Archive | August, 2012

China and the CTBT: stepping up new responsibilities

24 Aug

Despite its commitment to a moratorium on nuclear testing and as an active participant in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty PrepCom, China remains reluctant to ratify the CTBT. Without Chinese (and the remaining eight annex-two nuclear states) ratification, the CTBT can never come into force. Like all nuclear weapon states (bar DPRK), China’s last test was in the 1990s. So what’s the hold up?

China’s position is that it will only ratify after the US does so; opponents of the CTBT in the US use China’s military rise as an excuse not to ratify: catch 22 – anybody?

There is no need to wait on the US. Russia didn’t. As a major world power and claim to a ‘peaceful rise’, China ought to live up to its rhetoric and step up its new responsibilities on the world stage. Tongji University’s Xia Liping (in The CTBT and China’s New Security Concept) makes the compelling case that the CTBT’s principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, particularly with regard to equality in international security are consistent with China’s 2002 New Security Concept. “China’s ratification of the CTBT would help to solidify China’s image as an open, transparent, and responsible nation, committed to following the road of peaceful development.”

Like the US – and fifteen years after China’s last test – there’s simply nothing to lose. Let China take the lead if the US won’t.

– Kees Keizer

Nothing to lose: the CTBT and US ratification

20 Aug

In September last year we discussed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and made the ironic connection that despite nuclear weapon testing having largely ceased, key states remain reluctant to sign the treaty. Indonesia has since ratified. That now leaves eight Annex Two states to ratify for the treaty to come into force.

So how about the US?

The US signed the CTBT in 1996 but was rejected by the senate three years later so has never been ratified. Back then, reservations were about US nuclear reliability (the potential need for future testing) and the difficulty of verification (how to ensure that other states abide by the treaty).

Since then, major strides have been made at both domestic and international level so these reservations can now safely be put aside. The National Research Council and the Stockpile Steward Program conclude that new technological capacity has advanced so far that physical testing is now unnecessary. Global monitoring for verification is also sufficient: with over 330 monitoring facilities having been brought together under the CTBTO umbrella. Sixty-one of these detected North Korea’s 1996 underground test.

Now without any excuse the US should go ahead and ratify the long overdue treaty. President Obama had ratification on the agenda early in his administration (during his famous Prague speech) but this was not realized. Many now believe that an Obama second term could see CTBT ratification returned to the agenda. A Romney administration could and should and could also pursue this.

The US would be placed in a better position should the treaty come into force, as global nuclear monitoring has the potential to become very powerful. And just to top things off, the US has not physically tested any nuclear weapon since 1992. There’s nothing to lose.

– Kees Keizer

“Caravan for Peace and Justice”- Profile of Activist Javier Sicilia

16 Aug

Global Action’s Media Consultant, Lia Petridis Maiello, has been busy undertaking a series of interviews for a forthcoming publication on the UN media structure and its functioning in the wider UN system. Lia recently interviewed Mexican political activist Javier Sicilia and his work on raising awareness around the drug war in Mexico. Javier is leading a “Caravan for Peace and Justice” across the continental US this summer and championing the “shared responsibility” of all in combating this dangerous trade.

For the full profile of Javier, please click here.

For more information on matching:points, our media project, please see our website.

Second Review Conference: Reviewing, Strengthening, and Energizing the PoA on small arms

15 Aug

As member states gather for the second Review Conference for the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA), a potentially contentious policy gap remains between those who emphasize only the implementation of the PoA and those who seek to strengthen the instrument itself. During the first Review Conference (Rev Con) in 2006, the PoA came close to collapse as divisions surfaced between those states wanting to expand its scope to include provisions on ammunition, civilian possession, and a prohibition on transfers to non-state actors and those that wished only to focus on implementation of the existing measures adopted in 2001. Concern that the PoA process would be permanently damaged was fortunately unfounded, although much of the attention devoted to the PoA was subsequently diverted to the arms trade treaty (ATT) process. The PoA process did received a welcome infusion of robustness following the successful (and first of its kind) 2011 Meeting of Governmental Experts (MGE) under the leadership of Ambassador McLay of New Zealand when practical and technical discussions were held regarding the PoA and the corresponding International Tracing Instrument (ITI).  However, after a busy summer for First Committee experts with the conclusion (without agreement on a consensus Treaty document ) of the ATT negotiating conference just a few weeks back, there is now legitimate worry that the PoA will not receive the attention it deserves during this Rev Con.

As previously expressed, member states have extensively debated whether the Rev Con mandate, in addition to a “review,” should include “strengthening” (through expansion, legal status, or amendment) of the PoA. This disagreement is not semantic in nature. It is a critical distinction that will affect both member states’ approach to the Rev Con and the future of the PoA framework. Methods of strengthening national implementation measures must be identified and pursued at this Rev Con. Therefore, it would be wise to avoid highly divisive debates regarding expansion of the scope and nature of the PoA (i.e. discussion over its non-legally-binding status) and focus instead on highly important and practical implementation issues such as stockpile management, proper disposal and storage of surplus arms, the role of peacekeepers and DDR programmes in SALW management, the responsibilities of national contact points, and the possibility of institutionalizing technical meetings such as MGEs. In this case, functionality should trump legality, at least for the moment.

Despite the arguable “overshadowing” of the PoA process by the ATT, preparations for this Rev Con have been moderately successful. The March 2012 Preparatory Committee for the Rev Con yielded a factual and procedural report, although a more substantive Chair’s summary under the authorship of Ambassador Ogwu of Nigeria was also produced. The summary laid forth views expressed by member states during the week according to the structure of the PoA itself—measures to combat illicit trade at the national, regional, and international levels; international cooperation and assistance; follow-up mechanisms to the Review Conference; and review of the ITI. The summary was not a consensus document, but did its best to summarize member states’ views and recommendations on which elements would serve as a basis for the discussion during this Rev Con.

As the two-week Rev Con gets underway, the PoA’s importance must not be underestimated. While the lion’s share of attention this year has been paid to the ATT process, the PoA is an instrument with tremendous potential to directly and practically address the dire consequences related to the illicit trade in SALWs and, perhaps most notably, to dry up existing stockpiles of weapons already in circulation. This was an issue all too clear in the aftermath of the Libyan revolution when weapons went unaccounted for and stockpiles were pillaged by rebel groups after the fall of Qadaffi. Member states must take advantage of the Rev Con both to honestly assess existing efforts to curb illicit small arms and to robustly and comprehensively tackle the proliferation of looted arms and lack of adequate stockpile management.

The real challenge of the PoA is to fully implement the benchmarks laid forth in the instrument in all national contexts.  The division of provisions among the national, regional, and global level is a helpful format and allows states to thoroughly address the responsibilities at all levels for implementation of the PoA and ITI. Moreover, the proposal to address the schedule of future meetings is an important contribution to the long-term success of the framework. For example, modification of biennial meetings of states into biennial meetings of governmental experts who are directly responsible for national implementation of the PoA would be significantly beneficial to fulfilling a host of PoA-related responsibilities.

It is clear that full implementation of the PoA requires continuous review with an eye towards strengthening national implementation of its measures. Many, if not all, of the challenges associated with full implementation—border control mechanisms, technical information exchange, marking and tracing expertise—require international efforts and cooperation. Therefore, this Rev Con, as well as future meetings of states, must provide for a transparent and honest exchange of information regarding implementation and how to best combat the deadly consequences of illicit trade in SALWs. There is little argument that the PoA’s provisions, if adopted according to national needs and flexible with regard to new challenges, can and will prevent illicit flows of SALWs and thus eliminate the dire consequences of these flows for international peace and security.


–Katherine Prizeman



Discussing New Media at International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

14 Aug

On 9 August 2012, the annual conference commemorating the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was held in the ECOSOC chamber at the United Nations. This year’s conference was focused specifically on new media efforts. Representatives from indigenous groups discussed projects they had created to disseminate information, while UN officials offered brief comments on those projects.

Unfortunately, at times, it seemed as though the event was something of a formality from the UN perspective. The Secretary General’s very short opening comments, which received respectful applause, appreciated all the progress that indigenous communities have achieved thus far using new media. It did not contain specific recommendations moving forward or comment extensively on the international community’s role in addressing the needs of indigenous people.

The many achievements that the Secretary General alluded to were elaborated on throughout the day. Speakers included founders of internet news coalitions, Native American TV stations, video productions about local initiatives, a hip hop artist, and many radio stations from all over the world. A full list of speakers can be found here.

Still, along with celebrating progress, and showing many video clips to exemplify that progress, the indigenous speakers had some major criticisms of UN policy. This disapproval rose to the surface in the question and answer period. Many called for more international funding and support for the new media projects that were being celebrated. Other questioners criticized the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People for “having no teeth,” for implicitly claiming that indigenous people had lost their sovereignty, and for not acknowledging that it lacked a mechanism by which indigenous communities could regain political control. Finally, one questioner from West Papua asked the UN why it had taken no notice of the massive human rights violations in his reg.

Ultimately, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was a successful afternoon. It’s likely that the most important result of the session will be the networking opportunities it created. After almost every question, a panelist or fellow attendee would note that they should connect to the speaker after the event. In fact, the introductions and mingling began even before the session ended during the closing remarks. In a room where strangers rarely chat, this level of communication was a sight to see.

In his opening statement, Grand Chief Edward John (Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues) was clear that in discussing new media, communication, stories, and languages were all at stake. One indigenous language, he told the attendants, dies every week. He highlighted the important role that the media can play in telling stories. Everyone was in agreement that mainstream media sources in their respective countries had failed to communicate properly due to corruption and negligence. Through alternate new media forms, indigenous people all around the world have ironically made productive steps balancing immensely varying pasts. It’s a step in the right direction for indigenous communication that the UN is very right to celebrate. One can only hope that UN officials listened to everything that was communicated in the ECOSOC chamber.

–Henry Neuwirth

ECOSOC Discusses the Women, Peace and Security Agenda

10 Aug

For those who followed the discussions of the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on the theme of “The Empowerment of Rural Women and their Role in Poverty and Hunger Eradication, Development and Current Challenges,”it was disappointing to see that there were no agreed recommendations. It was disappointing not only for the process, but also for what the lack of agreement says about the importance of the issues of rural women. CSW is part of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and is a global policy-making body focused on gender equality and the advancement of women. Annual meetings are held during which member states evaluate progress and establish global standards on these issues.

At the recent ECOSOC session, after a statement made by Ambassador Kamara of the Republic of Liberia who chaired the 56th session of CSW, member states discussed the progress that has been made with regard to mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programs in the UN system. While many applauded the creation of UN Women and the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), states were nevertheless frustrated about missed opportunities and felt that much more work needed to be done to advance women’s rights. Mexico, El Salvador, the United States, Belarus, Israel, Australia, Indonesia, Argentina, and Japan all mentioned that the inability to reach consensus on rural women at the 56th session was disappointing. Some states indicated that working methods should be reevaluated. Many highlighted forms of gender-based violence and discrimination that they believed should be focus points moving forward.

Nonetheless, the discussion at the most recent ECOSOC session did not just focus on the CSW; a few draft resolutions were also passed but only one of these – Situation of and Assistance to Palestinian Women – was contested. The United States shared its commitment to support women in Palestine and improving the humanitarian situation, but also expressed concerns over how the situation in Gaza and the role of Hamas can be a barrier to women’s fundamental rights. Finally, the US was not satisfied with the status of the text and encouraged ECOSOC to look at mutual goals. Israel and Canada agreed that politicizing the situation of Palestinian women was not justified and reminded the Council of the many human rights violations attributed to Hamas. These states asserted that an ethical draft would have focused on supporting Palestinian women, and would have been written primarily to address the challenges they face. Palestine reiterated that Israeli occupation is a major difficulty for Palestinian women and girls. The draft passed with 30 votes in favor, 2 opposed, and 18 abstentions. By adopting the resolution, the Council encouraged the international community to take special note of the human rights of Palestinian women and girls and to increase measures to help these women and girls in the challenges they face.

Overall, while discussions on the advancement of women are always welcomed and there can never be too many, we hope that more issues will get on the ECOSOC agenda that are complementary to other issues in the UN system, especially as the 57th session of the CSW approaches with the theme of “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”

–Melina Lito and Henry Neuwirth