February 2024 E-News
A few weeks ago, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on the case brought by South Africa, ordering Israel to prevent and not commit genocidal acts against Palestinians, prevent and punish public incitement to commit genocide, ensure the provision of humanitarian aid, preserve evidence related to allegations of genocide, and submit a compliance report within one month. Israel’s recent actions, however, have demonstrated disregard of the ruling–as have the states that are facilitating Israel’s genocide of Palestinians by providing it with weapons and by defunding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
As the RCW Director pointed out in a recent article, “The United States, and other governments supplying Israel with weapons, such as Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, could be found complicit in the commission of genocide if they continue to provide Israel with bombs, missiles, guns, and other military equipment and support.” It is urgent that countries end all arms transfers to Israel and actively support a ceasefire and the dismantling of Israel’s structures of apartheid and occupation.
Our E-News this month has information on work being done globally to end arms transfers to Israel, as well as the latest updates on efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, ban autonomous weapons, and engage with UN processes for disarmament and human rights. Read below for details!
In this edition:
- Upcoming disarmament meetings
- Recently concluded disarmament meetings
- Third anniversary of the entry into force of the TPNW!
- Mobilising against arms transfers to Israel
- UN Office of Disarmament Affairs invites contributions from civil society to the UN Secretary General’s report on autonomous weapons systems
- WILPF submits a contribution to the zero draft for the Pact for the Future
- WILPF submits input to OHCHR regarding access to information and arms transfers
- Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month
- Upcoming events
- Featured News
- Recommended Resources
Preparatory Committee of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons
The Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNPoA) will meet from 12–16 February 2024 in New York. For updates on the Conference, including information on NGO participation and other documents, check out the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) page.
ATT Working Groups meetings
The Arms Trade Treaty Working Groups meetings are taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 20–23 February 2024. Information on the work of the working groups and related documents is available on this page. On 19 February, the State of Palestine, Lebanon and Mauritania are hosting a virtual informal consultations on “Upholding legal obligations under the ATT: The case of the Palestinian people”. RCW will be following the meeting and will publish a report. For side-events, check out the ATT page.
Open-Ended Working Group on Information and Communication Technologies
The Open-Ended Working Group on Information and Communication Technologies is meeting for its seventh substantive session on 4–8 March 2024 in New York. Check out our page for Conference documents.
Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapons systems (GGE on LAWS)
The Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems is meeting for its first session of the year on 4–8 March 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland. Check out our page to access documents and statements. To receive Reaching Critical Will's CCW Report with coverage of these meetings, please sign up here to our "conventional weapons / emerging technologies of violence" mailing list.
Second Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
The Second Meeting of States Parties (2MSP) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) met for a week from 27 November to 1 December 2023. The discussions at this meeting, as well as the declaration and decisions adopted by states parties, show a firm commitment to advancing work to stigmatise and eliminate nuclear weapons. For all the details, see our reporting and analysis in the Nuclear Ban Daily, as well as all available statements, documents, and other information on our website.
Sixth substantive session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Information and Communications Technologies
The Open-Ended Working Group on information and Communications Technologies (OEWG on ICTs) met for its sixth substantive session on 11–15 December 2023 in New York, USA. Documents related to the Conference are available on our website. For statements and other information, check UNODA’s page.
Meeting of States Parties of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
The 2023 Meeting of States Parties of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention took place in Geneva on 11–13 December 2023. Information related to the Conference is available at the UNODA’s page.
Three years ago, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force. Since then, progress has been achieved in several areas and the support for the Treaty continues to grow. On 15 January, São Tomé and Príncipe deposited its instrument of ratification, bringing the total number of states parties to 70. Cities around the world continue to join the ICAN cities appeal. Thanks to the efforts of ICAN campaigners in Italy and France, there are now over 85 Italian cities that support the prohibition of nuclear weapons and 81 French cities. (Picture credit: ICAN)
People in Gaza are facing an unprecedented level of violence caused by Israel. Since October, at least 27,585 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 66,978 Palestinians were injured. The use of explosive weapons has caused incredible damage—as Katherine Young pointed out in an article in the December issue of Fragments: Explosive Weapons Monitor Quarterly, “the use of air-dropped munitions by the IDF has been particularly devastating given the types of munitions dropped in densely populated Gaza, as well as the intensity and frequency of strikes.” Fighter jets, missiles, and thousands of bombs used by Israel are destroying hospitals, universities, and homes, leaving thousands of Palestinians dead and millions displaced. These weapons are instrumental in Israel’s genocidal actions; thus, the governments supplying them are complicit in genocide and other war crimes.
People around the world have been organising against arms transfers to Israel. In Canada, more than 30 civil society organisations signed an open letter to Foreign Minister Joly calling for an end to arms transfers. In the United States, Palestinians and human rights groups have sued the Biden administration for failure to prevent genocide and to seek an emergency order to stop military and diplomatic support to Israel. In the United Kingdom, the Campaign Against Arms Trade is documenting UK arms transfers to Israel and issued a statement demanding the UK government revoke all licences for arms sales to Israel. Activists with Palestine Action have also been blockading Elbit Systems and subsidiary companies’ facilities across the country. In Australia, Palestinian human rights groups launched a legal bid to determine if Australian-made weapons and ammunition are being sent to Israel. Protestors also prevented an Israeli cargo ship from docking at a port in Melbourne, and activists around the country are protesting at weapon manufacturers such as Boeing. In Spain, Fourteen Spanish unions and two hundred civil society organisations launched a campaign calling on their government to end the arms trade with Israel. Belgian transport unions refused to load and unload weapons going to Israel via their ports and airports and called for an immediate ceasefire. Italian port workers unions also refused to load and unload weapons going to Israel via their ports and airports.
Following the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to prevent genocidal acts, Japan has ended cooperation with Israel's weapons manufacturing company Elbit. Nicaragua has announced its intention to take Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Canada to the ICJ for supplying weapons to Israel and thus contributing to the genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. For more information about the legal challenges and approaches to arming the war in Israel-Palestine, check out the recording of this event organised by the Forum on the Arms Trade and the Arms Trade Litigation Monitor.
On 22 December 2023, the General Assembly adopted resolution L.56 on autonomous weapons systems - the first ever resolution on the topic - with a vote of 152-4-11. The resolution requested the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) to submit a report on ways to address the challenges and concerns autonomous weapons raise from humanitarian, legal, security, technological, and ethical perspectives and on the role of humans in the use of force. (Image credit: Stop Killer Robots)
Now, the Office of Disarmament Affairs is inviting civil society, the scientific community, and industry to submit their views on the theme by 25 May 2024. Views may be submitted by email to Mr. René Holbach (holbach[at]un[dot]org), with copy to Ms. Giulia Marrone (marrone[at]un[dot]org). Only MS Word Version files will be accepted.
In December 2023, WILPF submitted input to the Pact for the Future process being organised by the United Nations. The Pact is intended to be adopted at the UN's Summit for the Future in September 2024. WILPF's submission highlights intersectional feminist approaches to peace and development and advocates for disarmament, demilitarisation, and nonviolent approaches to strengthening the multilateral system and ending war. The recommendations were built on previous documents already submitted by WILPF’s Women, Peace and Security programme and Reaching Critical Will, specifically in relation to A New Agenda for Peace.
WILPF sent a submission to the call for inputs for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report to the Human Rights Council, pursuant to UN Human Rights Council resolution 53/15 (13 July 2023). In this resolution, the Council requested the High Commissioner to prepare a report on the impact of arms transfers on the enjoyment of human rights, with a focus on the role of access to information.
In its submission, WILPF expressed concern about the repression and criminalisation of members of civil society who work on the arms trade, and more generally who make known practices of states, businesses, and other actors related to weapons, as well as to their negative human rights impacts. WILPF also highlighted that access to information on arms transfers is essential to prevent serious violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law resulting from weapons. It also underlined that access to information is essential to stop violations related to ongoing arms transfers. Finally, WILPF underscored that access to information is a prerequisite for accountability and access to justice and remedy.
Our recommendation of the month is the Decolonizing Nuclear Studies project, which has now launched open-access, interactive, online modules on feminism and the nuclear world, race, colonialism and nuclear weapons, and the more-than-human world: an atlas for navigating the human environment. The Decolonizing Nuclear Studies initiative, coordinated by Shampa Biswas and Anne Harrington, reframes nuclear education, bringing to the forefront voices and experiences of those marginalised in nuclear deterrence and nonproliferation discourse.
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.
Preparatory Committee of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons
12–16 February 2024 | New York, USA
ATT Working Groups meetings
20–23 February 2024 | Geneva, Switzerland
Group of governmental experts on further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space
29 February - 01 March 2024 | New York, USA
Events and webinars
Out of reach - The impact of explosive weapons in hard-to-reach areas in Ukraine
22 February | Online
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announces 2024 Doomsday clock
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have set their doomsday clock at 90 seconds to midnight again this year, affirming that “humanity continues to face an unprecedented level of danger,” pointing to the growing reliance on nuclear weapons, the risk of nuclear escalation and the modernisation of arsenals. The statement also notes, “Military uses of AI are accelerating” and expressed particular concern with autonomous weapons, arguing that “much more must be done to institute effective rules and norms, despite the daunting challenges involved in governing artificial intelligence.” (Image credit: ICAN)
Number of global civilian fatalities caused by explosive weapons increased by 122 per cent in 2023
A recent report by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found that there has been a 122 per cent rise in global civilian fatalities in 2023 caused by explosive weapons. According to the organisation, the data “highlight a concerning escalation in modern warfare tactics, with a significant impact on civilian populations, especially in populated areas.” The research found that 2023 saw the highest numbers of civilians harmed since AOAV’s records started in 2010, with 33,846 civilians killed or injured. Deaths caused by “Operation Swords of Iron” in Gaza contributed substantially to the increase, with 37 per cent of all civilian casualties globally attributed to it.
New resources to track arms transfers and sales to Israel
The Forum on the Arms Trade created a page to track arms sales and transfers from the United States (US) to Israel. World Beyond War Canada prepared a map of and information about weapon manufacturers in Canada that are arming Israel. The Campaign Against Arms Trade is documenting UK arms transfers to Israel and Palestine Action has prepared a map of all Elbit Systems (and subsidiary) facilities in the United Kingdom. Workers in Palestine is also tracking weapons supplied to Israel by multiple countries.
Tech company Palantir supplying Israel with AI products to be used in Gaza
The data analysis firm Palantir “is seeing high demand from Israel for new tools,” as reported by Bloomberg. The company did not confirm which of its products were being used, but experts have been long raising several concerns related to Palantir’s Artificial Intelligence Platform. (Image credit: Stop Killer Robots)
In related news, an investigative report has also revealed that Israel’s operations in the Gaza strip combine more permissive authorisation for the bombing of non-military targets with a loosening of constraints regarding expected civilian casualties. Israel’s AI-enabled targeting system named Habsora, or the Gospel, presents several problems, as written by Lucy Suchman in a recent piece.
War in Sudan continues amidst humanitarian crisis
The human rights expert appointed by the UN High Commissioner to monitor Sudan, Radhoune Noucier, stated that “everything from basic human rights to the economy and the legal system, have been decimated by the on-going war between rival militaries.” According to the UN aid agency, OCHA, more than seven million people have been displaced, and half the total population needs humanitarian assistance. According to Doctors Without Borders, at least one child dies every two hours in a camp for displaced people in Sudan’s North Darfur state. The United Nations has appealed for 4.1 billion USD to meet the humanitarian needs of civilians and to support those who fled the conflict to neighbouring countries.
Experts question US and UK strategy of targeting Houthis in Yemen
The United States and the United Kingdom have launched new airstrikes in Yemen, in an attempt to target Houthi militias in response to their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. However, as pointed out by Afrah Nasser, “Yemeni experts and observers have been nearly unanimous in their skepticism about the effectiveness of these airstrikes and the terrorism designation in deterring Houthi missile and drone attacks on ships in the Red Sea,” stating that “those doubts stem from a shared belief that the U.S., and with it the U.K., are repeating mistakes of the past in Yemen.”
US Court revives Mexican lawsuit against arms companies
As reported by Democracy Now, a US federal appeals court has revived the lawsuit filed by the Mexican government against US gun manufacturers. Mexico sued six companies in 2021 for aiding and abetting the unlawful transfer of hundreds of thousands of guns annually into Mexico, helping to fuel drug cartel violence.
Mexico is also calling on the US to investigate “how drug cartels are increasingly obtaining US military-grade weapons, including rocket launchers, grenades, and belt-fed machine guns.”
US planning to send personnel to Australia in the scope of the AUKUS submarine partnership
Australia expects that over 700 American personnel could move to the country to support up to four US nuclear submarines being stationed at HMAS Stirling, where a "low-level radioactive waste management" facility is also being planned.
Meanwhile, Aotearoa New Zealand’s Foreign and Defense Ministers travelled to Australia to discuss approaches to foreign policy, security and defence, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. As reported by the Guardian, “New Zealand has stepped up its interest in joining the non-nuclear pillar of Aukus, amid China’s growing presence in the Pacific and broader concerns over a ‘reshaped world’.”
Activists and academics have warned that if Aotearoa New Zealand does join AUKUS, it would compromise the country’s long-held anti-nuclear policy. Marco De Jong, historian and co-director of the New Zealand foreign policy group Te Kuaka, has also said the decision would put an end to what is left of the nation’s independent foreign policy, as well as its image as an “honest broker” in a region already divided by increasing militarization.
Melissa Parke and Alicia Sanders-Zakre, “Nuclear agreement breaks new ground on inclusion,” Chattam House, 2 February 2024
John Lindsay-Poland, “How US Guns Help Fuel the Migration Crisis at the Border,” Inkstick, 1 February 2024
Callum Watson, “Meaningful Partners: Opportunities for Collaboration between Women, Peace and Security, and Small Arms Control at the National Level,” Small Arms Survey, February 2024
Video: “This is Not a Drill”, Aljazeera, 31 January 2024
Ray Acheson, “ICJ’s Order to Prevent Genocide Applies to the Governments Arming Israel, Too,” CounterPunch, 28 January 2024
Jim Green and Dimity Hawkins, "The Politics of Nuclear Waste Disposal: Lessons from Australia,” Asia-Pacific Leadership Network, 22 January 2024
Hiruni Alwishewa, “The move towards human rights due diligence policies by the arms industry,” Forum on the Arms Trade, 18 January 2023
Kathleen Sullivan and Matthew Breay Bolton, “Nuclear-free NYC: How New Yorkers are disarming the legacies of the Manhattan Project,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 15 January 2024
Laura Considine, “Nuclear Arms Buildup Isn’t Just about War. It Also Harms People and Communities.” Inkstick, 10 January 2024
Doug Weir, “The climate costs of war and militaries can no longer be ignored,” The Guardian, 9 January 2024
Chiara Torelli, “Explosive Violence Projections for 2024,” Forum on the Arms Trade, 5 January 2024
Benoît Pelopidas and Kjølv Egeland, “The false promise of nuclear risk reduction,” International Affairs, January 2024
Elayne G. Whyte, “The Power of the Powerless: Lessons from the TPNW and Reflections on the Practice of Diplomacy,” Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament, 30 December 2023
Neil C. Renic and Elke Schwartz, “Inhuman-in-the-loop: AI-targeting and the Erosion of Moral Restraint,” OpinioJuris, 19 December 2023