April 2023 E-News

This April marks 108 years since 1,136 women gathered together in The Hague in the midst of the First World War to discuss the root causes of conflict and take decisive action for a future of peace. The meeting ended with the founding of what would become the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Today, WILPF’s global movement continues to grow. Our recently launched interactive microsite Stories of Feminist Peace showcases WILPF’s biggest achievements and highlights where we have made a difference using our collective voice in 2022. Key highlights from 2022 include how we responded to the growing threat of nuclear war, our work to help build a vibrant feminist movement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, our efforts to create a liveable future through environmental action and advocacy, and so much more. Join us in celebration of our activism and make sure to head over to WILPF’s social media channels to learn more! (Image credit: WILPF)

In this edition:

Upcoming disarmament meetings

Working Group meetings and 2nd CSP9 Informal Preparatory Meeting

The Working Group meetings and Second Informal Preparatory Meeting of the Ninth Conference of States Parties (CSP9) to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will take place in Geneva on 9–12 May 2023. To find out what happened in the previous meeting of the working groups and first preparatory meeting, which took place from 14–17 February 2023, check out Control Arms’ summary.

CCW Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapon systems, informals and second session of 2023

Two informal meetings of the 2023 CCW Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapon systems will be held in a virtual format on 20 April and on 2 May. The Group will also meet for its second formal session on 15–19 May 2023 in Geneva. RCW will be monitoring the meetings and will publish a summary of the discussions in our CCW Report

Fifth Chemical Weapons Convention Review Conference

The Fifth Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (RC-5) will take place from 15–19 May 2023 at the World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands. You can find documents and more information about the Conference at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ webpage.

New resources on the nuclear ban treaty

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has launched a new webpage to help interested observers keep track of the work in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) to take forward treaty implementation in the period between the first and second meetings of states parties of the TPNW. Reaching Critical Will has been contributing to this work with the Gender Focal Point and has written summaries of relevant meetings for this new page. Don’t forget to check out Reaching Critical Will’s new paper on the TPNW and Gender, Feminism, and Intersectionality.

ICAN has also published a new briefing note titled How the TPNW Complements, Reinforces, and Builds On the NPT. The paper counters the narrative by nuclear-armed states and their allies that the TPNW undermines the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In addition to the briefing note, ICAN also compiled government statements on the complementarity of the TPNW with the NPT, demonstrating that there is broad international agreement that the two treaties are complementary.

Support for a legally binding instrument on autonomous weapons continues to grow!

On 25 March, 22 Presidents from Iberoamerica, including Spain, Andorra, and Portugal, adopted a Communiqué, proposed by Costa Rica, asking negotiations for a legally binding instrument on autonomous weapons systems (AWS). In the Communiqué, the delegates of the Ibero-American States recognise the need for further action to “collaborate to promote the negotiation of a legally binding international instrument, with prohibitions and regulations regarding autonomy in weapons systems, in order to ensure compliance with International Law, including International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, and ethical perspectives, as well as the prevention of the social and humanitarian impact that autonomy in weapons systems entails.” On 27 March, the Central American Integration System (SICA) also adopted a statement calling for the negotiation of a binding legal instrument. These documents build on the Communiqué adopted by the Latin American and Caribbean Conference on the Humanitarian and Social Impacts of Autonomous Weapons in February 2023.

Parliaments from around the world also continue to mobilise against AWS. Argentina and Belgium proposed a resolution at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to address autonomous weapons systems risks. Additionally, the InterAgency Institute promoted an inter-parliamentary debate on 15 March with parliamentarians from Spain and Cape Verde. The Institute also published several publications about autonomous weapons, including a Glossary in Portuguese and Spanish, and two Policy Briefs titled “A multidimensional pledge for Stop Killer Robots” (in English, Portuguese, and Spanish) and “The expansion of the debate on the regulation of autonomous weapons in Iberophony” (also in English, Portuguese, and Spanish).

Opposition to the AUKUS alliance and nuclear submarine deal continues strong in Australia

Protests against the deal between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States for nuclear-powered submarines continue to grow. A rally organised by Wollongong Against War and Nukes gathered groups that protested against the potential construction of a military base at Port Kembla, where the government might impose nuclear-powered submarines as part of AUKUS. (Picture credit: Ray Acheson)

Indigenous communities have also expressed concern over prospects of high-level nuclear waste dumps on traditional lands. As reported by the Guardian, under the AUKUS agreement, Australia will be responsible for storing high-level nuclear waste from the decommissioned reactors. But Australia has not even found a permanent site to store low-level nuclear waste, let alone highly radioactive waste.

Humanitarian and development organisations have also opposed the deal, which is estimated between $268bn and $368bn. They have pointed out Australia spends just $1 on aid for every $10 spent on defence, and that this allocation is proof that funds are available if the government shows political will.

Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month

Our recommendation of the month is the webinar “Gendered Environmental Impact of Conflict: Perspectives from Front-line Women Activists.” Hosted by WILPF and PAX on the margins of the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) in March 2022, the panel features leading women activists and practitioners from Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, and Colombia sharing powerful insights on the nexus of conflict, the environment, and gender. ​​


Upcoming events


Virtual informal meetings of the CCW Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapon systems
20 April and 2 May 2023| Online

Working Group meetings and 2nd CSP9 Informal Preparatory Meeting
9–12 May 2023 | Geneva, Switzerland

CCW Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapon systems, second session of 2023
15–19 May 2023 | Geneva, Switzerland

Fifth Chemical Weapons Convention Review Conference
15–19 May 2023 | The Hague, Netherlands

Events and webinars

GAWCH Webinar Series - Explosive Events in Urban Areas 
14 April 2023 | Online

Explosive Weapons Monitor Report Launch: Documenting two years of global harm to civilians from the use of explosive weapons
24 April 2023 | Online

Featured news

Russia strikes deal with Belarus to station nuclear weapons on its territory

On 25 March, Russia announced preparations in Belarus for the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons. Several experts reacted with concern about the deal. As stated by ICAN, “The deployment of nuclear weapons in additional countries, sometimes referred to as ‘nuclear sharing’ complicates decision making and increases the risk of miscalculation, miscommunication and potentially catastrophic accidents.” The Non-Proliferation Treaty prohibits the transfer of nuclear weapons to a non-nuclear armed country, and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons explicitly forbids the “stationing, installation or deployment” of nuclear weapons on one’s territory.

War in Ukraine used as a lab for testing artificial intelligence (AI)

In National Defense magazine, U.S. retired Army Maj. Gen. Robin Fontes and Dr. Jorrit Kamminga write on the conflict in Ukraine as a “living lab” for warfare using AI, arguing that, “While the character of the war may not yet be determined by AI, the Russia-Ukraine war is akin to a laboratory setting in which many companies and governments are able to constantly train and test AI systems for a wide range of capabilities, functionalities and applications. This is the tragic paradox. Each day that the conflict continues, and human beings are losing their lives in horrible ways, AI systems are being trained with real data from a real battleground — not to stop the suffering and end the war, but to become more effective in fighting the next one: the AI war.”

Explosive Weapons Monitor annual updates for 2022-2023

The Explosive Weapons Monitor published data showing that in the last 12 months, at least 4,918 incidents of explosive weapon use were recorded in 98 countries and territories, which resulted in 33,018 casualties. About 65% - at least 21,528 - were civilians. The Monitor also reported at least 729 incidents of explosive weapons use affecting air access, education and healthcare in 24 countries and territories, most of them in Ukraine. (Image credit: Explosive Weapons Monitor)

Last month, the Monitor published data showing that just in February 2023, at least one death or injury from the use of explosive weapons was recorded in 23 countries and territories. “Worldwide, there were at least 469 reported incidents of explosive weapon use resulting in at least 2,155 casualties, of which 1,133 (53%) were civilians. About 40% of all reported civilian casualties occurred in Ukraine. Some of the other most affected countries and territories in terms of civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons were Somalia, Myanmar, Syria, and Pakistan.” The Monitor also reported 28 incidents of explosive weapon use affecting aid access, education and healthcare services recorded in five countries and territories.

Investigation into UK strikes identifies new victims in Iraq and Syria

An investigation by Airwars and The Guardian has identified dozens more victims of potential UK strikes in Syria and Iraq. By analysing several documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the investigation identified eight more strikes which may have been conducted by the UK. 

International Day for Mine Action

On 4 April is commemorated the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Since the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention opened for signature in 1997, 164 countries have ratified or acceded to it. In addition to anti-personnel mines, challenges remain with respect to cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war. Let this be a day to remind that these weapons kill and injure indiscriminately, and must never be used anywhere, by anyone, at any time! (Image credit: Mines Action Canada)

WILPF Canada protests against arms transfers to Saudi Arabia

WILPF Canada members joined MAWO Vancouver for a rally in Vancouver against arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. The group called on the Canadian government to cancel its contract with Saudi Arabia and stop exporting weapons to the country. They also called for the end of the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. (Picture credit: WILPF Canada)

Documents leaked show Russia’s  global and domestic cyberwarfare tactics

As reported by the Guardian, files leaked by a whistleblower demonstrate how engineers from the Company NTC Vulkan have “worked for Russian military and intelligence agencies to support hacking operations, train operatives before attacks on national infrastructure, spread disinformation and control sections of the internet.” The files, dated from 2016 to 2021, contains emails, internal documents, project plans, budgets and contracts about several Vulkan cyber-attack tools, such as Amezit, which “amounts to a blueprint for surveilling and controlling the internet in regions under Russia’s command, and also enables disinformation via fake social media profiles.”

Recommended resources

Radio: “Ray Acheson on War, Patriarchy, and Abolition,” 3CR Yeah Nah Pasaran!, 6 April 2023

Wim Zwijnenburg and Iryna Nikolaieva, “Research: Bombing of agro-industry in Ukraine poses serious environmental health risks,” PAX, 5 April 2023 

Ellie Kinney, “The IPCC’S missing military emissions,” Conflict and Environment Observatory, 3 April 2023

Radio: “Countering militarism: In conversation with Ray Acheson,” 3CR Radioactive Show, 1 April 2023

Shampa Biswas, “The lesson of this moment: Abolish nuclear weapons,” The Seattle Times, 24 March 2023

Richard Tanter, “AUKUS—‘These are the horrors’,” Pearls and Irritations, 24 March 2023

Matthew Breay Bolton and Katherine Ketterer, “Environmental remediation as social archaeology: Excavating sites contaminated by early nuclear weapons activities in New York City, both literally and hermeneutically,” Global Policy, 12 March 2023

Laura Bruun, Dr Marta Bo, and Netta Goussac, “Compliance with International Humanitarian Law in the development and use of autonomous weapon systems: What does IHL permit, prohibit and require?”, SIPRI, March 2023