Stop Fueling Saudi Arabia’s Bombardment of Yemeni Civilians

•13 March 2016 • Leave a Comment

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Saudi Arabia’s devastating aerial bombardment of Yemen is being supplied by arms manufacturers from around the world. On February 28, European Parliament called for an embargo. In reaction, experts from the Forum on the Arms Trade offered their analysis of the situation. Here is what I said:

 

This is a test case to see how seriously European countries will take their new obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty to ensure that weapons are not transferred to states engaged in violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. While the US has not yet ratified the Treaty, as a signatory the US should support vigorous implementation of the Treaty’s provisions, which actually accord with US export controls. In Presidential Policy Directive 27, US arms export regulations also require the government to assess ‘the likelihood that the recipient would use the arms to commit human rights abuses or serious violations of international humanitarian law.’ Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombing of populated areas in Yemen surely disqualifies it from further arms deliveries, whether from the US, the EU or any other supplier.

For reactions from the Forum’s many other experts, click here.

Technologies that will alter our world in 2016

•13 March 2016 • Leave a Comment

I contributed a short piece on “killer robots” at the beginning of the year for an online forum convened by OpenCanada on “technologies that will alter our world”:

While we are becoming increasingly used to the idea of remotely operated robotic weapons — drones — they are only one manifestation of a broader digitization of warfare. Human rights advocates, humanitarians and even many military personnel are concerned that the growing autonomy of new weapons will soon take people completely “out of the loop” of decision making about killing. This might sound like science fiction (articles in the new media compulsively reference the film Terminator), but such “Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems” (LAWS), or less euphemistically, “Killer Robots,” are a not-too-distant future.

To read the whole article, click here.

New article – “Go get a job right after you take a bath”: Occupy Wall Street as Matter Out of Place

•13 March 2016 • Leave a Comment

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From my co-author — Alex Jeffrey — of a new article on the spatial politics of protest, policing and disaster response in New York City.

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Bolton, M., S. Froese, and A. Jeffrey (2016). ““Go get a job right after you take a bath”: Occupy Wall Street as Matter Out of Place.” Antipode, DOI: 10.1111/anti.12226

I’m pleased to say that a new article co-written with political scientist Matthew Bolton and architect Stephen Froese has just been published on line by the journal Antipode. The paper interrogates the ways in which urban protest (in this case Occupy Wall Street) is equated with dirt and impurity, or ‘matter out of place’ in Mary Douglas’s classic interpretation.The paper’s title comes from an admonishment to the protesters made by Newt Gingrich, readily fusing dirt with indolence (and conversely purity with productivity). But the focus of the paper moves beyond a deconstruction of official interpretations of the Occupy movement to explore how interpretations of dirt went on to shape the organisation and subsequent actions of the protesters, both within and beyond the…

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New Report on Controlling Flow of Arms to Wildlife Poachers

•13 March 2016 • Leave a Comment
Orphaned elephants receive care at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.

Orphaned elephants receive care at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.

This fall I published a policy brief with Control Arms, which explores the potential for the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to be applied to curb the supply of weapons to wildlife poaching and trafficking networks in East Africa. There is a disturbing trend of militarization in anti-poaching efforts that threatens to exacerbate conflict by increasing arms flows to already destabilized contexts, marginalizing local capacities for peacebuilding and sustainable development. This paper advocates for a human security and sustainable development-centered approach to wildlife crime, while taking care not to formulate generalizations of the many complex contexts of wildlife poaching in East Africa. While there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions, it argues that the ATT can be used by East African (and arms exporting) States as one of many tools to strengthen rule of law, encourage respect for human rights in countering wildlife crime, curb the proliferation of weapons to poachers, monitor trafficking networks and empower local civil society advocacy for peace and environmental sustainability.

It ends with recommendations that East African States accede to the ATT, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and and establish systems for its effective implementation, in coordination with other relevant international instruments (such as the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the Conventions on Transnational Organized Crime and Corruption). In particular, States should enact measures to safeguard against the risk of certain kinds of shipments of arms, ammunition and relevant parts and components – such as high-calibre hunting rifles (and associated ammunition) and silencers – being used by or diverted to wildlife poaching and trafficking networks. Regional civil society civil society and media should consider ways to encourage governments to use the ATT to engage in monitoring and advocacy on wildlife crime, calling the attention of civil society in arms exporting States to the use of weapons in poaching. Finally, it calls on the UN General Assembly and ECOSOC to make reference to the ATT in any future resolutions regarding the poaching and/or the illicit trade in wildlife and references to poaching in ATT resolutions. States should also consider potential linkages to the UN Environment Assembly and ongoing debates on conflict and the environment in the International Law Commission.

To read the full report, click here.

Progress on Nuclear Disarmament Has Always Depended on Non-Nuclear-Armed States and Civil Society

•25 May 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is the final piece in my series onDeconstructing Nuclear Discourse at the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference”. It is republished from NPT News in Review. The previous two posts pointed out the problems with the claim that nuclear weapons prevent war and the considered the politics of nuclear weapons states’ denial of humanitarian consequences.

Over the last month at the 2015 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference we have heard too many times that progress on disarmament “relies on engagement with the nuclear weapons states.” This usually comes from nuclear-dependent states, such as Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and Australia, which are not officially nuclear-armed but have military doctrines that rely on US capabilities. Some even store US nuclear weapons on their soil.

But this conventional wisdom is lazy, lacks courage, and misrepresents the history of normative progress on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It is beholden to the self-congratulatory rhetoric of the USA, Russia, China, UK, and France. It is an argument for the status quo, in which, as Costa Rica put it on Monday, 18 May, nuclear-armed states “pat themselves on the back” for their meager and slowing limitations on arsenals. Indeed the outcome of the NPT RevCon—with consensus on the outcome text blocked by nucleararmed states but 107 non-nuclear states backing a call for nuclear weapon prohibition and elimination—shows where the momentum for progress lies.

In reviewing the history of nuclear weapons, the major moments of change occurred when those at the “fringes”—small states, middle powers, humanitarian agencies, human rights advocates, faith leaders and religious organizations, activists, intellectuals, and artists—spoke out, withdrew their consent, or moved forward on their own.

Many justifiably point to US President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 UN speech as a game-changer in the discourse about nuclear weapons, clearing stating that they “must be abolished before they abolish us.” But what is often overlooked is how much political pressure the US and Soviet foreign policy elite were under in the 1950s to end the debilitating terror of nuclear weapons.

Religious institutions like the Vatican and World Council of Churches issued strong condemnation of nuclear weapons. The 1955 “Manifesto” by Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell signed by prominent intellectuals around the globe called for an “agreement to renounce nuclear weapons as part of a general reduction of armaments” and led to the founding of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. This was accompanied by a groundswell of social discontent, such as the Aldermaston Marches and the founding of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament—with its famous “peace sign” logo—in the late 1950s.

The momentum for nuclear disarmament was dissipated by the complete breakdown in trust between the superpowers during the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis. However, it is worth remembering that Kennedy held back from escalating the crisis because the worldview of his civilian advisors had developed outside of military structures. The pressure to avoid nuclear war from civil society had been transmitted to the White House and ultimately prevailed.

Frustrated and frightened by an arms race that threatened the whole of human existence, during the 1960s small states and middle powers decided that they could not wait for the superpowers to halt their destructive spiral. Just a month after the height of the confrontation over Cuba, the UN General Assembly (where smaller states have a majority) passed resolution 1909 calling for “a convention on the prohibition of the use of nuclear and thermos-nuclear weapons.”

The Latin American and Caribbean states went even further by innovating the first nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) —the Treaty of Tlatetlolco—in 1967. Since then, the majority of states are now members of NWFZ treaties. Several small states, particularly Ireland, played an instrumental role in getting the two superpowers and nuclear armed states to commit to the NPT, including the article VI obligation to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to … nuclear disarmament.”

Traditional theories of international relations—focused as they are on the distribution of bombs and tanks rather than the role of symbols and idea—has also often underestimated the effect that the arts have on shaping the thinking of policymakers. “Dr. Strangelove” did more perhaps than any UN panel or politician’s speech to undermine the faulty logic of “mutually assured destruction.” And President Reagan admitted in his diary that watching the 1983 film “The Day After” alerted him to the immense dangers of nuclear war.

Such artistic products both drew from and inspired further unprecedented levels of protest in the 1980s, including the Plowshares actions, Greenham Common occupation, and the million people who gathered in Central Park in 1982.

In the last five years we have seen the increasing coordination between disparate groups traditionally marginalized from global policymaking on security. The launch in 2007 of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) brought new public attention to nuclear disarmament and galvanized a new generation of politically savvy activists.

ICAN has been particularly effective at organizing in coalitions with middle powers and small states, resulting in the three conferences on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in Oslo, Nayarit, and Vienna. This modelled a refreshingly different way of talking about nuclear weapons, putting victims and survivors (both past and future) and the human impact—rather than outmoded notions of “deterrence”—at the center of the conversation.

And this is not just talk. There is now new impetus for action, symbolized by the Humanitarian Pledge— signed by 107 states so far—to “fill the legal gap” in order “to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks.”

The late international relations theorist and nuclear weapons apologist Professor Kenneth Waltz once scoffed that it would be “ridiculous to construct a theory of international politics based on Malaysia and Costa Rica.” He believed that if you wanted to understand the way the world works you only needed to pay attention to the great military powers.

But, as Costa Rica pointed out in a side event this week, the emerging field of humanitarian disarmament has shown just how blinkered this supposedly “realist” view is. Antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions were banned through a disciplined and tightly coordinated coalition of civil society, middle powers, and smaller states. Even though some of the major military powers have failed to sign these treaties, they have largely accepted the new norms.

Costa Rica and Malaysia are both members of the Humanitarian Pledge. They are precisely the countries to pay attention to if you want to construct a new, more humane, theory of international politics. Looking to the supposed margins—small states, activists, advocates, humanitarians, intellectuals, and artists—we can envision theory that instead of cultivating passivity ushers in a world free of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Disarmament Is Key to, Not Conditional on, General and Complete Disarmament

•21 May 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is a write-up of a side event panel during the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations. Reprinted from NPT News in Review.

This panel, chaired by Maritza Chan, Minister Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, and co-hosted by Pace University and SCRAP, aimed to provide background and perspective on the concept of “general and complete disarmament” (GCD) found in article VI of the NPT. The side event was well timed, following a discussion in Main Committee I in which nuclear-armed states had misused the concept, seeing it as a precondition of nuclear disarmament.

All the panelists refuted this notion, arguing that GCD is an important concept and provided vision for thinking strategically about the disarmament process, but should not be seen as a prerequisite for progress on prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons. Maritza Chan opened the discussion by critiquing the claim “that a course of action that could make the world a less violent, insecure, and unjust place is ‘unrealistic’,” saying that it “is often a claim about the limits of imagination and courage.”

She pointed to the example of Costa Rica’s unilateral disarmament and demilitarization in 1948: “Since then, Costa Rica has been at the forefront of efforts to promote international disarmament and peaceful resolution of conflicts.” She stated that the concept of GCD “is often dismissed outright as an unrealistic idea or it is used as an empty phrase to suggest a well-meaning though perhaps insincere commitment to eventual world peace. Lately, we have seen it used as a diversionary tool by those who claim progress on nuclear disarmament will only come in some far distant future of global stability.”

Dr. Matthew Bolton of Pace University in New York City then provided a history of the development of the idea of GCD from its roots in Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace, the League of Nations covenant, and early Cold War disarmament negotiations. He asserted that the humanitarian initiative—putting the human at the center of disarmament eforts—offered the most promise for progress on nuclear disarmament and offered a vision of an approach to proceed on conventional weapons disarmament too.

Following this background, Dr. John Burroughs of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, provided a legal analysis of article VI, demonstrating that the NPT obliges states to progress on nuclear disarmament as a key element of a broader goal of fulfilling GCD. Nuclear disarmament cannot and should not be held hostage by the misuse of the term.

“The practice of states parties and the agreements reached in the Final Documents adopted by NPT Review Conferences demonstrate that the third component of Article VI cannot be interpreted as requiring that nuclear disarmament is to be implemented through one Treaty covering other weapons and armed forces generally,” he said. “Rather, a nuclear disarmament convention (or similar instrument or instruments), like the conventions on biological and chemical weapons, would be a contribution to the objective of general and complete disarmament.”

Dr. Emily Welty of the World Council of Churches Commission on International Affairs challenged participants to root disarmament work in a broader vision of just peace. She dismissed claims that discussions should be solely “pragmatic” or “realistic”, noting that for people of faith, disarmament requires engaging in acts of “prophetic imagination”.

Christopher King of the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) called on states to develop a “modern version of GCD” that acknowledges that disarmament and arms control must take place in the context of broader peacebuilding. He challenged participants to think about how to “bring these disparate partial measures together” into a cohesive “strategy” and “narrative.” He stated that “civil society and academia’s creative and innovative solutions” could help lead the way.

Paul Meyer of the Simons Foundation and Simon Fraser University rejected the “hard linkage” of nuclear disarmament and GCD, but called attention to the “soft linkages” between a security system rooted in “nuclear weapons” and “a world awash with weapons” of the conventional kind. He pointed to the progress in Europe toward the end of the Cold War on seeking both conventional and nuclear disarmament, such as the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Meyer introduced the SCRAP “Basic Elements” proposal, developed at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, which aimed to show the possibility of moving forward on GCD. He said that it is “exactly in these times” of insecurity” that we must “consider what is possible”

The Importance of Disarmament Education

•21 May 2015 • Leave a Comment

Last week I spoke on a panel at the 2015 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on “Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education”, organized by the Mexican and Japanese Missions to the UN. Here is a brief write-up of the event, reprinted from NPT News in Review:

Action 22 of the 2010 Action Plan of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) encouraged all states to implement “disarmament and non-proliferation education … in support of achieving a world without nuclear weapons.” At this lunchtime side event sponsored by Japan and Mexico, on 12 May, educators, UN officials, and diplomats shared their experiences promoting disarmament and non-proliferation education in a variety of contexts.

Ambassador Toshio Sano of Japan chaired the event, welcoming the “growing recognition of the importance of disarmament education”—evidenced by the joint statement of 73 states in Main Committee I. But he called on states to embrace a “culture of reporting” so that they can “learn from each other, create synergies and opportunities.” Only 10 states submitted relevant information to the UN for the 2014 Secretary-General report.

Tonie Jaquez, Mexico’s Deputy Director General for Disarmament and the UN General Assembly agreed, saying “education and promotion of values are crucial for attaining a nuclear free world.” Education is central, Jaquez said, to cultivating an understanding that “a peace sustained by weapons is not a sustainable peace.”

The Nayarit Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons was for Mexico an expression of its commitment to disarmament education, said Jaquez. She also outlined a variety of initiatives of the Mexican government, such as the inclusion of disarmament education in the training of diplomats and military attaches, a short course for Latin American diplomats posted to the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL).

Virginia Gamba, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for UN Disarmament Affairs said that UNODA is “committed to promoting” disarmament and non-proliferation education as “an essential” but “often overlooked” element in the implementation of the NPT. She celebrated the contributions of “ardent young activists” in their efforts to “strip nuclear weapons of their prestige and power” and she called on states to “educate the younger generation” on the “catastrophic” impact of nuclear weapons.

UNODA’s John Ennis, Chief of the Information and Outreach Branch, provided an overview of its communication through internet and print media, conferences, public events, and briefings to teachers and students. He highlighted UNODA’s art and poetry contests, saying “art and literature form a meaningful way for a wide variety of people in the public” to engage with disarmament issues. He invited everyone to visit UNODA’s new disarmament education portal (www.un.org/ disarmament/education).

Ennis also called attention to the UNODA’s partnership with Japan in the preservation and translation of the hibakusha’s personal stories. “These testimonies provide a window to empathy,” he said, by putting “the human dimension at the center of our efforts to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The other three speakers were all university educators. Professor William Potter of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) outlined a variety of best practices for disarmament education. Rather than telling students “what to think,”he said educators should instead emphasize the development of critical thinking skills and empathy, using participatory and active learning methods (such as simulation) and new information technology.

Professor Nobumasa Akiyama of Hitosubashi University spoke about the importance of raising the awareness of the general student population at a university, beyond classes which reach only a self-selecting group of students already interested in disarmament and nonproliferation. He recounted his efforts to deepen students’ understanding of the stories of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki through public events.

Dr. Matthew Bolton described the emerging role of Pace University in New York City as a hub for disarmament education, including convening the annual Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Forum and teaching undergraduates in classes offered by the Peace and Justice Studies, Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies program. He shared his experience teaching an undergraduate “Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control” class and called on disarmament organizations to provide volunteer and internship opportunities to young people.

 
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