Negotiating the nuclear weapons ban in 2017

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On 27 October 2016 at the United Nations General Assembly, 123 countries made history when they voted in favor of a First Committee on Disarmament resolution agreeing to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons next year.

The resolution on “taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament” through negotiations in 2017 is the latest step for an initiative by countries united in their concern at the tremendous humanitarian consequences of any nuclear explosion. According to the resolution, the UN will convene conferences open to all member states in New York on 27-31 March and 15 June-7 July 2017 “to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” Continue reading Negotiating the nuclear weapons ban in 2017

Humanitarian disarmament in 2016

The host and conveners of the 2016 Humanitarian Disarmament Forum

The host and conveners of the 2016 Humanitarian Disarmament Forum

Five years on, the umbrella term “humanitarian disarmament” is still the appropriate title for the small community of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups working to protect civilians and humanity from the harmful effects of indiscriminate weapons and armed violence. This was one finding of the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum convened by Handicap International, Mines Action Canada, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) at PACE University in New York’s Lower Manhattan on 15-16 October 2016. Continue reading Humanitarian disarmament in 2016

Incendiary weapons condemned again


More than a dozen states have called for international law on incendiary weapons to be reviewed and strengthened in light of civilian casualties, particularly in Syria. Despite these statements and letters, no concrete action has been undertaken yet to address incendiary weapons concerns beyond condemning their use. Continue reading Incendiary weapons condemned again

Ending All-Male Panels


Mainstream media this week caught up on the Internet phenomenon of “all-male” panels or #manpanels when it discovered the “Congrats, you have an all male panel!” Tumblr site by Finnish academic Saara Särmä.  Most seemed drawn by the site’s effective use of humour in dishing out a “Hoffsome” Award to recipients, namely the participants in all-male panels at conferences, seminars and other events as well as contributors to publications and “various other things featuring all male experts.” Each submission to the Tumblr site receives a stamp featuring the “thumbs-up” from actor David Hasselhoff of Knight Rider fame, who Särmä described to TIME as “the epitome of a white masculinity.”

Humanitarian disarmament activists have been following the site for weeks now as all-male panels persist. Daily side event briefings held at this month’s Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York provide ample evidence that all-male panels still thrive in 21st Century disarmament diplomacy. Continue reading Ending All-Male Panels

A turmultuous yet productive year

2014 delivered increased turmoil resulting in civilian harm, especially in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. From nowhere, a new war began in the east of Ukraine across the border from Russia in which both sides have used explosive weapons in populated areas, including banned cluster munitions as well as Grad rockets, causing hundreds of civilian casualties and creating thousands of displaced persons. The Islamic State emerged to take control of northern Iraq and Syria, leaving weapons including booby traps and improvised explosive devices in its wake. Civilians in the Central African Republic continued to experience armed violence while “under-reported” conflicts saw prolonged civilian suffering.

In short, the world lurched from a very bad situation to an even worse one with increased civilian carnage and an overall inadequate diplomatic response at the United Nations (UN). But this year also saw bright moments of productivity for the community of likeminded governments, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) pursuing humanitarian disarmament. Continue reading A turmultuous yet productive year

Spring meetings on killer robots


Are major powers changing their approach in acting on humanitarian disarmament concerns? It seems unlikely, but one new indicator is seen in the unanimous support given to the first multilateral discussions to be held on the topic of “lethal autonomous weapons systems.” Continue reading Spring meetings on killer robots

Humanitarian disarmament in 2014


A busy year lies ahead for the community of activist governments, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to advance humanitarian disarmamentConcerns that the new Year of the Horse will see increasing turmoil look warranted as 2014 opened with armed violence taking lives in Central African Republic, South Sudan, and elsewhere, while the conflict in Syria grinds into its third year. Continue reading Humanitarian disarmament in 2014

Outrage at Syria’s incendiary weapons use


Since 2010, Human Rights Watch has been calling on governments to review the 30-year-old international protocol on incendiary weapons to better protect civilians, but its message sharpened considerably ahead of the annual meetings of the Convention on Conventional Weapons held at the United Nations in Geneva on 14-15 November 2013. “Where’s the outcry?” the non-governmental organization asked as it issued a report documenting more than 50 Syrian government attacks using incendiary weapons since November 2012. Continue reading Outrage at Syria’s incendiary weapons use

2013 disarmament committee highlights


A breach of protocol occurred at the United Nations on 21 October, when applause erupted from the civil society gallery high up at the back of the newly renovated meeting room where the General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security was meeting. It came as New Zealand’s Ambassador Dell Higgie read the full list of 124 nations that had endorsed a joint statement expressing support for a humanitarian process on nuclear weapons. Continue reading 2013 disarmament committee highlights

Chemical weapons ban in the spotlight


On Monday, 14 October 2013, the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force for the Syrian Arab Republic, where hundreds of civilians were killed by the weapons less than two months earlier. The arrival of the convention’s 190th state party caps off a remarkable month for international efforts to eradicate chemical weapons and marks another milestone in what has been a busy year for advocates of humanitarian disarmament. Continue reading Chemical weapons ban in the spotlight