February 2017 E-News

The last month has been hard. Most days it’s hard to keep up with what can feel like a downward spiral of epic proportions. But one great thing has been the persistence of people around the world to push back against hate and injustice and fear. There is a place and need for all of us in building a better world. It has been inspiring to see so many people in the streets, responding to the calls for action. 

And just as we all stand up in the streets around the world, countries are standing up in the United Nations—standing up to the threat posed by the nuclear-armed states, saying enough is enough and it’s time to ban the bomb, now. Ban it we will! With courage and perseverance, in the streets and in the conference rooms, we can tackle this global injustice and all the rest. 

In this edition:

 On the road to banning nuclear weapons

We’re less than six weeks away to the start of negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons! It’s an exciting time and we’re kicking into gear! On Thursday at the United Nations there will be an organisational meeting. We will issue a summary from that meeting, so stay tuned! We'll also soon have information for you on how to register to attend the negotiating conferences. In the meantime, we’ve been active with other ICAN partners taking part in the Global Week of Action to raise awareness for the negotiations. Tomorrow we will be doing a photo action outside of the UN headquarters in New York, so check out our Twitter and Facebook feeds and the hashtag #nuclearban! ICAN has published a new booklet explaining the history of the ban treaty negotiations and why such a treaty is urgently needed. WILPF will soon be publishing an advocacy document on elements for the treaty. And ICAN is also maintaining a blog with news and alerts each day. There are a lot of materials to keep track of but we hope it's useful to campaigners and governments!
The first round of negotiations will be held in NYC on 27–31 March. We'll be producing daily news and analysis—you can subscribe now to receive updates (subscribe to our First Committee Monitor list). The second round of negotiations will be 15 June–7 July. In addition to our work inside the UN, we’ll also be organising public events. On 17 June, we’re helping to host a big public event with speakers, musicians, and artists at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. And on 18 June, WILPF is organising a Women’s March to Ban the Bomb! We’ll march from the United Nations to Central Park, where we’ll have a rally featuring speakers and artists. It’s going to be an exciting few months!

 Non-Proliferation Treaty meetings also coming up

The first Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference will meet from 2-12 May 2017 in Vienna. Information is now available for civil society on accreditation and registration, side events, presentations, and more.


 WILPF will not join CSW61 

WILPF, one of the first NGOs to be granted consultative status with the United Nations in 1948, has announced that it will not take part in the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61). WILPF warns that the absence of women from countries affected by the recent US travel ban undermines the basic premise of the CSW as being an inclusive and participatory process and threatens its legitimacy. We have sent a statement to all UN member states calling on them to uphold the UN Charter and international law, and to open a real discussion about meaningful participation and reforms of CSW and other UN processes. 

 WILPF at the Women's March 

On 21 January, WILPF joined the Women's March on Washington. Our members participated in the march in Washington, DC and around the world. Check out some of our photos from Washington, New York City, Geneva, London, and Rome! These marches were part of an international movement uniting people who oppose the rising rhetoric of far-right populism around the world and defend human rights, equality, dignity, and justice for all. WILPF's history is based in confrontation of militarism, patriarchy, racism, and capitalism as the roots of war and violence. We will help continue the momentum with the Women's March to Ban the Bomb on 18 June!

 Arms Trade Treaty intersessional work underway in Geneva

States met for a first round of informal Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) working group meetings during the week of 5 February. This was the first time that the three working groups, which were established at the second Conference of States Parties in August 2016, have met. States sought to agree work plans or identify priorities, as well as receive expert and technical presentations. The working group on effective implementation covered many aspects of the issue, although did not address any of the concerns raised by civil society about potential treaty violations. Discussion ranged from the scope of national control lists, to improving cooperation and information-sharing about risk assessment mechanisms, particularly in relation to transit, transhipment, and preventing diversion. Discussion in the transparency and reporting working groupwas focused around a set of six proposals for future work made by the co-chairs of the group in advance of the meeting. Some of these had to do with improving or amending the existing reporting templates, while others touched on ensuring compliance or identifying synergies with other treaty reporting obligations. Transparency was a key theme, as was further advancing work on a diversion reporting template. In the meeting of the working group on universalisation, several states spoke to their own experiences and challenges in joining the treaty, as a way to identify how to assist others following an overview of the status of ATT universalisation.
States will meet again for a preparatory meeting to the third conference of states parties on 16 February, following an exchange between the Bureau and civil society on the 15th.

 Upcoming events

Conference on Disarmament
23 January–31 March 2017, Geneva, Switzerland
Global Week of Action on nuclear abolition
10–17 February 2017
ATT preparatory committee meeting
16 February 2017, Geneva, Switzerland
Nuclear weapon ban treaty negotiations organisational meeting
16 February 2017, New York, USA
GGE on the UN Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures
13–17 March 2017, Geneva, Switzerland
Nuclear weapon ban treaty negotiations
27–31 March 2017, New York, USA

 Featured news

UK defends arms transfers to Saudi Arabia during court hearings
Court proceedings took place on 8 and 9 February in London concerning British arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The case against the government was filed by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), following the results of a legal opinion in late 2015 that found the UK government in violation of national, regional and international law in authorizing these transfers. This includes Articles 6 and 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty, of which the UK was a major proponent. The February court sessions involve public and closed hearings, and will examine if the government followed due process in conducting risk assessments before authorizing the transfers in question. CAAT is arguing that the government failed to do so, such as by not considering all available information. These assessments need to prove that their there is a clear risk of a substantial violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. However the British government is reportedly arguing that there needs to be a demonstrated intent, on behalf of the recipients of the arms in question, to use the specific items sold in this manner, and not just the risk that it could happen. Their argument, should it be successful and become future practice, would constitute a massive rejection of a risk-based approach and reverse British arms transfer policy. It would also have serious implications for the actions of other states and undermine the ATT.
Scottish activist cleared of charges after blocking nuclear convoy
In Balloch, Scotland, antinuclear activist Brian Quail was accused of breaching the peace after blocking a nuclear convoy on 10 March 2016. Last week he was acquitted in a Dumbarton court. Janet Fenton, who was a witness during the trial, had been considered for contempt of court but the judge did not pursue it.
Activists protest at Waihopai spy base in Aotearoa/New Zealand
The activists protested at the base as a key node in the Five Eyes surveillance network managed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States. WILPF sent a message of solidarity to the protestors, noting, “At this time when human rights, peace, and justice are under threat by certain corporate and government interests, those that are committed to peace and justice must work to shut down the bases that contribute to these networks of inequality, injustice, and violence as part of our pursuit for peace.”
First drone strike under new US administration kills ten people in Yemen
A pair of US drone strikes in Yemen’s Bayda Province in late January killed at least 10 people, marking the first drone strikes to be conducted under the new US president. Yemeni officials, as they always do, labeled all of the slain “armed fighters of al-Qaeda.” Antiwar.com notes that the reliability of the determinations on who was slain in any given strike has been in substantial doubt during the Saudi war in Yemen, as most of the US special forces who had been spotting targets were withdrawn in the lead-up to the war.
US special forces raid involving drones in Yemen kills at least 30 people, including eight year old daughter of Anwar Awlaki
On 29 January, US special forces raided an Al Queda compound. About 30 people were killed, including a US service member and a number of civilians—including an eight year old girl who was daughter of Anwar Awlaki. Awlaki and his 16 year old son were killed in separate drone strikes in 2011.
US Army seeking rockets with drone swarms
The US Army wants a new kind of long-range artillery rockets—one that doesn't explode to destroy a target, but rather carries a payload of lethal drones. Entire swarms of tank-killing drones could fan out over a battlefield, hell-bent on finding and destroying enemy armored vehicles and critical supplies.
UK signs £100m fighter jet deal with Turkey
UK prime minister Theresa May approved the deal despite Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s human rights violations. Downing Street insisted that there was no contradiction between having concerns about a country’s human rights record and signing trade deals. Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said the deal signed with Turkey confirmed that the UK was prepared to sell weapons to countries that flouted international human rights laws.
Spanish NGO opposition to arms trade with Saudi Arabia
In January, the Spanish Control Arms coalition, including Amnesty International, FundiPau, Greenpeace, and Oxfam Intermón, reiterated its opposition to the sale of five Avante 2200 corvettes for the Saudi navy to be built by the Spanish company Navantia.
Algeria free of landmines
After decades of work, Algeria has fulfilled its mine clearance obligation under the Ottawa Convention clearing 93 mined or suspected mined areas, including 78 former mine barrages, and destroying more than one million antipersonnel mines.
Trump approves weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
The weapons deals with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were blocked by the Obama administration over concerns about human rights, but the Trump administration is now pushing ahead with them.
Chemical weapons found in Mosul in Isis lab, say Iraqi forces
Special forces say mustard agent and Russian surface-to-air missiles found in site set up in Nineveh ruins.
Human Rights Watch launches report on chemical weapons use in Aleppo
Syrian government forces used chemical weapons in opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo during battles to retake the city late last year, Human Rights Watch said in a new report. The findings add to mounting evidence of the use of banned chemical weapons in the six-year-old Syrian civil war and could strengthen calls by Britain, France and the United States for sanctions against Syrian officials.

 Recommended reading

Nicholas Marsh and Topher Mcdougall, “Illicit Small Arms Prices: Introducing Two New Datasets,” Small Arms Data Observatory, 21 January 2017
Cesar Jaramillo, “Despite ruling, many questions on Saudi arms deal linger,” The Global and Mail, 25 January 2017
Rasha Jarhum, “The humanitarian response in Yemen isn’t working,” Devex, 30 January 2017
William D. Hartung, “What Happens When All We Have Left is The Pentagon? TomDispatch, 2 February 2017
Joelien Pretorius, “How I learned to hate the Bomb,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 7 February 2017
Heather M. Roff, “What Do People Around the World Think About Killer Robots?” Slate Magazine, 8 February 2017 
Paul Holden, "Indefensible: Seven Myths that Sustain the Global Arms Trade," Project Indefensible, 2017