Confronting the arms trade and war profiteering
The international arms trade is big business. The profits generated from the production and sale of weapons are put above the lives of the people these weapons are used against. Since its founding in 1915, WILPF has called out war profiteering as the biggest obstacle to peace. Reaching Critical Will continues this work by holding governments to account to their Arms Trade Treaty obligations, working with our human rights programme to make submissions to human rights forums on arms transfers, and challenging weapons production and military spending.
Above all else, weapons are tools of violence and repression by those that use them and tools of financial gain by those who make and sell them. Every year, thousands of people are killed, injured, raped, exploited, or forced to flee from their homes as a result of the poorly regulated and irresponsible global arms trade. This trade continues to make our world a poorer, less democratic, more corrupt, and less safe place. WILPF has highlighted this problem throughout our 105 year history and is part of global efforts to reveal and challenge the links between arms production, the arms trade, military spending, violent conflict, and the reduction of available resources for social and economic justice.
We have some international tools designed to help prevent human suffering from the arms trade. After a seven year process at the United Nations, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013. The ATT is the first ever legally-binding regime that recognises the link between gender-based violence and the international arms trade, in part thanks to campaigning by WILPF and the IANSA Women's Network. In addition, the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons provides the framework for activities to counter the illicit trade in SALW. It was adopted by all UN member states in 2001. By-products of the UNPoA include the International Tracing Instrument and the recommendations of a Group of Governmental Experts on arms brokering.
However, much more work is needed to end the arms trade and war profiteering. WILPF supports campaign's such as ICAN's Don't Bank on the Bomb and CODEPINK's Divest From the War Machine. We have done research on companies profiting from nuclear weapons, missile "defence," and space weapons. We have also written or co-published a number of research papers, publications, and articles about the arms trade and related issues:
Arms trade and explosive weapons
Trading arms, bombing towns
This briefing paper looks at the lethal connection between the international arms trade and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and makes recommendations to governments and others on policy and practice.
Explosive weapons, arms transfers, and the right to health, education, and adequate housing
Together with WILPF's Human Rights programme, Reaching Critical Will prepared three briefs to the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights on the transfer of weapons from France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom to Saudi Arabia and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Yemen.
The Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS) is the UK’s only Women, Peace and Security (WPS) civil society network. WILPF is among its members and contributed to the drafting of this report. In particular on Yemen and the Arms Trade Treaty chapter, WILPF highlighted how women and girls are disproportionately affected by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Violations against women in Syria and the disproportionate impact of the conflict on them
This is an NGO summary report for the Universal Periodic Review of Syria that took place in 2016. It uses a gendered approach and provides a critical analysis of the violations against women in Syria and the disproportionate impact of the conflict on them, including the gendered impact of arms proliferation.
Arms trade and gender
This briefing paper aims to provide some background on the terminology around GBV and to highlight questions that will be relevant for risk assessments under article 6 and 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty.
This report provides tools and guidelines for effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons provisions related to gender-based violence.
This case study provides a brief overview of the Swedish arms industry and trade focusing on national law and policy, including in relation to preventing gender-based violence.
This case study provides an overview of the Spanish arms industry and trade focusing on national law and policy, including in relation to preventing gender-based violence.
This briefing paper provides tools and guidelines for effective implementation of the gender provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty. It is a summary companion to our comprehensive report on preventing gender-based violence through arms control.
This publication considers synergies—and contradictions—related to gender and women in a number of multilateral resolutions, treaties, and commitments on conventional weapons and women's rights and participation. Among others it looks at the Arms Trade Treaty and the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
The impact of Germany's arms transfers on economic, social and cultural rights
WILPF submitted this report jointly with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is about Germany’s extraterritorial obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights with a focus on arms transfers, gendered impacts, and the regulation of operations of German businesses in the arms industry.
Women, Peace and Security - A review of Germany's National Action Plan 1325
In this joint UPR submission, WILPF Germany and WILPF International review Germany’s National Action Plan 2017-2020 on Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security from various angles at both the national and international level, including Germany's obligations in relation to its arms transfers.
How UN agencies and programmes can ensure women's meaningful participation in their work
The 61st UN Commission on the Status of Women convened in New York in April 2017, but due to the US’s implemented travel ban and consequent exclusion of many impacted women from the session, WILPF organised an alternative Convening in Geneva. This booklet, created in partnership with UN Women, Oak Foundation and Norad, compiles the main recommendations proposed at the Convening. Including testimonies from the attendees, the document identifies procedural weaknesses in UN functions with respect to gender integration, and amongst many other obstacles, highlights continued arms transfers to countries in fragile contexts, in conflict or with high prevelance of gender-based violence.
What member states can do to ensure women's meaningful participation in the UN system
The 61st UN Commission on the Status of Women convened in New York in April 2017, but due to the US’s implemented travel ban and consequent exclusion of many impacted women from the session, WILPF organised an alternative Convening in Geneva. This booklet, created in partnership with UN Women, Oak Foundation and Norad, compiles the main recommendations proposed at the Convening. The document specifically addresses the operations of Member State representatives and recommends good practices for the creation of sustainable gender equality and representation within and around the UN system, and calls, amongst others, on states to comply with their obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty and other relevant instruments.
This shadow report was submitted to the 67th CEDAW Session (July 2017) and reviews Italy’s arms transfers and their impact on women’s safety and rights, with a focus on transfers to Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE, countries involved in the armed conflict in Yemen.
This shadow report was submitted to the 66th CEDAW Session, reviewing Germany’s arms export and its impact on women’s safety and rights in arms importing countries. It is a joint report by WILPF International and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
This report explores the impact of the proliferation of firearms in Iraq on women, where intimate partner violence is common yet poorly recorded or examined. It focuses research on six locations: Baghdad, Basra, Erbil, Duhok, Mosul, and Sulaymaniyah. It was prepared by Asuda, a WILPF partner. The report is also available in Arabic.
Ahead of the UN General Assembly First Committee, Reaching Critical Will and Instituto Sou da Paz have published a briefing paper examining the relationship between small arms and armed violence reduction.
This briefing paper, written by Daniel Mack of Instituto Sou da Paz, explores some of the key challenges facing the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons and highlights opportunities and options for addressing small arms issues more effectively.
This submission for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Nigeria was made by the CEDAW Coalition on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), which is a coalition of eight registered Nigerian NGOs, including WILPF Nigeria, that was established in 2017 with the aim to provide the CEDAW Committee with information about gaps in the implementation of the Convention with a specific reference to the Committee’s General Recommendation 30 and the WPS Agenda more broadly. It addresses, inter alia, the impact of the prolfieration of small arms and light weapons on women's security in Nigeria.
Women, Peace and Security in Cameroon
This submission by WILPF Cameroon to the UPR Working Group provides analysis and recommendations on issues such as: National Action Plan 1325, participation of women in conflict prevention and resolution, arms control, gender-based violence, and other issues. This submission was developed in close collaboration with WILPF International.
ARTICLES, REPORTS, WEBINARS, AND STATEMENTS
Ray Acheson, "Abolishing the Military-Industrial Complex," webinar hosted by BASIC's Emerging Voices Network,
Ray Acheson, "Abolishing Geopolitics and Building a World Without State Violence," Metapolis 3(2), January 2023
The impact of Canada's arms transfers on children's rights: Submission to the 87th pre-sessional working group of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 26 June 2020
Considerations and inputs to the letter of the Chair and sub-working group documents of the Working Group on Effective Treaty Implementation (WGETI) of the Arms Trade Treaty, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 21 May 2020
Considerations and inputs to the Working Group on Transparency and Reporting (WGTR) of the Arms Trade Treaty, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 21 May 2020
Considerations and inputs to the paper of the President of CSP6 of the Arms Trade Treaty on transparency and exchange of information and its role in the prevention of diversion, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 21 May 2020
Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: Divest, Demilitarise, and Disarm," Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 5 May 2020
Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: Multilateralism Matters," Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 24 April 2020
Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: A Sustainable Ceasefire Means No More 'Business as Usual'," Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 17 April 2020
Submission to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the impact of the diversion of arms and unregulated or illicit arms transfers on the human rights of women and girls, 10 April 2020
Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: Coronavirus Capitalism versus Persistent Activism," Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 8 April 2020
Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: From Ceasefire to Divestment and Disarmament," Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 26 March 2020
Ray Acheson, "COVID-19: Militarise or organise?" Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 23 March 2020
Ray Acheson, "The lethal connection between the international arms trade and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas," ATT Monitor Vol. 13, No. 1, 3 February 2020
WILPF calls on Germany to comply with its obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty, Human Rights Council, 20 September 2018
WILPF calls on France to refrain from transfers of weapons that can be used to violate human rights or international humanitarian law, Human Rights Council, 28 June 2018
More life less arms, 27 February 2018
WILPF urges the UK to immediately stop arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, 21 September 2017
Weapons transfer to Syria and their impact on women, 13 June 2017
2016 in review: Gendered perspectives in disarmament surge ahead, 31 December 2016
Ray Acheson, "Bloodshed in Syria: wherefrom the weapons? RCW of WILPF, 25 January 2016
"The war economy and gender-based violence," RCW of 26 November 2015
Ray Acheson, "Do not fuel the fire: no arms transfers to Ukraine or opposition forces, RCW of WILPF, 10 February 2015
Ray Acheson, "WILPF calls on UK to end its role in Israel’s humanitarian law violations," RCW of WILPF, 7 August 2014
Other Reaching Critical Will materials and publications