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September 2013 E-News

Today the UN Secretary-General released a report on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August. The report concludes that chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale, resulting in numerous casualties, particularly among civilians.

The use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international law, regardless of which party to the conflict perpetrated the attack. But the use of chemical weapons, however abhorrent and illegal, should not be used as a pretext for military intervention. As the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) argued in a statement on 30 August, other options are available and must be pursued.

We continue to highlight these options in a response to the release of today’s report, including:

  • Referral of this matter to the International Criminal Court;
  • An inclusive political process to provide a political solution to the Syrian crisis, involving women on all sides as well as nonviolent humanitarian and women’s groups to ensure a strong peace process and outcome;
  • Cessation of arms transfers to the Syrian government and rebel forces; and
  • The extension of condemnation from chemical weapons to nuclear weapons in order to advance the outlawing and elimination of all WMD.

Our full response can be found online.

On a lighter note, Reaching Critical Will is pleased to welcome Mia Gandenberger to our team! She has previously been an intern and research associate with RCW and was most recently a visiting Disarmament Fellow with the Los Alamos Study Group in New Mexico. Mia is a co-founder of NPT-TV (formerly NPT-webcast) a project of the International Law Campaign, a German student peace movement. She will be based in our Geneva office and can be reached via email at mia[at]reachingcriticalwill.org.

In peace,
Ray Acheson, Director

High-level meeting on nuclear disarmament

On 26 September 2013, heads of state and ministers will gather at the UN in New York to outline their policies and priorities for nuclear disarmament. The high-level meeting is a chance for governments to demand that nuclear weapons be outlawed and eliminated once and for all. It’s also an opportunity for civil society around the world to call on our representatives to take action now, reminding them that it takes courage to change the world.

Reaching Critical Will’s website will archive all statements and other documents from the meeting. You can also follow along on Twitter during the meeting with @RCW_ and #goodbyenukes, and with the UN webcast.

UNGA high-level debate

The 68th General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly will be held from 24 September–4 October 2013. During the debate, Reaching Critical Will will extract all references made to arms control, disarmament, nuclear and conventional weapons, nuclear energy, the arms trade, and militarism, as well as to gender and women-peace-security. These extracts will be posted on our Disarmament Index web page starting on 24 September.

First Committee

The 2013 session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security will meet from 7 October–5 November 2013. 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.

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. To have your event added to the online calendar, please email info[at]reachingcriticalwill.org.

briefingbookFirst Committee is often used as a forum for member states to express stale and repeated positions on every topic related to disarmament and international security and to table resolutions that change little in substance or in result from year to year. To most civil society actors, the month of October could be used more efficiently. Thus in advance of this year’s meeting, Reaching Critical Will has published a briefing book that aims to focus attention on some of the most pressing issues that will be dealt with in First Committee. It also provides recommendations for governments from some of the main civil society coalitions working on these topics.

Open-ended working group adopts final report

The open-ended working group (OEWG) concluded its session late on Friday, 30 August with the adoption of its final report. The report acknowledges several interesting proposals, such as a prohibition of the possession, stockpiling, development, or transfer of nuclear weapons, which was the main focus of Reaching Critical Will’s working paper on banning nuclear weapons. Other interesting proposals reflected were the idea of undertaking a study of the evolution of international law relevant to nuclear weapons, including international humanitarian law, human rights law, environmental law, and in the legal realm of the International Criminal Court. But the real value of the OEWG is not the words in its final report—it achieved more than that. It managed to empower non-nuclear weapon states and spend a significant amount of time discussing what can be done today, even if nuclear-armed states are not engaging constructively. Read Reaching Critical Will’s full report.

Keep Space for Peace Week

The International Week of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space will be held from 5 to 12 October 2013. WILPF is a co-sponsor of this week and WILPF members, among many others, will be hosting events around the world related to preventing the weaponization of outer space. For a list of international actions, as well as flyers, speakers, and other relevant information for Keep Space for Peace Week, please see the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Reaching Critical Will resources related to outer space:

Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence

The Week of Action is a time to highlight the international campaign to stop the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons. Activities range from signature/petition collections, lobbying officials, using sports stars or public figures to promote Gun-Free campaigns, and promoting the Disarm Domestic Violence campaign. Please send information of your planned activities on the Global Week of Action to Mapping Arms Data project

The Mapping Arms Data (MAD) visualisation project from the Peace Research Institute Oslo and the Igarapé Institute lets you see where countries are buying and selling their small arms and ammunition and in what quantities. The data features over 71,000 records of the exports and imports of small arms, light weapons and ammunition from more than 262 states and territories between 1992 and 2011. The data covers the country of export, country of import, type of armament being transferred (military, civilian or ammunition) and the financial value of the transaction in (USD).

WILPF in the World: Opposing military intervention in Syria

It has been WILPF’s position since the first reports of use of gas that the use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international law, regardless of which party to the conflict perpetrated the attack. But the use of chemical weapons, however abhorrent and illegal, should not be used as a pretext for military intervention. Other options are available and must be pursued. Read the full WILPF statement and response to the report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

WILPF at the Human Rights Council: Arms transfers and human rights

WILPF welcomes the initiative of a resolution on the “Negative impact of Arms Transfer in the Human Rights of people living in conflict-affected areas” in the Human Rights Council. We believe this is an essential issue and bringing it to the Human Rights Council highlights its obligation to address the varied aspects and factors of human rights. We recommend that the Council acknowledge: the role of the ATT in preventing violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including acts of gender-based violence; the varied gender impact of the trade of arms in all its aspects (in the house and outside, on the prevalence of sexual violence, on the participation of women and on their economical dependency); the consequences of groups at risk including LGBTI; the important role of civil society in disarmament processes; and the negative impact of the import of arms on future peace processes and on the participation of women in those processes. Read the full WILPF position.

Upcoming Events

IAEA General Conference
16–20 September 2013 | Vienna, Austria

Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence
16–21 September 2013 | Global

International Day of Peace
21 September 2013 |Global

IAEA Board of Governors
23 September 2013 | Vienna, Austria

UN General Assembly General Debate
24 September–4 October 2013 | New York, USA

High-level event on the Arms Trade Treaty
25 September 2013 | New York, USA

High-level meeting on nuclear disarmament
26 September 2013 | New York, USA

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Article XIV Conference
27 September 2013 | New York, USA

Keep Space for Peace Week
5–12 October 2013 | Global

International Conference on Gandhi, Disarmament, and Development
4–6 October 2013 | Indore, India

UN General Assembly First Committee
7 October–5 November 2013 | New York, USA

Time to Go
20 October 2013 | Brussels, Belgium

Featured News

UN report on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria released

The report, which focuses on the incident which took place on 21 August 2013 in the Ghouta area of Damascus, concludes that chemical weapons were used on a relative large scale, resulting in numerous casualties, particularly among civilians and including many children. The report notes that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah, and Zamalka.

Syria accedes to Chemical Weapons Convention

On 14 September, the Syrian government acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The US and Russia reached agreement on a framework for the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria. However, a dispute has since arisen over the idea of a UN resolution to back-up the agreement.

Dutch debate on nuclear weapon modernization

The issue of the improved military capabilities of the new B61-12 nuclear bomb entered the Dutch debate today with a news story on KRO Brandpunt (video here) describing NATO’s approval in 2010 of the military characteristics of the weapon. See article by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists.

Australian ICAN campaigners call for Future Fund to divest from nuclear weapon production companies

The Australian government’s Future Fund invests more than $130 million in foreign-owned companies that manufacture and maintain nuclear weapons and the missiles and submarines to deliver them. To commemorate Hiroshima Day, a group of Australian activists visited the headquarters of the fund twice. They delivered 1,000 paper cranes and requested that the Future Fund divest from nuclear weapons just as it had divested from cluster munitions and landmines in 2011. On the second visit, they dressed as nuclear bombs and asked the Future Fund to explain why it has no problem with such weapons, despite their catastrophic effects, refusing to leave until they received a satisfactory answer.

Music blockade at Büchel nuclear weapons base

In August, nonviolent activists blocked the German military base Büchel, which hosts US nuclear weapons. The activists called on the German government to comply with its promise to get rid of these weapons and to work for a complete ban on all nuclear weapons worldwide.

Activists gather at AWE Burghfield for a Summer Disarmament Camp

The UK’s nuclear weapons are designed, assembled and maintained at AWE Aldermaston and AWE Burghfield. From 26 August–7 September, people opposed to the continued existence of Trident gathered for two weeks of non-violent disarmament actions.

Activists in London protest international arms fair

A massive arms fair with 30,000 ‘trade visitors’ took place in London on 9-13 September. But the arms fair was met with daily direct action, as people found creative ways to undermine and intervene with its business. Read about the week of action and check out the photos at Stop the Arms Fair.

UN event held to mark International Day against Nuclear Tests

On 5 September, the UN hosted event to mark the International Day against Nuclear Tests. Many panelists remarked on the need to end nuclear testing but also to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether. The Minister for Emergency Situations of Kazakhstan, who hosted the meeting, called for a "disarmament race" to end the nuclear threat forever.

Recommended Reading

Amy Goodman, “Just say no to nuclear power—from Fukushima to Vermont,” The Guardian, 29 August 2013

Syria and the significance of global norms on weapons,” Article 36, 29 August 2013

Richard Falk, “Contra Syria Attack,” 30 August 2013

The Rush to Bomb Syria: Undermining International Law and Risking Wider War,” Western States Legal Foundation, September 2013

Gro Nystuen and Stein-Ivar Lothe Eide, “Wanted: Resolute Normative Leadership,” European Leadership Network, 5 September 2013

Eric Schlosser, “Nuclear weapons: an accident waiting to happen,” The Guardian, 13 September 2013

Jeri Clausing and Matthew Daly, “Nation’s bloated nuclear spending comes under fire,” Associated Press, 13 September 2013