Just a few days before the leaders of two of the most militarised countries in the world met in Geneva, affirming that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) released a new report about states’ spending on nuclear weapons in 2020. ICAN found that the US spent $1.6 billion on its nuclear weapons, and spending is expected to climb by $140 billion over the next ten years while Russia spends about $15,222 every minute on nuclear weapons. While the summit is welcome, the discussions neither matched the seriousness of the grave risk of a nuclear detonation, nor the ever growing opposition to nuclear weapons amongst the public. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for these governments to ignore the growing calls from their constituents, including within NATO states, and from former world leaders, to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). WILPF will support these calls until we have rid the world of nuclear weapons.
In this edition
- Not to be missed: Book club with Ray Acheson and Cynthia Enloe
- Calls to stop the use of explosive weapons mount amidst continued devastating impacts
- Upcoming: Meeting of states to discuss small arms and light weapons
- Update on UN meetings on killer robots
- New UN cyber working group meets for its organisational session
- We resist: Global action on the arms trade
- Growing momentum for change: Support for the TPNW rises, including in NATO states
- Updates on the NPT Review Conference
- Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month
- Upcoming events
- Featured news
- Recommended reading
Join an intimate conversation between Ray Acheson, director of Reaching Critical Will and Cynthia Enloe, feminist writer, as they discuss feminist organising for nuclear abolition, and Ray’s new book Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy. The event, taking place 22 June at 9:00 EDT/15:00 CEST, will be moderated by Madeleine Rees, WILPF’s Secretary General, and will offer space for discussion with the audience. If you haven’t yet, make sure to register!
The recent horrific bombing and shelling in Palestine has demonstrated yet again the devastating humanitarian impacts of explosive weapons use in towns and cities.
There is ever growing and comprehensive data on these impacts. A new report by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) on a decade’s worth of data on explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) confirms that there is a consistent pattern of civilian harm when EWIPA are used, with nine out of ten casualties being civilians. UNICEF also just published a new report, in which it says that the use of EWIPA destroys and disables critical water and sanitation infrastructure, which has severe impacts on children and other civilians.
These reports were published on the heels of the UN Security Council’s annual open debate on the Protection of Civilians (PoC). Reaching Critical Will monitored the meeting, and published comprehensive analysis. The discussion was based on the annual UN Secretary- General’s report on the protection of civilians, in which he continues to emphasise the protection challenges civilians face from the use of EWIPA. This year’s report draws attention in particular to the devastating impact that the use of explosive weapons has on healthcare services as a result of death and injury to medical personnel, challenges of access such as ambulances and medical personnel reaching the wounded, damage and destruction to hospitals, electricity and water supply lines.
In WILPF’s analysis of the meeting, we argue that “While the attention to [EWIPA and attacks on medical facilities and personnel as] grave violations of international law is very welcome, more is needed by Council members and other states to acknowledge their own role in facilitating armed violence and harm to civilians through the provision of weapons, military aid, and other forms of cooperation.”
As we note in our report, the same week as the PoC open debate, the Human Rights Council held a special session and adopted a resolution about ensuring respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel. WILPF participated actively in the negotiations for that resolution, including through a joint statement with the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling.
Among other things, the resolution urges all states “to refrain from transferring arms when they assess …. that there is a clear risk that such arms might be used to commit or facilitate serious violations or abuses of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law.”
The resolution also established a commission of inquiry, and WILPF will continue to call on the commission to urge all parties to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including through the comprehensive collection of data in relation to the use of EWIPA. (Graphic: INEW)
The seventh Biennial Meeting of States (BMS7) on the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) on small arms and light weapons (SALW) will take place 26–30 July 2021 in hybrid format, with physical meetings occurring at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, civil society participation at BMS7 is taking place virtually/online.
Reaching Critical Will will be participating in and reporting from the meeting, and may be involved in parallel events at the margins of the conference, so stay tuned for more details on those, including through our Small Arms Monitor. Relevant documents can be found on our site, and statements will be posted as they become available.
If you are a WILPF member and want to virtually participate in the meetings, please reach out to disarm (a) wilpf.org by 12 July so that we can get you registered! If you don’t have time to follow the meetings but want to know what’s happening, make sure to subscribe to the Small Arms Monitor to stay up-to-date.
WILPF is a member of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) which has done invaluable work in advancing gender perspectives in small arms control. As part of its advocacy efforts, IANSA has updated its call to action on gender and small arms controls and identified priorities for states to address during BMS7, which you can read and share here. Many WILPF section members are also part of the Gender Equality Network for Small Arms Control (GENSAC). On 11 June, GENSAC launched an Issue Brief that identifies opportunities to act on gender responsive small arms control within existing international frameworks spanning human rights, arms control, sustainable development, and more.
This year’s meetings of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) were scheduled to take place from 28 June-5 July; 3-13 August, and 27 September-1 October.
Unfortunately, due to continued COVID-19 restrictions in Geneva, the meeting from 28 June-5 July is postponed until further notice. However, the Chair of this year’s GGE has organised an informal exchange for a few hours each day in the same period. Please let the RCW team know at disarm (a) wilpf.org if you’d like to participate so that we can register the WILPF delegation.
During the meeting, states are encouraged to discuss possible consensus recommendations, and to present the written contributions that they were recently invited to submit by the GGE Chair. To advance the process, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, of which WILPF is a steering group member, published an advisory note with suggested key elements of the normative and operational framework for states to highlight in their contributions. The Campaign also submitted a written contribution to the GGE and held a webinar for diplomats on the same topic which you can re-watch here.
While the UN process is slowly picking up pace, WILPF Sections continue to work hard to accelerate progress towards a ban. WILPF UK, as part of the UK Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, has recently made a submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee for the government’s call for evidence for their Inquiry into Tech and the Future of UK Foreign Policy. In its submission, the UK Campaign calls for a legally binding instrument to pre-emptively ban LAWS. WILPF Sweden recently published three publications on the topic of killer robots (all in Swedish, accessible here, here, and here). There are also various Sections, including in Burundi, DRC, Ghana, Togo, and Zimbabwe that have received small grants from the Campaign to help establish political leadership within their governments by encouraging them to share their vision for specific elements and structures of a new international treaty, and to build policy coherence with like-minded states.
New UN cyber working group meets for its organisational session
A newly constituted UN open-ended working group (OEWG) on “security of and in the use of information and communications technologies” met for the first time on 1 June 2021. The day-long organisational session was an opportunity to discuss rules of procedure, programme of work, and other related modalities. RCW's summary of the session is now available, and relevant documents and statements for this new OEWG are being posted here.
In late May, the UN’s sixth Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on responsible state behaviour in cyberspace finalised two years of deliberations by issuing a substantive final report by consensus.
Around the globe, peace and disarmament activists are increasingly taking direct action to stop the transfer of weapons.
In the UK, activists shut down a subsidiary of Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems that is producing uncrewed aerial vehicles, used by Israeli forces to bombard and surveil Palestinian civilians. Just a few days later, activists took over a factory operated by APPH, owned by Canadian firm Heroux-Devtek, that is supplying drone parts to Elbit Systems. If you can, consider donating to Palestine Action for arrestee support. In Lancaster, students called on their university to stop investing in Israeli weapons producing companies.
In Canada, a pan-Canadian network of labour activists in collaboration with Labour Against The Arms Trade (LAAT) has called on the Labour party to join a campaign to demand the Government of Canada to “immediately suspend bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel.” In Canada, there’s a mounting call to cancel CANSEC, North America’s biggest weapons expo permanently.
In Italy, dockers refused to load arms shipment to Israel in solidarity with Palestine. “The port of Livorno will not be an accomplice in the massacre of the Palestinian people,” said L’Unione Sindacale di Base (USB). WILPF Italy has expressed its solidarity with the workers, and will continue to support them. Next to WILPF’s statement on Palestine, condemning the violence and calling for an arms embargo to Israel, WILPF Spain also expressed its solidarity and WILPF US stressed that “Israel relied heavily on US-made weapons to accomplish its slaughter.”
In the US, activists took to the streets across the country, including in Chicago, where the anti-militarism youth movement Dissenters called out Boeing as war profiteer, fueling death and war in Palestine, among many other places. As well, a coalition letter has urged President Biden to block the delivery of $735 million in weapons to Israel. The letter, with 122 diverse organisations signed on, was delivered to the administration and Congress. After Israel requested $1 billion on top of the $735 million in “military aid” from the US, CODEPINK has launched another petition to call on US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to deny this request.
Beyond arms flows that affect Palestine, disarmament activists are calling for an end to all arms production and sales everywhere.
Organisers in Australia powerfully disrupted the Weapons Expo in Brisbane. The organisation Wage Peace stopped Rheinmetall’s “autonomous combat vehicle,” blockaded various other armed vehicles, and locked themselves to a tank, amongst many other actions.
Following aa call from Unifor, a Canadian Union, for a full weapons embargo to Saudi Arabia, an open LAAT letter has now called on its national president to urge the Canadian government to immediately end arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
On the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) continued to condemn the UK’s role in arming repression around the world, including in the US, and in exporting violence and brutality.
WILPF Sections have continued working to expose the arms trade and to work for a world without weapons. WILPF Spain, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, has published a briefing paper about the Arms Trade Treaty, its potential for saving lives, and WILPF’s work on the Treaty. WILPF Italy has joined the campaign “Make cheese, not war” which seeks to convert an arms factory into a production facility for locally in-demand cheeses. WILPF Germany, WILPF Italy, WILPF Aotearoa, and WILPF Australia also recently exposed the impacts of militarism and military spending in their countries in the webinar Breaking through the addiction to weapons.
Growing momentum for change: Public support for the TPNW rises, including in NATO states
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which WILPF is a steering group member, has published two new reports!
The first report provides analysis of the nine nuclear-armed states’ spending on their nuclear weapons in 2020. The authors find that they spent $76.2 billion in 2020, the same year that saw the worst health pandemic in a century. The report dives deep into the “nuclear weapons complicity cycle,” uncovering the close ties between lobbyists, think tanks, companies, and governments. To learn more, be sure to watch this InstagramLive with the authors of the report, and check out this video.
The amount of money spent on nuclear weapons is shocking—and the public does not agree with it. There is a big gap between governments’ actions and what their constituents actually want. ICAN’s second report in June argues why members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). It highlights the growing tide of support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) within many NATO states, thanks largely to the persistent efforts of ICAN's partner organisations!
There’s also growing pressure from former world leaders. Fifty-six former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and defence ministers from 20 NATO member states, as well as Japan and South Korea, have issued an open letter calling on current leaders to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and two former NATO Secretaries General, Javier Solana and Willy Claes, are among the co-signers.
WILPF Sections continue to contribute to this global movement for nuclear abolition. WILPF Central African Republic (CAR) is currently working hard to get its government to ratify the Treaty, while WILPF Burkina Faso recently held a workshop to raise awareness about the TPNW amongst media and government officials. Cognisant of the fact that we need to celebrate milestones and the humans that helped us to get there, WILPF Australia recently honoured the tireless work of Dimity Hawkins and Gem Romuld for nuclear abolition with its PeaceWomen Award. (Picture credit: WILPF Burkina Faso)
Due to public health concerns related to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT) Treaty Review Conference (RevCon) was rescheduled from its original dates 27 April–22 May 2020 and was tentatively scheduled now for 2–27 August 2021 in New York. However, the postponement of the RevCon is looking likely, and RCW will update civil society as soon as a decision is finalised by states parties via our website.
On 26 May, WILPF hosted a webinar on the impacts of militarism and explored feminist alternatives to military spending. The webinar featured speakers from WILPF Aotearoa, WILPF Australia, WILPF Germany, WILPF Italy, and WILPF Japan, who offered insights into recent developments with respect to militarism in their national contexts. Speakers discussed the impacts of US military bases in Japan, the increased militarised responses to national disasters in Australia, the impacts of militarised responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand, Germany’s position regarding nuclear weapons, and Italy’s resistance to reconvert an arms factory into a cheese factory. But the speakers also offered pathways towards a feminist peaceful future. Contributions were based, amongst others, on recent publications by WILPF Aotearoa: “Towards a feminist budget,”; by WILPF Australia: Militarisation in Australia:normalisation and mythology; and by WILPF Germany: German (dis)armament policy: an intersectional feminist analysis by WILPF.
Book club with Ray Acheson and Cynthia Enloe
22 June 2021, online
InstaLive event for Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy
24 June 2021, online
ICAN Australia’s Ban School
28 June-20 September 2021, online
Advancing gender perspectives in the Biological Weapons Convention
30 June 2021, online
GGE on LAWS: Informal exchange of views
28 June-2 July 2021, online
ATT informal exchange of views of the Working Group on Transparency and Reporting (WGTR)
29-30 June 2021, online
BMS7 on the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNPoA)
26-30 July 2021, online
Nearly 450 safety incidents at Scottish nuclear bases
Approximately 443 so-called “nuclear site event reports” (NSER) took place between 2018 and 2020 at Scotland’s naval bases, with the frequency of incidents rising sharply within the three years. Three of the incidents—two at Coulport and one at Faslane—were classed as “category B” which is, the second most severe level on a sliding scale.
New study finds that nuclear fallout from nuclear tests in Maralinga is still highly reactive
A new study led by Australian Monash University researchers shows the radioactive particles dispersed widely by the British nuclear tests in South Australia are not as stable as previously thought. Researchers have found that radioactive particles released during nuclear tests more than 60 years ago at sites, including Maralinga, remain highly reactive.
Legal opinion: UK’s plans to increase nuclear arsenal incompatible with international law
The UK will have stepped back from its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if it goes ahead with plans to increase its nuclear arsenal, the civil servant who was in charge of the Foreign Office until last autumn has warned. The conclusion has been backed by two academics at the London School of Economics who were commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) to examine the pledge made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to increase the arsenal.
Israel launches air raids on Gaza since last ceasefire
Israel launched air raids on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian groups in the besieged enclave sent incendiary balloons into southern Israel. There are no reports of casualties on either side. The raids happened on 16 June, less than a month after Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza in May and following a march in occupied East Jerusalem by Jewish nationalists that drew Palestinian condemnation and anger.
Amnesty International: Pattern of Israeli attacks on residential homes in Gaza must be investigated as war crimes
The human rights organisation Amnesty International finds that Israeli forces have displayed a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians by carrying out a number of airstrikes targeting residential buildings, in attacks that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity. The organisation is calling for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to urgently investigate these attacks.
Pentagon said to undercount civilian casualties killed by the US military
According to a new Pentagon report on civilian casualties, the US military killed 23 civilians and injured another 10 in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia during 2020. However, experts say the report vastly undercounts the dead and wounded from US military operations. They also noted that the Pentagon failed to provide condolence payments even in the handful of cases where it acknowledges causing deaths or injuries.
Nigeria blocks Twitter
The government of Nigeria has suspended Twitter, shortly after Twitter deleted a tweet by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. The reason given was that the tweet threatened secessionist groups in the southeast that the government claims were responsible for attacks on government and electoral office. In response, the government has alleged that the platform was being used to destabilise the country by spreading disinformation.
NY transit officials confirm cyberattack with limited harm
Hackers infiltrated computer systems for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York, North America’s largest transit system. The MTA insisted that it quickly shut down the attack. It said a follow-up forensic analysis also found that no sensitive information was stolen and that rail service for millions of riders each day and other operations were never compromised or disrupted. This came on the heels of a ransomware operation targeting Colonial Pipeline in the United States, and another operation that impacted the world’s largest meat processing company.
Indian company continues to supply radar technology after military coup in Myanmar
Indian majority state-owned arms manufacturer Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) has supplied radar technology to Myanmar in at least seven shipments since the brutal and illegal 1 February military coup attempt. The transfers come as the military intensifies attacks against civilians as part of a widening campaign of terror. The transfers were found in Indian export data, analysed by Justice For Myanmar as part of an investigation into BEL.
EU adopts new rules on trade of dual-use items
The European Council of the European Union (EU) has upgraded its legislation on the export controls applicable to sensitive dual-use goods and technologies such as cyber-surveillance tools. The new regulation strengthens controls on a wider range of emerging dual-use technologies, and the coordination between member states and the Commission in support of the effective enforcement of controls throughout the EU. By introducing due diligence obligations for producers, the new rules also give companies an important role in addressing the risks to international security sometimes posed by dual-use items.
Now accepting: 2021 GCSP Prize for Innovation in Global Security
The Geneva Centre For Security Policy (GCSP) and its Geopolitics and Global Futures Programme are now accepting applications for the 2021 GCSP Prize for Innovation in Global Security. The prize for the application coming in first position is CHF 10’000 and a certificate of excellence. Application deadline is 23 September 2021.
Just launched: Civil Society Working Group on Youth, Peace and Security
The Civil Society Working Group on Youth, Peace and Security (CSO WG on YPS) is a new platform for sustained engagement amongst civil society, youth-led networks, the UN Security Council, and UN member states. The group seeks to ensure that civil society and youth perspectives are meaningfully and intentionally integrated into UN Security Council decision-making processes on peace and security. It will be coordinated by a steering committee co-chaired by civil society and a local youth-led organisation. Sign up as a member of the working group by 10 July here.
State of power 2021: Coercive world, Transnational Institute
Podcasts: “What is a feminist lens?” and “Intro to IR theories: What they are and what they mean for nuclear weapons,” Young WILPF Australia, 2021
Alexander Kmenett, “The treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons: how it was achieved and why it matters,” Routledge, March 2021
Salih Booker and William Hartung, "Israel’s military, made in the USA," The Nation, 21 May 2021
"Environment and conflict alert - Gaza," PAX for Peace, 26 May 2021
Webinar: Book launch of “Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy,” Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, Science for Peace and WILPF-Canada, 28 May 2021
Dr. Fairlie Chappuis , “From promises to progress: Opportunities for action on gender responsive small arms control in existing international commitments,” Gender Equality Network for Small Arms Control (GENSAC), June 2021
Collection of articles, books, and reports related to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), compiled by Dr. Nick Ritchie of the University of York
Susi Snyder, Bonnie Docherty, Camilo Serna, Natalia Morales Campillo, Jeff Abramson, Chris Loughran, Alma Taslidžan Al-Osta, and Erin Hunt, "Lockdown diplomacy: reflections and recommendations from a humanitarian disarmament survey," June 2021
William Hartung, “There is still time to stop the $735 million arms sale to Israel,” Responsible Statecraft, 9 June 2021