April 2024 E-News

April will be busy for the disarmament community, as three important conferences are taking place: the Regional Conference on the Peace and Security Aspects of Autonomous Weapons Systems in Freetown, Sierra Leone; the International Follow-up Conference to the Political Declaration on the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA) in Oslo, Norway; and the Vienna Conference on Autonomous Weapon Systems in Vienna, Austria. As states and civil society convene for these meetings, Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza has gone on for six months. In this edition of the E-News, we highlight Israel’s use of artificial intelligence (AI)-produced kill lists and its use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as other governments’ complicity in genocide through the arms trade and other military support. We hope these resources and information are useful for the upcoming disarmament conversations.

In this edition:

Upcoming disarmament meetings

International follow-up conference to the EWIPA Declaration

The International follow-up conference to the EWIPA Declaration is taking place in Oslo, on 22–24 April 2024.

Prior to the conference, a cinema screening of “For Sama” will be held at Cinemateket on Sunday, 21 April in Oslo, Norway. 

On Monday, 22 April, civil society partners, INEW, and the Norwegian Red Cross, will convene the Protection Forum. The main conference will be held on Tuesday, 23 April at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotelin Oslo. Additionally, on the morning of Wednesday, 24 April, a range of civil society organisations, states, UN agencies, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will organise two thematic workshops on the topics of military policies and practices and humanitarian access and assistance, which will allow for more in-depth discussion on these central issues.

RCW produced a briefing paper for states that have endorsed the Political Declaration on EWIPA regarding Israel’s use of explosive weapons in Gaza. In this paper, we highlight the catastrophic impact of explosive weapons’ use in Gaza and international law violations associated with their use, and provide recommendations for states based on the commitments they have undertaken in the Declaration. Among other things, we urge states to condemn and call for an end to Israel’s use of explosive weapons in Gaza, hold Israel account for its violations of international law, and stop providing material support to Israel for its war effort, including by end the arms trade with Israel.

2024 Vienna Conference on Autonomous Weapon Systems

The Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs is hosting the international conference “Humanity at the Crossroads: Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Challenge of Regulation” on 29–30 April 2024 in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Ahead of the meeting, on 27 April, Stop Killer Robots will be hosting a Civil Society Forum. 

Arms Trade Treaty Informal Preparatory Meeting

The Informal Preparatory Meeting to the Tenth Conference of States Parties (CSP10) to the Arms Trade Treaty is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, on 16–17 May 2024, with a hybrid option. 

Fourth Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons

The next UNPoA Review Conference will be held in New York from 17 to 28 June 2024. The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) is the civil society coordinator for this meeting.

2024 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee

The Preparatory Committee for the 2026 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is scheduled to hold its second session from 22 July to 2 August 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland. Modalities for civil society participation are outlined in this information note, as well as on RCW website. Requests for accreditation must be submited before 2 June 2024. If you are a WILPF member and intend to attend, contact Laura Varella (laura(dot)varella(at)wilpf(dot)org). Information regarding side events is also available on the RCW website.

Challenging arms transfers to Israel

Six months into Israel’s genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza, pressure for an end to arms transfers to Israel continues to increase. Direct actions against weapon producers and their financiers have continued around the world, including in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and more.

In Germany, a group of civil servants called on Germany and the Netherlands to stop arms deliveries over human rights concerns. Similarly, a group of 800 civil servants in the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) signed a “transatlantic statement” in February warning that Western support for Israel could amount to grave violations of international law, and complaining of expert advice being ignored.

In the United Kingdom (UK), officials working in the Department for Business and Trade have threatened to stop working over the country’s arms sales to Israel. A letter signed by more than 1,000 lawyers in the United Kingdom – including WILPF’s Secretary General, Madeleine Rees  ­– also called for UK weapons exports to Israel to cease. Despite growing pressure, the UK’s Foreign Minister said that arms transfers will continue.

A recent investigative report published by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) reveals the ongoing extensive military support provided to Israel by major arms suppliers, including the UK, the UK, and other nations. The report also highlights significant financial gains in the form of share price hikes and personal share sales by executives of key arms manufacturers.

In addition, a complaint filed by Richard Tanter of the Nautilus Institute under the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Act in Australia dug into Australia’s complicity in genocide through the provision of signals intelligence from Pine Gap, the US military base in the Northern Territory.

Meanwhile, during its most recent session, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted four resolutions relating to the situation in Palestine, including the resolution on “Human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice.” The resolution contains strong language on transfers of weapons, munitions, and other military equipment. It refers to Israel’s use of explosive weapons and it includes several paragraphs regarding the transfers of weapons and other military equipment to Israel.

Among other things, the resolution condemns the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects by Israel in populated areas in Gaza, underlining the “reverberating effects of such weapons on hospitals, schools, water, electricity and shelter, which are affecting millions of Palestinians.” The resolution also condemns “the use of artificial intelligence to aid military decision-making that may contribute to the commission of international crimes.” In this context, the resolution “calls upon all States to cease the sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment to Israel, the occupying Power, in order to prevent further violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights.” For a complete analysis on the resolution, check out this article written by Patrizia Scanella, from WILPF’s Human Rights Programme. (Picture credit: WILPF)

The use of AI target recommendation systems in Gaza 

Earlier this month, +972 Magazine and Local Call published a piece on Israel’s Lavender system, a data processing system that generates human targets and which “has played a central role in the unprecedented bombing of Palestinians, especially during the early stages of the war.” According to +972, “human personnel often served only as a ‘rubber stamp’ for the machine’s decisions, adding that, normally, they would personally devote only about ‘20 seconds’ to each target before authorizing a bombing — just to make sure the Lavender-marked target is male.” (A Reaching Critical Will has pointed out in the context of drone strikes, this is an act of gender-based violence.)

Stop Killer Robots commented on Lavender and AI-produced target recommendation systems, stating that the use of this system demonstrates key issues with autonomous weapons, namely digital dehumanisation and loss of meaningful human control. Sai Bourothu, from Automated Decision Research, commented about these systems in a piece by Al Jazeera. The UN Secretary-General, Antonió Guterres, said he was "deeply troubled by reports that the Israeli military's bombing campaign includes Artificial Intelligence as a tool in the identification of targets, particularly in densely populated residential areas, resulting in a high level of civilian casualties." He added, "No part of life and death decisions which impact entire families should be delegated to the cold calculation of algorithms". A Group of UN Experts also deplored “the purported use of artificial intelligence (AI) and related military directives by Israel in occupied Gaza leading to an unprecedented toll on the civilian population, housing, vital services and infrastructure.”

WILPF’s input to the Zero Draft of the Pact for the Future

In September 2024 the United Nations will hold the “Summit for the Future – Multilateral Solutions for a Better Tomorrow,” a high-level event which will bring together governments with the aim to reach agreement on how the international system is to meet existing obligations and new challenges. WILPF has contributed with a submissionin relation to the Zero Draft of the Pact for the Future, to be adopted at the Summit, which presents our vision of changes we believe are necessary in order for the multilateral system to deliver on the promises made in the UN Charter. This builds on our earlier submissions to the process that developed this draft.

A group of civil society organisations has prepared an open letter warning that the upcoming Nairobi Civil Society Conference, which is part of the Summit for the Future process, aims through its Multistakeholder Strategy to bring back to the agenda corporate-led global governance. “The proliferation of multistakeholder mechanisms in global governance has made it neither more inclusive nor more efficient. Instead, it has been inclusive mainly of corporations and efficient only for realizing their interests. It has further marginalized the majority of states, resulting in deepening asymmetries between developed and developing countries and vis-a-vis developing states and corporate bodies (including their foundations), as well as further bolstering the influence of corporations while diminishing the role of civil society organizations,” says the letter.

RCW Director participates in two podcast episodes

Ray Acheson, Director of Reaching Critical Will, participated in a podcast episode about what Feminist Foreign Policy (FFP) really is and how it relates to existing Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) architecture. The conversation focused on the need for systemic change and the risks of FFP for co-opting feminist language in support of militarism and violence. Ray and Toni Haastrup discussed FFP in the context of Israel’s genocide against Palestinians, arms exports and nuclear weapon policies, and repression of Indigenous Land Defenders and Water Protectors, among other things. The episode is the first of the second season of the “Mind the GAPS: a Women Peace and Security Podcast,” produced by the Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS). (Image credit: GAPS) 

Ray also participated in a conversation with Crunch for the 3CR Community Radio Radioactive Show in Melbourne, Australia, where they talked about nuclear violence, arms transfers and military support to Israel, the AUKUS military alliance, and organising for justice and peace.

New RCW page on arms trade

RCW has updated its page on “Confronting the arms trade and war profiteering.” This page includes a summary of RCW’s work on holding governments to account for their Arms Trade Treaty obligations, the colaboration with WILPF’s Human Rights Programme to expose the human rights impacts of arms, and the advocacy done to challenge weapons production and military spending. The page also includes a list of reports, advocacy materials, webinars, and more.

Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the Month

Our recommendation of the month is the book “The Ocean on Fire: Pacific Stories from Nuclear Survivors and Climate Activists,” by Anaïs Maurer. By analysing an extensive multilingual archive of decolonial Pacific art, ranging from literature to songs and paintings, the author “shows how Pacific nuclear survivors’ stories reveal an alternative vision of the apocalypse: instead of promoting individualism and survivalism, they advocate mutual assistance, cultural resilience, South-South transnational solidarities, and Indigenous women’s leadership.” 

The Gender and Disarmament Database, created and maintained by Reaching Critical Will, features a wide range of resources such as reports, articles, books and book chapters, policy documents, podcasts, legislation, and UN documents. The database allows the exploration of relevant resources based on their references to distinctive gender aspects in disarmament, such as gender-based violence, gender norms, or gender diversity, and different related topics or types of weapon systems. It currently contains more than 800 resources, and suggestions of new additions can be sent to disarm[at]WILPF[dot]com.

Upcoming events


International follow-up conference to the EWIPA Declaration
23 April 2024 | Oslo, Norway

2024 Vienna Conference on Autonomous Weapon Systems
29–30 April 2024 | Vienna, Austria

Arms Trade Treaty CSP10 Preparatory Meeting
16–17 May 2024 | Geneva, Switzerland

Webinars and Meetings

Protection Forum on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from Explosive Weapons
23 April 2024 | Oslo, Norway

Action at the Crossroads: Civil Society Forum on Autonomous Weapons and the Challenge of Regulation
28 April 2024 | Vienna, Austria

Featured News

Inter-Parliamentary Unions adopts resolution on autonomous weapons

On 27 March 2024, the 148th meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union adopted the resolution “Addressing the social and humanitarian impact of autonomous weapon systems and artificial intelligence.” The resolution“strongly urges parliaments to develop comprehensive national legislation to establish regulatory frameworks governing the development, deployment and use of AWS.”

US invests in AI-operated fighter jet

AP News reports that the US “is betting a large part of its future air warfare on a fleet more than 1,000 autonomously operated drones.” The piece also says that the US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall plans to fly in an artificial intelligence-operated warplane “to see for himself how the AI-controlled plane performs in the air.” The US Air Force requested $559 million in the 2025 budget to continue research and development of the future CCA air system.

Undergoing negotiations between US and Russia about nuclear anti-satellite weapons

Politico reports that the US “is in talks with Russia and allied nations to try and prevent Moscow from positioning an anti-satellite nuclear weapon in space.” According to the piece, US officials are using the UN channels and countries like China and India to persuade Russia to give up on testing its technology in space.

Drone attack hits the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in early April that the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine had sustained damage in a drone attack. Russia and Ukraine have each blamed one another for the attack. THE IAEA Board of Governors held an emergency meeting a few days after at the request of both Ukraine and Russia to discuss the attacks on the Nuclear Power Plant.

Japan in consideration by AUKUS countries to join the alliance

The Final Times reported that Australia, the UK and the US are considering the possibility of Japan joining or collaborating with the AUKUS alliance. The newspaper said that the cooperation would focus on the second pillar of the partnership, which involves cooperation in areas such as hypersonic weapons. On April 8, the Japanese Prime Minister visited Washington. China has expressed concern about this development, which follows expressions of interest also by Canada and New Zealand/Aotearoa in collaborating with the AUKUS partners on Pillar II of the agreement, related to the development of various high-tech weapons. Canada's Prime Minister has even indicated his interest in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines under Pillar I.

Activists protest nuclear weapon production in Kansas City

Ten anti-nuclear activitsts were arrested protesting in the Kansas City Nuclear Security Campus (NSC). They were protesting the making of nuclear weapons parts and the proposed expansion of the facility. One of the protesters, Ann Suellentrop, criticised the US’s efforts to build new nuclear weapons: “We’re going the wrong way. We’re manufacturing our doom,” as reported by the Kansas City Star. “Every bomb that is built here is a theft from our most vulnerable citizens,” said Charles Carney, an activist in the Catholic Worker movement.

Norway proposes huge increase in defence budget

In early April, the Norwegian government proposed a “historic boost” in its defense spending by doubling its current defense budget to incease its industrial base and expand its armed forces. According to Politico, Norway will hit the alliance’s goal of spending 2 percent of its GDP on defense this year for the first time.

Over 25 million people face humanitarian crisis in Sudan 

In the one-year anniversary of the conflict in Sudan, completed on 15 April, the UN Refugee Agency said that Sudan and its neighbours are experiencing one of the largest and most challenging humanitarian and displacement crises in the world. The conflict has killed thousands and created a humanitarian disaster: around 25 million people — more than half the population — need aid, and nearly 18 million face acute food insecurity.

Human Rights Watch publishes investigation about Israel’s war crimes in Gaza

Human Rights Watch stated in a recent report that an Israeli airstrike on a six-story apartment building sheltering hundreds of people in central Gaza on October 31is an apparent war crime. “The attack, which killed at least 106 civilians, including 54 children, is among the deadliest single incidents for civilians since the Israeli government’s bombardment and ground incursion into Gaza following the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7,” said the organisation.

UN Secretary General calls for restraint in the Middle East 

On 1 April, Israel attacked Iranian diplomatic premises in Syria, killing 16 people. In response to this attack, on 13 April Iran launched more than 200 UAVs, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles towards Israel. The UN Secretary General addressed this crisis warning that the people of the Middle East are facing a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict and calling for maximum restraint.

Recommended Resources

Video: Al Jazeera English, “Israel’s shocking AI tools & Google’s complicity in Gaza | The Listening Post,” 13 April 2024

Podcast: Mobilising Men for Feminist Peace, “Militainment: How the Entertainment Industry Promotes War and Militarism with Roger Stahl,” 5 April 2024

Georgia Hinds, “Symposium on Military AI and the Law of Armed Conflict: A (Pre)cautionary Note About Artificial Intelligence in Military Decision Making,” OpinioJuris, 4 April 2024

Sera Koulabdara and Mary Wareham, “US Cluster Munition Transfers Raise Humanitarian Concerns,” Humanitarian Disarmament, 4 April 2024

Explosive Weapons Monitor, “Fragments”, Vol.2, Issue 1, March 2024

Webinar: Medical Association for Prevention of War and others, “Pine Gap and Gaza,” 28 March 2024

Ray Acheson, “Cop Cities, Borders,  and Bombs,” CouterPunch, 17 March 2024 

Podcast: The Peace Corner Podcast, “’Killer Robots’: Navigating the Risks of Autonomous Weapons,” 17 March 2024

Intersect, Organisation for Equality and others, “Gender-based violence with firearms in Mexico,” November 2023