Disarmament Conventions and Resolutions

Geneva Protocol – 1928

The Geneva Protocol prohibitis of the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gasses, and of bacteriological methods of warfare. This was drawn up and signed at the Conference for the Supervision of the International Trade in Arms and Ammunition, held by the League of Nations in 1925. Because of the use of poisonous gas in World War I, the issue had become a common security dilemma for all states. The protocol was generally upheld in World War II and today it has 138 state parties.

While the Protocol prohibits the use, it does not prohibit the production, development, and stockpiling, of these weapons. These gaps were later covered in other treaties and the Geneva Protocol provided a basis for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Geneva Protocol and WILPF: Total and universal disarmament has been has been a goal of WILPF since our founding in 1915, as women’s response to stop war. Despite the gaps of the protocol, it marks a step in the right direction towards WILPF’s goal as it provided a basis for later disarmament conventions.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – 1970

The NPT contains the only binding commitment to nuclear disarmament in a multilateral treaty on the part of the nuclear weapon states in Article VI. It became international law in 1970. At the time, there were five nuclear weapon states: China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the USSR. Since then, India, Israel, and Pakistan have developed nuclear weapons and North Korea has developed a nuclear explosive capability.

The NPT’s “grand bargain” was that the nuclear weapon states pledge to disarm, while non-nuclear weapon states pledge never to acquire nuclear weapons. 190 states have ratified the treaty.

NPT and WILPF: This is one of the most important documents, particularly articles VI, for WILPF’s Reaching Critical Will (RCW) project’s work.

Read more about the NPT here.

Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) – 1975

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) builds on the protocols of the Geneva conventions that banned the use of gas in war. However, the Geneva Protocol did not prohibit the development, production and stockpiling of chemical and biological weapons.

The Convention, about four pages long, bans the development, production stockpiling, or acquisition of biological agents or toxins of any type or quantity that do not have protective, medical, or other peaceful purposes, or any weapons or means of delivery for such agents or toxins. Under the treaty, all such materiel is to be destroyed within nine months of the treaty’s entry into force. It is the first treaty to ban an entire category of mass destruction weapons. However, the BTWC has no verification provisions.

WILPF and the BTWC: The BTWC is relevant for WILPF because it places important restrictions on bioweapons, which is vital to the disarmament process. These restrictions are important to the work of the RCW project of WILPF. Read more information about RCW and the BTWC.

Read more about the BTWC here.

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) – 1983

The CCW and its five Protocols restrict or prohibit the use of conventional weapons whose effects are deemed to be excessively cruel or indiscriminate.

The Convention itself, described as a chapeau agreement, contains only general provisions. The Protocols, a series of optional agreements annexed to the Convention, contain prohibitions or restrictions on the use of specific weapons or weapon systems. In order to become party to the CCW, states have to accept at least two of the five Protocols, which are:

Protocol I prohibits the use of fragment weapons made of material that cannot be detected inside the body;
Protocol II restricts the use of mines, booby-traps, and similar devices;
Protocol III restricts the use of incendiary weapons; Protocol IV prohibits the use and transfer of blinding laser weapons;
Protocol IV prohibits the use and transfer of blinding laser weapons; and
Protocol V provides a framework for the use and clearance of explosive remnants of war (ERW).

CCW and WILPF: This convention is of particular interest for WILPF because it includes Protocols on mines, booby-traps and similar devices which are a particular concern for rural women who have often been injured or killed by old mines during daily activities.

Read more about the CCW here.

Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)- 1997

In 1992, after a decade of long and painstaking negotiations, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva agreed to the text of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). It was adopted by the General Assembly on 30 November 1992, in a resolution entitled Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (A/RES/47/39). The CWC reinforces aspects of the Geneva Conventions that also dealt with these agents but only banned the use of chemical weapons.

The verification provisions of the CWC do not only affect the military sector but also the civilian chemical industry, world-wide, through certain restrictions and obligations regarding the production, processing and consumption of chemicals that are considered relevant to the objectives of the Convention. The Convention also contains provisions on assistance in case a State Party is attacked or threatened with attack by chemical weapons and on promoting the trade in chemicals and related equipment among State Parties.

The CWC entered into force in April 1997. It has many signatories, including the US, Russia, and China. It bans the “development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons” (earlier agreements only banned the use).

WILPF and the CWC: This convention is significant for the work of Reaching Critical Will (RCW) in that many major military powers gave a commitment to this convention, taking a step toward peace.

Read more about the CWC here.

Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (aka Mine Ban Treaty) – 1999

After the CCW was perceived inssufficient as a legal instrument condemning the use of landmines, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, or Ottawa Treaty, entered into force on 1 March 1999 and bans all use of anti-personnel landmines, requires the destruction of existing stockpiles, and obliges States to clear mined areas and assist victims.

It is the first treaty to ban a class of weapon in wide use; it combines elements of humanitarian and arms control law (meaning, among other things, individuals rather than just states have rights and responsibilities under the treaty); it was negotiated outside of normal UN channels and came about as a result of a coalition of NGOs and mid-size governments without the participation of the major military powers.

Mine Ban Treaty and WILPF: This Convention is particularly interesting for WILPF because it includes assistance to victims and mine clearance obligations.

Read more about the Mine Ban Treaty here.

Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) – 2008

The Convention, which opened for signature in Oslo in December 2008, bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and places obligations on countries to clear affected areas, assist victims and destroy stockpiles.

Like the Mine Ban Treaty, this treaty is likely to have a powerful effect in stigmatizing cluster bombs, so that even those countries that do not sign the treaty will not be able to use them without being subject to international condemnation. This convention and the Ottowa Convention are particularly notable for working outside of the UN framework to reach agreement.

CCM and WILPF: This Convention is particularly interesting for WILPF because it includes assistance to victims and the first disarmament terry that highlights the concerns of these weapons effect particularly on women and children, obstruct economic and social development, and refers to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.

Read more about the CCM here.

Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) – 2014

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) process started on 24 July 2006, when Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Japan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom presented the draft resolution, entitled “Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms. On the 2 April 2013 the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the ATT, which is the first legally binding treaty that prohibits the sale of arms if there is a risk that the weapons could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law. The treaty was adopted with the result 154-3-23 (yes-no-abstain). Thanks to WILPF and our partner organisations the treaty is the first ever treaty that recognises the link between gender-based violence and the international arms trade.

ATT and WILPF: The ATT acknowledges the gendered impact of the uncontrolled flow and widespread use of arms. Article 7(4) of the Treaty mandates exporting states parties, as part of the risk assessment process, to take into account the risk of the conventional arms under consideration being used to commit or facilitate acts of gender-based violence and violence against women.

Read more about the ATT here.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)- Not yet entered into force

The CTBT bans all nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, establishes an extensive International Monitoring System, and allows for short-notice on-site inspections.

It was opened for signature in 1996, but has not yet entered into force. Furthermore the CTBT contains a loophole, which allows for improvement of nuclear programs through subcritical testing, undermining the objective of the treaty.

CTBT and WILPF: While WILPF fully supports the objectives of the CTBT, the treaty must not be used as an excuse for continued failure by governments to take concrete action for nuclear disarmament. It is time for states to prohibit not only nuclear testing, but also the design, development, deployment, modernization, and possession of these indiscriminate and unacceptable weapons.

Read more about the CTBT here.

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