high-tech weapons. 

As RCW’s Director Ray Acheson wrote recently for CounterPunch, AUKUS stands poised to waste billions of dollars, proliferate high-level radioactive material and impose its safekeeping on First Nations communities for hundreds of thousands of years, increase global militarism, and potentially provoke a nuclear war. As students around the world work to get their universities to divest from weapon manufacturers, AUKUS will only further enmesh educational institutions into the development of weapons and the pursuit of war. AUKUS is already making the arms trade among its three members increasingly opaque, and more countries are clamouring the join.

Australian activists have been mobilizing to stop AUKUS for several years; it’s past time those living in other AUKUS states or those clamouring to partner with the alliance get informed and active, too. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the United Kingdom is also advocating against AUKUS. It’s new report outlines its objections to the alliance and urges its members to work with partners in the Australian and US peace movements to build opposition. 

Stop Arming Israel

Around the world, people continue to mobilise against arms transfers to Israel. As people are being pulled from the rubble of refugee camps in Palestine, students have been demanding that their universities divest from the merchants of death fueling Israel’s genocidal campaign. In an article for CounterPunch, RCW’s Director Ray Acheson explored how universities are complicit in the genocide of many ways. The military-industrial complex is embedded in universities across the Western world, especially in the United States. Many of the main weapon manufacturers that are present on campuses, or in which universities have investments, are supplying Israel with all the weapons it needs. But the work of organisers to block weapon shipments, shut down factories and arms fairs, and demand divestment is having an impact. (Photo credit: Ray Acheson)

At the People’s Conference for Palestine, held in Detroit from 24–26 May 2024, the Palestinian Youth Movement launched a new campaign focusing on the shipment of weapons to Israel. Mask Off Maersk aims to expose and end the role of the Danish shipping and logistics company Maersk in providing weapons to fuel Israel’s genocide. By going after Maersk, organisers intend to disrupt the flow of weapons from all countries and companies at once. Check out their website for more information and to get involved in the campaign!  

In addition, Visualizing Palestine has created an important new interactive website that demonstrates how Israel uses artificial intelligence (AI) to target and kill Palestinians. Building on VP’s earlier work on Automating Genocide, this new tool calls for a ban on the use of AI technology for targeting weapon systems. 

More than 800 Australian civil servants are calling on the government to stop sending weapons and parts to Israel, to stop providing reconnaissance support from Pine Gap, and to cancel all contracts with Israeli weapon companies. Several hundred people also formed a picket outside the gates of Bisalloy Steel in Wollongong, Australia, on 10 May to protest its links with the Israeli military. The company supplies specialised steel for Armoured Personnel Carriers and Light Armoured Vehicles used by the Israeli military. 

Ahead of the NPT PrepCom, nuclear-armed states increase nuclear tensions

In May, the US carried out its first subcritical nuclear test since 2021, which drew an immediate response from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korean, which cited it as a reason it needs to develop its “deterrence” capability. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki protested to the USgovernment. The Mayor of Hiroshima, Matzui Kazumi, wrote to President Biden and US Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel: "Such a conduct is totally unacceptable as it betrays the wishes of the hibakusha [victims of the US atomic bombings in Japan] who have been appealing that 'no one else should suffer as we have,' and millions of others who seek the abolition of nuclear weapons. On behalf of the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima, I vehemently protest and demand that all future nuclear tests be cancelled." ICAN has also called outthe test on social media.

This was followed by Russia starting nuclear exercises with short -and medium-range weapons in the south of the country near Ukraine as a direct warning to Western countries not to supply more weapons to Ukraine. ICAN said that “Russia's nuclear weapons exercises near Ukraine show how deterrence relies on dangerous escalation. Running such drills near the conflict zone is as much about the implied threat you're willing to use WMDs as it is about training your soldiers to do so.”

Additionally, France, which has ratcheted up tensions with Russia in recent months by talking about the possibility of deploying troops to Ukraine, just tested an air-launched nuclear missile. ICAN also called out the test, saying, “Given the growing tensions between France and Russia over Ukraine, France testing nuclear missiles while Russia runs nuclear exercises near Ukraine's border is escalatory and dangerous -this is not deterrence, it is brinkmanship with all the risks of miscalculation involved.”

More recently, Reuters reported that Pranay Vaddi, the top National Security Council arms control official, said that the US may have to deploy more strategic nuclear weapons in coming years to deter growing threats from Russia, China ,and other adversaries. "Absent a change in adversary arsenals, we may reach a point in the coming years where an increase from current deployed numbers is required. We need to be fully prepared to execute if the president makes that decision," he said. At the same time, he also said that “the administration is committed to halting the spread of nuclear weapons, including bolstering the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the cornerstone of the global arms control regime.” 

All these news items illustrate a recent finding from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that the role of nuclear weapons grows as geopolitical relations deteriorate. SIPRI’s recently launched yearbook highlighted that the number and types of nuclear weapons in development have increased as states deepen their reliance on nuclear deterrence.

ICAN has also recently released its fifth annual report on nuclear weapon spending, “Surge: 2023 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending”. Its research found that in 2023, global expenditure on nuclear weapons reached $91.4 billion, which is $10.8 billion more than in 2022. “The United States spent more than all of the other nuclear-armed states combined and showed the biggest one-year increase to $51.5 billion. China was next in line, with spending of $11.9 billion and Russia spent $8.3 billion,” said ICAN. The report also shows that total nuclear weapons spending in the last five years was over $387 billion, more than what the World Food Programme estimates it would take to end world hunger. ICAN also highlights that companies got about 30 per cent of all spending, which then hired at least 450 lobbyists as well as provided financing for major think tanks to influence the nuclear debate. 

WILPF submission on Killer Robots

In 2023, the UN General Assembly adopted  resolution 78/241, which requested the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of states, international organisations, and civil society on autonomous weapon systems (AWS) for a report to be published in 2024. Several states and civil society organisations submitted their contributions. Check out WILPF’s submission to this report, which consolidates more in-depth analysis from Reaching Critical Will’s papers on AWS.



OHCHR report on arms transfers

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has published a new report on the impact of arms transfers in human rights following resolution 53/1 of the Human Rights Council. The report focuses on the role of access to information in preventing, mitigating, and responding to the human rights impact of arms. Among other things, the report states, 

At a minimum, the information disclosed should serve to reduce existing barriers to prevent, and ensure accountability for, the negative human rights impacts of arms transfers through external oversight. In practice, to challenge an arms export licence, an individual needs to know of its existence and be capable of precisely identifying it.

It also highlights that “to ensure effective judicial, parliamentary and other oversight, States should also disclose risk assessment criteria and the international human rights and humanitarian law risk assessment made by the administrative authority, as well as the factual information used for the assessment.”

Reaching Critical Will, together with the Human Rights programme of WILPF, contributed with a submission to the report.

Summit for the Future civil society forum event

On 9–10 May, WILPF members participated in the UN Civil Society Conference in Nairobi, which was held in preparation for the Summit of the Future in September this year. WILPF’s International President, Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo, delivered a statement about Chapter 2 of the Pact for the Future (Peace and Security).

The new revised version of the Pact for the Fture has been published. It has also been announced that “Impact Coalitions” will be created to accelerate progress on the Pact. However, some civil society groups, including WILPF, are expressing concern about duplication between this and many other civil society initiatives being carried out in an open letter.

Gender and Disarmament database: Recommendation of the Month 

Our recommendation of the month is the podcast episode “Road to RevCon4: Gender-responsive arms control and the UN PoA.” This episode, produced by Small Arms Survey, is part of the series “Road to RevCon4,” which discusses key trends, challenges, and opportunities across topics related to small arms control. In this particular episode, Director Mark Downes sits down with Hana Salama, Researcher in the Gender and Disarmament programme at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and Callum Watson, the Small Arms Survey’s Gender Coordinator, to unpack how gender-related references have been incorporated in PoA meetings.

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


Fourth Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons
18–28 June | New York

8th substantive session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Information and Communication Technologies 
08 - 12 July 2024 | New York, USA

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

Other events

Campaign Against Arms Trade at 50: Adapting resistance to a changing world
19 June 2024 | London, United Kingdom

Investigating the Arms Trade: a practical seminar on how to hold the arms industry to account
22 June 2024 | London, United Kingdom

No to NATO, Yes to Peace Summit and Rally
6–7 July 2024 | Washington, DC

Featured News

New website on Dismantling the Military-Industrial Complex

A network of civil society organisations working on dismantling the military-industrial complex (MIC) has created a new website to serve as a hub for resources on the topic. Among other things, the coalition has created a series of graphics that are useful for showing how the MIC works, and how it relates to climate change and other pressing issues. Some of those involved in the project have also published an article explaining the graphics and the need to dismantle the MIC. 

New resources about climate justice and protection of the environmental in armed conflicts  

Ahead of World Environment Day, organisations have also published new resources connecting the military industrial complex and environmental degradation.  WILPF published the policy brief “Towards Climate Justice: Redistributing Military Spending to Climate Finance,” with concrete demands for parties centering the reallocation of military spending for climate finance ahead of negotiations of COP29. The interactive policy brief “Confronting Military Greenhouse Gas Emissions” includes analysis from several authors detailing the intersecting realities of carbon pollution, militaries, and what this signifies for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ultimately affecting climate change. The Conflict and Environment Observatory has also published an interactive map featuring 25 incidents from of environmentally-relevant incidents in Ukraine since February 2022.

Mirrar Traditional Owners celebrate special reserve status over Jabiluka area 

On World Environment Day, the government of the Northern Territory in Australia declared special reserve status over the Jabiluka area within Kakadu National Park, in accordance with the wishes of Mirrar Traditional Owners. The movement to stop uranium mining at Jabiluka, led by Mirarr Traditional Owners, is one of the most iconic environmental campaigns in Australia’s history. Mirarr Traditional Owners have opposed mining at Jabiluka for five decades. It’s now up to the Albanese Government to protect Kakadu National Park and respect Mirarr Traditional Owners by not extending the Jabiluka Mining Lease.

International Uranium Film Festival takes place in Rio de Janeiro 

From 25 May to 1 June 2024, the Atomic Age Cinema Film Fest showed 22 films about nuclear power, atomic bombs, uranium mining, and their consequences at the Modern Art Museum (MAM Rio) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The festival opened with prayers and traditional songs from Indigenous leader Urutau Guajajara of the “Aldeia Maracanã” and women of the Guajajara people from Maranhão. Check out photos from the festival and the complete programme.

European countries propose resolution against Iran to the IAEA Board

The United Kingdom (UK), France, and Germany submitted a resolution to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board censuring Iran over its lack of cooperation with the agency. Iran reiterated that it is not developing nuclear weapons.

Human Rights Watch warns about risk of civilian harm due to the use of white phophorus by Israeli forces in Lebanon

In a recent report, Human Rights Watch said, “Israel’s widespread use of white phosphorus in south Lebanon is putting civilians at grave risk and contributing to civilian displacement.” The organisation verified the use of white phosphorus munitions by Israeli forces in at least 17 municipalities across south Lebanon since October 2023, including five municipalities where airburst munitions were unlawfully used over populated residential areas. 

Israel’s airstrikes kill over 24 children in the West Bank

The Intercept reports that “since June of last year, and with increasing regularity during the Gaza offensive, the Israel Defense Forces have shown a new willingness to use air power in the West Bank, regardless of the collateral damage to children and other civilians caught in the blasts. An open-source Intercept investigation documented at least 37 Israeli airstrikes, drone strikes, and attacks by helicopter gunships in the West Bank since June 2023, which have killed 55 Palestinians, according to the United Nations. Most attacks struck densely populated urban areas and refugee camps in Jenin, Tulkarem, and Nablus, all in the northern part of the West Bank.”

Oil spill in Sudan results in broader environmental security implications 

In March 2026, fighting and maintenance issues resulted in an oil spill and clogged oil pipelines roughly 100 kilometers south of Khartoum. A recent report by PAX provides a brief analysis of the political and environmental implications of the war on Sudanese and South Sudanese oil infrastructure and put forth recommendations for addressing these concerns. The report highlights, “With the war raging on, in particular around oil fields, and wider implications from pollution, agricultural decline and mass displacement, several Sudanese groups and experts are already calling for an environmental assessment of the war and the implications for public health by setting up the  Sudan War Environmental Consequences Observatory (SWECO).” 

Former CEO of Google is testing AI military drones

Forbes reports that Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, is working on military drones in the scope of Project Eagle (previously known as White Stork). According to the piece, sources confirmed that the project “involves using artificial intelligence to help drones home in on battlefield targets.” Sources also say that that his team has been testing drone prototypes in the frontlines of the war in Ukraine.

Pope Francis urges G7 leaders to ban autonomous weapons systems

The Pope addressed the G7 meeting held in June calling on states to ban the use of autonomous weapon systems (AWS). “In light of the tragedy that is armed conflict, it is urgent to reconsider the development and use of devices like the so-called ‘lethal autonomous weapons’ and ultimately ban their use,” he said, adding that “This starts from an effective and concrete commitment to introduce ever greater and proper human control. No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being.”

Recommended Resources

Laura Bruun, “Reinventing the wheel? Three lessons that the AWS debate can learn from existing arms control agreements,”  ICRC Humanitarian Law and Policy Blog, 13 June 2024

Matilda Byrne, “Australia pushes ahead in the AI arms race,” Declassified Australia, 11 June 2024

Michelle Benzing and Katrin Geyer, “Towards Climate Justice: Redistributing Military Spending to Climate Finance,” WILPF, 5 June 2024

María Pía Devoto, Mariel R. Lucero Baigorria, and Ana Levintan, “Política exterior, género, desarme nuclear y ambiente: Perspectivas desde el Sur,” UNIDIR, 5 June 2024

Alexander Kmentt, “Time to engage seriously with the TPNW’s security concerns,” European Leadership Network, 4 June 2024

Bonnie Docherty, “Explosive Weapons Pose Threats to Cultural Heritage: States Have a Tool to Protect It,” Just Security, 4 June 2024 

Ray Acheson, “Divest from Death,” CounterPunch, 2 June 2024

How are sex, firearms, and homicidal violence linked?” Small Arms Survey, June 2024

Toni Erskine and Steven E. Miller (Guest Editors), “Anticipating the Future of War: AI, Automated Systems, and Resort-to-Force Decision Making,” Australian Journal of International Affairs, Special Issue, 31 May 2024 

Podcast:The Hiroshima survivor who's still shouting for peace,” BBC World Service, 28 May 2024

Marc Thibodeau, “Armes autonomes : le Canada sommé d’agir,” La Presse, 19 May 2024

Podcast:How the US military industrial complex got so big,” Rear Vision, 18 May 2024

Lital Khaikin, “The Gruesome Frontier of Thermobaric Weapons,” Thuthdig, 16 May 2024

Renata Hessmann Delaqua, “From the Margins to the Mainstream: Advancing Intersectional Gender Analysis of Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament,” UNIDIR, 25 March 2024

Callum Watson, “Meaningful Partners: Opportunities for Collaboration between Women, Peace and Security, and Small Arms Control at the National Level,” Small Arms Survey, 1 Ferbruary 2024

Rehabilitation matters – The appeal made by people in conflict-affected areas,” Humanity and Inclusion, 2024