December 2015 E-News

2015 has been a tumultuous year. Bombing and shelling in towns and cities has been out of control, generating humanitarian suffering and refugee crises. Attacks in Europe have led to renewed war cries, bombing raids, and rising military spending. Weapons have been sold into conflict zones, fueling further destruction.
But we have also seen many progressive changes. More states completed landmine clearance and stockpile destruction programmes. States met for the first review conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the first conference of states parties of the Arms Trade Treaty. Countries gathered in Vienna to discuss how to prevent humanitarian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. 121 states have endorsed the humanitarian pledge for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. These meetings and initiatives reflect efforts by states, international organisations, and civil society to prevent harm from the possession, use, and trade of weapons. These efforts must, and will, continue.
This special edition of the E-News offers a recap of some of the progress that has been made this year. We’ve listed what we consider to be the five top highlights in our work throughout 2015. We want to thank all of our colleagues in civil society, international organisations, governments, and our donors for the valuable support for our work. We look forward to working together with you in the coming years to make even more progress on the key challenges ahead.
One of the challenges we face includes funding. Fundraising is always a tight, competitive environment but things are especially difficult this year with policy changes from a major disarmament donor. Thus we are reaching out to friends around the world to help us continue our work in 2016. If you would like to support our work for next year, please consider giving a gift to Reaching Critical Will. There are many ways you can give: you can sign up for a one-time donation or a monthly pledge through our online credit card service Just Give. You can also donate online through PayPal or write a cheque to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and mail it to Reaching Critical Will, WILPF, 777 UN Plaza, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10017, USA.
Thank you for considering us in your holiday giving this year. Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year ahead!
Ray and Mia


1. A process begins to end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

In September, a group of governments, UN agencies, and civil society organisations affiliated with the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) met in Vienna to discuss how to prevent harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. At the end of the meeting, many of the participating governments indicated support for developing a political commitment on this issue. Work on the development of this commitment will be carried out over the coming months.
What’s next? This outcome is a great step toward reducing human suffering. Concern about this problem has been increasing over recent years with bombings in towns and cities in Gaza, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and other places around the world. INEW has consistently called on all states to commit to stop the use in populated areas of explosive weapons. In doing so, they will need to review national policy and practice and make changes that will strengthen the protection of civilians. States should also support stronger data-gathering on the use and impact of explosive weapons, including age-, sex-, and disability-disaggregated recording of casualties. They should recognise the rights of survivors, families of those killed or injured, and affected communities, and ensure a response to their short- and long-term needs.
At WILPF, we also believe that states need to prevent those that use explosive weapons in populated areas from acquiring arms. Even if a state commits itself to not using such weapons in populated areas, arms transfers they approve may end up being used to bomb civilians. Regardless of whether or not states are party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), they must not transfer weapons to countries that are bombing or shelling in villages, towns, cities, or other populated areas.
Read more from Reaching Critical Will

2. The Humanitarian Pledge is endorsed by the majority of UN member states

At the 2015 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May, states parties did not adopt an outcome document or new plan of action for the Treaty’s implementation. However, by the end of the conference over 100 states had endorsed the Humanitarian Pledge, a commitment to stigmatise, prohibit, and eliminate nuclear weapons that had been introduced by Austria at the end of the third conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in December 2014. By now, 121 states have endorsed the Pledge and more have indicated their intention to do so.
What’s next? These states need to turn their commitment into action. They should use the 2016 open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament to further support for the Pledge and to begin crafting the necessary tools to “fill the legal gap”. From our perspective this means laying the foundation for elements of a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
Read more from Reaching Critical Will

3. A treaty banning nuclear weapons becomes the talk of the town

At this year’s UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, the ban treaty became the cornerstone of discussions on nuclear weapons. In response to the tabling of resolutions on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weaponshumanitarian pledge for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, and ethical imperatives for a nuclear weapon free world, critics of the ban treaty approach issued arguments against prohibiting nuclear weapons as a potential source of “instability” in the world. Despite their attempts to undermine progressive approaches to disarmament, these resolutions were all adopted by more than two-thirds of UN member states. This demonstrates that a great number of states are ready to finally stand up to the nuclear-armed countries and their nuclear allies and take concerted action for nuclear disarmament.

What next? This means that the ban treaty is now the key agenda item on the table, and governments are going to have to take a position on it. Are they for or against prohibiting the only weapon of mass destruction not yet outlawed? We will be working with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to promote a treaty banning nuclear weapons and to work with governments to pursue this goal.

Read more from Reaching Critical Will

4. Autonomous weapons are put in the spotlight

Governments met twice to discuss lethal autonomous weapon systems in 2015. The first was a meeting of experts in April, where it became clear that the majority of delegations believe that the use of any weapon requires meaningful human control and reject the idea that matters of life and death should be delegated to machines. They continued these discussions at the 2015 Meeting of High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which met in Geneva from 12–13 November. At that meeting, states decided to hold a third experts meeting on lethal autonomous weapon systems from 11–15 April 2016, with Ambassador Michal Biontino of Germany once again serving as chair. In addition to these UN meetings, artificial intelligence experts from around the world called for a ban on autonomous weapons.

What’s next? While welcoming the new round of talks in 2016, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has warned that the mandate for the discussions lacks ambition and urgency. More concerted action is needed to prohibit the development of autonomous weapons before it is too late. Many times throughout history we have forged ahead with new technological developments without properly addressing the consequences. We have a chance to prevent the potential of mechanized violence and warfare by banning these weapons now. RCW will continue to monitor discussions and engage in advocacy with the Campaign.

Read more from Reaching Critical Will

5. WILPF turns 100

In April 2015, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom turned 100. The organisation was founded by women from all over the world in the midst of World War One, who highlighted the connections between militarism, capitalism, racism, and patriarchy. WILPF’s 100th anniversary conference, held in The Hague earlier this year, drew those same connections and gathered women and men from around the globe to confront these challenges.

Along with RCW, WILPF’s other international progammes have undertaken serious work throughout the year on these themes. The Human Rights programme supported the negotiations of a binding treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises and human rights. With WILPF’s Spanish Section, it brought to the UN CEDAW Committee the responsibility of Spain for their exports of weapons and for the human rights abuses committed by their companies abroad. The PeaceWomen programme continues to advocate for turning commitments into action on behalf of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, by working to strengthen the participation of women peace activists and access to key policy spaces including at the Security Council, via Member States, and the United Nations and by contributing to the strengthening of a holistic, human rights-based approach that centres around an accountability framework. It has worked to amplify voices of grassroots women peace activists' participation, including facilitating delegations at the Commission on the Status of Women, the UN General Assembly, and the October High-Level Review of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, from countries including Colombia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Lebanon, and Syria. Likewise the Crisis Response programme has brought women from different conflicts together to share experiences and lessons learnt, to develop their abilities to organise for change, and to bring their voices into the debate at all levels. It currently runs project in the MENA region, Ukraine, and Bosnia and Syria.
What’s next? RCW, through its work on gender and disarmament, will continue to help bring the WILPF anniversary theories and actions alive. We will continue to challenge militarism, violent masculinities, and gender discrimination through monitoring and reporting on international forums such as the United Nations and other meetings of governments. We will continue to research, analyse, and highlight gendered impacts of the use and trade of weapons; gender diversity in disarmament discussions, negotiations, and processes; and gendered perspectives on disarmament and arms control.
Read more from Reaching Critical Will


Women, weapons, and war: a gendered critique of multilateral instruments
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. It provides a gendered critique of several multilateral instruments in order to address problems with categorising women as a vulnerable group, undermining women's participation and gender diversity in disarmament, reinforcing violent masculinities, and perpetuating structures of patriarchal militarism. It offers several concrete recommendations for states and other actors to change our framing, implement existing tools holistically, and develop stronger norms, standards, and laws to advance gender diversity, disarmament, and peace.
Trading arms, bombing towns: the lethal connection between the international arms trade and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas
What do the Arms Trade Treaty, an arms fair, explosive weapons, and the refugee crisis have in common? In this new briefing paper, Reaching Critical Will highlights a straightforward connection between them all and explores the potential effects that stricter prohibitions against arms transfers and development of new commitments against the use of explosive weapons in populated weapons could have on reducing humanitarian harm and the drivers of displacement. It calls on governments to take responsibility for their actions, to prioritise human security over war profiteering, and to seek new, preventative solutions to violence and war.

Gender-based violence and the Arms Trade Treaty
This new briefing paper aims to provide information on the links between gender-based violence (GBV) and the international arms trade and to highlight questions that will be relevant for risk assessments of weapon transfer decisions under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Under the ATT it is illegal to transfer weapons if there is a risk that the weapons will be used to facilitate GBV. In practice, this means that those conducting risk assessment processes for the export and import of weapons will have to take into account legislative and normative factors around GBV in the recipient countries. Effective implementation of this provision will help prevent GBV. It will also help build understanding about risks and dangers in potential recipient countries and about the links between the international arms trade and GBV more broadly. This in turn will enable more effective protection of human rights and prevention of armed violence.

Filling the legal gap: the prohibition of nuclear weapons

This table overleaf from Reaching Critical Will and Article 36 summarises the gaps in existing treaty law related to nuclear weapons that could be filled by a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The “legal gap” regarding prohibition and elimination arises from various deficits in the regulation of activities involving nuclear weapons, as currently codified. The key “legal gap” that needs to be filled is the explicit prohibition of nuclear weapons and establishment of a framework for their elimination.
Assuring destruction forever: 2015 edition

Reaching Critical Will produced an updated study exploring the ongoing and planned nuclear weapon modernisation programmes in China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As of April 2015, the nuclear-armed states are estimated to possess approximately 15,650 nuclear weapons. In this publication, non-governmental researchers and analysts provide information on each country’s modernisation plans.

NPT Action Plan Monitoring Report 2015

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, states parties adopted a 64 point action plan in order to further the implementation of the treaty. Reaching Critical Will, in partnership with the Government of Switzerland, has produced comprehensive reports on the implementation of this action plan from 2011 to 2015. Five years after the adoption of the NPT Action Plan in 2010, Reaching Critical Will's final monitoring report provides a straight forward review and assessment of the Plan's implementation. In addition to actions on nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the report covers the initiatives related to the Middle East weapons of mass destruction free zone and the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

NPT briefing book 2015

In advance of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, Reaching Critical Will has produced a briefing book that highlights a few critical issues that states must take into consideration during the Conference and beyond. The briefing book looks at the background, current status, and recommendations on topics such as the 2010 NPT Action Plan, ongoing modernisation plans of nuclear arsenals, the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and the potential for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.


First Committee briefing book 2015

The General Assembly's work on disarmament is conducted through its First Committee. Governments often use this forum to articulate decades-old positions and table resolutions that change little in substance or result from year to year. The civil society organisations, coalitions, and campaigns participating most actively at First Committee have argued consistently that we can and must replace watered-down outcomes with alternative results that advance human security and social and economic justice. This briefing book provides a quick overview of the state of play on some of the most pressing issues that will be addressed at this year’s First Committee. It also outlines recommendations for governments from some of the key civil society groups working on these topics.


Conference on Disarmament (until 10 March 2015)
Convention on Conventional Weapons expert meeting on autonomous weapon systems
Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference
UN Programme of Action Meeting of Government Experts
Arms Trade Treaty Conference of States Parties and preparatory meetings
General Assembly’s General Debate
General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Meeting of High Contracting Parties