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December 2012 E-News

2012 has been an exciting and busy year for Reaching Critical Will. Not only did we continue with our regular monitoring and analysis of the traditional disarmament fora, such as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)’s 2012 Preparatory Committee, the Conference on Disarmament, the Disarmament Commission, and the First Committee of the General Assembly, but we also did daily reporting from the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations and the Review Conference for the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.

However, we also have kept ourselves busy with many other exciting projects. In March, we launched our new website, with an updated visual look and a much more user-friendly way of accessing all documents and materials on our website. We hope you've found the new site useful throughout this year. We also released two big publications, one examining the ongoing modernization plans in the nuclear armed states and one on the implementation of the 2010 NPT Action Plan. RCW also has an essay in the collection published in November 2012 by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, Civil Society and Disarmament 2012—Applying a Disarmament Lens to Gender, Human Rights, Development, Security, Education and Communication: Six Essays. The RCW contribution focuses on the connection between disarmament, development, and military spending.

While WILPF has been a partner organization of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) since its launch, in 2012 we joined its international steering group and are working hard on preparations for the upcoming conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo in March 2013. We also joined the International Network on Explosive Weapons and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, in order to widen our approach and perspectives on disarmament.

In addition to this, we've organized side events, participated in actions and campaigns, attended conferences all over the world, made numerous speeches and statements, and written many, many articles on a wide range of disarmament issues.

As the year wraps up, there’s little time to rest for Reaching Critical Will. Next year seems to be equally busy. The cycle of disarmament meetings is starting up again, and we'll be focusing a lot of energy on the conference in Oslo. But we’ll also publish two publications, one on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and an update of our monitoring report of the implementation of the 2010 NPT Action Plan. The final negotiating conference of the ATT will be a major focus during the next few months, and we're already preparing for the 2013 NPT PrepCom which will be held in Geneva. We’ll also continue to engage with new fora, such as the Human Rights Council and other human rights treaty bodies, and will continue to collaborate with other organizations all over the world.

We want to thank all of our friends and supporters for a great year and look forward to working with you all in 2013.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year,
Ray and Beatrice

In this edition:

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

The 2012 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign, hosted by the Rutgers School of Arts and Science’s Centre for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), was the third year of advocacy on the intersections of gender-based violence and militarism. WILPF International ran a blog for the 16 days of the campaign, providing analysis and advocacy on the key themes for this year. The Reaching Critical Will team provided two of these posts: Day 2: Women over Weapons! and Day 9: Small arms, big consequences.

Conventional weapons in Geneva

The High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) met in Geneva in November to address Protocol V and Amended Protocol II, as did states parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT). RCW intern Nicholette DeRosia covered these meetings, providing a brief overview of the key points of contention and progress.

CCW meeting

In discussions throughout the week there was a large focus on universalization of the Convention. Several states acceded to the CCW and Cuba announced its intention to do so in 2013. The EU delegation expressed a keen interest in universalization and the Holy See pointed out that “time is of the essence” in implementation. However, the meetings also highlighted some points of contention among High Contracting Parties, such as those related to mines other than anti-personnel mines (MOTAPM) and cluster munitions.

Despite the fact that the topic of cluster munitions was not even on the agenda, several states took opportunity to voice their distaste with the fact that a new protocol VI on cluster munitions was not adopted in the last session. States voicing this sentiment included Australia, Japan, Ukraine, Philippines, Israel, Russia, Argentina, and others. However, many other states countered that such a protocol has the potential to undermine the already existing Cluster Munitions Convention.

Another issue that took up a large part of the agenda was discussion on MOTAPM. An in-depth report of the meeting of experts on MOTAPM was presented by Jim Burke of Ireland, who explained the way a great diversity of opinions had been raised on the subject at the meeting of experts. This was further evident when states parties took the floor to comment. Several states such as Cuba, Pakistan and Belarus stated that consensus on the issue would be impossible, given that the banning of MOTAPM would favor economically advantaged states, and that MOTAPM are often confused with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Most states including Argentina, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Colombia, Sweden, Greece, and Ireland called for further discussions on the issue though next year’s session. Only Israel and Mexico insisted that there be a complete ban on MOTAPM.

The role of non-government organizations (NGOs) was also a major point of contention in this conference. Debate on the topic was spurned by the delegation of Belarus which, during its general statement, accused some NGOs of distributing false information about its country, particularly in regards to its interest in reviewing Protocol III and deaths in their country caused by certain weapons. In particular, the delegation highlighted Human Rights Watch (HRW) as one of the producers of the document. In response Germany asked for clarification of the document and Turkey asked for clarification if NGOs require ECOSOC status to take part in proceedings. Belarus’ delegation suggested that NGOs “should not question the actions of states”. In the end HRW invited all delegations to engage with them in regards to their research, and many states parties expressed their support for the importance of NGO involvement in CCW activities.

MBT meeting

Meanwhile, the Twelfth Meeting of States Parties (MSP) of the MBT showed that progress really can be made on disarmament issues. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), so there was some sense of accomplishment in the room. While many states and civil society made it clear that there is still a long way to go in terms of mine clearance, victim assistance, and treaty universality, significant steps have been taken and are commendable.

The opening ceremony started the meeting off with moving speeches from a variety of speakers. The High Commissioner for Human Rights reminded us of the link between landmines and human rights, especially for people with disabilities. There was also a great speech from Nobel laureate and activist founder of ICBL Jody Williams as well as an ICBL associate Tun Channareth from Cambodia. They pointed out how the MBT has changed some of the dynamics of the relationship between civil society and states, and demonstrated that the two can work together to focus on humanitarian consequences and meaningful outcomes. In a plea to get non-signatories to join, Mr. Channareth shouted to the audience “Come on USA!” Despite this call to action, later in the week the US delegation announced that its government is still in the process of considering signing. However, other states acceded to the treaty.

Notably Poland declared that they were in the process of acceding, thus bringing the entire European Union into the treaty. Myanmar expressed its interest in soon joining the treaty. States including Somalia, Finland, and Tuvalu have acceded to the convention. Mexico pointed out that about 80 percent of the world’s states have now become members of the convention and that this is a huge step toward universalization. Palestine made a strong statement about its commitment to the treaty with its new non-member observer status. However, as part of this statement they made it clear that they required the compliance of their “occupier” and asked for support from the states parties to push Israel to comply with the MBT on Palestinian land. The delegate reminded the meeting about illegal weapons used by the Israeli government against civilians in 2008, and called for an end to civilian causalities. The statement was met with loud applause, but only France responded with support for the statement. It will be interesting to see progress on this in the future.

Despite the progress made, one area of concern is the expanding list of states requesting extensions on the removal of landmines and stockpiles. ICBL pointed out that now about 75 percent of states are asking for extensions and argued that extensions should be the exception rather than the rule. Afghanistan, Angola, and Zimbabwe all made requests for extensions to their original deadlines on identification and clearance of mines. In respect to clearance of stockpiles Belarus, Greece, and the Ukraine were having issues of compliance.

There was some focus on how to respond to those states who find additional mines after declaring their state landmine free, and it was widely agreed that no more than 10 years should be granted for these requests. There was however, some mixed sentiments particularly from the ICBL and ICRC both commenting that while further requests for extensions are undesirable, it is also important that if a state realizes that there are new mines found they must be transparent and often an extension should be requested. Overall, the Twelfth MSP showed a great deal of consensus between states and civil society and had an optimistic tone.

Register for the ICAN Civil Society Forum 

From 4–5 March 2013, the government of Norway will host an international conference in Oslo on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Before this governmental conference, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will be hosting a Civil Society Forum in Oslo, from 2–3 March.

This forum will gather a wide variety of civil society actors interested in nuclear weapons, humanitarian principles, political campaigning, and international politics. Representatives from a range of international and national humanitarian organisations, environmental organisations, religious organisations, development organisations, disarmament organisations, labour unions and youth organisations, as well as interested academics, students and journalists will come together to learn, discuss, act and join forces for a ban on nuclear weapons. ICAN is inviting hundreds of people from all corners of the world to have an opportunity to hear inspiring speeches, participate in informative workshops, engage in lively discussions and of course, to have fun.

The forum is open to the public, and we encourage anyone who is interested in participating to register on http://www.oslo2013.org.

New arms trade treaty negotiations

The First Committee of the UN General Assembly has recommended the dates for the next (and hopefully final) negotiations for the arms trade treaty (ATT). At the initial negotiating conference in July 2012, governments failed to reach consensus on a draft treaty that would have established legally-binding regulations for the international trade in conventional arms. The next conference will be held from 18 to 28 March 2013 in New York and will operate on the basis of consensus. The General Assembly will take final action on this resolution later this month. In addition, Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia has been named President-designate of the conference.

Read more >>

Upcoming Events

Nuclear Free Now: Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World
15–16 December 2012 | Tokyo and Fukushima, Japan

1540 Civil Society Forum
8–10 January 2013 | Vienna, Austria

GGE on information and telecommunications security
14–18 January 2013 | Geneva, Switzerland

Conference on Disarmament 2013, Part One
21 January–29 March 2013 | Geneva, Switzerland

International Experts Meeting on Decommissioning and Remediation after a Nuclear Accident
28 January–1 February 2013 | Vienna, Austria

United Nations/Japan Conference on Disarmament Issues
30 January–1 February 2013 | Shizuoka, Japan

Featured News

No new plutonium pit production is necessary for US nuclear arsenal
Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have determined that plutonium in the fissile core of nuclear weapons is stable for at least 150 years, which confirms that no new pit production is necessary. See the Los Alamos Study Group press release for more information.

US government ramps up charges against Y-12 protesters
A federal grand jury has returned a new three-count indictment against the Plowshares protesters broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in the United States - they could face up to 35 years in prison if convicted on all three of the charges.

Anti-drone protesters are issued a restraining order from military base
A restraining order has been issued against anti-drone protestors in the US following the arrest of 17 protesters accused of blocking three base entrances to traffic last month.

Recommended Reading

Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots, Human Rights Watch, November 2012

Civil Society and Disarmament 2012—Applying a Disarmament Lens to Gender, Human Rights, Development, Security, Education and Communication: Six Essays, UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, November 2012

Tim Caughley, “The Elusive Consensus,” Disarmament Insight, 2 December 2012

Koohan Paik and Jerry Mander, “On the Front Lines of a New Pacific War,” The Nation, 14 December 2012