September 2012 E-News

September is here again, and soon the heads of state will be, too. In just over a week, UN Headquarters will be busy with activity—the high-level debate of the General Assembly commences on 25 September, and several high-level meetings will be held in the margins, including on the CTBT, chemical weapons, and more. In anticipation of the Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the CTBT, Reaching Critical Will has published a study on the obstacles to the treaty’s entry into force, as a means to encourage states to move past the failed step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and begin concrete work on banning and eliminating nuclear weapons altogether. More details are below.

The theme of the General Assembly’s 67th session, proposed by President-elect Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, is “bringing about adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means”. 2012 has seen efforts to regulate the international arms trade, resolve the disputes over Iran’s nuclear programme, establish new commitments to combat climate change, and more. Establishing a peaceful basis for security is imperative to all of these initiatives. WILPF thus encourages governments to use their opportunity at the General Assembly to express political support for disarmament, reduction of military expenditure, and women’s equal participation in decision-making. Ahead of the General Assembly, WILPF will be participating in the UN high-level forum on the culture of peace, taking place today. Maria Butler, Director of WILPF’s PeaceWomen project, will be addressing the forum.

Following the high-level General Assembly segment, the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security will commence its work on 8 October—details are below. Once again RCW will be monitoring and analyzing the committee through our weekly First Committee Monitorsubscribe now to be sure to receive this important resource during the month.

In peace,
Ray Acheson, RCW Project Director

In this edition:

Small arms review adopts final document

The Second Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons In All Its Aspects (UNPoA) met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City from 27 August–7 September 2012. The conference adopted its final outcome document by consensus on 7 September. While this was a welcome relief, particularly after the failure of arms trade treaty negotiations in July and the ongoing stalemates in the Conference on Disarmament and UN Disarmament Commission, the document itself lacks several key ingredients that could have enabled it to increase the effectiveness of UNPoA implementation.

The UN Programme of Action provides the framework for activities to counter the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. It was adopted by all UN member states in 2001. Since that time the UN has worked to support the implementation of the UNPoA at national, regional, and international levels. This Second Review Conference is an opportunity for all member states to agree on measures for strengthening implementation of the UNPoA.

However, the outcome document largely reaffirms states commitment to implementing the Programme rather than sets out a revitalized strategy for doing so. As noted by Eloise Watson of Reaching Critical Will, many governments “conveyed their disappointment in the final outcome document’s minimal (if not entirely absent) language relating to the issue of ammunition, gender perspectives, prevention of risk of diversion, and the link between armed violence and development. The inclusion of such concepts would have led to a more focused and forward-looking final document since it would have more adequately addressed the ‘new’ challenges and priorities of states in today’s ever-evolving security environment.” In addition, she writes, “the Conference did not go far enough in ‘reviewing progress made’ in the PoA’s implementation as a basis for drawing lessons for the future, nor did it place enough emphasis on mechanisms to increase the measurability and effectiveness of PoA implementation, and assessment of its impact. In order to plug the gaps in existing mechanisms and ensure the next six years of PoA activity is productive in its impact on small arms violence, the document should have more explicitly noted how to achieve the ‘clear and tangible results’ mandated by its Declaration.”

Furthermore, “Stronger references to measurability, evaluations, assessments, or indicators could also have helped bolster PoA implementation in the coming years; unfortunately, the preference of many states for such terms was buffeted by opposition from Algeria, Cuba, Iran, and Syria, among others, all of whom contested any reference that goes ‘beyond’ the scope of the UNPoA. In the words of H.E. Mrs. U. Joy Ogwu, the final outcome document ‘delivers no victors and no vanquished,’ and the Second Review Conference was an exercise in balance between those who wanted more and those who wanted less. However, the final outcome document is limited by its failure to include particular language relevant to today’s security situation, to satisfactorily assess PoA implementation to date, or to articulate the necessary tools for gauging progress in PoA implementation. Future meetings and conferences must take account of and respond to these inadequacies.”

Other responses to the final outcome document include:

More analysis can be found in the daily Small Arms Monitor and Small Arms Monitor: The Blog, produced by Reaching Critical Will, Global Action to Prevent War, and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).

Reaching Critical Will’s website includes statements and documents from the conference.

ICAN in Hiroshima

On 21 August, more than 100 campaigners from 30 countries participated in a meeting of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) focusing on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. ICAN also launched its new publication, Catastrophic Humanitarian Harm, as well as a project by high school students to send paper cranes to the governments of every country. A full report of the meeting is available online.

The CTBT: obstacles to entry into force

CTBT-Report-coverToday, more than 16 years after the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted, significant obstacles remain on the path to its entry into force. The Reaching Critical Will project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has published this report on government positions on the CTBT to highlight why entry into force of the treaty should not be treated as a precondition to nuclear disarmament or to the commencement of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons completely. This guide examines the policies of the 38 non-ratified states on the question of the CTBT.

The report is authored by Eloise Watson, who conducted the research while with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in Australia. Eloise is now an intern with Reaching Critical Will in New York and can be contacted at eloise[at]reachingcriticalwill.org.

International Day against Nuclear Tests

Report by Eloise Watson, Reaching Critical Will/WILPF

An Informal Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly was held on 6 September to mark the observance of the third annual International Day against Nuclear Tests—a day which seeks to call the world’s attention to the risks posed by nuclear weapons testing and to stress the value of a nuclear test ban. Convened by the President of the 66th Session of the General Assembly, Ambassador Nassir Abdelaziz Al-Nasser, and spearheaded by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the meeting centered on the former and future role of the United Nations and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

The President of the General Assembly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and Mr. Timur Zhantikin, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan, delivered opening remarks at the meeting. Each speaker underlined the importance and urgency of expediting the entry into force of the CTBT—a treaty that obliges all states to cease nuclear testing and which could considerably constrain the possibility of new nuclear weapons or new nuclear weapon possessors. Ambassador Al-Nasser argued that the CTBT is crucial in that it codifies a global non-nuclear norm and empowers signatory states with technical capabilities allowing detection of nuclear test explosions anywhere in the world. He also suggested that the remaining effort needed to bring the CTBT into force is neither scientific nor financial; rather, it rests on the leadership and reenergized commitment of governments.

Several interesting perspectives on current disarmament and non-proliferation issues were shared by the high-level panel, which was moderated by Dr. Randy Rydell, Senior Political Affairs Officer at the UNOffice for Disarmament Affairs. In a video message, Ambassador Tibor Toth, Executive Secretary of the CTBT Organization, commended the CTBT for the transparency and predictability that it brings. Ambassador Susan Burke, Special Representative of the President of the US for Nuclear Nonproliferation, examined the many achievements and persistent challenges of the international community in promoting nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. As she summarized, and as was reiterated by Ambassador Jim McLay, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the UN, the United Nations has a mixed track record in this area. The Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN, Ambassador Gary Quinlan, argued that goals must remain credible and avoid seeming too ambitious.

The only civil society speaker on the panel, John Burroughs of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, argued that the road to success lies in replacing the current ‘step-by-step’ approach to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation with a comprehensive approach. Such an approach would involve negotiating a convention for the verified, global elimination of nuclear weapons, thereby overcoming the vulnerability of a step-by-step approach to geopolitical tensions and disruptive events like wars.

All of the speakers emphasized the indispensability of a regional nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East, urging further action on its establishment. Ambassador McLay, for example, proclaimed that concrete progress towards creating a Middle East NWFZ is essential for the ongoing vitality of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. Ambassador Burk urged Middle Eastern states to “deal with the issue of a regional NWFZ in a respectful and serious way,” While Geoffrey Shaw, a representative of the IAEA Director General, lauded the positive and constructive dialogue of the ‘2011 Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of NWFZ in the Middle East’. He noted that this meeting was particularly significant considering the complexity of issues and divergent views. There was also strong advocacy from states during the interactive session regarding a Middle East NWFZ; Egypt, Turkey, Belarus, and Russia afforded priority status to holding a conference on the creation of such a zone, as was decided at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

Additionally, many delegations issued support for the CTBT. South Africa, the EU, Turkey, Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, among others, stressed the treaty’s crucial role in facilitating the nuclear disarmament process, emphatically calling on non-ratified states, of which the adherence is obligatory for treaty implementation, to fulfill their commitments under the NPT by ratifying the CTBT.

Also see:

UN Press Account
Remarks of John Burroughs, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

Human rights impact of nuclear testing

mi-panelPhotograph © Rowan Farrel

On 14 September, RCW, in cooperation with ICAN and the American Anthropological Association, organized a side event at the Human Rights Council related to the presentation of the report on the human rights impact of the US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands by the Special Rapporteur on Toxic Wastes. The event consisted of a panel discussion with testimonies on environmental damage, health, and other human rights abuse experienced by the people in the Marshall Islands and other nuclear test sites. More information will be available at www.reachingcriticalwill.org next week.

UN General Assembly General Debate

From 25 September to 1 October, the UN General Assembly will conduct its high-level debate. Once again, RCW will monitor the debate and extract all references to arms control, disarmament, multilateralism, nuclear energy, security, proliferation, the arms trade, and nuclear and conventional weapons. These extracts will be posted on our Disarmament Index web page starting on 25 September.

UN General Assembly First Committee

The 2012 session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security will meet from 8 October–6 November 2012. It will be chaired by Ambassador Desra Percaya of Indonesia. RCW will be monitoring First Committee and publishing a weekly First Committee Monitor. Subscribe today to receive the Monitor via email each Monday during the Committee. RCW will also archive all statements, documents, resolutions, voting results, and more on the RCW website.

Draft programme of work
Draft indicative timetable for thematic debate

NGOs wishing to hold side events: In accordance with ST/AI/416 of 26 April 1996, all requests for the use of United Nations premises should be either sponsored by a Permanent or Observer Mission to the United Nations or by departments or offices of the United Nations. Please fill out the side event request form and email it to kim12@un.org">kim12[at]un.org.

CTBT Ministerial Meeting

The Sixth CTBT Ministerial Meeting will be held at UN Headquarters in New York. Due to the heightened security requirements during the General Debate of the 67th Session of the General Assembly, NGO access to the ministerial meeting will be considered on the basis of the availability of seats and upon verification of valid United Nations passes. Eligible representatives of NGOs active in the field of disarmament wishing to attend the meeting should contact Ms. Soo Hyun Kim (kim12[at]un.org) before 20 September 2012.

OPCW high-level meeting

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is hosting a high-level meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 1 October 2012, coinciding with the opening of the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly. The theme of the meeting is: “Fifteen Years of the Chemical Weapons Convention: Celebrating success. Committing to the Future.” NGO representatives are permitted to attend but must contact Ms. Vera Hanus, Political Affairs Officer, Government Relations and Political Affairs Branch, at vera.hanus[at]opcw.org in advance to be added to the security list.

Keep Space for Peace Week

This year’s International Week of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space will be held on 6–13 October 2012. See the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space for details.

WILPF in the World: Statements to the Human Rights Council

During the Human Rights Council’s 21st session, WILPF made a statement (also in PDF) following the Special Rapporteur’s report on children in armed conflict. The statement, prepared by RCW, expressed concern that the link between small arms and light weapons proliferation and illicit trade was not made with children and armed conflict. We called on all states to acknowledge the impact of explosive weapons on children, monitor and report on where explosive weapons cause a pattern of killing and maiming of children, and end the use of explosive weapons with wide effects in populated areas. 

RCW also prepared a statement (also in PDF) for WILPF on US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands welcoming the report of the Special Rapporteur on Toxic Waste and urging all governments to support the Marshall Islands in receiving assistance to deal with the profound environmental, health, and human rights consequences of the nuclear testing. We urge states to call for national, bilateral, and international commitment to support and sustain a new generation of Marshallese medical practitioners, environmental health and remediation scientists, and citizen scientists whose determinant actions sustain a healthy Marshallese way of life.

Upcoming Events

Human rights impact of nuclear testing
14 September 2012 | Geneva, Switzerland

High-level forum on the culture of peace
14 September 2012 | New York City, USA

International Day of Peace
21 September 2012 | Global

UN General Assembly high-level meeting on the rule of law
24 September 2012 | New York City, USA

Opening of the UN General Assembly high-level general debate
25 September 2012 | New York City, USA

Sixth CTBT Ministerial Meeting
27 September 2012 | New York City, USA

OPCW high-level meeting
1 October 2012 | New York City, USA

Keep Space for Peace Week
6–13 October 2012 | Global

UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security
8 October–6 November 2012 | New York City, USA


Featured News

Japanese government seeks to phase out nuclear power by 2030s
In its first comprehensive energy review since the Fukushima disaster, Japan said on Friday that it would seek to phase out nuclear power by the end of the 2030s—but only after a longer-than-expected transition that would give power companies decades to recoup their investments and brace for a nonnuclear future. Furthermore, Motohisa Furukawa, the minister of state for national policy, seemed to suggest that the measures were loose guidelines open to revision and discussion.

Anti-nuclear protestor was killed by police in Kudankulam
against the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Indian village of Kudankulam continue, with tens of thousands of protestors camping in the open. May are continuing their hunger strike. On Monday, the protests spread to Tuticorin where one farmer died in police firing. Prohibitory orders remain in force around the plant. Police opened fire on Monday evening following day-long clashes in the area between the fishermen and the police force.

Protests continue against the naval base on Jeju Island
Protestors continue to deal with attacks by police in Gangjeong village where the naval base is being constructed, while at the same time they have been attending the World Conservation Congress. One protestor writes, “Our presence at the IUCN WCC grows every day… Everyone knows about Gangjeong, what has happened to us, and what is happening. Today I didn't meet a single person who hadn’t heard of it, and 95% of the people I met were totally in support us, loved our resolution, our actions, and our talks. We barely gave out any of our newsletters today because almost everyone already read it!” See savejejunow.org for more details.

Recommended Reading

Jeffrey Lewis, “A Steal at $10 Billion,” Foreign Policy, 5 September 2012.

Helen Young, “Nuclear Insecurity,” Huffington Post, 12 September 2012.

Ray Acheson, “Modernization of nuclear weapons: Aspiring to ‘indefinite retention’?Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, September/October 2012 vol.68 no. 5, pp. 88–95.