Race and Intersectionality in Humanitarian Disarmament: First Committee Statement

At a remote session of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, held on October 8, 2021, nongovernmental organizations presented statements on a range of topics, including the arms trade, autonomous weapons, cluster munitions, landmines, nuclear weapons, and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. 

Farah Bogani delivers civil society statement at First Committee.
 Farah Bogani delivers civil society statement on humanitarian disarmament at First Committee.

Farah Bogani of Campaign to Stop Killer Robots delivered the following civil society statement on humanitarian disarmament. The statement was produced by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and Soka Gakkai International, the organizers of this year’s civil society Humanitarian Disarmament Forum, which dealt with themes of race and intersectionality. The statement was supported by the 96 nongovernmental organizations listed below. 

As protests and discussions of racism and anti-blackness swept across the world following the murder of George Floyd last year, the humanitarian disarmament community has had to turn its gaze inwards to question and investigate how we advance peace and security. As tools of colonial and imperial power, weapons that fuel war and conflict disproportionately affect marginalized and vulnerable groups of different races, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, socioeconomic status, faiths, and other social identities. Far from being limited to individual beliefs or acts of discrimination happening in some countries, structural racism and systemic oppression manifests in varied forms across all states. As a result, the global community is neither immune to its effects nor absolved of its role in being complicit and upholding current structures of power.

Nuclear weapons testing has displaced Indigenous and Pacific Islander communities, rendering their lands unsafe, uninhabitable, and toxic. Targeted killings and strikes by armed drones perpetuate gendered and racial biases in a vacuum of legal justification. Algorithmic bias in autonomous weapons systems risks entrenching historical systems of oppression, exacerbating inequality, and upholding disproportionate structures of power. The production, transfer, and use of arms facilitates and increases incidences of gender-based violence. Providing victim assistance is vital to address the challenges of care and support faced by victims and survivors with disabilities sustained from landmines and cluster munitions.

Racism, intersected with other systems of oppression, is upheld by structures of imperialist, colonialist, patriarchal, and white supremacist power. It is, in a manner of speaking, its own weapon of destruction. It poses a direct threat to the core values enshrined in international law: human rights, equality, peace, security, and human dignity. These values are strengthened by the humanitarian disarmament approach that centres freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom from indignity as the pillars of human security.

Taking an anti-racist, intersectional perspective to humanitarian disarmament is therefore fundamental for centring human security and peace, by understanding not only how people are affected by the use of these weapons but which communities will bear the burden of suffering and the aftermath. It is necessary that we question whose voices are valued in disarmament; whose voices lead the conversations and develop the policies; and whose voices, experiences, and expertise are missing from these spaces and processes.

Racial assumptions and unconscious biases in law, policy, and decision-making have a serious impact on disarmament. That a deliberate and intentional anti-racist approach has not been central to disarmament, even till today, is a monumental oversight. Without addressing these assumptions and biases, vulnerable communities and people will continue to be disproportionately affected by violence caused by weapons systems.

A future of peace and security that upholds human dignity and equality demands that we dismantle the systems of oppression and racism that both propel violence and conflict, and are perpetuated by the use of weapons.

In doing so, we make clear that the future we want is not about the weapons but truly about the people.

This statement was drafted by Farah Bogani, with input from Isabelle Jones, Clare Conboy, and Ousman Noor of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, and Hayley Ramsay-Jones of Soka Gakkai International.

Supporting organizations (by time of delivery on October 8, 2021):

  1. Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy (AIDD)
  2. Action for Women and Children Concern (AWCC) Somalia
  3. Action on Armed Violence (AOAV)
  4. Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (ALSO) 
  5. Amnesty International
  6. Ethics in Technology 
  7. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
  8. Environmental Protection Promoters Initiative -EPPI
  9. Poverty and Associated Maladies Alleviation Initiative (PAMAI), Nigeria
  10. Peace Movement Aotearoa
  11. Aotearoa New Zealand Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
  12. PEAC Institute – Peace | Education | Art | Communication
  13. PAX 
  14. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Ghana
  15. Sustainable Peace and Development Organization (SPADO), Pakistan
  16. Centro de Estudios Ecuménicos, (CEE), México 
  17. Veterans For Peace Golden Rule Project
  18. Somali Human Rights Association -SOMALIA 
  19. Reverse The Trend: Save Our People, Save Our Planet
  20. NuclearBan.US
  21. TreatyAwareness.US 
  22. Peace Boat
  23. Indian Institute for Peace Disarmament & Environmental Protection 
  25. Zambian Network For Human Rights Defenders
  26. Campaign to Stop Killer Robots – Hungary activist network
  27. Corruption Tracker 
  28. United Nations Association – UK
  29. Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS)
  30. Secure Scotland
  31. Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Nuclear Disarmament
  32. RAJA/SENEGAL(Réseau des Anciens Jécistes d’Afrique/ Senegal)
  33. The Norwegian Peace Council
  34. Conflict and Environment Observatory
  35. Bill Kidd, Member of the Scottish Parliament
  36. Senzatomica
  37. Nonviolence International Southeast Asia
  38. Mines Advisory Group (MAG)
  39. Committee of 100 in Finland
  40. LABRATS International 
  41. Facing Finance
  42. IM Swedish Development Partner 
  43. Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
  44. Soka Gakkai International
  45. Campagna Italiana contro le mine 
  46. International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
  47. Control Arms Coalition 
  48. International Campaign to Ban Landmines – Cluster Munition Coalition
  49. Pax Christi Scotland
  50. Women’s Institute for Alternative Development
  51. Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA)
  52. Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines (CCCM)
  53. Project Ploughshares 
  54. Instituto Sou da Paz
  55. Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft – Vereinigte Kriegsdienstgegner*innen (DFG-VK) 
  56. Vision GRAM-International
  57. Mines Action Canada
  58. Africa Centre for Security, Governance & Research (ACSGRE), Kenya
  59. Medact
  61. Article 36
  62. Saferworld
  63. WILPF Zimbabwe
  64. Lea Launokari, Women for Peace, Finland
  65. Ulla Klötzer, Women Against Nuclear Power, Finland
  66. Plataforma CIPÓ
  67. Seguridad Humana en América Latina y el Caribe (SEHLAC)
  68. World BEYOND War 
  69. ECPAT Guatemala
  70. Human Rights Watch
  71. Harvard Law School’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative
  72. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos
  73. People’s Federation for National Peace and Development (PEFENAP)
  74. CPG Nuclear Disarmament, Scottish Parliament
  75. Sri-Lankan Doctors for Peace and Development IPPNW Affiliate
  77. Vancouver Association for the Survivors of Torture (VAST) 
  78. Global Thought MX 
  79. Physicians for Social Responsibility, USA
  80. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)
  81. Foundation for Peace and Democracy
  82. International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Australia)
  83. Environmentalists Against War
  84. SafeGround Inc

Additional supporting organizations (updated October 13, 2021)

  1. Humanity and Inclusion
  2. WCAPS, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security, Conflict Transformation
  3. ICAN Kurdistan Network-IKN
  4. Organization Against Weapons of Mass Destruction in Kurdistan
  5. Anfal Stories Organization
  6. Kurdistan without Genocide
  7. Organization of the Justice Campaign
  8. Kurdish Organizations Network Coalition for the International Criminal Court (KON_CICC)
  9. Halabja Chemical Victims society
  10. Association of Defending the Anfal Victims and Their Families
  11. A world without chemical and biological weapons-www
  12. WILPF Lebanon
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