Key Developments in Humanitarian Disarmament: A Multi-Issue Month

November was another busy month in the disarmament world, with high-level meetings and the release of major reports on killer robots, explosive weapons, nuclear weapons, and landmines, among others. In case you missed it:

“Finish the Job” water bottle in Oslo during the Fourth Mine Ban Treaty Review Conference.
Credit: ICBL, 2019
  • On November 13, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) released Schools of Mass Destruction: American Universities in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex, a report documenting the involvement of about 50 U.S. universities in the research and development of nuclear weapons, through direct management of and partnership with laboratories that design the weapons. The report calls on these universities to stop their complicity in the development and use of nuclear weapons and to reinvest their funding into non-proliferation and environmental remediation efforts.
  • The 2019 Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) took place from November 13-15 in Geneva. Reaching Critical Will’s  detailed report on the CCW meeting can be found here, but key developments include:
    • CCW states parties agreed that the Group of Governmental Experts will meet again in 2020 and 2021 to explore “possible recommendations on options related to emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems.” Civil society criticized CCW diplomacy for moving at “a snail’s pace.”
    • PAX released a new report finding that the majority of European states agree on the “urgent need to work towards concrete policy measures” to address killer robots, and another report detailing the role of the arms industry in the increasing autonomy of weapons.  
    • Despite strong support for further discussions of incendiary weapons and mines other than antipersonnel mines, the objections of just a few states kept the topics off the 2020 CCW agenda because the meeting was operating on the basis of consensus.
    • For the first time, CCW states parties negotiated part of the final conference report behind closed doors, excluding participants from international and nongovernmental organizations.
  • On November 18, Ireland convened states in Geneva for an initial round of open consultations on a new political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. States presented their recommendations for elements of the declaration, and Ireland expects to release a draft text in mid-January, with the aim of concluding the process by May or June. Reaching Critical Will’s more detailed description of the discussions can be found here.
    • At the meeting, Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic released a joint report, A Commitment to Civilians: Precedent for a Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, that identified key elements of a new declaration, drawing on precedent from existing declarations.
  • From November 18-22, the UN hosted a Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and All Other Weapons of Mass Destruction. All Middle East states except Israel, plus four nuclear-armed states (China, France, Russia, and the UK), participated and adopted a declaration re-affirming the intention to negotiate a legally binding instrument. 
  • On November 21, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines published the Landmine Monitor 2019, which included a 20-year review of efforts to implement the Mine Ban Treaty, the first humanitarian disarmament instrument.
  • The 24th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention took place from November 25-29 in The Hague.
  • More than 700 diplomats, advocates, and survivors convened in Oslo for the Fourth Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty from November 25-29. At the conclusion of the conference, states parties re-affirmed their commitment to a mine-free world, adopting a global action plan to ensure that treaty obligations are met by 2025. For more information, see this overview.