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November 2013 E-News

Humanitarian disarmament campaigners had an exciting afternoon in Geneva today, when governments agreed to hold discussions next year on autonomous weapons systems. This is a big step forward for the international consideration of these weapons, which have serious legal, political, military, technical, ethical, and humanitarian implications. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, of which WILPF is a member, welcomed this decision and emphasized that these discussions should lead to an international ban on fully autonomous weapons.

The final document of the conference of states parties of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) also highlighted concerns of states about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and allegations of use of incendiary weapons against civilians. These are two humanitarian issues whose visibility has increased in light of the ongoing conflict in Syria.

As the meetings in Geneva wrap-up, Reaching Critical Will looks back to First Committee and ahead to further humanitarian disarmament action to be undertaken in 2014. Details on these exciting developments can be found in this edition of the E-News; please share widely!

In peace,

Ray Acheson, Director

CCW adopts mandate on killer robots

ccwOn 15 November in Geneva, governments agreed to start international talks on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWs), so-called “killer robots”. These discussions will be held 13–16 May 2014 in Geneva. This mandate was agreed after the Chair of the conference of states parties of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), Ambassador Simon-Michel Jean-Hughes of France, held informal consultations on the matter earlier this week. The discussion mandate is contained within paragraph 32 of the final report (pdf) of the CCW meeting.

The issue of killer robots has evolved with lightening speed in UN terms. Only six months after the issue was raised in a UN meeting for the first time, by Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Christof Heyns at the Human Rights Council, governments have agreed to start international talks on how to address this issue. The speedy pace and significant interest in this issue looks promising for starting a process on preventing these weapon systems from being deployed. It is now essential that all governments formulate policies and prepare for substantive talks next year on the technical, legal, and ethical aspects of killer robots.

For more information see:killerbots-logo-full

First Committee highlights humanitarian concerns

fcm-2013-3This year’s session of the General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security elevated concerns with the humanitarian and environmental tragedies caused by weapons. The majority of delegations welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, praised the gains made by the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty, expressed dismay with the use of chemical weapons in Syria and demanded the universalization of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and demanded progress on developing a multilateral treaty prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons. 125 countries associated themselves with a joint statement condemning the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and calling for their elimination. The majority opinion was that improved security—human and national—can be achieved with fewer weapons, less military expenditure, and more investment in peace and human development.

Reaching Critical Will monitored and analyzed all five weeks of First Committee in the First Committee Monitor and has archived all statements, resolutions, and other relevant materials online. We also co-hosted or organized several side events, including one marking the twentieth anniversary of the renunciation of nuclear weapons by Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine; one to examine the humanitarian initiative to prohibit nuclear weapons; and another to assess the operationalization of the gender-based violence provisions in the Arms Trade Treaty. Details of these events, and all side events and official meetings of First Committee, can be found in the Monitor!

Humanitarian disarmament: a growing community of practice

humanitarian-forumIn October 2013, Article 36 and IKV Pax Christi organized the second annual meeting of humanitarian disarmament campaigns in New York on the margins of First Committee. The community of campaigners came together to take stock of progress, discuss challenges in our collective work and think about the future and how we can work together more effectively. The participants in the forum were people working on nuclear weapons, the arms trade, small arms, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, landmines, cluster munitions, autonomous weapons, toxic remnants of war and other topics.

Applications open for Nayarit conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons

ican-mexicoIn October, 125 governments supported a joint statement on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, once again putting humanitarian considerations front and centre in the international nuclear weapons debate. To continue the discussion started in Oslo on this subject, Mexico will host a second conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Nayarit, on 13–14 February 2014. Civil society has been invited to participate in the Nayarit conference alongside states, UN agencies, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and academic experts. ICAN is working closely with the Mexican government to ensure effective, significant and inclusive participation by civil society. All representatives of civil society organizations interested in participating in the conference are invited to complete and submit an application through the ICAN website no later than 6 December 2013.

ICAN in Germany announces Berlin Sessions 2014

ican-berlinAhead of the Nayarit conference on the humanitarian impact on nuclear weapons, campaigners from ICAN in Germany will host a new forum on humanitarian disarmament, bringing together international campaigners from the various corners of the humanitarian world. On the 23 and 24 January 2014, campaigners will explore the link between humanitarian/development considerations and nuclear weapons, land mines, cluster munitions, explosive weapons in populated areas, small arms, killer robots and other inhumane weapons. The Sessions are part of ICAN’s overall strategy to make humanitarian disarmament one of the main themes of European states’ humanitarian diplomacy, and to link it to a process to outlaw nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds.

Upcoming Events

Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation and Resistance
16–17 November 2013 | Washington, DC, USA

Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, 18th Session
2–6 December 2013 | The Hague, Netherlands

13th Meeting of States Parties to the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention
2–6 December 2013 | Geneva, Switzerland

Meeting of States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Conventions
9–13 December 2013 | Geneva, Switzerland

Featured News

Talks over Iran’s nuclear programme scuttled by France

After three days of intense but productive discussions between the P3+3 and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme, the French delegation toughened language against Iran’s right to enrich uranium and imposed limits on Iran's enrichment capacity and its stockpiles of enriched uranium in return for limited sanction relief. The draft proposal was not acceptable to the Iranian delegation, which had been seeking language that would at least implicitly recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium and insisted on construction continuing at the Arak heavy-water reactor. Western officials conceded that unity had been achieved only on the last night of the negotiations, leaving little time for the Iranians to respond; much of the preceding 60 hours of talks had been among the P5+1 group seeking a common position.

UN investigation finds at least 33 drone strikes that have killed civilians

The latest report by the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson QC, examines incidents in Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan and Gaza. It has been published to coincide with a related report released earlier by Professor Christof Heyns, the UN'’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, which warned that the technology was being misused as a form of “global policing”.

As Fukushima clean-up continues, residents learn they might never go home

Later this month, the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) will begin removing more than 1,500 fuel assemblies from the pool, the first step in a decommissioning process expected to last at least three decades. Critics claim the process has the potential to end in disaster. Tepco officials conceded that the fuel removal carries significant risks, particularly if the assemblies collide or are exposed. In the meantime, Japanese officials have admitted for the first time that thousands of people evacuated from areas near the plant may never be able to return home.

Recommended Reading

Leo Hoffmann-Axthelm, “Nuclear sharing in Europe: leveraging a ban to quit nuclear dependency,” 12 November 2013

Richard Norton-Taylor, “‘Killer robots’ ban must be part of Geneva talks, says campaign group,” The Guardian, 12 November 2013

Syria’s use of incendiary weapons, Human Rights Watch, November 2013