• Combat Drones: The Brave New World of the Conventionalization of Unmanned Warfare

    Twenty years ago, the US Air Force began to develop the next generation of fighter aircraft aimed at securing total air superiority. The F-22 Raptor was intended to triumph over the relics of Soviet imperialism – Flankers and Fulcrums, Sukhoi and MiGs. Yet as the 20th century drew to a close, the attacks of 9/11 heralded a new kind of war; the United States prosecuted the Global War on Terrorism with the purpose of destroying terrorist organizations and regimes sympathetic to the cause of terror. Amid this war, the Raptor also came under threat – its aerial dominance challenged not by fighters fielded by rival powers, but a propeller-driven and aerodynamically obtuse creation: the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). At barely two percent of the unit cost of an F-22, the US military is increasingly deploying drones such as the Predator to undertake missions and operations previously reserved for manned combat aircraft.

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  • Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Forum- Thoughts from New York Part II

    On a wind-snipped, sunny late October weekend in New York, a trusty band of energetic arms control and disarmament folks gathered opposite the UN, where we’ d spent the week in and out of the First Committee on Disarmament and its many side meetings.  I happened to be in New York, but was impressed at how many committed activists came together to discuss, debate and collaborate to develop a unified movement.

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  • On-Site Inspections: A Good Assurance of Compliance with International Arms Control and Disarmament Agreements

    The recent historic agreement between Russia and the United States over the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons has once more illustrated the critical importance of on-site inspections to ensure compliance with disarmament obligations. The teams of inspectors deployed by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) could, despite the time constraints and the conflict environment, verify and certify the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons production capabilities, a priority task. This remarkable achievement was made possible by the extensive experience gained by the OPCW in conducting some 5,300 on-site inspections on the territories of 86 of its now 190 member states since 1997. The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize has not be awarded to the OPCW in vain.

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  • Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Forum – Thoughts from New York Part I

    New York City is a tense place at the best of times.  Coffee may be its drink of choice, but the average New Yorker would benefit greatly from less caffeine in his or her diet rather than the buckets of Joe they consume each day in their ubiquitous travel mugs.  But as I dodged in and out of various anxious-looking people hurrying to wherever anxious people go on a chilly Sunday morning, I could have done with an espresso myself.

    The reason I was stumbling through the streets of New York was to participate in the Humanitarian Disarmament Campaigns Forum as a representative of SCRAP.

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  • Humanitarian Consequences and Nuclear Weapons

    This article was first published on OpenCanada.org on October 28, 2013

    Einstein once lamented that “it has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. He may well have had nuclear weapons in mind – these creations of human technological prowess have the potential for destruction of a magnitude to efface humanity itself and all the principles of humanitarian action that we have devised. This has been the backdrop against which decades of efforts at nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament have been conducted.

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  • Open-Ended Working Group Report

    On Friday 30 August the Open-Ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations (OEWG) adopted its final report after two weeks of debates, discussions and ruminations over various ideas, elements, and proposals submitted by governments and civil society groups.  A SCRAP representative was there for the whole two weeks to observe the proceedings, participate in the discussions, and eat the free lunchtime sandwiches.

    The Working Group was mandated by the 67th session of the UN General Assembly to “develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons”, and over the course of 2013 the OEWG met three times – May, June, and August – at the Palais de Nations in Geneva.  With the current deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament and little real movement elsewhere on the subject of abolishing nuclear weapons, the OEWG presented an opportunity to discuss concrete progress, explore ways to start negotiations, and to look at issues in greater depth than in other forums.

    Over the course of the sessions in May and June, the OEWG heard presentations from disarmament experts, academics, UN officials, and members of civil society on a multitude of relevant nuclear disarmament issues.  At the same time, government delegations and accredited NGOs had the opportunity to submit working papers that introduced their own ideas on how to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.  It was the primary aim of the August session of the OEWG, however, to reflect on these discussions and papers and to develop proposals for transmission to the UN General Assembly.  Accordingly, the chair of the group structured the proceedings around six thematic clusters, each led by a different friend of the chair.  While the topics were diverse, the delegations got caught up in debates over what approach to take to achieve a world without nuclear weapons and the elements that would make up the approaches.

    Much of the discussion focused on the “building blocks” approach to nuclear disarmament, which has been put forward as an alternative to the “step-by-step” and “comprehensive” approaches.  Unfortunately, the proponents of building blocks never adequately explained just how it would be the game-changer everybody sought.  Indeed, the key working paper advocating this approach (A/AC.281/WP.4) presented as its “blocks” a list of stalled efforts (e.g. entry into force of the CTBT, commencement of negotiations of an FMCT) and other actions that have failed to generate sufficient enthusiasm (e.g. reduction of non-strategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons).  Many of the other working papers submitted to the group included similar nuclear disarmament wish lists, with little deviation from past proposals that have been raised (and got nowhere) in different forums.

    NGOs made a constructive contribution to the debates, with Reaching Critical Will in particular submitted a working paper calling for a prohibition on the possession, stockpiling, development, or transfer of nuclear weapons.  RCW argued that for such a treaty it was not necessary for the nuclear-weapon states to be part of the negotiations, but once it was concluded it would further stigmatize the weapons, provide incentives for financial institutions to divest from companies involved in nuclear weapons, and build pressure for disarmament.

    SCRAP made its own views known to the OEWG, highlighting that the Working Group had overlooked other aspects of disarmament that could facilitate the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  SCRAP’s representative at the OEWG pointed out that efforts to achieve zero nuclear weapons would be made much easier when attention has been given to conventional disarmament and regional confidence-building measures and to those capable of strategic intervention across regions.

    Despite the faults of the Working Group, it should be emphasized that it did provide an open space for states and civil society to explore ideas unbound by the rules that have stymied progress in other forums.  However, without the nuclear weapon states it felt like an essential voice was missing.  Many stated noted that if the Open-Ended Working Group has its mandate renewed by the General Assembly, greater efforts would have to be made to encourage the P5 to participate.

    Fabian Rutherford, SCRAP Advisory Committee member

  • The Future of Disarmament – Getting There

    “The existence of nuclear weapons presents a clear and present danger to life on Earth. Nuclear arms cannot bolster the security of any nation because they represent a threat to the security of the human race. These incredibly destructive weapons are an affront to our common humanity, and the tens of billions of dollars that are dedicated to their development and maintenance should be used instead to alleviate human need and suffering.”
– Oscar Arias Sanchez

    The wheels of nuclear disarmament are turning, albeit slowly. Fraser et al. argue that “there has never been a better time to achieve total nuclear disarmament.” Indeed, the push towards nuclear disarmament is pressing, necessary and increasingly feasible. Two major events seem to herald promising times ahead for the future of nuclear disarmament: the election of a US President who has indicated a clear commitment to nuclear weapons abolition and Iran’s apparent new readiness to address international concerns about its atomic ambitions. It is hoped that political leaders around the world capitalize on this opportunity to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

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  • American Rights vs. Mexican Lives: another reason why the US should lead the way to disarmament, but doesn’t

    The facts. The production and sale of fire arms is not only legal in the US, but a profitable industry which provides some 58,344 businesses with a steady and comfortable income. Coincidentally, 15% of those businesses are located along the border with Mexico. Across the border, gun shops are scarce – only one in the whole of Mexico City, one of the world’s most populous metropolitan areas. Since 2006, over 60,000 people have been killed in Mexico; the vast majority by the use of fire arms. According the US Department of Justice, 70% of the 94,000 guns recovered from cartels between 2006 and 2012 were produced in the US.
    A pattern. These are not just numbers; they are a reflection of something being slightly off. While the US produces weapons, and their sale accrues to the national income, attention is shifted away from who exactly is on the other side of the transaction: who is buying (and using) these weapons? And how did they get there? The fact that the right to own guns is often seen as a fundamental right in the US, coupled with the sheer size of the industry in terms of its profit, which is in the vicinity of $75 billion, renders these questions unimportant and irrelevant in the eyes of many American citizens and policy makers.
    What can be done about this? It is a matter of correctly formulating regulation which will effectively limit and control the purchasing of weapons and their movement across borders. A first step towards this goal was put into writing in the ATT, adopted by the UN in April and currently in the midst of ratification processes in dozens of member states. And here a question arises: will the US ratify the ATT, and subsequently finally reform its domestic legislation in order to stop the damage caused to Mexico by unchecked arms trade? One can only hope, and wait.
    – Clara del Campo is an MSc Violence, Conflict & Development student at SOAS, University of London
  • “Pakistan A Hard Country” SCRAP interviews Anatol Lieven

     Anatol Lieven

    In April, SCRAP interviewed Anatol Lieven, Chair of International Relations and Terrorism Studies, King’s College London, and author of ‘Pakistan A Hard Country’. The purpose of the interview was to introduce the SCRAP project to Professor Lieven, as well as to get his views on Indo-Pak relations, US role in Pakistan and South Asian nuclear security. Below is a transcript of the interview in brief.

     US Role in Pakistan

     Niraja: In ‘Pakistan A Hard Country’, you advise restraint in pressure by the US on Pakistan, especially considering the danger to it from Pakistan’s potential collapse. What should US policy be towards it?

     Professor Lieven: To some extent the best thing the US could do to help Pakistan would be to do less. My hope is that after the US withdraws from Afghanistan it will be possible to reduce various kinds of pressure on Pakistan, in other words reduce drone attacks and reduce pressure on Pakistan vis-à-vis the Afghan Taleban.

     Indo-Pak Relations

     Niraja: You also mention that it is in India’s strategic interest to help Pakistan. In what way do you think India should help Pakistan?

     Professor Lieven: It is very much in the interest of both India and Pakistan to increase economic relations.  I also favour the creation of a pipeline from Iran to India, and if Afghanistan can be stabilised, then there are many interesting possibilities for energy and trade routes via Afghanistan.  In an ideal world that would include a peace settlement over Kashmir. A Northern Irish-type settlement would be the best solution. Turn the line of control into a recognised international border. India, of course has to insist that there be no resumption of state-backed terrorism against India. However, it would be naive of India to expect that Pakistan would hand over terrorists.  Nevertheless, for its part, the Pakistani state needs to keep reigning in groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and ensure that it doesn’t allow them to carry out attacks. Similarly, India would be well advised to not support the Baloch rebels within Pakistan in retaliation for what happened in Kashmir, as this kind of tit-for-tat behaviour does not support regional stability.

           Also, India and Pakistan need to engage in intensive behind-the-scenes talks over the future of Afghanistan. Especially, as Pakistan’s position and the Pakistan army’s position has changed considerably in recent years due to the recent Taleban insurgency within Pakistan. Pakistanis no longer back the Taleban unconditionally to control the whole of Afghanistan. India needs to recognise that, while at the same time, calm down Pakistani paranoia about India’s role in Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Pakistan and the US have played a very unhelpful role in Afghanistan in the past. However, Pakistan is a neighbour of Afghanistan and deeply entwined with the Pashtun issue. Two-thirds of Pashtun’s, who are linked to the Afghan Taleban, live in Pakistan. That gives Pakistan a deep interest in what happens in Afghanistan. It is no good thinking you can have a solution in Afghanistan without Pakistani involvement and influence.  Furthermore, India needs to be very wary of being sucked into the quagmires in Afghanistan that other countries have been sucked into in the past.

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  • Side event report: Creating the conditions for general and complete disarmament

    Anina Dalbert | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

    Dan Plesch, Director of Strategic Concept for Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP), argued that we must not forget that article VI of the NPT obligates state parties to the treaty to pursue negotiations of a treaty on “general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”. He explained that this is directly related to what SCRAP offers: a draft text of basic elements for negotiating such a treaty”

    Please click below to see the full report:

    View the report