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July 2019 E-News

As observed in one of her articles earlier this year, international laywer Christine Chinkin noted, “in the lead up to World War II, Virginia Woolf responded to the question ‘how in your opinion are we to prevent war’ not with an answer, but with another question ... ‘Why fight?’” It is this kind of feminism that allows us to question the very foundations of a patriarchal system that equates conventional notions of security, stability, and peace with militarism, violence, and dominance. Undoubtedly, we have a long way to go in our quest to challenge these norms and practices that harm each of us and our planet. But we are finding hope and continue to draw energy from every small victory along the way. In July, these victories include a new Human Rights Council resolution on arms transfers, a breakthrough court ruling finding the United Kingdom’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia to be “unlawful,” and ever growing public support for the nuclear ban treaty and for the development of a treaty banning killer robots.

In this edition

     New Human Rights Council resolution reminds states of the human rights impact of arms transfers

In its most recent session, the Human Rights Council, adopted resolution 41/22 on the impact of arms transfers on human rights with a particular focus on women and girls. The resolution was adopted by consensus for the first time, sending a strong message that addressing the impacts of the arms trade is central to human rights bodies’ mandates to prevent human rights violations and abuses. 

The resolution continues to bridge perceived ‘silos’ between disarmament fora and human rights instruments. It recalls states’ obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNPoA), the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and other human rights treaties. The resolution asserts that effective arms control is central to the fulfilment of states’ obligations and commitments under those instruments. 

The resolution was presented by Peru and Ecuador and co-sponsoredRedefine Security by Angola, Austria, Bahamas, Chile, Cyprus, El Salvador, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Togo, Switzerland, and Uruguay. While the interconnectedness between the arms trade and its threat to human rights has been noted many times within the disarmament community, linkages between the disarmament and human rights bodies have just recently begun to develop. The resolution is the third HRC resolution on the issue of arms transfers, following resolutions 24/35 and resolution 32/12 adopted in 2013 and 2016, respectively.

This resolution focuses especially on the impact of arms on women and girls, particularly in relation to gender-based violence, including domestic violence. It requests the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to prepare a report on ‘the impact of the diversion of arms and unregulated or illicit arms transfers on the human rights of women and girls’ to be submitted to the HRC’s 44th session in June 2020. 

For more information on the resolution, check out WILPF’s blog on the topic here.

     Banning the bomb: July highlights include birthday celebrations, new ratifications underway, marches, and more!

On 7 July, it was exactly two years ago that 122 nations voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). With 70 signatures and 23 ratifications, the Treaty is well on its way to enter into force in the near future. The next state is already very close to become the 24th ratifying party: Kazakhstan’s President signed the law on the ratification of the nuclear ban treaty! Moreover, progress can also be expected from Ireland: a priority bill to enable Ireland’s ratification of the Treaty is on this summer’s legislative agenda.

TPNW AnniversaryAs part of the birthday celebrations, the International Campaign to Stop Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has launched the new resource Campaigner Guide to TPNW Signature and Ratification. It offers suggestions for actions campaigners can take to promote signature and ratification of their countries. Like last year, world leaders will have the chance to collectively sign and ratify the Treaty at the high-level ceremony on 26 September in New York. 

Support for the Treaty has also come from the the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The Luxembourg declaration, adopted by parliamentarians in their annual session includes a paragraph (28) supporting the TPNW, urging all participating states to join the treaty!

In July, activists and campaigners have persistently continued to raiseIQAN awareness about the unimaginable destruction the use of nuclear weapons would cause, and are making great strides in mobilising a growing base of support to ban the bomb for good. Over in Germany, activists in Germany blockaded the Büchel military base close to the city of Frankfurt, where US nuclear weapons are stationed. Eleven international peace activists entered the Air Base “to deliver a self-named Treaty Enforcement Order declaring that the sharing of US nuclear weapons at the base is a “criminal conspiracy to commit war crimes.” On 7 July, at the Faslane Trident nuclear submarine base in Scotland, nuclear abolition activists members of Trident Ploughshares used spray paint to re-decorate the main entrance of the Faslane Trident nuclear submarine base in Scotland, and blocked the base’s other entrance. They sought to challenge the base’s legitimacy and raise awareness about the support for banning nuclear weapons by the world’s vast majority. Five activists were arrested, four of them were released while Later Willemien, who refused bail conditions, remains behind bars until trial. With Pride Month in full swing, International Queers Against Nukes (IQAN), including RCW’s Ray Acheson, continued to protest weapons, violence, and patriarchy at the Queer Liberation March in New York. 
Picture credit: Ari Beser

Meanwhile, the New York City Council introduced a package of legislation on nuclear weapons (Res. No. 976 and Int. No. 1621). Once passed, these bills would endorse the ICAN Cities Appeal, commit to divestment by pension funds from companies involved in nuclear weapons production, and reaffirm New York City as a nuclear-weapon-free zone, amongst others. To help ensure success of the legislation, if you are a NYC resident, contact your City Council Member and ask them to co-sponsor the “Dromm package of bills”!

Oregon, as the second state in the US after California, passed legislation urging congress to lead the global effort to reduce the threat of nuclear war. The bill was introduced at the request of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility with the support of 31 organisations around the state. In the past weeks, Oregon was joined by numerous cities supporting the ICAN Cities Appeal, including Santa Barbara (US), Vancouver (Canada), and Edinburgh (Scotland), while the Scottish Midlothian Council passed a resolution calling on the Lothian pension fund to divest from nuclear weapons production!

On 1 July, the US Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution calling on all US presidential candidates to make their positions on nuclear weapons known, and to pledge US global leadership in preventing nuclear war, returning to diplomacy, and negotiating the elimination of nuclear weapons. 

If you were around Washington DC this week, we hope you didn’t miss Ari Beser’s discussion of his new book “The Nuclear Family,” which connects stories of both sides of survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings through a family coincidence. For an early heads up, should you be around Boston in autumn, make sure not to miss a special event on October 5, at the New England Conservatory, to honour lifelong nuclear disarmament activist and Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow.

     Global momentum for a legally binding treaty banning killer robots grows

The second informal consultation of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) took place on 28 June in Geneva, Switzerland. The consultation discussed the GGE chair’s draft “conclusions and recommendations,” which will form the basis of the GGE report to be adopted during the meetings 20-21 August. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, of which WILPF is a steering group member, delivered a statement to the consultations and participated in discussions. Unfortunately, few states called for the launch of negotiations of a new ban treaty during this meeting. The consultation was a disappointing demonstration of a few states’ attempts to make the draft report ever weaker and more convoluted. According to the Campaign, there is an increasing divide between what politicians and the general public demand back home, and what countries’ diplomats are doing at the UN. 

Yet, the growing pressure by the public will be increasingly hard to ignore. Support for a ban is growing thanks to numerous outreach activities by members of the Campaign. Just this past month, Bonnie Docherty and Laura Nolan spoke on a panel on “AI and Warfare” at Stanford University, along with the deputy head of Project Maven, Google’s project with the Pentagon, and a US Army Judge Advocate, which made for some fascinating discussions!  

Liz O’Sullivan and Branka Marijan shared the stage at an event with around 700 people in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada, at one of the major tech conferences in the region, making waves in the local and national media. Over in Norway, campaigners have launched a call to the Norwegian government and parliament to take the lead in international efforts to ban killer robots. Over 680 Norwegian AI experts, technologists, scientists and academics have signed the letter so far. 

Support also continues to come from the UN and regional bodies. The UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation released its report which endorses the Secretary-General’s call to ban “machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement”. In their adopted Luxembourg Declaration, OSCE parliamentarians urge, amongst others, “to support international negotiations to ban lethal autonomous weapons with a view to establishing international, legally binding rules.” While the Declaration is non-binding it does provide guidance to OSCE states and was presented a few days later to OSCE foreign ministers.

High expectations for Vienna Conference on stopping the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA)

Austria recently announced that it will organise the Vienna Conference “Protecting Civilians in Urban Warfare” from 1-2 October in Vienna, Austria. The two-day conference will provide a forum to hear about and discuss the various forms of harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, the legal context, and examples of military practice to reduce and prevent civilian harm. Furthermore, the Vienna Conference will provide space for discussion on the UN Secretary-General’s proposal to develop a political declaration to prevent harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. 

Reaching Critical Will will be there to provide reporting and analysis, so stay tuned! 
Thanks to sustained efforts by members of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), of which WILPF is a member, the Togolese mission to the African Union (AU) has set up an open session on protecting civilians from explosive weapons at the AU’s Peace and Security Council that took place on 17 July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Catch up on Humanity and Inclusion’s (HI) twitter account @HI_Advocacy for live updates during the open session!

If you want to accelerate progress for action on this topic, you can get engaged with INEW’s International Parliamentary Appeal. With the Appeal just recently launched, close to 100 parliamentarians from seven countries have already signed the Appeal, urging their government to implement an international commitment to stop the use of EWIPA and to assist affected people and communities. The urgency for action on this issue was yet again undeniable in a recent statement by WILPF to the Human Rights Council’s 41st session, which exposed the grave impacts of the use of EWIPA in the city of Idlib in Syria and also outlines the gendered implications of their use. 

     Opportunities for peace on the Korean peninsula continue

On 30 June, the North Korean and US heads of state met at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom after Kim accepted a surprise invitation from Trump a day earlier. The US president briefly crossed the border into the North, becoming the first sitting US president to do so. The two leaders agreed to resume the stalled denuclearisation negotiations. The North Korean leader called for security guarantees instead of the lifting of sanctions, which could be an effort to break the impasse in denuclearisation talks with Washington. Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have been stalled since the second Kim-Trump summit in February ended without a deal as they failed to find common ground over the scope of Pyongyang's denuclearisation steps and Washington's sanctions relief. Korea Peace Now, of which WILPF is a member, welcomed the meeting and called for the expansion of socio-cultural exchanges for a lessening of military tension, reciprocal economic cooperation, and people to people encounters as “essential for the sustained development of the North Korea-US denuclearization negotiations.” In an article for TIME, several Korea Peace Now advocates pointed out that achieving peace is much bigger than Trump or Kim and that diplomacy should not be dismissed because of who is conducting it. Peace “is a necessary condition for normalization of relations and denuclearization,” the wrote. “In fact, peace and real diplomacy are the only keys that can actually unlock big successes when it comes to nuclear weapons and human rights. Decades of isolation, sanctions and threats haven’t worked. We desperately need a new path.”

Part of this new path is unfolding in US Congress, where an historic vote called for an end to the Korean war. As part of the National Defense Authorization Act, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment by Rep. Ro Khanna declaring that diplomacy is essential with North Korea and calling for an end to the Korean War. Korea Peace Now applauded the vote and called for women’s inclusion in the peace process.

     BWC Meeting of Experts to kick off

From 29 July to 8 August, the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BWC) Meetings of Experts (MXs) will take place in Geneva. If you are planning to attend the meetings, you can register here. Like last year, the meetings will be considering the following topics: Cooperation and Assistance, with a particular focus on strengthening cooperation and assistance under Article X; Reviewing of Developments in the Field of Science and Technology related to the Convention; Strengthening National Implementation; Assistance, Response and Preparedness; and Institutional Strengthening of the Convention

Earlier this year, the Chair of the 2019 BWC Meeting of States Parties, Ambassador Yann Hwang of France, wrote a letter to all states parties and signatory states setting out his initial views on the programme for 2019. Despite the Chair’s encouragement to consider the nomination of women candidates for the Chairs of the different Meetings of Experts, Ms. Melanie Reddiar of South Africa is the only woman to chair one of the MXs. 

There are many side events filling up the calendar. This Meeting of Experts will be the first one where there will be a side event on gender and the BWC, co-hosted by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and Norway.  If you want to make sure you’re up to date, you can read the growing list of submitted working papers to the Meeting. You can also catch up on what happened at the BWC’s Meeting of States Parties in December 2018 in our analysis. Reaching Critical Will be participating in the meetings and will report back, so stay tuned!

     New UN cyber working group to get underway in September

In December 2018, the General Assembly established two processes to discuss the issue of security in the information and communication technology (ICT)-environment during the period of 2019-2021: an open-ended working group (OEWG), and a new group of governmental experts (GGE). 

The first meeting of the OEWG will take place from 9-13 September 2019, under the chairpersonship of Ambassador Jurg Lauber of Switzerland. Information about civil society accreditation and registration can be found here, and information on both bodies here.

This will be the first time that any formal UN body deliberating ICTs or cyber security will be open to the wider UN membership and non-governmental stakeholders.  The GGE will hold regional consultations as a way to incorporate more diverse views, and the OEWG will hold a multi-stakeholder intersessional meeting in December. The annual Cyber Stability Conference organised by the UN Institute for Disarmament Affairs (UNIDIR) held in June 2019 may have helped set the scene for what to expect in the OEWG and GGE; as states and groups who had not been able to interact with earlier cyber GGEs expressed their priorities and concerns on this subject.

Reaching Critical Will will report on the OEWG sessions and release new resources in advance of those meetings. Information on how to subscribe to our new monitor and get caught up on the issues will be posted soon!

     Upcoming events

Biological Weapons Convention Meetings of Experts
29 July-9 August, Geneva

Commemoration of the 74th atomic bombing of Hiroshima
6 August

Commemoration of the 74th atomic bombing of Nagasaki
9 August

CCW Group of Governmental Experts on LAWS
20-21 August, Geneva

CCW Amended Protocol II Group of Experts
22 August, Geneva

CCW Protocol V Meeting of Experts
23 August, Geneva

ATT Fifth Conference of States Parties (CSP5)
26-30 August, Geneva

International Day Against Nuclear Tests
29 August

     Featured news

UK Court of Appeal rules: UK government’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia are “unlawful”

In a major breakthrough, the UK Court of Appeal has overturned a 2017 High Court judgement which allowed the UK government to continue licensing the export of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen. The legal action was brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and was based on reports from numerous reputable sources that Saudi forces have violated International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in their ongoing bombardment of Yemen. Criterion 2c of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing criteria says that export licences should not be granted if there is a clear risk the equipment to be exported might be used in a serious violation of IHL. The judge concluded that the process followed by the British government in considering whether there was a “clear risk … of serious violations” in Yemen was “irrational and therefore unlawful,” as the government failed to consider whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of international humanitarian law. 

The UK government has applied to continue arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Ministers are attempting to stay last month’s judgment as they launch the latest legal challenge. The UK government said 57 applications for export licences were under consideration at the time of the Court of Appeal ruling, and 295 already in place to Saudi Arabia. The verdict is an indication that other EU countries who continue to supply arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen may also be in breach of their international legal obligations. The UK Court of Appeal ruling also follows hard on the heels of a decision in Belgium by the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, that a series of arms export licences, originally granted for exports to Saudi Arabia but then suspended in June 2018, must be cancelled outright.

Canada acceded to the Arms Trade Treaty

On 19 June, Canada ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), becoming the 104th state party to the ATT. The Treaty will enter into force for Canada on 15 September 2019. Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, remarked that Canada is “taking a stronger and more rigorous approach to the export of Canadian arms. Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in Canada’s contributions to international efforts to combat the illicit trade of weapons.” Canadian and other civil society have criticised the government however, for its sales of light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia in light of the country’s human rights record, which Canada has also been outspoken on. 

New guide available to small arms issues in UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda 

To make the small arms aspects of the UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda Securing our Common Future more easily accessible to civil society organisations and governments, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) have created a  Quick Guide on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Agenda that seeks to help governments and civil society to work against gun violence, realise the Sustainable Development Goals, achieve gender equality, and engage youth in disarmament efforts. 

After US’ withdrawal from nuclear agreement, Iran has started enriching uranium above allowed limits

Iran has breached the 300 kg limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium that had been established under the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear restraint agreement between Iran, the United States (US), and Russia, China, the United Kingdom (UK), France, Germany, and the European Union.  After the US’ withdrawal from the nuclear agreement a year ago and the re-imposition of economic sanctions, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran was now over the allowed 3.67 per cent limit under the JCPOA of the purity of enriched uranium. The rise in the enrichment level is still far below the 20 per cent that Iran refined before the nuclear accord, and the roughly 90 percent needed to make uranium weapons-grade. According to the European Union’s foreign policy chief, European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal do not consider Iran’s reduction of compliance as significant, and expressed that they do not intend to trigger the pact’s dispute mechanism for now. They urged Iran not to reduce its cooperation with the agreement. Iran said that it will come back into full compliance with the JCPOA if European states ensure that Iran can continue to sell oil on global markets. 

US arms control office critically understaffed under current US administration

Over the past two years, the office of Strategic Stability and Deterrence Affairs tasked with negotiating and implementing nuclear disarmament treaties has lost more than 70 per cent of its staff, from 14 staff members at the beginning of the current US administration to four. 

Russia is confident to resolve disagreements over New START

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov expressed that Russia expects to succeed in resolving issues related to the New START, an agreement with the US which came into force in 2011. It limits Russia and the US to no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers, no more than 1,550 deployed warheads and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers. The Treaty is set to remain in effect until 2021 unless a new document is signed to replace it. The US administration however continues to favour a new model of arms control which should include China. But China has ruled out any participation in a new arms control agreement. 

New OPCW team to investigate attribution of the use of chemical weapons in nine alleged attacks in Syria 

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) established a new team to attribute blame for the use of chemical weapons in nine alleged attacks during Syria’s civil war. Last June, the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) was established by the OPCW’s member states during a special session, which authorised the OPCW to not only say whether chemical weapons have been used, but to also attribute the use of chemical weapons.

Recommended reading

Maria Arvaniti Sotiropoulou and Panos Trigazis, “Executed for being an anti-nuclear activist – the incredible unknown story of “nuclear martyr” Nikos Nikiforidis,” Beyond Nuclear International, 23 June 2019

Timmon Wallis, “Warheads to Windmills – How to pay for a Green New Deal,” NuclearBan.US, 2019

Christine Ahn, “Yes, the Trump-Kim DMZ meeting was a breakthrough. Here is what should come next,” Newsweek, 1 July 2019

Silvia De Michelis, “US setting the stage for war with Iran,” Nuclear Age Peace Foundation,” 2 July 2019

Gloria Steinem, Christine Ahn, Abigail Disney, Suzy Kim, Jody Williams, “Trump has been unrealistic about his talks with North Korea. Here’s why we shouldn’t dismiss the meetings altogether,” Time, 8 July 2019

Sue Wareham, “Our own nuclear weapons? That’s the exact opposite of what we should do,” The Cranberra Times, 9 July 2019

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” n.d

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), “SIPRI Yearbook 2019, Armaments, Disarmament and International Security,” Oxford University Press, 2019