Key Developments in Humanitarian Disarmament: News from First Committee

This month’s overview of key developments in humanitarian disarmament focuses on the outcomes of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security and the events and publications surrounding it.

Robot mascot of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots brings message to United Nations in New York.
Credit: Ari Beser, 2019

In case you missed it:

  • First Committee met from October 7-November 8 in New York. The committee adopted more than 60 resolutions on disarmament topics. Reaching Critical Will provided detailed updates here. Highlights of the meeting include states:
    • Adopting a resolution calling upon all states that have yet to do so to sign and ratify the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as soon as possible;
    • Generally agreeing on the need to continue discussions about lethal autonomous weapons systems in the forum of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, with a few states identifying the CCW Sixth Review Conference in 2021 as a deadline for producing a credible outcome;
    • Urging parties to an armed conflict to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas; and
    • Calling for improved implementation and greater universalization of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions; and 2013 Arms Trade Treaty.
  • Norwegian People’s Aid launched the 2019 Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor at an October 16 side event during the UN General Assembly.  The Monitor tracks progress towards a nuclear weapons-free world by looking at the status of adoption and implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The findings of the 2019 Monitor include that 135 states have expressed support for the treaty by signing, ratifying, or voting to adopt it; 155 states currently adhere to policies and practices that comply with all of the treaty’s core obligations; and the remaining states are either nuclear armed or “nuclear weapon complicit.”
  • Civil society advocates from around the globe convened in New York for their annual Humanitarian Disarmament Forum on October 19-20. Organized by the Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas, this year’s forum focused on promoting advocacy at the regional and national level.
  • Discussions about the legal and ethical problems posed by lethal autonomous weapons systems (popularly known as “killer robots”) featured in the October 20 Season 6, Episode 3 of Madam Secretary, a popular American drama series. The script writers invited Human Rights Watch staff members to meet in June to discuss the issues surrounding killer robots.
  • On October 20, a friendly robot that is the mascot of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots wheeled into the UN and the First Committee room for a side event featuring a Nobel Peace Laureate, a Colombian scout and youth campaigner, and a tech worker.
  • The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and the Dutch organization PAX released a new report, Beyond the Bomb: Global Exclusion of Nuclear Weapons Producers, on October 21. The report finds that 77 financial institutions restrict investments in nuclear weapons producers, an increase of 14 since last year.

In November, disarmament action will shift across the Atlantic to CCW meetings and an explosive weapons in populated areas conference in Geneva and to the Mine Ban Treaty’s Fourth Review Conference in Oslo.