August E-News

In August 1945, the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands were killed and injured instantly in a horrible blast of fire and radiation, followed by deadly fallout. Many more died as a result of exposure to ionising radiation in the years to come.

In 1945, we saw what nuclear weapons can do–what they were built to do. They are monstrous weapons meant to melt and burn human beings one city at a time. They destroy land and water, they poison people and animals. 

As long as they exist, we are not safe. 

The Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is our best hope of preventing this from ever happening again. And the majority of the world knows this. 

As the disarmament community commemorates the horrific events of 1945, there is progress towards the TPNW entering into force. We need only six more countries to ratify the Treaty for it to become international law. As part of the antinuclear community, WILPF will not stop working to get rid of the deadliest weapon of all.

In this edition

Support for the nuclear ban leaps forward as the world honours victims and survivors of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Between 6 and 9 August, people from all around the world commemorated the 75th anniversary of the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

WILPF contributed to the commemoration with its campaign “Four days of action against nuclear weapon spending” to protest nuclear spending as well as to mobilise for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. Members from around the world joined the campaign, crafted lanterns for peace and paper cranes, organised local actions, and shared graphics about nuclear spending on social media.

On 6 August,  when the United States dropped its first bomb on Hiroshima, WILPF members and partners shared a video of what they would rather spend the billions of dollars wasted on nuclear weapons. 

On 9 August, WILPF released another video to mark the Nagasaki anniversary. The video features the voices of WILPF and other activists from around the world, including Hayley Ramsay-Jones, Pia Devoto, Karina Lester, Ray Acheson, and Kozue Akibayashi, collectively delivering a statement against nuclear weapons. During the four days of action, RCW’s director Ray Acheson also wrote an article, demanding the end of nuclear violence now. 

During the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons’ commemoration of the Hiroshima bombings, Acheson spoke about nuclearism as one of the structures of violence that must be abolished, and called on Canada to join the nuclear ban treaty as an action of feminist peace and Canada’s planned feminist foreign policy. 

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), of which WILPF is a steering group member, organised numerous activities. As just a few examples, ICAN hosted two exclusive live tours of the museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on its Instagram account in order to bring the museums and the stories from these two cities to people at home. It also made material available for an online exhibition.

In collaboration with the 1945 project, ICAN developed a new microsite featuring testimony from survivors. 

On 9 August, it was also the International Day for Indigenous people. For that occasion, ICAN published a Twitter thread about nuclear colonialism.

More events took place globally than we can list here! To catch up on the action, visit ICAN’s events page, view WILPF’s (@WILPF), RCW (@RCW_), and ICAN’s (@nuclearban) Twitter accounts, and be sure to read this E-News' recommended reading section, which features a wide range of articles relating to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations.

The antinuclear community seems to agree that there is no better way to commemorate the horrendous attacks 75 years ago than with meaningful action to rid the world of the scourge of nuclear weapons. It’s in this spirit that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has seen a giant leap in support this month. Between 6 and 9 August, the four countries of Ireland, Nigeria, Niue and Saint Kitts and Nevis chose to remember the victims and honour the hibakusha in the most meaningful way possible: by submitting their instruments of ratification to the TPNW at the United Nations in New York. With these four new ratifying states, the TPNW needs only six more ratifications to enter into force! The number of signatories is also growing, with Sudan and Mozambique as the most recent additions, increasing the total number of signatory states to 83! 

If the pace of ratification continues, the TPNW might enter into force by January 2021, which is also the time when the 10th Review Conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is scheduled to take place. The second webinar of our new “Critical NPT issues” online event series takes place on 24 August at 11:00 EDT. It will look at the legal relationship between the TPNW and the NPT, including how the TPNW contributes to NPT article VI disarmament objectives, and the status of efforts to bring the TPNW into force. Make sure to register for this webinar, co-hosted by the Arms Control Association and WILPF, and join the discussion!

Annual “meeting” of states parties to the Arms Trade Treaty underway amid transparency concerns

Due to COVID-19, states parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) are currently “meeting” via written form for the Sixth Conference of States Parties (CSP6) from 17-21 August 2020.

This new format means that there is no physical or virtual convening. Rather, a series of draft decisions was tabled for adoption by “silence procedure,” and states and other stakeholders can submit written statements to the Conference. WILPF submitted three written statements, all available on RCW’s website. There are significant issues of transparency and inclusivity linked to this approach, which we describe in detail in the new edition of the ATT Monitor. The Monitor also includes views from diverse civil society on key issues such as diversion, gender, explosive weapons in populated areas, reporting, and regional perspectives.

Following the conference, we will publish an analysis of CSP6 statements and outcomes, so stay tuned and make sure to subscribe to our ATT Monitor newsletter.

During the week of CSP6, WILPF, together with the Permanent Missions of Peru and Panama, along with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organised a virtual side event on the recent report of the OHCHR on arms transfers, diversion, and their gendered impacts. The event’s panelists discussed the report’s findings and recommendations, and raised awareness of the synergies between the work of the Human Rights Council, other human rights mechanisms, the OHCHR, and the arms control community. Earlier this year, WILPF made a submission for the report and published an analysis after the report was published.

If you missed the virtual side event, a recording is available on WILPF’s YouTube channel. The side event was also an important reminder of the package of decisions on gender and gender-based violence that was adopted at the 2019 conference of states parties. As we discuss in the ATT Monitor, it is of concern that these commitments are not accounted for in this new meeting cycle.

The importance of preventing armed gender-based violence was prominent during the #WearOrange campaign to remember gun violence victims on 5 June, organised by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). NGO members from all over the world joined the yet most far reaching campaign with powerful images, videos, and other awareness-raising activities.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots continues mobilisation and outreach to stop killer robots

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, of which WILPF is a steering group member, continues to host live Q&A sessions with leading experts in the field. Most recently, the Campaign invited Liz O’Sullivan to speak about data, privacy, human rights, and more. If you missed it, you can watch it here. In late July, the Campaign hosted its first Q&A session in Spanish about lobbying, with Camilo Serna, the lobby lead for the Latin American region.

Also in late July, the Campaign participated for the first time in RightsCon, a preeminent annual gathering of activists and others working for human rights in the digital age. If you missed the Campaign’s side event on killer robots, you can check out the live tweeting from the event.

Human Rights Watch released the new report Stopping killer robots: country positions on banning fully autonomous weapons and retaining human control, written by Mary Wareham, the Campaign’s coordinator. The report reviews the policies and positions of the 97 countries that have publicly spoken on the topic since discussions started in 2013. It reiterates that the vast majority regard human control and decision-making as critical to the acceptability and legality of weapons systems. Most of these countries have expressed their desire for a new treaty to retain human control over the use of armed force, including 30 states that explicitly seek to ban fully autonomous weapons. 

The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP) also recently published a “sound bite” with RCW’s director Ray Acheson where she explains what a feminist perspective on lethal autonomous weapons is, next to contributions by other Campaign members such as Jody WilliamsHayley Ramsay-Jones, and WILPF UK’s Taniel Yusef.

RCW Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month

The article “Disproportionate impact of radiation and radiation regulation  is a timely reminder of the gendered impacts of nuclear weapons, as we honour the victims and survivors of the nuclear bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The article explains how men have been used for generic evaluation of the impact of ionising radiation and nuclear licensing decisions made by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Mary Olsen, author and acting director of the Gender and Radiation Impact Project, argues that because women have been ignored in regulatory analysis, this has resulted in systematic under-reporting of harm from ionising radiation exposure in the global population.

Upcoming events

UN conferences and events

Sixth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty
17-21 August 2020, written format

UN General Assembly event for the International Day Against Nuclear Tests
26 August 2020, online

International Day Against Nuclear Tests
29 August 2020, global

2020 CCW Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapon systems
21-25 September, Geneva

UN General Assembly general debate
22-29 September, online

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
26 September 2020, global

High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
2 October 2020, online


Climate emergency and nuclear war: What are the connections?
20 August, online

CSP6 side event: Cooperation and engagement in the time of COVID-19: Strategies to protect, maintain, and enhance transparency in the ATT
20 August, online

CSP6 side event: A region for peace: Reflections on the Arms Trade Treaty, progress and challenges for the people and states of Central America
20 August, online

Webinar: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
24 August, online

The Tenth NPT Review Conference: Effective measures for nuclear disarmament
27 August, online

75 years after the Trinity explosion: the taboo against nuclear testing and the legacy of past nuclear tests
3 September, online

Featured news

US administration demands restoration of UN sanctions against Iran

The US administration demanded the United Nations to reinstate sanctions against Iran, after it failed to extend the arms embargo in the UN Security Council a week earlier. The US had sought to reinstate sanctions that were in place prior to the 2015 nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan Plan of Action (JCPOA). The arms embargo as part of the agreement is due to expire in October 2020.

Scottish First Minister confirms rejection of nuclear weapons and support for the nuclear ban treaty

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister has reiterated her government's opposition to nuclear weapons and its support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). This was affirmed in the First Minister’s response to a letter from Setsuko Thurlow, who at the age of 13 survived the US nuclear attack on Hiroshima. In her reply, Sturgeon said, “I was greatly encouraged that 122 countries voted for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and like you I have called on the UK Government to sign and ratify the Treaty.”

Survey finds bipartisan agreement on US nuclear weapon policy

A survey conducted by the Programme for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland found that there is considerable bipartisan agreement on nuclear weapons policy. The Programme, which surveyed nearly 86,000 Americans over the past five years, found that 56 per cent of Republicans and 73 per cent of Democrats would support cutting a modest US $2 billion from the annual nuclear weapons budget. Overwhelming majorities in both parties also supported continuing to have nuclear arms control treaties with Russia, renewing the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before it expires in February, and continuing to abide by a moratorium on explosive nuclear tests. 

UK government approves more tear gas sales to US policing despite UN warning over violence 

The UK government has given the green light for the export of British tear gas and rubber bullets to the US despite the continuing use of force against protestors and warnings from the United Nations. Due to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the UK government had made a review—which is not publicly available—of new sales of those items to the US. The detention of protesters by unidentified federal officers in American cities sparked condemnation from Liz Throssell, spokesperson of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Regardless, the UK government’s review concluded that the violence did not amount to “internal repression”.

Firearms exports from Austria to Brazil surge as gun ownership increases in Brazil

Austrian firearms exports to Brazil have increased by more than 377 per cent in the first half of 2020 as gun ownership increases under Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro. Austrian weapons manufacturer Glock exported more than $14.8 million of guns to Brazil, compared with about $3.1 million in the same period last year. The increase is due to widespread gun ownership as a result of a series of presidential decrees that have made it easier for Brazilians to buy larger numbers of weapons, ammunition, and increasingly powerful guns, including semi-automatic assault rifles.

Belgium suspends arms exports to Saudi national guard

After a complaint from a human rights group, the Belgian Council of State has suspended arms export licences for shipments to Saudi Arabia’s national guard, as the contracts did not meet the standard for “human rights in the end-user country and its respect for international law.” But the Council decided to not block shipments to the Saudi royal guard, a separate unit, arguing that they were more focused on “legitimate” internal security and bodyguard goals.

Global explosive violence decreases considerably amidst COVID-19 pandemic

New data from the research charity Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) suggests that there was a 58 per cent decrease globally in civilian victims from explosive violence between April and July 2020, compared to the same four months in 2019. The organisation tracks English language media reporting of explosive violence, and found that there were 425 fewer recorded global explosive weapon incidents causing casualties as compared to the same months in 2019 – a 30 per cent decline. Such a drop off had a marked impact on civilian harm.

Effort to disarm communities in South Sudan has led to dozens of deaths

In early August, at least 81 people were killed, and dozens others injured in South Sudan as an operation to seize weapons from civilians got underway. South Sudanese authorities said that clashes were prompted by a civilian “resisting disciplinary measures” taken against him by security forces in the north-central state of Warrap. The efforts to disarm communities in the world’s youngest nation is an attempt by the authorities to tackle insecurity and stem retaliatory attacks in a country divided by ethnic lines. 

Canada to use armed drones in its territory by 2025

Canada is currently looking to set up its own fleet of armed drones that can conduct long-range surveillance and precision air strikes. The programme is expected to cost from CAD $1 billion to $5 billion, and is a move to join several of its NATO allies who already have their own fleet of armed drones.

Call for submission of essay on lethal autonomous weapon systems

Under the guest editorship of Pierre Thompson, universities and colleges committee members of Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI-US), invite essays for a special issue on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the journal Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice. The submission deadline is 15 January 2020.

Recommended reading

Documentary: The beginning of the end of nuclear weapons, Pressenza IPA, July 2020 

Stories for feminist peace 2019,” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), July 2020

Kjølv Egeland, “Who stole disarmament? History and nostalgia in nuclear abolition discourse,” International Affairs 96, no. 5 (2020): 1-17

Sergio Catignani and Victoria M Basham, “Reproducing the military and heteropatriarchal normal: Army Reserve service as serious leisure,” Security Dialogue, 23 July 2020

Anna Stavriankis, “‘Isolated incidents’: The legal absurdity of UK arms sales for Saudi war in Yemen,” Middle East Eye, 23 July 2020

Wim Zwijnenburg, “Yemen’s disappearing date palms: Applied environmental OSINT,” bellingcat, 24 July 2020

Jonathan Jones, “Ai Weiwei: History of bombs review–high-impact reminder of our insatiable desire for destruction,” The Guardian, 29 July 2020

Joshua Partlow, “Politics at the point of a gun,” reader supported news, 30 July 2020

Mary Wareham, “Treaty banning cluster munitions turns 10, but without the US,” Just Security, 31 July 2020

Elena Bruess, Joe Snell, Madhurita Goswami, Anne Snabes, “War and the environment: The disturbing and under-researched legacy of depleted uranium weapons,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 2020

Setsuko Thurlow, “Canada must acknowledge our key role in developing the deadly atomic bomb,” The Globe and Mail, 1 August 2020

Simon Tisdall, “A nuclear arms race in space? It seems we’ve learned nothing from Hiroshima,” The Guardian, 2 August 2020

Elaine Scarry, “Memorial days: the racial underpinnings of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 3 August 2020

“Researchers: help free the world of nuclear weapons,” nature, 4 August 2020

Erika Hayasaki, “Daughters of the bomb: my reckoning with Hiroshima, 75 years later,” The Guardian, 5 August 2020

Tom O’Connor, Hiroshima, Nagasaki survivors fear Trump policies could bring about new nuclear age, Newsweek, 5 August 2020

Gwen L. Dubois, “The 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki reminds us of the need to ban nuclear weapons,” The Baltimore Sun, 5 August 2020

Motoko Rich, “Witnessing nuclear carnage, then devoting her life to peace,” The New York Times, 6 August 2020

M.V. Ramana and Benoît Pelopidas, “Taking nuclear vulnerabilities seriously,” The Hindu, 6 August 2020

Dr. Masao Tomonaga, “Surviving the nuclear bomb at Nagasaki 75 years ago showed me nuclear weapons shouldn’t exist,” Think, 9 August 2020

Robert Dodge and Vincent J. Intondi, “Our moral awakening in the long shadow of the bomb,” Common Dreams, 9 August 2020

Jeff Abramson, “Civil society letter on humanitarian disarmament advocates path ahead,” Arms Control Association, 11 August 2020