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July 2012 E-News

July has been an exceptionally busy month for Reaching Critical Will, which has been closely monitoring and providing analysis and advocacy for the negotiation of a robust arms trade treaty (ATT). We have been working closely with several civil society partners to ensure that we provide timely reporting and analysis, and to promote the strongest text possible in order to truly reduce human suffering by regulating the international arms trade. Read below for details!

In peace,
Ray Acheson, RCW Project Director

In this edition:

Update on the ATT

“It is difficult to understand that in a world where regulations exist for commerce in every type of goods, including basic goods, we still do not have a regulatory framework for those products that have been designed and manufactured with the specific purpose of inflicting harm. We control cereals and dairy products, but we do not accept responsibility for the sale of conventional weapons, their parts and ammunition. This situation is unsustainable. This reality is ethically flawed.” – Delegation of Mexico at the ATT negotiating conference

Negotiations of an arms trade treaty (ATT) are currently underway at the United Nations in New York. The conference got off to a slow start, with the first two days spent determining the level of participation of Palestine. However, with that issue resolved for the moment, negotiations are finally underway. Most delegations and civil society groups are pushing for a strong treaty that has as its primary goal the reduction of human suffering—thus, they are pushing for an ATT that prohibits arms transfers where they are likely be used to violate human rights, international humanitarian law, commit acts of genocide or war crimes or gender-based violence, undermine development, peace, and security, etc. They are also calling for the treaty to cover transfers of all conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons and ammunition, parts and components, related technology, etc.

However, not all governments want such a strong treaty. Some of the major exporting states see this as an opportunity to bring everyone’s transfer standards in line to “even the playing field” and legitimize and facilitate the arms trade. Others are concerned that the treaty will be politicized and used against them, curbing their ability to import arms.

Reaching Critical Will/WILPF has been actively engaged in the conference. We believe that the ATT must be a strong tool with the primary purpose of preventing armed conflict, preventing the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law, and seriously reducing the culture and economy of militarism. WILPF will be promoting a strong ATT that does not facilitate the arms trade or the arms industry, but that instead helps build the foundations for not just the regulation but also the reduction of the arms trade, along with the reduction of militarism throughout politics and society, reduction of military spending, and redirection of economic resources.

One of the issues we have been strongly advocated for is the inclusion of a criterion prohibiting transfers of weapons when they are likely to be used to commit acts of gender-based violence. Together with the IANSA Women’s Network, Amnesty International, and Religions for Peace, we drafted a joint policy paper and have conducted advocacy with delegations at the conference. Over one hundred organizations around the world have endorsed our call.

att-wilpfersMadeleine Rees, WILPF Secretary-General, was also here in New York and briefed member states and presented at a side event about the intersections of gender and the ATT. WILPF is also organizing a second panel on Friday, 20 July to discuss the important ways in which the ATT and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), along with the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 et al. can work to prevent discrimination and violence against women, particularly in conflict and post-conflict situations. Several WILPF Sections (Philippines, Spain, Mexico, US, and Sweden) are also in New York and participated in a one-day training session that focused on enhancing the work on a national level concerning arms trade and military expenditure. Read summary and details here>>

Reaching Critical Will has been actively monitoring the negotiating conference and providing analysis and advocacy to diplomats. We have been posting statements and documents online and producing a daily newsletter, the ATT Monitor. You can subscribe to receive the ATT Monitor each day during the negotiations. Check out our website for background information and more NGO resources, including an action toolkit and WILPF position paper. You can also follow us on Twitter @RCW_ and the hashtag #armstreaty and on Facebook.

Gender and the arms trade treaty

att-madeleineThe Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has consistently called for the inclusion of a specific gender criterion in the arms trade treaty (ATT) currently being negotiated at the United Nations. In June 2012 we launched a Joint Policy Paper on Gender and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) with Amnesty International, the Women’s Network of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), and Religions for Peace.

If the ATT is to be an effective legal instrument in regulating the international arms trade, recognition of the potential gendered impacts of international transfers must also be included.

We are calling for a specific criterion in the treaty to “require states not to authorize an international transfer of conventional arms where there is a substantial risk that the arms under consideration are likely to be used to perpetrate or facilitate acts of gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Civil society groups are asked to support this call by taking action:

1. Your organization can endorse the call for a criteria—email info@reachingcriticalwill.org">info[at]reachingcriticalwill.org.

2. You can lobby your government at national level—see template letter >>
3. Share the campaign and paper with your contacts (by email, facebook, twitter, etc.)
4. Let us know what you/your organization are doing so we can share.

More information is available on our website.

Drones and international law

In late June, Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions issued a report highlighting concerns with the US practice of killing people with missiles launched from remote-controlled aircraft (drones). The report notes that these drone strikes have dramatically increased in the past three years. These drone strikes raise a number of serious issues in relation to the use of weapons and the protection of civilians. As the civil society group Article 36 points, out in a post on 20 June,

The method of killing by drones frequently involves ‘Hellfire’ missiles, which are explosive weapons. When they are fired in populated areas they risk killing and injuring civilians caught in the blast and fragmentation effects from the explosion. This broader problem of explosive weapons use in populated areas was highlighted in the recently released report by the UN Secretary General on the protection of civilians, which called for states to refrain from using explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas.

Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Heyns said the use of drones presents a major challenge to international law and human rights, and may even constitute war crimes. The UN rapporteur for counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson QC, said that if the US or any other states responsible for attacks outside recognized war zones did not establish independent investigations into each killing, then “the UN itself should consider establishing an investigatory body.”

The Guardian noted that Heyns “ridiculed the US suggestion that targeted UAV strikes on al-Qaida or allied groups were a legitimate response to the 9/11 attacks. ‘It's difficult to see how any killings carried out in 2012 can be justified as in response to [events] in 2001,’ he said. ‘Some states seem to want to invent new laws to justify new practices.’” More information on the Human Rights Council debate is available through The Guardian’s article of 21 June.

Materials and resources

Drone strikes raise fundamental concerns for humanitarian protection,” Article 36, 20 June 2012.

Owen Bowcott, “Drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law, says UN rapporteur,” The Guardian, 21 June 2012.

Mark Mazzett, “The Drone Zone,” New York Times, 6 July 2012.

Occucard on drone attacks

CodePink’s “No Drones” campaign

Drones Watch

Drone Wars UK

Explosive weapons at the UN Security Council debate on protection of civilians

The International Network on Explosive Weapons, of which RCW/WILPF is a member, has issued a report on the recent UN Security Council debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict. The debate, held on 25 June 2012, featured many references to the issue of explosive weapons in populated areas. INEW reports, “The UNSG and the Emergency Relief Coordinator both made strong remarks on EWIPA during their introductory briefings to the debate. Their key call was for an end to the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas. They also called for more focused discussions on this issue, including on the basis of further research into the problem and continued cooperation with civil society and international organisations.”

Upcoming Events

Arms Trade Treaty negotiating conference

2–27 July 2012 | New York City, USA

Group of Governmental Experts on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space
23–27 July 2012 | New York City, USA

Conference on Disarmament 2012 Session: Part Three
30 July–14 September 2012 | Geneva, Switzerland

2012 World Conference against A and H Bombs

2–9 August 2012 | Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan

IPPNW Student Congress

22–23 August 2012 | Hiroshima, Japan

IPPNW Main Congress

24–25 August 2012 | Hiroshima, Japan

Featured News

Scottish CND releases blueprint for a nuclear free Scotland

The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has published a new report, Disarming Trident, which explains how Scotland could be free from nuclear weapons in two years.

UN investigator decries US use of drones

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, called on the Obama administration to justify its policy of assassinating rather than capturing al Qaeda or Taliban suspects, increasingly with the use of unmanned drone aircraft that also take civilian lives.

Recommended Reading

Paul Holtom and Mark Bromley, “Looking back to ensure future progress: developing and improving multilateral instruments to control arms transfers and prevent illicit trafficking,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 12 June 2012

Disarming Trident, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 17 June 2012

Owen Bowcott, “Drone strikes threaten 50 years of international law, says UN rapporteur,” The Guardian, 21 June 2012.

Raminder Kaur, “Nuclear power vs. people power,” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 9 July 2012.