Tag Archives: Reaching Critical Will

Global Day of Action on Military Spending

Today is the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) , as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute released the numbers for the world’s military spending in 2013!

The Reaching Critical Will Project plan to post an analysis on their website that talks about the general trends and makes some suggestions on what could be done with the money instead.

WILPF International have also posted a blog on their website which provides a country level perspective on alternative uses for the military spend monies.

Australia’s response to this is not yet included. What would you suggest?



A new Report by the WILPF project Reaching Critical Will was launched this month arguing that although the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been important, its structural weakness are becoming more significant and it is time to address them.  In particular its time to look at how we can move forward on the possession of nuclear weapons themselves and not just regulate who has access and on what terms.

Here is the report’s conclusion:

Forty-three years since the entry into force of the NPT, the international community is facing significant challenges around nuclear weapons.  If not addressed, the core principles of the NPT and the existing norms constraining nuclear weapons could be weakened or even lost. There is an urgent need to reinforce the principles of the NPT by addressing the fundamental problems facing the treaty. A treaty banning nuclear weapons could be instrumental in this regard.

The preamble of the NPT is explicit in its objective of facilitating “the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons,” “the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles,” and the elimination of all nuclear weapon delivery systems. Yet the operative paragraph dealing with nuclear disarmament is comparatively vague.

Banning nuclear weapons would promote each of the goals and obligations as set forth by the NPT. It would make operational the Treaty’s goal of achieving a nuclear weapons free world and ensure that its non- proliferation aspirations are thoroughly supported.

It has been 68 years since nuclear weapons were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. The continued possession of nuclear weapons undermines the existing non-proliferation regime and presents a significant risk that nuclear weapons will be used again one day. It is time to establish a legal standard against the use, possession and development of nuclear weapons. This will change the political and economic landscape that currently allows some states to remain nuclear-armed.

This is clearly a direct and strong challenge to the status quo around nuclear weapons where the nuclear armed state parties have been able to portray themselves as moral actors on the world stage without much pushback.  In fact the report notes that the 5 nuclear armed state parties currently dominate NPT discussions thus ensuring that the focus remains on non-proliferation and not on possession and nuclear disarmament.

The report notes that nuclear-armed states are uncomfortable with any discussion about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons:

These discussions are challenging because they highlight how unconscionable it is for anyone to possess these weapons. By moving ahead with a ban on nuclear weapons, non-nuclear-armed states are setting the stage to change the status quo in discourse and elaborate an explicit legal standard prohibiting these weapons.

The nuclear-armed countries have so far faced no effective pressure to advance with their disarmament commitments within the NPT context or other UN fora, because they can veto or ignore decisions to which they object. Banning nuclear weapons without expecting their consent will remove a key obstacle to progress—the veto—and empower non-nuclear-armed states to make effective change.

The World’s first ever Arms Trade Treaty: What will it mean?

On the 2nd of April, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve a pioneering treaty aimed at regulating the enormous global trade in conventional weapons.  This is an industry with an estimated annual revenue of US $70 billion.

For the first time we have a global commitment to link the sale of arms the human rights records of the buyers. The Treaty calls for sales to be evaluated on whether the weapons will be used to break humanitarian law, foment genocide or war crimes, abet terrorism or organized crime or slaughter women and children.

Members of the General Assembly voted 154 to 3 to approve the Arms Trade Treaty, with 23 abstentions — many from nations with dubious recent human rights records like Bahrain, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The Treaty covers tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber weapons, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and launchers, small arms and light weapons. Ammunition exports are subject to the same criteria as the other war material.

It is scheduled to go into effect after 50 nations have ratified it. Given the overwhelming vote, diplomats anticipated that it could go into effect in two to three years, relative quickly for an international treaty.

Throughout the negotiations WILPF played a significant role in negotiating the Treaty provisions relating to gender based violence.

It ran a campaign during the ATT process to make prevention of gender-based violence legally binding in the Treaty and pushed for recognition of the link between weapons and gender-based violence.

Responses from the Peace community

Many supporters conceded that the highly complicated negotiations forced compromises that left significant loopholes. The Treaty focuses on sales, for example, and not on all the ways in which conventional arms are transferred, including as gifts, loans, leases and aid.  It also does not include non state actors.

Having the abstentions from two major arms exporters lessens the moral weight of the treaty. … By abstaining they have left their options open.

– Nic Marsh, Peace Research Institute in Oslo

This is a very good framework to build on … But it is only a framework.

– Peter Woolcott, Australian diplomat who presided over the negotiations

The treaty comes at a time when the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons has become extremely complicated.  More is known about the number of nuclear warheads, stocks of chemical weapons and transfers of major conventional weapons than about small arms. The small arms industry appears to be fragmented. More than 1,000 companies in about 100 countries are involved in some aspect of small arms production, with significant producers in around 30 countries.

– Small Arms Survey

The Arms Trade Treaty provides a powerful alternative to the body bag approach currently used to respond to humanitarian crises. Today nations enact arms embargoes in response to humanitarian crises only after a mass loss of life. The treaty prohibits the weapon sales in the first place.

– Ray Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America.

The world has been waiting a long time for this historic treaty. After long years of campaigning, most states have agreed to adopt a global treaty that can prevent the flow of arms into countries where they will be used to commit atrocities.

– Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights, Amnesty International

The UN Arms Trade Treaty Treaty makes it illegal to sell weapons if there is risk of gender-based violence.  [It] is the first ever treaty that recognizes the link between gender-based violence and the international arms trade.

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) welcomes the adoption of the treaty as a first step towards regulating international transfers of arms. However, the organization cautions that the treaty not sufficiently robust or comprehensive. The risk of legitimizing the international arms trade, especially irresponsible transfers, must be avoided through careful interpretation and implementation.

             – Reaching Critical Will a program of WILPF International

Weapons increase the risk of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, and impede women’s political participation around the world. The Treaty’s explicit provision on gender-based violence not only recognizes the links between such violence and the arms trade, but makes it illegal to transfer weapons if there is a risk, for example, that the weapons will be used to facilitate rape. 

– Ray Acheson, Head of WILPF Arms Trade Treaty work.

Treaty still has limitations and loopholes.  While the adopted ATT text is stronger than previous drafts, it still contains substantial limitations and loopholes. As the treaty was negotiated between all countries in the world under the rule of consensus, the treaty’s scope is narrow, providing only for consideration of a limited number of weapon systems. Its provisions covering ammunition, munitions, parts, and components are not comprehensive and it does not legally mandate states to increase transparency in the international arms trade. The treaty does not address concerns that major exporters themselves sometimes use arms to engage in violations of human rights or crimes of aggression.

However, the ATT text is only a starting point. The ATT process has shown a significant international mobilization against the negative humanitarian and human rights impacts of the international arms trade. Now, we must implement it with the strongest possible interpretation in order to do what the treaty first set out to do, reduce human suffering.

Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General of WILPF


Latest update from Reaching Critical Will on the Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations – Disappointing

Ray Acheson of Reaching Critical Will – a WILPF sponsored program –  has prepared a useful summary of the progress on Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).  The title says it all The second draft: a treaty behind its time.

To read the summary go to http://ht.ly/joGk6


He reports that the President’s second draft of the arms trade treaty (ATT) released Friday evening fails to resolve almost all of the major problems in the draft text and as it stands is ultimately inadequate to truly prevent human suffering or enhance peace and security.

If adopted as is, it will provide legal cover for states to sell arms regardless of the consequences for human lives and well-being, for true peace and security.

In his assessment the draft text

“still retains vague and ambiguous obligations such as “measures may include”, “where necessary and feasible”, “as appropriate”, “encouraged to”, etc. A general reading of the text is still less like a binding treaty and more like a political declaration or resolution.

In some cases …the provisions of the treaty undermine existing international obligations. This is unacceptable and such issues must be fixed if this treaty is to be adopted. The vast majority of states have demanded changes to strengthen the treaty that are not reflected in this draft. National positions of just a few countries cannot allow international law to be eroded just so that they can continue profiting from poor regulation.

The ATT could be a constructive element in a larger human security architecture. Instead, it is being used to perpetuate the status quo of irresponsible arms transfers and an outdated concept of state-centric security. This concept no longer makes sense in our interconnected world where policies that enhance human security are much better suited to addressing current challenges.

In short, this treaty as currently drafted is behind its time. If it is not substantially fixed by the end of this week, it will represent a tragically lost opportunity.

[PDF] (0.98 MB)