As John Kerry makes his first trip to Asia as secretary of state, North Korea seems poised to welcome him with a flurry of missile tests, and in Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo, he will surely discuss how to deal with North Korea’s recent provocations. But Washington’s head-on approach to Pyongyang’s nuclear program has failed for decades, and the situation has only grown more dangerous, as shown by the new reports that North Korea may have developed a warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile. The best way to resolve the ongoing nuclear crisis is to stop talking about nukes — and instead focus on advancing North Korean human rights, reorienting global attention from the North’s plutonium to its people.(...more)
Monday, 15 April 2013
Tuesday, 9 April 2013
On Tuesday, 2 April 2013, after seven years of discussions and negotiations, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Arms Trade Treaty by an overwhelming margin — the first ever global agreement governing the transfer of conventional arms. A total of 154 States voted in favour of the resolution, three voted against, and 23 abstained. The treaty will now be opened for signature on 3 June 2013.
The treaty is a strong and balanced text that clearly enjoys very widespread support, and if adhered to and implemented in good faith it will significantly reduce the humanitarian impact from the irresponsible transfer of weapons. That it is a meaningful treaty is evidenced by the fact that in two successive diplomatic conferences, certain States blocked its adoption by consensus. First time around, in July 2012, it was the United States (followed by Russia) that asked for more time. In the ‘final’ diplomatic conference in late March 2013, three States — Iran, DPR Korea, and Syria — blocked the adoption of the text that had been skillfully negotiated by the new Conference President, Ambassador Peter Woolacott of Australia. These same three States went on to vote against the General Assembly resolution that adopted the treaty.(...more)
Derided by a number of major military powers when it was adopted, almost 16 years later the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention is in pretty rude health. No fewer than 161 States have adhered to its provisions — the most recent being Poland in December 2012 – and few outside dare to use anti-personnel mines these days such is the stigmatisation of the weapon, even though a ban has not yet crystallised in customary law. There is little or no transfer of anti-personnel mines, and what little there is consists mainly of small-scale, illicit sales. As a result, large stockpiles in China and the USA lie dormant, and even Russia is no longer laying mines in Chechnya, so far as we know.(...more)
Monday, 1 April 2013
UNITED NATIONS – The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly is tentatively planning to vote on Tuesday on a draft treaty to regulate the $70 billion global trade in conventional arms.
Iran, Syria and North Korea last week prevented a treaty drafting conference at U.N. headquarters from reaching the required consensus to adopt the treaty. That left delegations that support it no choice but to turn to the General Assembly to adopt it.
The Mexican delegation, which has been one of the most ardent supporters of the arms trade treaty, predicted victory if the resolution containing the draft convention is put to a vote in the General Assembly.
Following are questions and answers about the arms treaty.(...more)
Monday, 11 March 2013
While Americans debate President Barack Obama’s gun control plan, a much bigger debate is going on worldwide that few Americans are aware of—whether to restrict the global trade in conventional weapons.
There are more laws governing the international trade of bananas and coffee than of arms, despite the fact that 1,500 people are killed daily from armed violence and six out of 10 human rights abuses involve light weapons.
March will be the last chance for United Nations (UN) Member States to fill this legal gap and set up global rules for the trade in weapons by negotiating and adopting a long awaited Arms Trade Treaty.(...more)
Saturday, 5 January 2013
In the wake of the tragic shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, the National Rifle Association proposed that the best way to protect schoolchildren was to place a guard — a “good guy with a gun” — in every school, part of a so-called National School Shield Emergency Response Program.
Indeed, the N.R.A.’s solution to the expansion of gun violence in America has been generally to advocate for the more widespread deployment and carrying of guns.
I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.
Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.(...more)
Sunday, 23 December 2012
A week after the horrific killings of the schoolchildren of Sandy Hook in Connecticut, most of us are still struggling to get our minds around such a nightmare. And how do we say and sing the words of this joyful season while we think of lives cut so brutally short and of the unimaginable loss and trauma suffered by parents?
Nearly 6,000 children and teenagers were killed by firearms in the USA in just two years. And we’d better not be complacent about the issues of gun and knife crime affecting young people in our own cities here. In the UK, the question is how we push back against gang culture by giving young people the acceptance and respect they deserve, so that they don’t look for it in destructive places. In the US, the question is, of course, about gun laws, one of the most polarising issues in American politics.
And there is one thing often said by defenders of the American gun laws that ought to make us think about wider questions. ‘It’s not guns that kill, it’s people.’ Well, yes, in a sense. But it makes a difference to people what weapons are at hand for them to use – and, even more, what happens to people in a climate where fear is rampant and the default response to frightening or unsettling situations or personal tensions is violence and the threat of violence. If all you have is a hammer, it’s sometimes said, everything looks like a nail. If all you have is a gun, everything looks like a target.
People use guns. But in a sense guns use people, too…(...more)
Thursday, 20 December 2012
Announcing Wednesday that he would send proposals on reducing gun violence in America to Congress, President Obama mentioned a number of sensible gun-control measures. But he also paid homage to the Washington conventional wisdom about the many and varied causes of this calamity — from mental health issues to school safety. His spokesman, Jay Carney, had said earlier that this is “a complex problem that will require a complex solution.” Gun control, Carney added, is far from the only answer.
In fact, the problem is not complex, and the solution is blindingly obvious.(...more)
Tuesday, 18 December 2012
Our deepest question now is whether what happed on Friday — and what has focused the attention of the entire nation — will touch the nation’s soul or just make headlines for a few days.
I think that will be up to us as parents to respond as parents. The brutal shooting of 20 six- and seven-year-old school children in their own classrooms touches all of us, and as the father of two young boys I’m especially struck by how it touches parents. From the heartbreak of the parents in Newtown to the tears in the eyes of Barack Obama as he responded — not just as the president, but also as the father of two daughters — to the faces of the first responders and reporters who are parents. I have felt the pain and seen the look on the face of every parent I have talked with since this horrendous event occurred. Virtually every mother and father in America this weekend has turned their grieving gaze on their own children, realizing how easily this could have happened to them. The emotions we’ve seen from the Newtown parents whose children survived and the feelings of utter grief for those parents whose children didn’t, have reached directly to me.
Saturday, the day after the Connecticut massacre, Joy and I went to our son Jack’s basketball game. The kids on the court were all the same ages as the children who were killed on Friday. I kept looking at them one by one, feeling how fragile their lives are.
Our first response to what happened in Newtown must be toward our own children. To be so thankful for the gift and grace they are to us. To be ever more conscious of them and what they need from us. To just enjoy them and be reminded to slowly and attentively take the time and the space to just be with them. To honor the grief of those mothers and fathers in Connecticut who have so painfully just lost their children, we must love and attend to ours in an even deeper way.(...more)
Friday, 14 December 2012
When we first collected much of this data, it was after the Aurora, Colo. shootings, and the air was thick with calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws.”
Let’s be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It’s just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws.
Since then, there have been more horrible, high-profile shootings. Jovan Belcher, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, took his girlfriend’s life and then his own. In Oregon, Jacob Tyler Roberts entered a mall holding a semi-automatic rifle and yelling “I am the shooter.” And, in Connecticut, at least 27 are dead — including 18 children — after a man opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.
Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. “Too soon,” howl supporters of loose gun laws. But as others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late.(...more)
My post “12 facts about guns and mass shootings” included a mention of Israel and Switzerland, societies where guns are reputed to be widely available, but where gun violence is rare. Janet Rosenbaum, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center School, has actually researched this question, and she wrote to tell me I had it wrong. We spoke shortly thereafter on the phone. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.(...more)
Friday, 19 October 2012
A veil of silence and secrecy has shrouded the fate of a conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction in 2012, since the UN announced on October 14, 2011 that Finland will host it.(...more)
News that Moscow wants to end a multibillion-dollar program with Washington to dismantle nuclear and chemical weapons triggered fears Thursday that the Kremlin is embarking on an increasingly isolationist foreign policy course.
The Foreign Ministry said late Wednesday that the United States wants to prolong the so-called Nunn-Lugar program, which expires next year, but that it believes the agreement is outdated in its current form.
“[Our] American partners know that their offer is not in accordance with our ideas about … future cooperation. For this, a different and more modern legal framework is needed,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.(...more)
The two great existential challenges of our time are climate change and nuclear weapons. Between them, Russia and the United States hold 90 to 95 per cent of the world’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. Their global inventories cast a dark shadow over the Asia-Pacific with respect to deployments, doctrines and targets. In addition, Asia-Pacific has three of the world’s four non-NPT nuclear-armed states (India, Pakistan and North Korea, with Israel being the fourth). The Indian and Pakistani stockpiles are growing and China is yet to join any regime or plan to cut back its nuclear arsenal, arguing the numerical difference of its arsenal from that of Russia and the US puts it in a qualitatively different category…
[A]round 30 former leaders last year established the Asia Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (APLN). The advocacy group brings together former senior political, diplomatic, military, and scientific leaders from 14 countries around the region, from South Asia to East Asia and Australasia.(...more)
LONDON, UK – For more than seven decades, the complexities and dangers of nuclear weapons have preoccupied the world. Public opinion polls indicate that majorities in many countries favor a world without nuclear weapons, though many remain doubtful as to whether such a scenario is feasible. Indeed, throughout the Cold War, nuclear deterrence strategies were embraced by all of the world’s leading powers without resulting in nuclear war. In the 21st century, though the threat of nuclear confrontation has receded, the uncertainty of future threats undermines arguments for the abolition of nuclear weapons. For a wide variety of reasons, some governments around the world still seek to possess nuclear weapons, threatening the desirability and possibility of nuclear abolition.(...more)
Across the Islamic world – from North Africa to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – we see fragile relationships, unhappy transitions, unresolved conflicts and outright attacks on the United States, despite Obama’s case for a new beginning, movingly articulated in his June 2009 speech in Cairo. Israel, which has been deaf to Obama’s urging, is further from reconciliation with the Palestinians, and closer to war with Iran, than it has ever been.(...more)
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
National budget priorities still tend to reflect the old paradigms. Massive military spending and new investments in modernizing nuclear weapons have left the world over-armed — and peace under-funded.
Last year, global military spending reportedly exceeded $1.7 trillion – more than $4.6 billion a day, which alone is almost twice the UN’s budget for an entire year.(...more)
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Six hundred members of the Order of Canada have signed an appeal to the government of Canada to join in an international effort to eliminate nuclear weapons, Murray Thomson, coordinator of the project, announced today.
“It is fitting that we reached the 600th signature on August 6, the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima”, he said.
The initiative, led by John Polanyi, C.C., Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., Ernie Regehr, O.C. and himself seeks to have the Canadian government give full support to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s Five-Point Plan for Nuclear Disarmament, which includes a nuclear weapons convention to ban all nuclear weapons. On December 7, 2010, the Canadian House of Commons passed a unanimous motion, not yet acted on, which “encourages the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the UN Secretary-General.” (read more…)
Sunday, 5 August 2012
Military lawyers can be intimately involved in life-or-death decisions on the use of drone strikes, authorising attacks long before the button is pushed. They often sit alongside ground-based pilots in remote stations – such as Creech US air force base in Nevada – that control drones thousands of miles away.
Their advice can be critical in deciding whether the risk to civilians of launching a missile are proportionate to the aim of the operation. Deploying drones, defence officials acknowledge, raises thorny legal dilemmas.
International legal action has mostly focused on the US programme of targeted killings by drones in Pakistan’s tribal lands, Yemen and Somalia – states where there is no declared war or United Nations-authorised conflict.(...more)
After a month of procedural wrangling, intense lobbying, heavy campaigning and frantic late night negotiations, the Arms Trade Treaty conference came to a frayed inconclusive end last Friday as skeptical states like China, Russia, Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba, joined by the United States, called for more time to complete what they saw as an incomplete draft.
While disappointed, activists from the civil society campaign Control Arms believe that by showing up in New York City and engaging in good faith negotiations, the majority of states are beginning to accept the norm stigmatizing the transfer of arms to those who abuse human rights and violate humanitarian law. They are winning the discursive victory, changing the global conversation about the human cost of the market in weapons.(...more)