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

Curbing explosive weapons in populated areas

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Over the past year, the Syrian government has used missiles, air-dropped bombs, mortars, rockets, artillery and other explosive weapons with wide-area effects, causing multiple civilian casualties and destroying homes and communities. Due to the nature of the weapons and the locations targeted, these kinds of attacks kill and injure civilians, damage infrastructure, and leave behind explosive remnants of war. Many now agree that it is now time for action to curb the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. Continue reading Curbing explosive weapons in populated areas

United Nations the next stop for killer robots


Less than one week after the launch of a new international Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a new UN report has called for a moratorium on “Lethal Autonomous Robotics,” weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention. Continue reading United Nations the next stop for killer robots

Busting consensus while staying in the UN


Something remarkable happened at the United Nations in New York on Thursday evening (March 28), when member states failed to adopt a long-sought treaty to regulate the arms trade. Politicians “deplored” the way in which agreement on the Arms Trade Treaty text had been “thwarted” by three of the world’s most abusive regimes: Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and Syria. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “disappointment,” describing the failure as a “setback.”

Yet despite the bluster this apparent defeat is in reality a double-win for everyone in favour of the Arms Trade Treaty and working to advance humanitarian disarmament. It’s also a great example of how international law can be achieved when sustained civil society pressure ensures governments stick to the plan and do what they have committed to do. Continue reading Busting consensus while staying in the UN

The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons


On 4-5 March 2013, a highly-anticipated conference to consider the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons was convened by Norway in Oslo. This write-up covers some of the highlights from this latest humanitarian disarmament initiative, which seeks to reframe the debate on nuclear weapons in humanitarian terms and initiate swift action by like-minded states in support of the abolition of nuclear weapons. Continue reading The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons