January 2016 E-News

Welcome to the new year! Reaching Critical Will is looking forward to the opportunities for disarmament progress this year, on nuclear weapons, explosive weapons, the arms trade, and much more. We are going to be focused on:

  • making progress towards a treaty banning nuclear weapons together with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons;
  • developing a political commitment to stop the use of explosive weapons in populated areas together with the International Network on Explosive Weapons;
  • researching arms transfers to conflict areas and preventing governments from selling arms to those countries engaged in the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and other IHL/human rights violations, including gender-based violence;
  • making progress on developing new law to prevent autonomous weapons together with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots;
  • addressing the use of armed drones;
  • investigating and raising awareness about the linkages between disarmament and gender;
  • and much more!

We need your help to continue our work! If you would like to support our work this 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.

In this edition:

Nuclear weapon tests

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s claim that it tested a hydrogen bomb during the first week of the new year captured world news. The United States’ test of a mock B61 model 12 small, so-called precision nuclear weapon did not. While the DPRK’s test is thought to be exaggerated, the United States’ $10 billion investment in the new B61 is not. The new bomb is maneuverable and has sensors, allowing it to target underground objects. It also has an adjustable yield. All of this means, as General James E. Cartwright has said, making the use of a nuclear weapon more thinkable. Building a more “useable” nuclear weapon is a concerted move away from the theory of nuclear “deterrence” towards nuclear detonation. Read more >>


Protecting civilians means ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

The UN Security Council will hold its next open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict on 19 January. Previous debates have seen a number of governments expressing concern about the humanitarian impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and urging action on this critical issue. Political traction was made in 2015, with several meetings of states, international organisations, and civil society, including a gathering in Vienna to discuss ways forward. Reflecting the urgent nature of this humanitarian problem, the UN Secretary-General and the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross also issued an unprecedented warning, calling on states to stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas.
At the upcoming open debate, the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) is urging states to endorse the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation that states should refrain from the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas and to indicate support for the development of an international political instrument to reduce harm from the use of explosive weapons, including stopping the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with wide area effects. States should also review national policies and practices related to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and make changes that will strengthen the protection of civilians; support stronger data-gathering on the use and impact of explosive weapons in populated areas, including age-, sex- and disability disaggregated recording of casualties, and information on disabilities amongst survivors; and recognise the rights of survivors, families of those killed or injured, and affected communities and to ensure a response to their short- and long-term needs.

 Sister Megan Rice in Geneva

On 22 January, Sister Megan Rice of Transform Plowshares now will speak to diplomats and the public about her activism against nuclear weapons. In 2012, Sister Megan was arrested along with activists Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed for breaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Y-12 is a manufacturing facility for nuclear weapons components. They spray-painted anti-war slogans on the exterior of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, a structure for storage of weapons-grade uranium. They spent time in prison for these actions but have since been released. Sister Megan’s visit to Geneva will provide an opportunity to learn about the history of Catholic worker activism against nuclear weapons, Sister Megan’s experiences, and her plans for the future.
The event will be held at 11:30 in Room II and III at the World Council of Churches, 150 route de Ferney, Geneva.

Open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament

The second open-ended working group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament is set to meet in Geneva throughout 2016. This group, established by a UN General Assembly resolution, will address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions, and norms that will need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons. This is a great opportunity for states to focus on elements necessary for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. The first meetings will take place in mid-February and will cover a range of topics related to legal provisions and risk reduction. A second round of meetings will be held the first two weeks of May. RCW will provide coverage of all OEWG meetings. Details can be found on our website!

  Arms Trade Treaty extraordinary meeting

On 29 February 2016, ATT states parties will meet in Geneva to adopt administrative arrangements for the ATT Secretariat, budgets for the Secretariat and Second Conference of States Parties (CSP2), and a Secretariat structure. The decisions made here will set states up for CSP2, to be held later in 2016. RCW will provide reporting and documentation from this meeting, so stay tuned! In the meantime, check out the agenda for the meeting.

  Upcoming events

Conference on Disarmament, Part One
26 January–1 April 2016 | Geneva, Switzerland
65th session of the UN Secretary-General’s advisory board on disarmament matters
27–29 January 2016 | Geneva, Switzerland
Extraordinary meeting of ATT states parties
29 February 2016 | Geneva, Switzerland

  Featured news

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia breach international law
Lawyers from law firm Leigh Day, acting for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), have stepped up legal proceedings against the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which approves export licences, accusing it of failing in its legal duty to take steps to prevent and suppress violations of international humanitarian law given Saudi Arabia’s ongoing bombing campaign in Yemen. Human rights groups have provided evidence that the campaign is killing civilians and directly targeting them in some situations.
Canada to proceed with arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite human rights violations
The newly elected Liberal government is refusing to cancel a $15-billion deal to sell weaponised fighting vehicles to the Saudis – the contract is still in the material procurement stage – and decline to release internal assessments on whether this massive transaction would violate Canadian arms export rules. General Dynamics Land Systems in Canada has been granted a 15 year contract to produce armoured combat vehicles that will be equipped with machine guns, medium-calibre weapons or even powerful barrels capable of firing 105mm shells or anti-tank missiles.
Hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow is named Arms Control Person of the Year for 2015
She shares the prestigious award with all other survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The survivors were nominated “for their unyielding dedication to sharing first-hand accounts of the catastrophic and inhumane effects of nuclear weapons”, said the Arms Control Association, which confers the honour each year after a popular vote.
Syrian schools closed by Russian air strikes
Schools are closed until further notice in Douma after cluster bomb attacks by Russian warplanes on 13 December 2015. Of the 60 civilians that died during the attacks, eight were children.

  Recommended reading

Sur: international journal on human rights, Issue 22, December 2015 (with articles on autonomous weapons, explosive weapons, small arms, arms trade, and more)
Taking stock: The arming of Islamic State, Amnesty International, December 2015
Wim Zwijnenburg, “Watching the world burn: Islamic State attacks Libya’s oil industry,” The Toxic Remnants of War Project, 8 January 2016
Laila Alodaat, “No Women, No Peace in Syria,” The Huffington Post, 9 December 2015