Key Developments in Humanitarian Disarmament: A Humanitarian Disarmament Marathon Begins

Lan Mei, Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative

Pandemic-related postponements led to back-to-back meetings on cluster munitions and killer robots in September, followed immediately by the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. A look at the upcoming calendar suggests diplomats and civil society are only partway through the end-of-the-year disarmament marathon.

In case you missed it:

  • On September 15, the Cluster Munition Coalition published the Cluster Munition Monitor 2021, which examines the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions for the period August 2020-July 2021. The report found that no state party had used cluster munitions since the adoption of the convention, but Syria, Armenia, and Azerbaijan used the weapons during the reporting period, with unconfirmed allegations of use in Ethiopia as well. The Monitor found that two countries, China and Russia, were actively researching and developing new types of cluster munitions. More positively, states parties continued to make progress on stockpile destruction, clearance, and victim assistance.
  • The second part of the Second Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions took place from September 20-21 in a hybrid format in Geneva. The conference adopted the Lausanne Declaration and the Lausanne Action Plan 2021-2026. Although the conference failed to condemn any use of cluster munitions by any actor under any circumstances, language favored by most states parties, the final version of the declaration stated: “…in accordance with the object and provisions of the Convention, we condemn any use of cluster munitions by any actor, remaining steadfast in our determination to achieve a world entirely free of any use of these weapons.” The declaration and action plan also affirm states parties’ commitment to meeting their treaty obligations in a timely manner and preventing further victims of cluster munitions while ensuring assistance to and protecting the rights of cluster munitions survivors. Documents from the Second Review Conference are available here.
With other diplomats in the foreground, the photo depicts Ambassador Félix Baumann delivering a statement as President during the Second Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Ambassador Félix Baumann presides over the Second Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Credit: Cluster Munition Coalition, 2021
  • On September 23, Chile became the 56th state party to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
  • The second session of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on lethal autonomous weapons systems met in Geneva from September 24-October 1. Most of the meeting was dedicated to discussing a draft chair’s paper with elements of proposed recommendations to the December Review Conference. While some countries continued to argue that existing international humanitarian law is adequate, most high contracting parties, many in joint statements, called for a legally binding instrument to establish prohibitions and regulations on autonomous weapon systems, noting that a political declaration would be insufficient for such purposes. For more detailed analysis on the meeting, see Reaching Critical Will’s CCW Report.
The photo depicts a diplomat from the Philippines delivering a statement during the meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems.
The Philippines speaks at the Convention on Conventional Weapons meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems in September. Credit: Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, 2021
  • The UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security session began on October 4 and will continue through November 4. The first week of general debate is being followed by thematic discussions. In both general statements and the first week of thematic discussion, many states highlighted concerns over the progress of nuclear disarmament. Other topics being discussed include landmines, cluster munitions, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, lethal autonomous weapon systems, the arms trade, chemical and biological weapons, small arms and light weapons, outer space, and cybersecurity. More detailed information about the First Committee discussions can be found in Reaching Critical Will’s First Committee Monitor.
  • On October 11, Swedish insurance company Länsförsäkringar, which owns more than US$46 billion in assets, became the latest financial institution to ban investments in nuclear weapons. The company cited the TPNW as a reason for avoiding such investments.

On November 3, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and Soka Gakkai International will co-host Part 3 of the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum on Racism and Intersectionality; interested civil society participants can register here. The 19th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty will take place from November 15-19 in The Hague, the Netherlands. CCW high contracting parties will reconvene in December.