February 2012 E-News

Next week, the final preparatory meeting for arms trade treaty negotiations will begin at the UN. Strong, robust, and effective measures to prevent arms transfers to those who would commit human rights violations, acts of sexual or gender-based violence, or undermine sustainable development, are needed more than ever. Amnesty International has been collecting evidence of transfers gone wrong all over the world and argues that an effective arms trade treaty “would compel governments to stop transfers where there is a substantial risk the arms will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations or war crimes.” A recent briefing on arms in the Sudan notes, “Until governments agree a strong Arms Trade Treaty with specific rules to respect human rights, UN arms embargoes will continue to be flouted and millions of people will continue to suffer the consequences of irresponsible arms transfers, as they do in Darfur. Reaching Critical Will, along with other civil society groups, will be continuing to monitor the negotiating process and will provide analysis throughout next week-see below for details.

Meanwhile, threats against Iran are becoming louder and more severe. Reaching Critical Will is working on an action toolkit to be used by people around the world who do not want to see another country attacked on the false premise of weapons of mass destruction. War is not a non-proliferation strategy.

This E-News edition is full of upcoming events, action alerts, and new resources. We also have a special report from WILPF member Felicity Hill, who recently visited Fukushima. We hope you find this edition useful. If you want to contribute news or events to the next edition, please email [email protected]

In peace,
Ray Acheson, RCW Project Director

ATT PrepCom starts next week

The fourth session of the Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on an Arms Trade Treaty will be held from 13–17 February 2012 in New York. This PrepCom will focus on setting the procedural parameters for the final negotiating conference.

Reaching Critical Will is again teaming up with other civil society organizations including Global Action to Prevent War and the Control Arms Campaign to provide daily coverage of the ATT PrepCom. You can find our joint blog online at http://attmonitor.posterous.com/. Previous editions of our daily ATT Monitor can also be found online. Starting next week, new editions will be available as we provide analysis of the final PrepCom.

NPT accreditation

Information about NGO accreditation and registration to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee in 2012 is available in the aide memoire prepared by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. NGO requests for accreditation are due by 16 March 2012. NGOs that are provisionally accredited to the meeting must pre-register online by 20 April 2012. Requests for accreditation and registration must be done through CSO-Net. See the aide memoire for details.

See the RCW website for more information on NGO participation in the PrepCom. A calendar of side events is available and slots are filling up fast.

UNPoA PrepCom coming up soon

The preparatory committee for the Second Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons In All Its Aspects will meet at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City from 19–23 March 2012.

For information on NGO accreditation and registration to the PrepCom, please see the aide memoire prepared by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.

Reaching Critical Will, along with other NGOs, will be monitoring and providing reporting and analysis on this PrepCom. Articles will be posted on our joint civil society blog and distributed daily to conference participants. Details will be available soon on the RCW website.

Conference on Disarmament has started its 2012 session

The 2012 session of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) began in Geneva on 23 January 2012. The first few reports by Reaching Critical Will are already out, as the CD struggles to reestablish its creditability and begin substantive work.

You can find all CD resources on the RCW site:

  • Guide to the CD 2012 [PDF] [HTML]
  • CD Reports
  • Statements
  • Papers and Documents
  • Press Releases
  • Summary of Statements by Topic

You can subscribe to receive the CD Reports electronically, which provide timely and analytical reporting on every plenary meeting of the Conference. They will also be archived regularly on the RCW site.

WILPF’s International Women’s Day Seminar

Disarmament through international law and human rights
7 March 2012 | 13:00–15:00 | Palais des Nations, Geneva, Room IV

The 2012 WILPF International Women’s Day disarmament seminar aims to discuss and explore practical ways of placing disarmament and military expenditures on the agenda of the Human Rights Council and other human rights mechanisms. It will contribute to the understanding of how three of the most significant parts of the international work in Geneva—international humanitarian law, human rights, and disarmament—should be embraced as interconnected and mutually supportive in efforts to attain peace. The discussion will focus specifically on incorporating a gender perspective.

Conclusions from the seminar will be used in a statement delivered to the Conference on Disarmament on International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Participants of this seminar will consist of the diplomatic community in Geneva, and NGOs engaging in human rights, IHL and disarmament.

This seminar is organized by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or +41 22 919 7080 should you require accreditation to attend this event. In order to secure accreditation, you need to register before 20 February. After this date, WILPF cannot guarantee your access to the Palais des Nations.

Preventing war with Iran

Just as they did with Iraq nearly a decade ago, the drumbeats of war are being to pound. This time, the target is Iran. Media hype around Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme has been escalated into a near-frenzy. The assertion is that Iran’s nuclear programme is designed for one thing only—to build a nuclear weapon that it will use to destroy Israel. In reality, however, there is no clear evidence of this.

In reality, Iran has done nothing illegal. The NPT actually encourages the development of a civilian nuclear sector. It is considered an “inalienable right” for all members to develop nuclear energy programmes. As nuclear physicist Yousaf Butt noted recently, “Under the NPT, it is not illegal for a member state to have a nuclear weapons capability — or a ‘nuclear option’.” If a country has a fully developed civilian nuclear sector, he explains, it, “by default, already has a fairly solid nuclear weapons capability. For example, like Iran, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan also maintain a ‘nuclear option’—they, too, could break out of the NPT and make a nuclear device in a few months, if not less. And like Iran, Argentina and Brazil also do not permit full ‘Additional Protocol’ IAEA inspections.”

WILPF has been criticizing this aspect of the NPT since it was negotiated in 1968. A treaty aimed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons should have prohibited the research of nuclear weapon technology, outlawed the production and stockpiling of enriched uranium, and established a programme for the phase-out, rather than promotion, of nuclear power. As the Treaty stands now, however, Iran is not in violation of its obligations. The sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council and unilaterally by several governments have no legal basis and have been designed to serve other interests. “The IAEA’s supposedly neutral role of an international inspectorate is being fundamentally undermined by the political games and warmongering of the Western countries most interested in a new war in the Middle East and regime change in Iran,” argues Butt.

Iran has indicated that it is receptive to a negotiated settlement, but not one that demands it abandon its uranium enrichment programme. In 2010, Brazil and Turkey negotiated a solution with Iran in which Iran would trade about half of its low-enriched uranium for medical isotopes. However, the US government rejected this deal, saying it impeded with the “process” undertaken by the UN Security Council.

There is still time for a diplomatic solution, but the harsh sanctions passed at the end of 2011 by the US Senate with a vote of 100-0, over President Obama’s objections, mean that the administration’s hands are somewhat tied. It will be difficult to engage with Iranian officials in good faith with these sanctions as a backdrop. However, diplomacy is the only option.

Reaching Critical Will is preparing an action toolkit for activists that includes talking points for letters to the editor and for meetings with parliamentarians or other government representatives. We encourage everyone everywhere to say NO to war with Iran—war is not a non-proliferation strategy. This kit will be available in the coming days on www.reachingcriticalwill.org. In the meantime, here are a few other links for information and what you can do.

Art for Peace

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs has launched a disarmament education contest for young people, entitled “Art for Peace 2012”. Contestants are encouraged to watch a short video film online, then to imagine a world free of nuclear weapons. Based on their musings, young people are asked to create and upload online original artwork.

Youth from ages 5 through 17 are being urged to be creative and tap into their imaginations to draw, paint, sketch, use pens, pencils, crayons, charcoal, oil, acrylic paint, or water colours to illustrate a world free of nuclear weapons, without wars, without fear—no photography or computer-generated images. 
All the works will be judged based on the criteria of creativity, composition, theme and technique. 
When your art is ready, you may upload a photo or scanned .jpg file of your artwork to the site’s submissions page. Your art will be posted on the website, for you to share your dream of peace with friends, family, and the world.

Once the artwork is posted, family and friends can vote on the UN Peace Day Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/unpeaceday

The videos, rules, and uploading form are available on the website: http://www.unartforpeace.org

Four winners from each age category (5-8, 9-12 and 13-17) will have their artwork reproduced in a UN calendar. The two younger age groups will receive art supplies and cash prizes will be awarded to the four winners in the 13-17 year old group in sums of of $500, $300, $200 and $100.

WILPF in the World: Felicity Hill of WILPF Australia visits Fukushima

Felicity Hill joined an international delegation to the radioactive Fukushima region and was shocked by the conditions faced by Japan's nuclear refugees almost one year on from the disaster. Her report has been published at newmatilda.com.

Action Alerts

Stop funding for a new plutonium pit facility
The Project on Government Oversight is asking for signatures to a letter to US President Obama to stop funding for the new plutonium pit facility at Los Alamos. This action comes with the release of POGO’s new report on the facility, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), which POGO describes as unnecessary and a waste of billions of dollars. POGO’s report highlights the fact that the facility “would enable the United States to dramatically increase its production of plutonium pits, which are primary components of nuclear weapons. This mission is in direct opposition to U.S. nuclear strategy, which calls for an ever-decreasing number of nuclear weapons in the future. What's more, during a decade of planning, the facility’s estimated cost to taxpayers went from $375 million to almost $6 billion for just one building of that facility.”

For more details about this facility, please see the Los Alamos Study Group, which is the foremost civil society organization that has been working tirelessly to prevent the construction of this facility.

Protest of ICBM test launch in the United States
On 24 February, the US military will conduct a test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at Vandenberg Space Command in Southern California. These long-range high-speed hydrogen bomb delivery systems are tested several times a year, landing in the once beautiful Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands. Every three years Vandenberg does an extended range test all the way to Guam. 

Civil society groups have called on the United States and all countries around the world to recognize their full obligation to halt all nuclear testing—not only of the warheads, but also of nuclear-capable missiles. David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, points out that the Preamble to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) calls upon the 189 countries that signed the NPT to facilitate “the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery.” He argues, “The US is demonstrating a stark double standard by condemning missile tests of other nations while continuing to conduct them on a regular basis itself. Continued testing of Minuteman III missiles by the United States sends a provocative message and encourages other countries to pursue their own nuclear weapon and missile delivery programs.” 

Over the decades a dedicated band of Catholic Workers and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and since 1999, the Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space, have held protests at the base. These protests also oppose the Star Wars missile “defense” interceptor launches that also take place from Vandenberg (mostly failed interceptions) and the launch of the polar orbit satellites used to conduct war from space. 

On 24 and 25 February, protests are planned around the world to demand a stop to the ICBM test launch. In Santa Barbara, Daniel Ellsberg and David Krieger will hold a press conference and rally at 11:00 on 24 February to demand at halt to the test.  At midnight, a front gate protest will be held at Vandenberg Space Command, six miles north of Lompoc in California.

In the Los Angeles area, a protest will be at the Space and Missile tracking center in El Segundo, which is key to the launch. Hawai’i has held many protests against the tracking center on Maui and the expanding Missile site on Kauai.  These launches are a world event and a protest can be held at a US embassy or consulate anywhere. Email [email protected] of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (US Section) for details about the Vandenberg and El Segundo events or call 831 206 5043.

There is also an online petition protesting the launch, available at www.wagingpeace.org/goto/missile

There is also a paper version available for you to download and print at http://www.wagingpeace.org/menu/action/action-alert-network/vandenberg_paper.pdf