June/July 2014 E-News

Throughout the last month, Reaching Critical Will has been active on most of its issue portfolios, including nuclear weapons, small arms, the arms trade, explosive weapons, outer space, and autonomous weapons. And as we continue to develop our high-volume—and high-impact!—programme, we are also undergoing some internal changes. Beatrice Fihn, programme manager of Reaching Critical Will, has accepted a position of executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)! In her four years with RCW, Beatrice has contributed her skills and dedication to help to develop our programme and increase our visibility and capacity in many different ways. She will be sorely missed but of course we will continue to work with her closely in her new post and wish her all the best for future endeavours! Beatrice will begin her new position as of 1 July and can be reached at beatrice@icanw.org">beatrice@icanw.org.

In peace,
Ray Acheson, Director

Taking on small arms at the UN

The fifth biennial meeting of states met to address the UN Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons from 16-20 June 2014 in New York. Reaching Critical Will, together with other civil society partners, provided advocacy and analysis through the daily Small Arms Monitor. You'll be able to find our writing, as well as government statements and other primary documentation, on the Reaching Critical Will website.

Ahead of this meeting, Reaching Critical Will and Instituto Sou da Paz published an assessment of the UN Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. This briefing paper explores some of the key challenges facing the UNPoA and highlights opportunities and options for addressing small arms issues more effectively. The paper suggests elements to consider when debating and setting an advocacy agenda to implement over the coming years.

Informal experts meeting on explosive weapons

Recently in Oslo, experts from selected governments, international organizations, and civil society met to discuss the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and at how to provide greater protection to civilians. Several members of the International Network on Explosive Weapons were invited to attend, including WILPF. INEW’s call is for immediate action to prevent human suffering from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Read more >>

WILPF addresses weapons at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

From 10–13 June in London, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, co-chaired the largest global meeting on the issue of sexual violence in conflict ever convened. WILPF joined in alongside invited governments, legal, military and judicial practitioners, representatives from multilateral organizations, NGOs, and civil society. As the longest serving women peace movement, the WILPF delegation highlighted the silence that exists on weapons and profits made from sexual violence and brought attention to the fact that ending violence and eliminating its causes is a critical element in preventing conflict. Through its advocacy and workshop participation, WILPF called attention to three of these root causes of conflict during our events at the summit: patriarchy, armament, and exclusion. Read more >>

Killer robots at the Human Rights Council

At the 26th session of the Human Rights Council, Professor Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, presented a new report that included references to fully autonomous weapons. WILPF hosted a briefing on behalf of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots to make sure that the Human Rights Council is informed on the discussion that took place during last month in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and to reflect on why it is important that killer robots is on the human rights agenda. The CCW is an instrument of international humanitarian law that applies only to armed conflict, while human rights are to be respected and protected both during armed conflict and peacetime. Read more >>

Regional momentum for a ban on nuclear weapons

Momentum in support of a nuclear weapons ban is building all around the world. Representatives from civil society, including ICAN, and representatives from nine African governments met in Lusaka, Zambia, to discuss prospects for a treaty banning nuclear weapons on 27–28 May. This meeting was followed by another near Manila, the Philippines from 2–3 June featuring participants from eight countries from Asia-Pacific. Both roundtables focused on the feasibility of achieving a treaty banning nuclear weapons and the potential impacts such a treaty would have for nuclear disarmament. Discussions surrounding nuclear weapons have long been seen as an issue strictly relegated to national security concerns for nuclear weapons states and their allies. The discourse has now changed. Emphasis on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons has opened up a wider debate.

Outer space code of conduct consultations

In 2008, the European Union initiated a process to develop an international code of conduct for outer space activities. It launched multilateral consultations in 2013 in Ukraine, Thailand, and Luxembourg. Reaching Critical Will has been following this process and programme associate Gabriella Irsten provides an overview of the process, noting that it has been a part of a bigger movement on the issue of safety and security in space. It is hoped that these consultations and negotiations in themselves can contribute to enhanced confidence building, increase transparency, and have a positive impact on a much wider spectrum of issues than the topic of the process. 

Promoting gender diversity in disarmament

At the May 2014 meeting of the Convention on Certain Convention Weapons (CCW) meeting at the United Nations, 18 experts were invited to speak at the expert panels during the official plenary on autonomous weapons. None were women. The organisers suggested that there were no suitable women to fill any of the slots. We believe that the practice of selecting only men to speak on panels in global policymaking forums is unjust. It excludes the voices of women and other gender identities from such events, running counter to UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which commits to inclusion of women in discussions on peace and security. Global policymaking efforts on peace and security—including disarmament, arms control and the protection of civilians—must include people of a diversity of gender identities.

In response to the all-male expert selection at the CCW, women involved in the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots gathered to discuss ways to advance the participation and visibility of women in meetings on disarmament, peace and security. One suggestion from this group was that men should refuse to participate in all-male panels at meetings within this field. As part of this effort, Article 36 is compiling a list of people working in the field of peace and security—particularly disarmament, arms control and the protection of civilians—who benefit from their male gender and have committed not to speak on panels that include only men. We invite all policymakers, advocates, activists and campaigners active in global policymaking on peace and security who identify as men to join this effort by sending an email to info@article36.org">info@article36.org with your name and primary affiliation.

Upcoming Events

UN Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters
2–4 July 2014 | Geneva, Switzerland

GGE on information and telecommunications security: first meeting
21–25 July 2014 | New York, USA

Conference on Disarmament, Part Three
28 July–12 September 2014 | Geneva, Switzerland

BTWC Meeting of Experts
4–8 August 2014 | Geneva, Switzerland

Featured News

ITUC calls for a treaty banning nuclear weapons

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) World Congress, a gathering of more than 1500 trade unionists from 161 countries, called for “urgent negotiations on a treaty to ban the use, manufacture, stockpiling and possession of nuclear weapons as a first step towards their complete eradication.”

Senegal’s foreign minister calls for a treaty banning nuclear weapons

In his statement to the Conference on Disarmament on 10 June, Senegalese Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye noted that in light of the clear evidence about the risks posed by nuclear weapons, his government “urged States that have not yet done so, to amplify the momentum of the vast movement that is shaping up so that eventually, through an international convention, nuclear weapons are totally banned.”

Recommended Reading

An assessment of the PoA, Reaching Critical Will and Instituto Sou da Paz, June 2014

Statement of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots to the Human Rights Council, 13 June 2014

Beatrice Fihn, “Are women being heard?,” 23 May 2014