July 2015 E-News

70 years ago this month, on 15 July 1945, the first nuclear weapon was tested by the United States in Alamogordo, New Mexico. 60 years ago, on 9 July 1955, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein issued a manifesto calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons—and of war. The ten years in between these two events had demonstrated the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. The use of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the countless tests since then, and the development of even bigger more destructive weapons meant that nuclear weapon possessors could exterminate the entire populations of their enemies but also wreak havoc with the rest of the world. Thus they demanded the prohibition of nuclear weapons but also urged governments to find new ways other than war to solve their conflicts, arguing that banning specific weapons is a good first step but certainly not the last necessary to prevent “the risk of universal death”.

Today, with armed conflicts raging around the world, the continued existence and possession of nuclear weapons, the development of new technologies of violence, and vast profiteering from the sale and trade of the tools of war, we would do well to revisit the urgent demands of Russell and Einstein and countless others who feared not just for human survival but also for the culture of our species. As human beings we need to recognise our common humanity and work together to find nonviolent solutions to our differences and tensions.

In this edition:

New research and advocacy on explosive violence

Work to stop the bombing and shelling of towns and cities is heating up! In June, WILPF as a member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) met with governments to discuss ways forward on stopping the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. INEW also hosted an event featuring new statistics released by Action on Armed Violence show that civilian deaths and injuries from the bombing and shelling of towns and cities are increasing. Such practices result in a predictable pattern of humanitarian harm and must be stopped. INEW has published a new briefing book to support ongoing work to prevent this harm through the development of an international commitment to stop the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas. The government of Austria has announced that it will convene a meeting in September to start exploring possible elements for such a commitment.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on states to support this initiative and once again identified the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as a key threat to the protection of civilians. In his latest report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, released this week, he urged states to work on a commitment to “refrain from the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas.” In an open debate in the UN Security Council on children in armed conflict in June, several participants highlighted concern with the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Guatemala, Malaysia (as Council president), Spain, Sweden on behalf of the Nordic countries, and UNICEF.

In addition to our advocacy with INEW, WILPF recently delivered a statement to the Human Rights Council condemning explosive weapons use in Syria and calling for the development of such an international commitment. We also published a report on Gaza one year after Israel’s 2014 military operation there, highlighting the ongoing human suffering caused by the use of explosive weapons. Amnesty International has developed an innovative digital tool exposing patterns of Israeli violations in Gaza.

Arms Trade Treaty meeting in Geneva

States, international organisations, and civil society met in Geneva from 6 to 8 July for the final preparatory committee for the first Conference of States Parties (CSP) of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which will take place 24-27 August 2015 in Mexico. Many questions remain unanswered even as discussions have become more concrete. States will have to come together during the next few weeks ensure that the rules of procedure for forthcoming meetings, the structures for implementation support, and mechanisms for reporting and transparency are robust and effective enough to facilitate the strongest possible implementation of the Treaty by its states parties. Reaching Critical Will reported on the proceedings daily; find our analysis in the ATT Monitor and subscribe now to receive it during the first CSP!

ICAN campaigners meeting

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) hosted a campaigners meeting in London from 6 to 7 July. Campaigners from across Europe and the world gathered to strategise for the coming months and year ahead, bringing their experiences and questions to share with others working for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. It was an informative and fun two-day meeting, with workshops and plenaries on the principles for a prohibition treaty, gender and nuclear weapons, parliamentary engagement, and much more. We also heard testimony from nuclear weapon test survivors from the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association. As we gear up for the start of negotiations on a ban treaty, we will continue to urge our governments to recognise the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and use this as their motivation for prohibiting and eliminating these weapons once and for all!

Upcoming events

Conference on Disarmament 2015, Part Three
3 August–18 September 2015 | Geneva, Switzerland 

Multilateral Negotiations on an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities
27—31 July 2015 | New York, USA

Arms Trade Treaty Conference on States Parties
24–27 August  2015 | Cancun, Mexico

International Youth Summit for Nuclear Abolition
30 August 2015 | Hiroshima, Japan

Convention on Cluster Munitions First Review Conference
7–11 September 2015 | Dubrovnik, Croatia 

Featured news

New data shows increased civilian casualties from explosive weapons

New data released by Action on Armed Violence shows that global civilian deaths and injuries in 2014 from explosive weapons have gone up for a third consecutive year. In 2014, 41,847 people were killed or injured by explosive weapons—of these 78% were civilians (32,662). In populated areas civilians made up 92% of casualties. 

Study on Gaza calls for work on preventing the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

In June the UN Commission of Inquiry on Gaza called on the international community to “accelerate and intensify efforts to develop legal and policy standards that would limit the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas with a view to strengthening the protection of civilians during hostilities,” based on its findings.

Women go on peace march across DMZ

On 24 May 2015, the International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, about 30 women from 15 countries crossed the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea to make a powerful call for peace in the Korean Peninsula.

112 states have endorsed the Humanitarian Pledge

The number of states committing to fill the legal gap to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons is now up to 112!

Iran nuclear negotiations on-going

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme are on-going in Geneva. Iran’s foreign minister indicated several countries had changed positions, making conclusions difficult, though US secretary of state argued that real progress has been achieved.

Recommended reading and viewing

A commitment to act: protecting civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, International Network on Explosive Weapons, June 2015

Explosive States: Monitoring explosive violence in 2014, Action on Armed Violence, June 2015

WILPF statement on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the distinct impacts on women in Syria, 23 June 2015

Failing Gaza, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 8 July 2015

CNET interview with Campaign to Stop Killer Robots representatives, 3 July 2015