Hopes for Humanitarian Disarmament in 2019

January is a month not only to reflect on the achievements and disappointments of the past year but also to strategize for the coming one. We asked representatives of some humanitarian disarmament organizations about their hopes, goals, and plans for 2019. Their responses focused on the development of new norms and legal principles; engagement in national, regional, and international fora; and the intersection of disarmament with gender, the environment, and other global issues. Collectively, the responses highlight the promise 2019 holds for progress in humanitarian disarmament.

Erin Hunt, Mines Action Canada (Canada):

“In 2019 I would like to see increased recognition that humanitarian disarmament is a cross-cutting issue. The work done in this field has an impact not only on the security of communities but also on peace, gender equality, sustainable development, and environmental protection. We cannot make progress on many of these issues without addressing the harm caused by indiscriminate and inhumane weapons.”

Camilo Serna, Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas (Colombia):

“I hope that this year many more people from my continent will know about and support initiatives for humanitarian disarmament, pressing their governments to take concrete measures or support those that are already underway, such as the treaty banning killer robots.

Our organization has proposed several events with a national and regional focus, with the aim of disseminating and influencing local public policies that give impetus to humanitarian disarmament. We will be present in forums such as the OAS [Organization of American States] Assembly, we will hold meetings of regional networks, and we will coordinate the next Humanitarian Disarmament Forum, among others.”

Roos Boer, Susi Snyder, and Miriam Struyk, PAX (Netherlands):

PAX will continue to contribute to our collective humanitarian disarmament work to bring less conflict and more security for people around the world in 2019.

We look forward to seeing new norms emerge that pay attention to our environment in conflict, maintain meaningful human control on all weapons systems, and delegitimise all weapons of mass destruction. We look forward to seeing increased protection of civilians in populated areas from the harm of explosive weapons and norms to end arms transfers that clearly disregard human rights.

PAX will continue engaging across coalitions, and with partners and stakeholders in governments and the financial sector, to increase the impact of existing norms and to build new ones to protect people.

Paul Hannon, Mines Action Canada (Canada):

“For our oldest campaign, landmines, my hope is that the Review Conference this year of the Ottawa Treaty [Mine Ban Treaty] will effectively set the stage to #FinishTheJob for a #LandmineFree2025. For our newest campaign, killer robots, my hope is that the significant momentum that the campaign has created inspires the nations of the world to agree to begin negotiations on a new ban treaty. Naturally, I also hope and expect our other humanitarian campaigns will continue to have very impressive successes.”

Doug Weir, The Conflict and Environment Observatory (CEOBS) (United Kingdom):

“This year CEOBS will be expanding from two to five staff so it’s already a very significant year for us.… This is also going to be an exciting year for the legal framework protecting the environment in relation to armed conflicts.

A suite of draft principles under development by the International Law Commission since 2013 will receive their first reading in the autumn—after the Commission’s final principles on responsibility and liability for harm have been published and questions addressed over how the principles should apply to non-international armed conflicts. As a result, 2019 will be the first opportunity for states to consider the draft principles as a whole. Ensuring that governments at the UN General Assembly are fully briefed on why these principles are necessary—and how the Commission’s project as a whole could help plug serious gaps in the protection of civilians and the environment—will be one of our priorities for the year.”

Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) (International):

“I hope for a more feminist approach to disarmament this year. The patriarchal world order requires violence and weapons to sustain itself, and thus must be consistently challenged by intersectional feminists. At the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, we will continue to shine a light on how ideas about gender, race, and class affect policies around weapons and war, and to encourage activists and diplomats to work for alternative means of security that don’t require war profiteering, bombing, and the development of ever more ways to kill each other.”

For more in-depth pieces on disarmament issues in the coming year, see “Looking Ahead 2019,” a series produced by the Forum on the Arms Trade.