February 2013 E-News

12 February was an eventful day in the realm of both nuclear and conventional weapons. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted its third nuclear weapons test, highlighting the urgency of total nuclear disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament failed to adopt yet another programme of work, demonstrating once again its inability to respond to the challenges that nuclear weapons pose to our planet. And the UN Security Council held a debate on the protection of civilians, during which several states recognized that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas causes unacceptably high levels of harm to civilians.

Amidst these international events, each of which underlines the dangers of weapons and the concept of armed security, Reaching Critical Will released its latest publication: Unspeakable suffering: the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. This anthology, which includes chapters on the health, environmental, economic, and legal impacts of the use of nuclear weapons, is aimed at challenging the rhetoric of the nuclear weapon possessors. By highlighting the reality of these weapons and what they would cause if used, this publication demonstrates that a stronger and more concrete commitment to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons must be made now.

Also focusing on human security, this week WILPF launched and participated in two campaigns aimed at ending gender-based violence. On 11 February, we launched a new web portal to call on negotiators of the Arms Trade Treaty to include a legally-binding provision aimed at preventing armed gender-based violence. And on 14 February, WILPF joined the One Billion Rising campaign against gender-based violence. Our website shows WILPF members around the world rising.

As we get closer to the busy month of March, which includes meetings on nuclear weapons in Oslo, a conference on women’s rights in New York, and renewed negotiations of an Arms Trade Treaty, focusing on the humanitarian impact of weapons will be crucial to enhancing human security.

In peace,
Ray Acheson, Director

In this edition:

Unspeakable suffering: the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons

unspeakable1On Tuesday 12 February, Reaching Critical Will launched its latest publication, Unspeakable suffering: the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. This new publication examines the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and is aimed for civil society actors, academics and governments that are interested in approaching weapons negotiations with a humanitarian lens.

It is edited by Beatrice Fihn and includes contributions from Ray Acheson, John Burroughs, Lloyd J. Dumas, Ira Helfand, Barbara R. Johnston, Patricia Lewis, Magnus Løvold, Teresa D. Nelson, M.V. Ramana, Felicity Ruby, Tilman Ruff and Masao Tomonaga.


DPRK nuclear weapons test highlights need for disarmament

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted its third nuclear weapons test on Tuesday, 12 February 2013. This test is a worrying sign that countries still see nuclear weapons as a way of providing security and gaining power. Incentives for proliferation only increase when existing nuclear weapon possessors continue to postpone nuclear disarmament with arguments that nuclear weapons are still essential for their security, and when they continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems.


Conference on Disarmament fails to adopt programme of work

On the same day that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea tested a nuclear weapon, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) failed once again to adopt a programme of work for its 2013 session. The proposal included a working group on nuclear disarmament, for which the “first step” was substantive work towards a fissile materials treaty. Many delegates were not satisfied with the proposal but were willing to go along with it. However, the delegations of Egypt and Pakistan were unwilling to join consensus.


Gender-based violence and the ATT

WILPF has launched a campaign to include a legally-binding provision on preventing armed gender-based violence in the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).


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. See our policy paper on including gender-based violence in the ATT for more details.


Explosive weapons and the protection of civilians

On 12 February 2013, the UN Security Council held a debate on the protection of civilians. WILPF, as a member of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), advocated for the inclusion of explosive weapons in the debate. A report will be forthcoming from INEW.


Almost time for Oslo

The catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons will be the topic of conversation in Oslo this March. The government of Norway is hosting an international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons from 4-5 March 2013. To demonstrate that banning nuclear weapons is both possible and urgently needed, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will host a Civil Society Forum on 2-3 March 2013. Reaching Critical Will staff will be at the conferences and will post more information as it becomes available.


Updates on the NPT PrepCom

The Second Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will meet from 22 April–3 May 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The information note for NGO participation is now available online. All NGOs must apply for accreditation by 1 March 2013 through CSO Net online. Regardless of previous accreditation to NPT meetings, all NGOs have to fill out the questionnaire, as outlined in the information note. After accreditation has been approved, each NGO much pre-register its representatives online by 12 April 2013. For details, please read the official information note.


Upcoming Events

UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, 59th Session
27 February–1 March 2013 | New York, USA

ICAN Civil Society Forum
2–3 March 2013 | Oslo, Norway

The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons
4–5 March 2013 | Oslo, Norway

Commission of the Status of Women
4–15 March 2013 | New York, USA

Symposium: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident
11 March 2013 | New York, USA

Arms Trade Treaty negotiations
18–28 March 2013 | New York, USA

Featured News

Western States Legal Foundation celebrates its 30th anniversary

On 10 February, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, and Daniel Ellsberg helped celebrate Western States Legal Foundation “half-life” anniversary in Oakland, California. The event highlighted WSLF’s three decades of anti-nuclear organizing and highlighted many of the challenges that lay ahead. Congratulations to WSLF, especially Jackie Cabasso and Andy Lichterman, for their tireless work!

Possible cuts to US arsenal and modernization programme

President Obama is reportedly looking to “save a lot of money” by cutting the US nuclear weapons arsenal and by scaling back on its nuclear weapon modernization programme. The Los Alamos Study Group notes that the consensus among Obama’s senior national security advisers and the military is that only 1000 to 1100 deployed warheads and bombs, in a total arsenal of 2500 to 3500 warheads and bombs, are “needed” to meet current US “deterrent” policy and posture. The Federation of American Scientists outlines some possibilities for what a US nuclear force of 1000 to 1100 deployed weapons could look like, but points out that the effect on the role of nuclear weapons is unclear: “We have yet to hear how the new guidance puts an end to Cold War thinking in the way the military is required to plan for the potential use of nuclear weapons.”

Y-12 activists defend their actions

Activists who broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in the United States in July 2012 argued that they are constitutionally charged to continue their crusade to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction. Michael Walli, 64, Sister Megan Rice, 83, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, garnered national headlines last summer when they circumvented multiple security barriers at Y-12 before accessing the outside of the plant’s storage center for weapons-grade uranium. Walli said that the protesters broke no law, but simply upheld the letter of the international law, which prohibits the promulgation of nuclear weapons.

Germany to acquire armed drones

Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Friday that Germany would work with France to develop a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles. Germany already has unarmed drones, including the Israeli-built Heron 1 model, which it uses for reconnaissance purposes in places such as Afghanistan. Officials said Germany might consider purchasing an armed version of the Heron 1 for use after 2014, to bridge the gap until 2020 when the system being developed with France becomes available. Opposition lawmakers warned that Germany could end up sending armed drones into conflicts abroad even when there are political reservations about deploying troops.

Switzerland rejects arms sales on human rights grounds

The Swiss government rejected the export of gun parts to the United States that were intended for re-export to Saudi Arabia. Switzerland rejected the deal because it “could be used to build weapons that could be used to commit violations of human rights.”

Recommended Reading

Tim Caughley, Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons: Tracing Notions about Catastrophic Humanitarian Consequences, UNIDIR, 2013

John Borrie, “Viewing Nuclear Weapons through a Humanitarian Lens: Context and Implications,” UNIDIR, 2013

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General’s remarks at Monterey Institute of International Studies “Advancing the Disarmament and Non-proliferation Agenda: Seeking Peace in an Over-Armed World,” Monterey, California, 18 January 2013

Alison Whyte, “The delusional thinking behind ‘nuclear deterrence’,” OpenDemocracy, 6 February 2013

Unspeakable suffering: the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, February 2013