February 2016 E-News

It’s already been a violent year, with at least 3444 people killed by the use of explosive weapons in January alone; at least 13 medical facilities bombed in Syria; more evidence of use of cluster munitions in Yemen; and much more. Meanwhile as these so-called conventional weapons destroy lives and homes, nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of some of the states with stakes in the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Nerves in Geneva have been fraught around the impending start of the open-ended working group on nuclear weapons, with which the nuclear-armed states are refusing to cooperate. But as a visit from Sister Megan Rice of Transform Now Ploughshares in January highlighted, it is critically important to persist in nonviolence towards disarmament, justice, and peace—something for which WILPF advocates for at every opportunity.

In this edition:

 Syria and arms transfers

Syria is awash with weapons. Ranging from small arms to anti-aircraft rockets to air-dropped bombs, the bloodbath is fueled by the easy availability of weapons looted from caches in Iraq; transferred directly to specific parties by other countries; or diverted from those transfers to unintended recipients. This is must be an issue of key concern at the peace talks. One of the largest impediments to peace in Syria is the continuing transfer of weapons to all sides of the conflict. This issue demands critical attention at this round of talks—if profits continue to be made from the war through the sale of weapons, ammunition, and other military equipment, the war will continue. Reaching Critical Will has undertaken to track some of these weapons from their use in Syria back to their manufacturers. We do so in order to highlight the companies that are contributing to the ongoing conflict, whether the weapons being used are new or old, whether they were transferred decades ago or recently.

 Sister Megan Rice on nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons

Sister Megan Rice of Transform Now Plowshares was invited by WILPF to speak about her activism against nuclear weapons. In 2012, Sister Megan was arrested along with other two activists for entering the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. During a public event in Geneva on the 19 January, Sister Megan shared her personal experience in 2012 as well as her perspectives on nonviolent activism and the urgent need for nuclear disarmament.

 RCW visits Cameroon to talk about the arms trade

As part of Reaching Critical Will’s project on the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, RCW’s programme manager Mia Gandenberger paid a visit to WILPF Cameroon in Douala from 5-10 February. The visit included a two-day working session and a joint press conference with informed journalists about the ATT, WILPF’s work around it, and the Kinshasa Convention. Participants of both events called for more concerted action to combat the proliferation of arms in Cameroon and nonviolent solutions to the threats of an ever more active Boko Haram. WILPF repeated these calls in meetings with authorities and civil society throughout the visit. For more pictures from the visit have a look at WILPF Cameroon’s Facebook page.

 Open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament

The second open-ended working group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament will hold its first round of substantive meetings from 22 to 26 February in Geneva. 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. RCW will provide reporting and analysis from the meetings. In the meantime you can find a schedule of activities and other information 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
Organisational session of the Open-ended working group of the Fourth Special Session on Disarmament
22 February 2016 | New York, USA
Open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament
22–26 February 2016 | Geneva, Switzerland
Extraordinary meeting of ATT states parties
29 February 2016 | Geneva, Switzerland

 Featured news

UN Secretary-General draws attention to explosive weapons in World Humanitarian Summit report
In his report “One Humanity: Shared Responsibility,” released in preparation for the World Humanitarian Summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notes that “the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is the primary killer of civilians in conflict,” drawing attention to this issue as a key humanitarian problem on which steps must be taken. Explosive weapons are identified as a theme under the second “core responsibility” he identities for states, which is to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity. See INEW for more information.
UN panel finds Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen violates international law
A United Nations panel investigating the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen has uncovered “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets in violation of international humanitarian law.
MPs call for immediate halt of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia
An all-party group of MPs has called for an immediate suspension of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and an international independent inquiry into the kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen.
Canada is under pressure for arms deal with Saudi Arabia
Ottawa is under fire for brokering a deal to sell $15-billion worth of light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. In response the government seemed to be reconsidering its position, admitting that existing arms deal authorisations could be reassessed. However, the foreign affairs minister has since said that the deal would be exempt from the Arms Trade Treaty, which the Trudeau government has promised to sign.
Attacks against health facilities continue in Syria
With an airstrike hitting an Médecins Sans Frontières-supported clinic in Tafas on 9 February, at least 13 health facilities have been hit in 2016 alone. A Syrian aid group in January said 177 hospitals had been destroyed and nearly 700 health workers killed since the outbreak of the country’s civil war in March 2011.

 Recommended reading

Ray Acheson and Madeleine Rees, “Feminism and firearms,” 20 January 2016

Ray Acheson, “Bloodbath in Syria: wherefrom the weapons?” 25 January 2016
Cesar Jaramillo, “Trudeau’s handling of the Saudi arms deal will define his legacy,” The Huffington Post, 28 January 2016
Tim Wright, “In nuclear diplomacy, double standards abound,” newmatilda.com, 11 February 2016