At a session of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, on October 13, 2022, 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.
Raluca Muresan of Control Arms delivered the following joint civil society statement on humanitarian disarmament. The statement was endorsed by 131 nongovernmental organizations, including 5 global campaigns, which are listed below.
The devasting effects of the war in Ukraine have dominated this year’s disarmament news, but there were also great achievements in the world of diplomacy and norm-setting. In the end, 2022 demonstrated both the need for and the possibilities of humanitarian disarmament.
This people-centered approach to governing weapons seeks to prevent and remediate the kind of arms-inflicted human suffering and environmental harm that has been evident every day in Ukraine and in many other conflicts that continue to rage around the world.
In Ukraine, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has caused the majority of the conflict’s more than 15,000 civilian casualties, according to UN figures. It has also leveled cities and towns and led to widespread displacement. Cluster munition attacks on residential neighborhoods have killed and injured civilians at the time of attack and left unexploded submunitions behind.
There has also been documented use of incendiary weapons and antipersonnel landmines. Attacks as well as damaged and abandoned materiel have led to a range of environmental harm. Conventional weapons have flowed into the conflict with a speed and volume that simply has no precedent.
Meanwhile, Russia has repeatedly threatened the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine and its allies, despite condemnation from around the world.
These reports underscore the need for greater efforts on the humanitarian disarmament front. Now more than ever, states must comply with their international obligations with absolute rigor. They must also promote, strengthen, and universalize existing disarmament law and create new law where appropriate.
Despite these challenges, 2022 has also seen moments of hope that show progress is possible in the development and implementation of international norms.
For example, states finalized a new political declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas in June, and Ireland will host an endorsement ceremony in November. The document, which goes beyond restating existing international humanitarian law, commits states to strengthen the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences of this method of war.
A few days later, the First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons demonstrated the viability of that treaty, adopting an action plan with strong steps for implementing its humanitarian obligations, including on victim assistance and environmental remediation.
This month, the UN General Assembly’s Sixth Committee is expected to adopt the groundbreaking Principles on Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflicts.
In addition, the Mine Ban Treaty is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its adoption, and the Convention on Cluster Munition has proven its worth by preventing states parties from transferring cluster munitions to their ally Ukraine. Across humanitarian disarmament fora, there has been greater attention to gender perspectives, including the relationship with the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda.
More work remains to be done. Words on paper need to be turned into practice in conflict zones like Ukraine, Yemen, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. In addition, there have been state threats to civil society involvement in international diplomatic forums, such as during talks on autonomous weapons systems at the Convention on Conventional Weapons and at Open-ended Working Group on Information and Communication Technology. The COVID-19 pandemic also continues to close civil society space. Furthermore, as discussed in last year’s First Committee statement on humanitarian disarmament, more attention should be paid to issues of race and intersectionality.
Despite the tremendous challenges we face, 2022 underscores the value and promise of a humanitarian approach to disarmament, which other speakers will elaborate on in their statements today.
Supporting global campaigns:
- Control Arms
- International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
- International Campaign to Ban Landmines-Cluster Munition Coalition
- International Network on Explosive Weapons
- Stop Killer Robots
Other supporting nongovernmental organizations:
- Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy
- Action for Women & Children Concern
- Action on Armed Violence
- African Council of Religious Leaders–Religions for Peace
- Amnesty International
- Amputee Selfhelp Network Uganda
- Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
- Aotearoa New Zealand Campaign to Stop Killer Robots
- Aotearoa New Zealand Campaign on Military Spending
- Aotearoa New Zealand Joint Working Group on Landmines and Cluster Munitions
- Aotearoa New Zealand Network on Militarisation of Children and Young Persons
- Aotearoa New Zealand Network on the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas
- Aotearoa New Zealand Women, Peace and Security Network
- Arab Human Security Network
- ASMAR Human Security Organization
- Assistance Mission for Africa
- Associazione Italiana Vittime Civili di Guerra
- Aurat Foundation
- Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines
- Campaign Against Arms Trade
- Campaign to Stop Killer Robots Activists Network–Hungary
- Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas
- Canadian Pugwash Group
- Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights
- Center for International Affairs Studies, Universidad de Buenos Aires
- Center for International Security and Policy, Kazakhstan.
- Center for Peace Education
- Center for Political Ecology
- Centre Delàs d’estudis per la Pau
- Centre for Supporters of Human Rights
- Centro de Estudios Ecuménicos–México
- Committee of 100 in Finland
- Conflict and Environment Observatory
- Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft–Vereinigte KriegsdienstgegnerInnen (DFG-VK)
- Disarmament and Arms Control–South Africa
- Droits Humains Sans Frontières
- Every Casualty Counts
- Facing Finance
- Fight For Humanity
- Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD Nigeria)
- Fundación Cultura de Paz (Foundation for a Culture of Peace)
- FundiPau (Foundation for Peace)
- FUNPADEM, Costa Rica (Foundation for Peace and Democracy)
- Gemeinsam gegen Landminen–GGL-Austria (Together against Landmines-Austria)
- Global Thought Mx
- Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic
- Humanity & Inclusion
- ICAN Aotearoa New Zealand
- Indian Institute for Peace, Disarmament & Environmental Protection
- Institute of International Studies, Universitas Gadjah Mada
- Instituto Sou da Paz
- InterAgency Institute
- International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons
- International Committee for Robot Arms Control
- Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
- Italian Campaign to Ban Landmines
- Jesuit Refugee Service
- Kingston and St Andrew Action Forum
- KNOW NUKES TOKYO
- Kurdistan Human Rights Association-Geneva
- Kurdistan Organizations’ Network to Abolish Nuclear and Mass Destruction Weapons
- Kurdistan without Genocide
- Landmines Resource Center Lebanon
- Mécanisme pour l’initiative de la Recherche de la Paix et le Développement (MI-RPD)
- Mines Action Canada
- Mines Advisory Group
- Minnesota Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions/MCBLCM
- Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Justice and Peace Centre (Australian Province)
- Mwatana for Human Rights
- Namibia NGO Forum Trust (NANGOF Trust)
- Naturefriends Greece
- Nepal Campaign to Ban Landmines
- Noble Delta Women for Peace and Development International
- Nonviolence International
- Nonviolence International Canada
- Norwegian Peoples Aid
- Norwegian Peace Association
- Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
- Nuclear Disarmament Group, Scottish Parliament
- Organization Against Weapons of Mass Destruction in Kurdistan
- Organization of the Justice Campaign
- Pax Christi-Asia Pacific
- Pax Christi Ireland
- Pax Christi Philippines
- Pax Christi Vlaanderen.
- Peace Boat
- Peace Angel Project
- Peace Movement Aotearoa
- Peoples Federation for National Peace and Development (PEFENAP)
- Plataforma CIPÓ (Brazil)
- Project Ploughshares
- PSALM: Proud Students Against Landmines and Cluster Bombs
- Reverse the Trend
- Science for Peace, University of Toronto
- Security Research and Information Centre
- Seguridad Humana en América Latina y el Caribe (SEHLAC)
- Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) of the Jesuits
- Soka Gakkai International
- Somali Human Rights Association (SOHRA)
- South Sudan Action Network on Small Arms (SSANSA)
- Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD)
- Survivors Recovery and Rehabilitation Organization
- Sustainable Peace and Development Organization
- Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (Svenska Freds- och Skiljedomsföreningen)
- Syrian Network for Human Rights
- Transcend Philipinas
- Uganda Landmine Survivors Association
- United Against Inhumanity
- United Nations Association of Sweden
- United Nations Association–UK
- Virtual Planet Africa
- West Virginia Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions
- White Helmets
- Women for Peace and Democracy Nepal
- Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
- World Federalist Movement–Canada
- World without Chemical and Biological Weapons
- Yemen Mine Awareness Association