January 2019 E-News

“The process of trying to assimilate into an existing category in many ways runs counter to efforts to produce radical or revolutionary results.”
― Angela Y. Davis

At our recent international staff meeting, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) took stock of 2018 and set out much of our work for 2019 and beyond. WILPF’s goal continues to emphasise feminist perspectives on conflict analysis and prevention. Our strength lies in our diversity, with close to 40 National Sections and a growing number of Groups and partners around the world, in our cross-cutting integrated approach to challenges, and in our “radicalness”. For it is radical change that is needed to overcome entrenched perceptions of what peace, gender, strength, power, and progress mean. We are hopeful that one day, we do not have to describe our vision of peace as “radical” anymore. In 2019, we will be working hard to get yet another step closer to that vision of transformative and permanent global peace. Check out our first E-News of the year, in which we outline Reaching Critical Will’s engagement for the months ahead!

In this edition

    Arms control treaties are gaining more support as 2019 kicks off

2018 came to an encouraging end with Mozambique becoming the 100th state party to the Arms Trade Treaty. It looks as if 2019 continues in the same spirit! In January, Cambodia has become the 70th signatory to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). All Southeast Asian nations, with the exception of Singapore, are now signatories to the treaty, and others in the region are expected to ratify it this year. Furthermore, the parliaments of South Africa, Panama, and El Salvador have all recently approved the ratification of the Treaty!

The Convention on Cluster Munitions has also welcomed a new state party to the Convention: The Philippines has deposited its instrument of ratification on 3 January, becoming the 106th state party.

   West African WILPF sections are mobilising to stop killer robots

PHOTO 2018 11 24 08 23 25WILPF sections in West Africa are mobilising to create awareness in their countries and the region about the threat posed by killer robots. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has given small grants to nine of WILPF’s African sections to increase national support for a ban. Activities in recent months have included the direct outreach to government and political leaders, academica, local roboticists, AI experts, media, and civil society.

Notably, WILPF Ghana recently has urged its government to promulgate legislations to regulate the use of fully autonomous weapons. Additionally, the Section requests the government to put in place stringent measures to prevent killer robots from being smuggled into the country. WILPF Ghana engages legislature, media, and churches to raise awareness about the dangers of developing killer robots.

PHOTO 2018 11 24 09 23 26Meanwhile, WILPF Cameroon is conducting outreach to regional organisations such as the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), and supports coordination among WILPF Sections in West and Central Africa. WILPF Cameroon has also sparked wide media interest nationally, and was mentioned in various recent national news articles.

Opposition to killer robots is also growing in other countries around the world. A new survey, commissioned by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and conducted by the research company Ipsos, found that sixty one percent of respondents from 26 countries oppose the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems. 22 per cent of respondents said they would support such use and 17 per cent said they were not sure. In a near-identical survey by the same company almost two years earlier, 56 percent were opposed to the use of killer robots, indicating an increase of opposition to their use.
(Photo credits: WILPF Cameroon)

   Upcoming international disarmament meetings

As usual, Reaching Critical Will is going to be covering many disarmament meetings throughout the year. We'll be taking on nuclear weapons, autonomous weapons, the arms trade, and more. Here is a quick look at what’s up in the next few months.

Nuclear weapons

The third Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will take place in New York from 29 April–10 May 2019. Reaching Critical Will is the civil society coordinator for this meeting; and we have recently alerted through this email list how civil society organisations can register their participation and side events for the conference. Please check our website for detailed information on the process. We will also maintain a calendar of side events and facilitate civil society interventions.

International arms trade

The Fifth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (CSP5) will take place in Geneva from 25 August–2 September 2019. Latvia, president of CSP5, has announced that the conference and its preparatory meetings, taking place from 29 January–1 February, and 2–5 April 2019, will focus on the gender-based violence provision of the Treaty as a special theme. WILPF played an active role throughout the ATT negotiations, by providing monitoring and analysis and by also advocating for the inclusion of gender-based violence as a legally–binding criteria in the Treaty. Since its entry into force, WILPF has published guidance and case studies for ATT states parties to support their implementation of this particular aspect of the Treaty implementation, and we look forward to offering our ideas and support in the months ahead.

Autonomous weapons

Screen Shot 2019 01 11 at 14.18.43The next round of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems will meet in Geneva from 25–29 March 2019. It will continue its work later in the year from 20–21 August 2019. Despite the majority of states supporting the prompt commencement to negotiate a new treaty to prevent the development of fully autonomous weapon systems, a small number of governments have been actively preventing progress towards this goal. Instead of adopting a negotiating mandate aimed at creating new international law to retain meaningful human control over the use of force by prohibiting fully autonomous weapons, as demanded by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, many states and AI experts, the 2018 Meeting of CCW High Contracting Parties could only agree to seven days of continued discussions in 2019. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots will continue to be active at the 2019 meetings, and we will continue to call for a legally binding instrument to prevent the development of these weapons. Reaching Critical Will will provide reporting and analysis as at past meetings. Catch up on what happened at the 2018 GGE meetings and the 2018 Meeting of CCW High Contracting Parties.
(Photo credits: Campaign to Stop Killer Robots)

   Upcoming events

Conference on Disarmament, Part 1
21 January–29 March 2019, Geneva

ATT Working Group & CSP5 Preparatory Meetings
29 January–1 February 2019, Geneva

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots global meeting
21-23 March, Berlin

International Women’s Day
8 March 2019

CCW GGE on lethal autonomous weapon systems
25-29 March 2019, Geneva

ATT Working Group & CSP5 Preparatory Meetings
2–5 April 2019

Third Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the NPT
29 April–10 May 2019

   Featured news

Australia’s labour party sets the right course on nuclear disarmament

In late December of last year, Australia’s Labour party announced that a future Labour will sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The current Coalition government refuses to join the Treaty and boycotted the negotiating conference. 78 per cent of the federal caucus signed up to support the ban. In addition, 83 per cent of Labor voters, and two dozen unions have also expressed support for the Treaty.

Nuclear arms treaty continues to be under threat after failed US-Russia talks while others are committed to push ahead on nuclear disarmament

Senior diplomats from the United States and Russia met in Geneva to discuss the survival of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a bilateral arms control agreement dating from the Cold War which currently obliges Russia and the US to refrain from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.  However, both parties failed to agree on anything. The US wants Russia to destroy “its non-compliant missile systems” and has threatened to pull out of the agreement. Russia argues that launchers on US defence systems in Europe can fire missiles at ranges that also violate the Treaty’s terms. Russian diplomats reiterated that they are “ready for dialogue on the basis of equality, mutual respect, (and) without putting forward ultimatums.” In contrast, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reassured that Germany would strongly oppose efforts to station new medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe if the United States withdraws from the INF. Mr. Maas said that “Nuclear rearmament is most certainly the wrong answer.”

Major financial Japanese group and Swedish pension fund divest from the companies involved in the development, production, or possession of nuclear weapons 

Resona Holdings, Inc., a major banking institution in Japan, announced its policy of not providing loans to stakeholders involved in the development, production or possession of nuclear weapons. The statement is a first of its kind by a Japanese finance institution. The policy prohibits any loans to such companies even when the transaction is for non-nuclear related purposes. The decision came amid an increasing number of European banks changing their lending policies after the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. A recent example is the Swedish public pension fund AP4, which terminated its investments in nuclear weapons as a result of a new law that requires pension funds to include sustainability as a criteria for investments.  

HSBC, one of the largest banks in the world, divests from Israeli drone manufacturer after sustained pressure from campaigners

Banking and financial services organisation HSBC, one of the largest worldwide, has confirmed its divestment from Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems, which sells weapons to the Israeli military used in attacks on Palestinians. Over 24,000 people emailed HSBC expressing their concern over the bank’s investments in Elibt Systems. The latter is one of Israel’s largest arms manufacturers, notorious for its deadly drones used in attacks on Palestinian civilians, and has also manufactured white phosphorous and artillery systems that can be used for cluster munitions. Activists will continue their campaign with HSBC since it continues to do business with more than a dozen other companies selling military equipment and technology used in human rights violations.

Investigation for the Swedish Parliament concludes that Sweden should not join nuclear ban treaty

A report, compiled by former government diplomat Lars-Erik Lundin, has been published after months of delay. The investigation concludes that Sweden should not join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) “in its present form”. Within the next three months, diverse stakeholders will be submitting assessments of the report. The Swedish government is then expected to make an official decision whether to join the TPNW.

British Nuclear Decommissioning Authority withdraws nuclear archive files without explanation; while its Ministry of Defence reveals hundreds of safety incidents at nuclear bases

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) removed historical papers relating to Britain’s nuclear weapons and atomic energy programmes from the public view without warning and without official explanation. The withdrawn material dates from 1939 until the 1980s and ranges from files about the creation of Britain’s first nuclear bombs at Aldermaston, to private papers of Sir John Cockcroft, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who split the atomic nucleus, to reports of atomic bomb tests carried out as part of the creation of Britain’s nuclear deterrent in Australia and the Pacific. At the same time, the UK’s Ministry of Defence revealed 789 safety incidents that took place at Faslane, where it stations its Trident nuclear submarines, as well as at Coulpourt, where nuclear warheads are stored. Some of the incidents were Category A “events,” which are deemed to have “actual or high potential for radioactive release to the environment”. There have also been 22 fires on nuclear armed or nuclear-powered submarines since 2015.

China sells armed drones to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates

A report by the US Department of Defense reveals that China has completed more than $20 million in sales between 2012 and 2016, “likely due to the demand for armed” drones. The report notes that while the armed drone market is still a niche market, China is one of the few suppliers, and observes that most states producing armed drones are restricted from selling the technology as signatories of the Missile Technology Control Regime/ and or the Wassenaar Arrangement on Expert Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies.

Pressure to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia is mounting on all fronts after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and on-going Saudi-led war in Yemen

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed that his government was supportive of halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia, announcing that Italy would take a formal position on the matter. Canada’s Prime Minister also announced his country would look for ways out of a $12bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and protesters have sought to prevent Defence contractor General Dynamic Land Systems Canada to ship light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Now the same company argues that cancelling the deal would force Canada to pay “billions of dollars of liability”. After the US Senate voted in mid December of last year to approve a resolution calling for an end to United States involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, the US administration regardless has approved nearly $200 million in upgrades to Saudi Arabia’s missile defenses. Although the State Department notified Congress of the sale in December, it did not make the exact value of the transaction public. Over in the United Kingdom, the government also condemned Kashoggi’s killing. This however did not prevent British trade officials responsible for arms sales to hold high-level meetings with Saudi Arabia on the same day that UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemned the journalist’s killing in the “strongest possible terms”.

2018 Explosive Violence Monitor reveals that over 90 per cent of those killed or injured by explosive weapons are civilians

In 2018, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 32,102 deaths and injuries from the use of explosive weapons around the world. For the eighth consecutive year, when explosive weapons were used in populated areas, over 90 per cent of those killed or injured were civilians. This compares to 20 per cent in other areas. The number of civilian casualties recorded in 2018 has decreased by 30 per cent compared to 2017. However, some countries have seen a significant rise in harm in 2018, such as in Afghanistan with a 37 per cent rise of civilian casualties (4,260 civilian casualties), in Yemen with an 8 per cent rise (1,807 civilian casualties), in India with a 21 per cent increase (322 civilian casualties), and in Libya with a 140 per cent increase (392 civilian casualties). Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and Pakistan saw the highest number of civilian deaths and injuries in 2018.

2018 Arms Control Persons of the Year Award goes to the group of 4,000 anonymous Google employees

The anonymous Google employees opposed their employer’s work on a Pentagon project using artificial intelligence (AI), which could be used to improve drone targeting. Due to the employees’ actions, which included an internal petition to company management, Google ended its work on Project Maven when the contract expired and announced it would focus on “socially beneficial” AI. More than 1,200 individuals from over 70 countries voted among nine individuals and groups nominated for the 2018 Arms Control Persons of the Year.

   Recommended reading

Erin Hunt, Why ‘killer robots’ are neither feminist nor ethical, OpenCanada.org, 22 January 2019

John La Forge, Let’s Stop Taking Doomsday to the Bank, Duluth Reader, 2 January 2019

Ray Acheson, The gender and weapons nexus recognized; feminism need apply in 2019 and beyond, Forum on the Arms Trade, 19 December 2018

Ray Acheson, Banning the bomb, smashing the patriarchy, Tedx Place des Nations Women, 6 December 2018

John Loretz, Consequences matter: why nuclear weapons had to be banned, Medicine, Conflict and Survival, 27 December 2018

Christian Aid, Resourcing war and peace - Time to address the UK Government’s double standards, December 2018

Allison Pytlak, Solving the Rubik’s cube: what’s next for norms in cyber space, Forum on the Arms Trade, 27 December 2018

Various authors, Expert analysis on issues in 2019 related to weapons use, the arms trade, and security assistance, Forum of the Arms Trade, December 2019

Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt, Arms Sales to Saudis Leave American Fingerprints on Yemen’s Carnage, The New York Times, 25 December 2018