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July 2018 E-News

On 7 July, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) celebrated its first anniversary of adoption! Already in its first year, the nuclear ban has accomplished much. It has changed the landscape of the bomb forever, with activism rising and entry into force approaching. We can’t let up now. The world needs the nuclear ban as much as ever, and it’s up to committed activists, survivors, and governments to make sure the treaty lives up to its full potential. There is a lot going on that affects our attention and our energy. Nuclear weapons are part of the spectrum of violence that we’re all struggling against, no matter what issues and activism we prioritise in our lives at this moment. Coming together to make sure we’re promoting a world of peace and nonviolence is essential. We can find strength in each other and in our continued actions for humanity.

In this edition:

       Activism against the bomb

As nuclear banniversary celebrations took place around the world, demonstrations against nuclear weapons broke out across Europe, with blockades at Germany’s Büchel nuclear weapon base; gatherings across the United Kingdom by activists demanding the government sign the TPNW—including by chaining themselves to the railings of the House of Commons and encouraging the Church of England to support the ban; actions in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe during the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Summit; and protests in Helsinki calling for nuclear disarmament and highlighting the nuclear ban while the presidents of Russia and the United States met. Spanish campaigners and parliamentarians have also been working hard to ensure their government’s support for the TPNW. This European opposition to nuclear weapons is reflected in public opinion polls in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, all of which host US nuclear weapons as part of NATO nuclear sharing arrangements. The survey found that at least twice as many people are in favour of removing the weapons rather than keeping them; that at least four times as many people are in favour of their countries joining the TPNW than not; and that at least four times as many people are against investment in nuclear weapon production than are for it.

But nuclear weapons are not just under pressure in Europe. In Australia, activists have been meeting with trade unions, parliamentarians, and student groups, and are now preparing to take ICAN’s Nobel medal on a bike ride from Melbourne to Canberra to raise awareness about the TPNW and demand the Australian government sign it. In the United States, two Congressional representatives have now signed the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge, through which elected representatives commit to getting their government to join the TPNW. Meanwhile, campaigners in countries that voted for the adoption of the treaty are actively working with their governments to ensure a smooth ratification process. So far, 59 states have signed and 12 have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The rate of ratification is currently faster for the TPNW than any other multilateral WMD treaty. The next signing ceremony will be held on 26 September 2018, providing another collective opportunity for signature and the deposit of ratification instruments, but several governments will be joining the treaty even before then. Recently, Switzerland’s first chamber of parliament voted to join the TPNW without delay, while New Zealand’s Cabinet has decided it will ratify the treaty—stay tuned for that in the next few weeks. Others throughout Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific have indicated that they are well underway with the parliamentary and legislative processes necessary to secure ratification. At the UN this week, delegations met to discuss ways to promote the treaty ahead of September and beyond.

       International action on guns

Our team was active at the Third Review Conference (RevCon3) of the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons (UNPoA)—the UN’s plan for dealing with illicit trade in guns and other small arms. The meeting concluded at 3am on 29 June after two weeks of deliberations among member states. States adopted a negotiated outcome document by a vote of 98-0-0, but the process to get there was slow and painful. The final day’s sessions lasted for a marathon eighteen hours, finally closing business in the early hours of Saturday morning. It was suspended numerous times to allow for consultations; marked by unexpected surprises and developments; and dogged by procedural confusion.

Positively, the outcome document includes elements that will help to keep the UNPoA relevant by addressing loopholes in the instrument’s text. The inclusion of specific references to ammunition is a first and will give precedent to future references. The document also links the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UNPoA. This is important because it connects the arms control community to the development community, particularly around leveraging data for indicator monitoring and implementation of actions meant to reduce illicit trafficking of weapons. Concerns about gender-based violence, the gendered impacts of small arms, and women’s participation in disarmament are also well reflected in the final version of the outcome document. This builds on gains made in 2012 and 2016 to alleviate the overall gender blindness of the UNPoA and will contribute to mainstreaming of gender within small arms control.

In collaboration with the IANSA Women’s Network, WILPF advocated for the inclusion of these elements in the outcome document including through contributing to the civil society Call to Action on gender and small arms control. The director of WILPF Colombia was a panelist in a side event, where she spoke of the impact of disarmament processes on women in Colombia. In another side event, the director of Reaching Critical Will addressed the impact of militarised masculinities on societies and ensuring gender diversity in discussions or negotiations relating to peace and security. WILPF also participated in the Wear Orange Day to protest gun violence, after listening to a survivor of the Parkland, Florida school shooting address a silent, emotional conference room. We’ll continue to work with others to prevent gun violence through international arms control and disarmament measures, in the interests of human security.

       No Pride in weapons or war

Across the United States and Canada, June in Pride Month, to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ communities and promote human rights and equality. ICAN’s queer-identified campaigners were active spreading the word about the nuclear ban at several Pride events in New York City as the International Queers Against Nukes (IQAN). They marched proudly with Gays Against Guns, Rise and Resist, and other nonviolent, antimilitarist groups as part of the Resistance Contingent in NYC Pride. Along the route, campaigners handed out postcards advocating for people to divest from nuclear weapons. Big banks and other financial institutions celebrate Pride with floats in these marches, but they invest in death. IQAN’s message was: If they want to be part of our celebrations, they need to divest from nuclear weapons, guns, and other weapons of war and violence.

Also in June, the Barnard Center for Research on Women released a toolkit from its collaboration with queer and trans activists, anti-war activists including military veterans, and cultural workers, who are working together to build queer and trans anti-war resistance. They have developed a toolkit with frequently asked questions, articles for deeper reading, and resources for outreach in the streets, on campuses, and in communities. The US military is the largest source of violence in the world, including endemic sexual assault, environmental racism, and ongoing military violence and occupation in over 800 bases in over 70 nations and territories across the globe. Gender and sexual liberation means an end to war and US imperialism. 

       NoWar2018

World Beyond War is holding its annual conference in Toronto this year, from 21–22 September. This year's theme is how to design and build an alternative global governance system. Workshops, discussion sessions, and plenaries will explore how the rule of law has been used both to restrain war and to legitimize it—and how we can re-design systems to abolish the institution of war and uphold human and ecological justice. Our Director Ray Acheson will be back in her hometown to speak at the opening plenary about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. View the full agenda and register with early-bird discount!

       Upcoming events

Feminist Peace Movement in Africa Forum
18 August 2018, Accra

WILPF International 32nd Congress
20–22 August 2018, Accra

Fourth Conference of States Parties of the Arms Trade Treaty
20–24 August 2018, Tokyo

Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapon systems
27–31 August 2018, Geneva

    Featured news

New Mexico glorifies nuclear violence

In 1945, the Manhattan Project concluded its work in New Mexico with the first atomic bomb test on 16 July in Alamogordo. This year, the state is glorifying its place in history as the birthplace of massive nuclear violence by hosting a series of events known as “Atomic Summer”. A replica of the monument to the 1945 Trinity Test has been installed in downtown Santa Fe while opera, symposium, and museum exhibits will all celebrate nuclear weapons. Protests are underway, which ICAN’s local partner the Los Alamos Study Group is helping to organise.

Activism against nuclear weapons spreads in Europe

In recent weeks ICAN campaigners and other antinuclear activist have been engaged in blockades at Germany’s Büchel nuclear weapon base; gatherings across the United Kingdom by activists demanding the government sign the TPNW—including by chaining themselves to the railings of the House of Commons; actions in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe during the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Summit; and protests in Helsinki calling for nuclear disarmament and highlighting the nuclear ban while the presidents of Russia and the United States met.

Public opinion mounts against nuclear weapons in Europe

Public opinion polls in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, all of which host US nuclear weapons as part of NATO nuclear sharing arrangements, found that at least twice as many people are in favour of removing the weapons rather than keeping them; that at least four times as many people are in favour of their countries joining the TPNW than not; and that at least four times as many people are against investment in nuclear weapon production than are for it.

New studies show NATO members can join the nuclear ban

New publications by the Harvard Law Review’s Human Rights Clinic show that existing security agreements for NATO countries and other US allies do not prevent states from joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. These countries would have to reject nuclear deterrence, but doing so would not violate existing agreements with nuclear-armed states, including within NATO.

Setsuko Thurlow receives honorary degree

Atomic bomb survivor and ICAN campaigner Setsuko Thurlow received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Waterloo. Addressing the convocation, she told other graduates, “Go out to the world and change it for the better. It takes hard work, perseverance and determination—but you can do it. You are even more capable than you think.”

Students demand divestment from weapons

In Australia, protests have broken out against weapons manufacturers investing in universities. At the University of Melbourne, students waged a sit-in on the administration to #LockoutLockheed and #DisarmUnis. The university has a $13 million-research partnership with Lockheed Martin, raising concerns of intensifying ties between Australian universities and US weapons manufacturers.

New reporting shows scale of US drone strikes in Libya

The United States has conducted approximately 550 drone strikes in Libya since 2011, more than in Somalia, Yemen, or Pakistan, according to interviews and an analysis of open-source data by The Intercept. The Intercept’s reporting indicates that Libya has been among the most heavily targeted nations in terms of American remotely piloted aircraft and radically revises the number of drone strikes carried out under the Obama administration, doubling some estimates.

OPCW determines use of chlorine gas on the Syrian city of Douma; NGOs call for accountability

A preliminary report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it found “various chlorinated organic chemicals” in two locations, but there was no evidence nerve agents were used. Dozens of civilians were killed in the attack on the rebel-held town in the Eastern Ghouta region, near the country's capital Damascus. WILPF joined twenty other human rights and humanitarian groups in a coalition established to ask member states of the Chemical Weapons Convention to strengthen the treaty and ensure accountability.

Turkey to get F-35 jets

Despite opposition from the US Congress, Turkey will receive its F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Although Turkey has long been a participant in the development of the F-35 program, the US Senate had sought to block Turkey from receiving the stealth warplanes through language in the National Defense Authorization Act amid a deterioration of the US-Turkey relationship.

       Recommended reading

Vincent Intondi, “The Fight Continues: Reflections on the June 12, 1982 Rally for Nuclear Disarmament,” Arms Control Association, 10 June 2018

Media Studies’ Peter Asaro Helps Put an End to Google’s Contract for a Controversial Pentagon AI Imaging Program,” The New School News, 19 June 2018

Ray Acheson, “How Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons Changed the World,” The Nation, 6 July 2018

Tim Elliott, “Profile of Rebecca Peters, gun control expert,” Sunday Morning Herald, 7 July 2018

Max Brookman-Byrne, Falling Short: An analysis of the reporting of UK drone strikes by the MOD, Drone Wars UK, 9 July 2018

Xiaodon Liang and Sam Perlo Freeman, Arms Trade Corruption and Political Finance, World Peace Foundation, July 2018

What is the nuclear ban treaty anyway?” International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, July 2018 – Video

Nuclear weapons divestment campaign,” Pressenza, 11 July 2018 – Video