Key Developments in Humanitarian Disarmament: Monitors and Meetings

Lan Mei, Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative 

This past month saw the launch of a new explosive weapons monitoring initiative, which will join the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor, the ATT Monitor, and the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor in tracking progress towards humanitarian disarmament. Other notable moments included virtual meetings on landmines and killer robots and the 75th anniversary of the commencement of the US nuclear testing program in the Pacific. 

Image of first nuclear weapons test conducted by the US in the pacific 75 years ago.
The United States conducted its first nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific 75 years ago this month. The test in this photograph took place at Bikini Atoll, now part of the Marshall Islands, on July 25, 1946.
Credit: US Department of Defense, 1946.

In case you missed it:

  • On June 14, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released the SIPRI Yearbook 2021, which analyses current data on armaments, disarmament, and international security. One key finding of the Yearbook was that although the total size of nuclear arsenals has decreased since 2020, there has been an increase in the number of deployed nuclear warheads. The Yearbook also found that despite rising military spending, the past year saw a decline in the number of deaths due to armed conflict.
  • On June 21, the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) announced the launch of its new Explosive Weapons Monitor. The Monitor will analyze data on and trends in explosive weapons use and impacts, as well as state actions taken to address such harms. A monthly bulletin is currently available and a full launch of the Monitor will take place in 2022. 
  • INEW published a new briefing on June 30 outlining ten elements for a successful political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The briefing suggests ways to strengthen the language in the current draft of the political declaration. Those interested in more information about explosive weapons can take the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs’ (UNODA) short course on the topic. 
  • States parties to the Mine Ban Treaty convened for intersessional meetings from June 22-24. At the virtual meetings, states parties and civil society participants exchanged views on thematic areas including stockpile destruction, universalization, establishing a central database for victim assistance, integrating gender considerations into implementation of the convention, and strengthening compliance measures. 
  • On June 24, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines issued a statement expressing concern about “reports of new antipersonnel mine use and civilian casualties due to landmines and other explosive ordnance in Myanmar.” It called on Myanmar to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty.  
  • Although the next Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts Meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems was postponed to August, informal online consultations on the topic were held from June 28-July 2. At the consultations, a majority of states as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots called for a legal framework with both prohibitions and positive obligations to govern autonomous weapon systems. One notable exception was the United States, which rejected both the idea of a prohibition on fully autonomous weapon systems as well as the position that autonomous weapons should be prohibited from targeting human beings. Written contributions to the informal meetings can be found on the UNODA website here, and a summary from Reaching Critical Will is available here
  • July 1 marked the 75th anniversary of the US’s first nuclear weapons test over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Nuclear testing from 1946-1958 devastated the Marshall Islands, causing radiation poisoning and birth defects, internal displacement, and severe environmental contamination. Some islands were completely “vapourised.” 
  • The Seychelles ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on July 9, becoming the 55th state party to the treaty. 
  • To help states parties to the TPNW prepare for their First Meeting of States Parties, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic issued fact sheets on July 14 on how to implement the treaty’s obligations on victim assistance and environmental remediation.  

The CCW Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems is scheduled to meet in Geneva from August 3-13, and the Seventh Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty will take place from August 30-September 3. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, originally scheduled for August 2021, has been postponed to 2022.