November 2023 E-News
For the past month, Israel has been committing war crimes, human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, and other violations of international law that have amounted to an attempted genocide of Palestinians. Israel’s use of explosive weapons in Gaza in particular has devastated the civilian population, causing mass death and unconscionable suffering for the more than two million people trapped there. These horrors have been wrought on top of the existing settler colonial and apartheid system of abuse enacted by Israel for decades upon the Palestinian population.
Peace is built on the foundations of freedom, justice, nonviolence, human rights, and equality—but colonialism, occupation, apartheid, and militarised security have denied this possibility for peace. While we need a durable and fair peace that addresses the root causes of violence and oppression, the absolute necessity now is to prevent further atrocities and loss of life, including through an immediate ceasefire. Israel must stop bombing Gaza and all states facilitating Israel’s genocide must end their support, including by ending arms transfers and financing. Among many other actions, WILPF is working with Palestinian and other organisations to demand a two-way arms embargo on Israel. Check out our resources below to learn more and join the actions now to prevent genocide and human suffering.
In this edition:
- Upcoming disarmament meetings
- Recently concluded disarmament meetings
- Support for TPNW continues to grow ahead of the Second Meeting of States Parties
- Project confronts the risks of America’s land-based nuclear missiles
- First Committee adopts its first resolution on autonomous weapons
- WILPF takes action against genocide in Gaza
- Gender and Disarmament Database: Recommendation of the month
- Upcoming events
- Featured news
- Recommended resources
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Meeting of High Contracting Parties
The 2023 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Meeting of High Contracting Parties is scheduled for 15–17 November 2023 in Geneva. The agenda will include setting a mandate for the next Group of Governmental Experts on autonomous weapons, as well issues related to incendiary weapons, mines other than anti-personnel mines, and more. RCW will monitor the meeting and will publish the CCW Report. Subscribe now make sure you receive it!
Second Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW 2MSP)
The TPNW 2MSP will take place from 27 November to 1 December 2023 at UN Headquarters in New York. Among other things, the meeting will hear updates from intersessional working groups about the implementation of the Action Plan adopted at 1MSP, and set the course for future work on the Treaty! For details about side events, please see the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which is the civil society coordinator for 2MSP. ICAN will also be organising a campaigners meeting ahead of 2MSP, and has a calendar of other 2MSP-related events. During the conference, RCW will publish reports and post statements and other documents online. Subscribe now to receive updates! And check out our briefing paper on Gender, Feminism, Intersectionality, and the TPNW.
UN General Assembly First Committee 2023
The 78th session of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security met from 2 October–3 November 2023 in New York. A week into the meeting, Hamas attacked Israeli civilians and Israel unleashed a horrific war of collective punishment upon Palestinians. In addition to Russia’s war in Ukraine, violence in Sudan, and other global armed conflicts, this backdrop made the work of the First Committee more urgent than ever. Yet while some urged ceasefires, ending arms transfers, and stopping the use of indiscriminate weapons, for many others it was business as usual: war profiteering and double standards. Get the full scoop on what happened at this year's First Committee with our First Committee Monitor, which contains weekly editorials (including several focused on ending the attempted genocide of Palestinians) and thorough reports on discussions on all topics of disarmament and international security. We also published all available statements, resolutions, voting records, and explanations of vote on our website.
Two more countries have taken action in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), bringing the total number of signatories to 93—close to half of all states in the world— and states parties to 69. On 19 September, the Bahamas signed the Treaty while Sri Lanka acceded to it. (Photo credit: ICAN)
A few days later, on 28 September, the assembly of French Polynesia unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the TPNW and highlighting the region's history as the site of numerous French nuclear tests between 1966 and 1996. The resolution emphasises the TPNW as a humanitarian disarmament treaty and calls upon the French government to join it. As stated by ICAN, “This powerful call for justice and international recognition for the lasting effects of nuclear tests underscores French Polynesia's commitment to nuclear disarmament and its poignant plea for nuclear justice.”
Two days after the adoption of the resolution, France pressured Australia to move away from the TPNW. On 2 October an article in The Australian newspaper cited an unnamed French diplomat claiming that Australia’s support for the TPNW “undermines the primacy of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)” and “is contradictory with Australia’s ambition to reinforce its partnership with NATO” (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). But as ICAN wrote, these statements are factually incorrect, as the Treaty complements the NPT and NATO members face no legal barrier to joining the treaty, so long as they commit not to engage in or support any nuclear-weapon-related activities.
At the recent Australian Labor Party (ALP) National Conference in Brisbane, the party re-confirmed its support for signing the TPNW—under restrictive conditions—and agreed to send an observer to the next Meeting of State Parties. However, as reported in the Interpreter, “key ALP leaders are opposed to signing, and nuclear weapons states such as the United States and France, having long derided the treaty, are now ramping up their opposition to it.”
At the UN General Assembly First Committee, the resolution on the TPNW garnered the most co-sponsors it has had to date (79). The voting pattern remained similar to last year, with 124 states voting in favour, but an increasing number of delegations spoke in favour of the TPNW throughout the conference and Mexico delivered a statement on behalf of all TPNW states parties and signatories.
The First Committee also adopted another important resolution for the first time, L.52, “Addressing the legacy of nuclear weapons: providing victim assistance and environmental remediation to Member States affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons.” The resolution was tabled by Kazakhstan and Kiribati, both affected by nuclear weapon testing conducted by the Soviet Union and United Kingdom/United States respectively. The text was adopted with 171 votes in favour, four against and six abstentions. According to Ivana Nikolić Hughes and Christian Ciobanu, “this resolution will pave the way for the long and hard process of information gathering and needs appraisal in affected states, followed by actual steps to assist victims and assess and remediate contaminated environments. Such work has already begun within the context of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), but bringing these conversations into the broader sphere is critical. Future versions of the resolution can build in further binding steps.”
On 26 November 2023, on the eve of the Second Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW, ICAN is inviting everyone to join the Global Day of Action Against Nuclear Weapons! All around the world, people will be taking action to show the delegations in New York that we expect them to be bold, courageous and use the TPNW to dismantle nuclear deterrence, and make sure the rest of the world is paying attention to this crucial opportunity. Check out the resources made available by ICAN and join others in calling for an end to nuclear weapons!
The Program on Science & Global Security (SGS), Columbia University’s School of Journalism, Scientific American, and Native Princeton are launching a project looking at the human and environmental risks associated with the new US Sentinel nuclear-armed land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The MISSILES ON OUR LAND aims to provide information that everyone in the United States, and especially the communities living closest to the missile fields, need to know so that they can understand and be part of the discussion as to the full extent of the risks associated with deploying the new Sentinel nuclear-armed missiles. (Picture credit: Nina Berman)
The researchers performed hundreds of nuclear war simulations to understand what would happen if the missile silos were attacked. They reviewed thousands of pages of Air Force documents, including the recent Sentinel Environmental Impact Statement, and conducted dozens of interviews in Washington DC, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and New Mexico with nuclear weapons experts, military officials, and members of the public, including those living amid the nuclear missile silo fields.
The project includes a special issue of Scientific American, a documentary film, a podcast series, and a website with interactive maps.
On 1 November 2023, the First Committee adopted the first ever resolution on autonomous weapons, stressing the “urgent need for the international community to address the challenges and concerns raised by autonomous weapons systems.” The voting result on resolution L.56 was 164 states in favour and 5 against, with 8 abstentions. According to Stop Killer Robots, “After 10 years of international discussions and in the face of rapid technological developments, the adoption of this resolution is a step forward, lighting a path towards a legal framework to ensure meaningful human control over the use of force. While it does not go far enough to call for negotiations, this resolution does build international confidence, and signals that urgent political action must be taken to safeguard against the serious risks posed by autonomous weapons systems.”
The issue of autonomous weapons has received increasing international attention in 2023. In October 2023, the UN Secretary-General and the International Committee of the Red Cross President made a joint call for new international law on autonomous weapons, with the UN Secretary-General calling for states “to conclude by 2026 a legally binding instrument.” This resolution now sets the stage for the UN Secretary-General to collect the views of states, international organisations, civil society, and others, which will hopefully propel urgent action to stop the development and deployment of machines that can take human life.
The situation in Gaza demands urgent attention and action, as the escalation of Israeli hostilities and the mounting attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and within Israel continue to grow in gravity and magnitude. From 9–15 November, WILPF is organising the week of feminist action against genocide in Palestine, inviting all to mobilise globally to call for an immediate ceasefire and a two-way arms embargo on the transfer and provision of military equipment to and from the state of Israel.
The WILPF team is monitoring the updates on the situation in Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). WILPF has published several documents, including:
- An urgent call on 13 October 2023 by WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees, urging all states to prioritise the saving of lives over politics;
- A statement on the Escalation of Violence in Palestine and Israel;
- A letter to Permanent Missions to the United Nations on Violence against Palestine;
- A statement, signed by over 130 organisations, calling for a two-way arms embargo on Israel; and
- A series of editorials in the First Committee Monitor, including advocacy to member states to prevent and end the attempted genocide of Palestinians by Israel.
The recommendation of the month is the webinar “Toward a Real Feminist Foreign Policy,” hosted by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute in March this year. The panel had the participation of Ray Acheson, El Jones, Tamara Lorincz, and Claudia de la Cruz, talking about a real feminist foreign policy and what that could look like.
For further resources on the topic, check out the Beyond Feminist Foreign Policy: Policy Briefing Series, launched by the Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS), in particular the briefing on Disarmament and Demilitarisation, written by WILPF, GAPS, and Saferworld.
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.
Fourth Session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East
13–17 November 2023 | New York, USA
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Meeting of High Contracting Parties
15–17 November 2023 | Geneva, Switzerland
Second Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
27 November–1 December 2023 | New York, USA
Sixth substantive session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Information and Communications Technologies
11–15 December 2023 | New York, USA
Meeting of States Parties of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
11–13 December 2023 | Geneva, Switzerland
Events and webinars
16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence
25 November–10 December 2023
Global Day of Action Against Nuclear Weapons
26 November 2023
The New Manhattan Project: A Concert for Nuclear Abolition
27 November 2023 | New York, USA
Abolishing Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Weapons: Live Update from COP28 to 2MSP!
30 November 2023 | New York, USA and online
Weaving a Transoceanic Web: Anti-Nuclear Solidarities between Greenham Women and Indigenous Communities
6 October–20 January | Glasgow, UK
Russia's nuclear threats under scrutiny at the Human Rights Council
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process whereby approximately every five years, each Member State of the United Nations undergoes a review of its human rights record. Ahead of the review of Russia’s human rights record on 13 November, WILPF submitted to the UN two reports, one of which is a joint submission with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The joint report by WILPF and ICAN not only decries Russia’s recent nuclear threats, but also recalls its violations of international law linked to previous nuclear testing and its actions undermining global nuclear disarmament efforts. It calls for accountability and redress for victims of Soviet-era nuclear tests, underscoring the enduring environmental and health impacts, particularly on Indigenous Peoples’ lands in Kazakhstan and Siberia.
United States published new plan for modernisation and increase of nuclear arsenal
Following the plan agreed in late 2010 by former US President Obama to modernise the entire nuclear weapons establishment, a new plan for radical increase in scale and pace of modernisation is being proposed by an influential bipartisan group appointed by Congress, as laid out in the The Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. The report claims that if the US does not greatly increase its nuclear weapons efforts over the 2027-2035 period, "deterrence" vis-a-vis Russia and China will be lost.
In addition, the US State Department has announced that it is renaming its Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance to the “Bureau of Arms Control, Deterrence, and Stability,” in order to “address emerging 21st century national security challenges.”
Recent updates regarding nuclear arms control agreements
The United States and China held consultations on arms control in Washington earlier this month. As the Wall Street Journal reported on 1 November, the new meetings, according to the US administration, will primarily tackle possible ways to prevent misunderstandings in the sphere of strategic stability between Washington and Beijing.
Meanwhile, NATO member states signatories to the Treaty of Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), signed in November 1990 aimed at preventing Cold War rivals from massing forces at or near their mutual borders, have frozen their participation in the pact on 7 November, just hours after Russia pulled out. Last month, Russia also withdrew its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The escalation of nuclear tensions in the Korean Peninsula has further intensified with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) enshrining nuclear weapons in its constitution in response to deepening nuclear cooperation between the United States, Republic of Korea (ROK), and Japan. The DPRK also said it would accelerate production of nuclear weapons to “deter” the US. This follows threats earlier this month from the ROK to destroy the DPRK if it uses nuclear weapons.
Widespread use of explosive weapons in Gaza
Over the last month, the world is watching the destruction of the Gaza Strip by Israel, in particular from its extensive use of explosive weapons. On 8 November, the UN Secretary-General said that the number of civilians killed in the Gaza Strip shows that there is something "clearly wrong" with Israel's military operations. Over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed and 27,000 have been injured in the Gaza Strip, the majority as a result of bombing. Images and graphics published by Al Jazeera show the scale of destruction due to the use of explosive weapons in Gaza, a densely populated area. The International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW), in an open letter published last month, called on both Israel and Palestinian armed groups to stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) due to the high risk of harm to civilians. INEW also called on the 83 states that have endorsed the Political Declaration on EWIPA to make good on their undertaking to “actively promote the Declaration” and to “seek adherence to its commitments” by the parties to the conflict, including through their public statements, as a means to strengthen the protection of civilians.
Human Rights Watch has also reported the use of white phosphorus in Gaza and Lebanon by Israel. According to the organisation, “The use of white phosphorus in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, magnifies the risk to civilians and violates the international humanitarian law prohibition on putting civilians at unnecessary risk.”
Activists around the world take direct actions against the transfer of weapons to Israel
In light of the genocide taking place in Palestine, activists around the world have been organising against the transfer of weapons to Israel. In addition to protests happening globally, a series of direct actions have been taking place. Among many others, activists blocked a Toronto company that arms Israel, dozens of activists blocked the entrance to Raytheon's Tucson offices; Belgian transport unions refused to load and unload weapons going to Israel; activists protested against an US military vessel destined to take military equipment to Israel at the Port of Oakland; activists have shut down Elbit’s facility in Cambridge; and many more.
Activists gather in Atlanta to Stop Cop City
On 10–13 November, opponents of Cop City gathered in the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta, Georgia, USA for a mass nonviolent direct action. For years, activists working to Stop Cop City have mobilised thousands of people to prevent the construction of a police training centre that will destroy the environment and lead to increased police brutality and militarisation. With this most recent set of actions, organisers are also explicitly acting in solidarity with Palestinians, recognising the training exchanges between US and Israeli police forces, and that many of Cop City’s corporate funders, including Coca Cola and Bank of America, are also financially supporting the Israeli Occupying Forces. The Block Cop City Statement of Solidarity notes, “The future of policing envisioned by these institutions can already be gleaned from the wreckage in Gaza. Though dwarfed in scale by the Israeli military’s genocidal brutality, the Atlanta PD, GBI, and Georgia AG have already deployed similar tactics of draconian state violence and collective punishment against Stop Cop City activists. As we head into a future of even starker inequality, civil unrest, and climate crisis, the rich are preparing to turn their communities into Tel Aviv while they turn ours into Gaza. Thus, the struggle to free Palestine is integral to the struggle to free us all.”
War in Sudan grows amidst civilian suffering
In Sudan, since the eruption of the conflict on 15 April 2023, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have repeatedly used explosive weapons in populated areas that have caused loss of civilian life and property, damaged critical infrastructure, and left millions without access to basic necessities. The conflict has killed up to 9,000 people and left 25 million people—more than half of the country’s population—in need of humanitarian aid.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned on 7 November that “the war between rival militaries in Sudan is growing in scope and brutality, having driven almost six million people from their homes since it erupted in April and worsening an already complex humanitarian emergency.” The devastating impacts on civilians of bombing and shelling in Sudan’s towns and cities were analysed in this piece published by INEW’s Explosive Weapons Monitor.
Applications are open for the Youth Seminar on EWIPA
Mines Action Canada announced an in-person youth seminar on EWIPA and campaigning in London, England from 26–29 February. The EWIPA Youth Seminar is a training and capacity building program for young people ages 18 to 30 to increase youth participation in the EWIPA Political Declaration. The Seminar will include training sessions on topics like the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons used in populated areas, the Political Declaration, advocacy, leadership, campaigning, talking to decision makers and communications.
Thanks to support from the Government of the United Kingdom, Mines Action Canada is providing full sponsorship for twelve youth to attend this seminar. Please share this call for applications with young people in your network. The application form is here. The reference form to be completed by a member of INEW is available for download here. The application deadline is 1 December 2023.
Open call for papers and panels for for the Conference “Africans against the Bomb”
The organisers of the Conference “Africans against the Bomb,” to be held in August 2024, have announced an open call for papers and panels dealing with, but not limited to: African nations’ role in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW); Uranium mining in Africa; South Africa’s nuclear weapons program; Libya’s nuclear weapons program; Nuclear testing in Africa; The effects of decolonization movements on the nuclear arms race; African leaders’ resistance to nuclear weapons; and Africa and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Applications must be submitted no later than 3 December 2023, midnight CET. Check out the conference website for further information.
Investigation about use of spyware in Europe reveals failure in attempts to address the issue
A new investigation into the global surveillance crisis by the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) media network, with technical assistance from Amnesty International’s Security Lab, reveals the spread of invasive spyware in Europe and how ineffective EU regulation has been in controlling it. The investigation “Predator Files” focuses on the “Intellexa alliance”—a complex, morphing group of interconnected companies—and Predator, its highly invasive spyware. According to Amnesty, “Intellexa alliance’s products have been found in at least 25 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa and have been used to undermine human rights, press freedom, and social movements across the globe.”
Michael Spies, “A human-centered approach to outer space security: how to boost UN efforts in the near-term,” ICRC, 9 November 2023
Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda, Eliana Johns, and Mackenzie Knight, “Nuclear weapons sharing,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 8 November 2023
Alicia Inez Guzmán, “Chess, cards and catnaps in the heart of America’s nuclear weapons complex,” Searchlight New Mexico, 8 November 2023
Laura Rose Brown, “Feminist Foreign Policy and Nuclear Weapons: Contributions and Implications,” EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Consortium, November 2023
Neil Davison, “A humanitarian perspective on military AI,” ICRC, 31 October 2023
Wim Zwijnenburg, “Military Drones as the Weapons of Choice in Iraq,” PAX, 30 October 2023
Ellie Shackleton, “Fixing a Climate Agreement Blind Spot,” Reinventing Peace, 30 October 2023
Harvard Law School’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI), “Humanitarian Disarmament,” 30 October 2023
Susan Aboeid, “Consigning Cluster Munitions to the Past,” Humanitarian Disarmament, 11 October 2023
Nivedita Raju and Dr Wilfred Wan, “Towards an agenda for gender perspectives in space security,” SIPRI, 10 October 2023
Dawn Feminist, “The consequences of nuclear testing on women’s rights in French Polynesia MĀ’OHI NUI,” 6 October 2023
Nic MacLellan, “French criticism of nuclear ban treaty highlights Canberra’s dilemma,” The Interpreter, 2 October 2023
Tatsujiro Suzuki, “Why Japan should stop its Fukushima nuclear wastewater ocean release,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 22 September 2023
Nico Edwards, “Foreign Policy for Ecological Justice or Ecological Colonialism? Troubling US and German Eco-Militarized Relations with Israel,” PRISME, Fall 2023