As 2018 ends, you may feel disheartened by the state of global security. Multiple, overlapping crises—some brewing, others already manifest—seem to outpace the international community’s capacity to respond effectively.
Published in The Ploughshares Monitor Volume 39 Issue 4 Winter 2018 by Cesar Jaramillo
The world is in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in history. According to figures from the UN Refugee Agency, there are now more than 68 million forcibly displaced persons—more than there were at the end of the Second World War. Safe havens for all the homeless are increasingly hard to find as anti-immigrant sentiment grows in some parts of the world while many of the root causes that trigger forced migrations remain unresolved.
Earlier this year, the Doomsday Clock, operated by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to signal the level of threat of global nuclear war, was set at only 2 minutes before midnight— the closest setting ever, only matched at the height of the Cold War in 1953. Meanwhile, states with nuclear weapons and many of their allies, including Canada, continue to obstinately oppose the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted last year and widely considered a key nuclear disarmament milestone.
As Earth becomes more dependent on the vast social, scientific, and economic benefits of outer space, it puts the sustainability of space in jeopardy. With no clear norms to prevent an arms race in outer space, worrying developments—including the testing of antisatellite weapons (ASATs); routine, deliberate interference with satellites; and the proposed creation of a U.S. “space force”—threaten to normalize the militarization of this critical domain.
The rapid advancement of military technologies that, if deployed, could dramatically alter long-held paradigms about the conduct of warfare is both pushing and testing legal and ethical boundaries.
Unscrupulous arms deals continue to contribute to the violation of human rights, the perpetuation of autocratic regimes, and the exacerbation of armed conflict. Today, there is no more egregious challenge to the objectives of the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty.
Is Project Ploughshares concerned? Certainly. In despair? Never.
This year, we worked hard on each of our program areas, remaining true to our mission: to advance policies and actions that prevent war and armed violence and build sustainable peace.
Some examples of our activities:
- Participation in the second Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as well as the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament on International Security;
- Regular commentary and analysis on relevant developments, including efforts on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the position of the Canadian government on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons;
- Meetings with government officials, including the Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, to discuss ways forward on nuclear disarmament.
Conventional weapons controls
- Continued research and analysis of Canada’s multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia;
- Collaboration with a coalition of Canadian human rights, disarmament, and development civil-society organizations to address shortcomings in the Canadian government’s proposed legislation on accession to the Arms Trade Treaty (Bill C-47);
- Participation as a member of the international Control Arms Coalition in multilateral conferences on the Arms Trade Treaty, including the 4th Conference of ATT States Parties.
Refugees and forced migration
- Collaboration with The Canadian Council of Churches on a legal challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement, which prevents most migrants that enter Canada from the United States from claiming refugee status;
- Continued research and analysis on governance related to displaced persons, on such topics as the global compacts on migration and refugees, and the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean;
- Continued engagement with partners such as the Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International Canada.
Outer space security
- Management of the production of Space Security Index 2018, the only annual, comprehensive assessment of outer space security in the world;
- Delivering of the civil-society statement on outer space security to the plenary session of the UN General Assembly First Committee;
- Participation in high-level meetings at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna.
Emerging military technologies
- Continuing research and analysis of ethical and governance challenges related to the development of autonomous weapons systems, emphasizing the need for meaningful human control;
- Participation in key multilateral conferences on autonomous weapons systems, including at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva and the UN General Assembly First Committee in New York;
- Outreach efforts to raise awareness among the general public, industry, and academia of the complex policy questions related to autonomous weapons systems.
Through all these and other methods of engagement with the public, governments, academics, and civil-society colleagues, we have pursued the goal of a more just, peaceful, and secure world. However challenging the global security environment, we at Project Ploughshares are convinced that change for the better is indeed possible.