June 2015 E-News

The last two months have been exhausting but fulfilling for the Reaching Critical Will team! We covered a meeting on killer robots in Geneva and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in Vienna; headed to The Hague to celebrate WILPF’s 100th anniversary; dashed to New York for analysis and advocacy at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference; and then covered a meeting on small arms and light weaponsto top it all off! We will continue our work over the next few months, with meeting on explosive weapons in populated areas, an ICAN campaigners meeting, and another ATT preparatory committee. In the meantime, we will be saying a sad farewell to Gabriella Irsten, who has been with RCW since 2012, and wish her the best of luck in her new endeavours!

Women’s power to stop war

From 27 to 29 April, women and men from all over the world gathered in The Hague to celebrate 100 years of peacemaking with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). We gathered to develop a new peace agenda for the 21st century, recognising that we all have a role to play in saying no to war, violence, patriarchy, and injustice. Check out our conference summary and short video to find out what happened at the peace conference of the century. You can also listen to recordings of the different sessions on our Voice Republic page. This conference is not the end of our journey, but a significant milestone on our road to peace and justice. Join us!

107 states lead uprising at the NPT Review Conference

States parties of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) met from 27 April–22 May 2015 for the ninth Review Conference. They did not adopt the draft outcome document at the Conference’s conclusion. After bullying other states to accept the draft text, its adoption was blocked by the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada on behalf of Israel, a non-state party that possesses nuclear weapons. However, that the does not mean the NPT Review Conference did not have an outcome. The real outcome is the Humanitarian Pledge, introduced by Austria during the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in December 2014. At the outset of the Review Conference, the Humanitarian Pledge had just over 70 supporters. By the closing of the Conference, 107 states had committed to “to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.” Now these states—and those that endorse the pledge after this Conference—must use the pledge as the basis for a new process to develop a legally-binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons. This is the path forward urged by the broad-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which WILPF is an active partner and member of the international steering group.

Through Reaching Critical Will, WILPF monitored and analysed the entire Review Conference. We produced a daily newsletter with information, analysis, and advocacy, and provided an archive of statements and official documents that are not available publicly anywhere else. And now we will continue our work with ICAN to promote the Humanitarian Pledge and a treaty banning nuclear weapons!

ICAN campaigners meeting

ICAN UK (the UK partner of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) is holding a two-day campaigners’ meeting in London on 6–7 July 2015 for ICAN partners. The humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons has opened an historic window of opportunity to develop a new treaty to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons. Civil society must play a crucial role in making this a reality. The campaigners’ meeting will bring together ICAN partners in the UK and from around the world to learn from each other and brainstorm about actions to campaign for a global ban treaty. It will include plenary sessions with all campaigners, as well as facilitated discussions and hands-on workshops in smaller groups. To register for the campaigners’ meeting, please complete the online registration form

Small arms meeting shows need to address fundamental issues

The second meeting of government experts on small arms and light weapons, meeting 1–5 June in New York, addressed challenges stemming from new and emerging technologies such as 3D printing and modular and polymer weapon designs. A technical meeting, it sought primarily to evaluate the effects such technologies would have on existing marking and tracing systems and to share best practices on confronting these challenges. However, the meeting also revealed the need to address some of the most fundamental concerns related to small arms, especially production. Rather than just dealing with the havoc wreaked by new technologies or old ones, some states and certainly WILPF advocated for stemming the flow of weapons altogether, including by regulating their production. See RCW’s daily newsletter from the conference.

Preventing killing machines before it’s too late

The CCW held its second informal meeting of experts on autonomous weapons from 13 to 17 April. Discussions over the past week were wide ranging, covering a variety of critical issues from a range of perspectives. At the end of the week, it was clear that the majority of delegations believe that the use of any weapon requires meaningful human control and rejected the idea that matters of life and death should be delegated to machines. The alternative of developing and using fully autonomous weapons that are programmed to identify, select, and engage targets without human intervention, was overwhelmingly portrayed as a moral line that should not be crossed. On this basis, states should begin formal work towards an international instrument to prohibit fully autonomous weapons. See more with RCW’s daily newsletter, statements, and documents from the conference.

Explosive weapon use continues to be challenged

As members of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), WILPF and other civil society groups will attend intersessional meetings on the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty next week in Geneva to discuss with states the humanitarian harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. We will be organising advocacy meetings and hosting a side event on 26 June, geared towards encouging states to develop an international commitment to stop the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. Bombing towns and cities is a leading cause of civilian harm in conflict, as new research from a variety of organizations shows all too well. The International Committee of the Red Cross has also taken up the issue in a new animated infographic and report on a meeting it hosted in April.

Arms TradeTreaty preparations continue

From 20–21 April 2015 states met in Vienna for the third round of informal consultations for the first Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Conference of States Parties (CSP1). They discussed key issues related to the rules of procedure, permanent secretariat, financing, and reporting. The meeting was attended by ATT states parties, signatories, civil society, and industry representatives. Among other things, the meeting revealed the efforts of some of the major arms exporters to limit civil society participation and access to the CSP, by promoting closed meetings and a fee for civil society participation. We and other groups will challenges these efforts and irresponsible arms transfers as we continue to engage. The next ATT preparatory committee will be held in Geneva from 6–8 July. Stay tuned for coverage from RCW!

Upcoming Events

Conference on Disarmament, 2015 session, part two
25 May–10 July 2015 | Geneva, Switzerland

Impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
19 June 2015 | Geneva, Switzerland

Intersessional meeting of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM)
22–23 June 2015 | Geneva, Switzerland

Second Preparatory Meeting for the CCM Review Conference
24 June 2015 | Geneva, Switzerland

Intersessional meeting of the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT)
25–26 June 2015 | Geneva, Switzerland

Protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
26 June 2015 | Geneva, Switzerland

ICAN campaigners meeting
6–7 July 2015 | London, UK

Arms Trade Treaty preparatory committee
6–8 July 2015 | Geneva, Switzerland

Featured News

109 states have endorsed the Humanitarian Pledge

With a surge of countries joining throughout the NPT Review Conference, the number of states committing to fill the legal gap to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons is now up to 109!

States seek to protect education from attack

On 28-29 May states gathered in Oslo to join the Safe Schools Declaration, committing them to take concrete action to protect schools and universities from military use during armed conflict.

Report highlights damage to civilians in Syria from explosive weapon use

A new report from Handicap International released in May 2015 reveals that weapons contamination in Syria is putting 5.1 million people at risk. It calls on conflict parties to immediately end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Recommended reading and viewing

WILPF 100 Conference Summary, WILPF, June 2015

Ask your government to end abuses committed by transnational companies, WILPF, 3 June 2015

Why ethics is important to the politics of nuclear weapons, Ray Acheson, 8 May 2015

WILPF Statement to the 2015 NPT Review Conference, WILPF, 1 May 2015

The underrepresentation of low-income countries in nuclear disarmament forums, Article 36, May 2015

Recent research and policy analysis on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, International Network on Explosive Weapons, June 2015

ICRC animated infographic on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, International Committee of the Red Cross, June 2015