The latest Humanitarian Disarmament Forum was held October 19 and 20 in New York City. In attendance were civil-society groups, such as Project Ploughshares, which work on arms control and disarmament concerns that fall under the umbrella of “humanitarian disarmament.” According to the Harvard Law School Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative, humanitarian disarmament “seeks to prevent and remediate the human and environmental harm inflicted by arms through the establishment and implementation of norms.”
The history of arms control in outer space reads like a success story. Outer space is one of the few domains of human activity in which the focus has been on prevention. Although military satellites that provide communications, remote sensing, navigation, and timing services once dominated space and continue to provide essential military services, their operations have long been considered peaceful. Those of us working in space security say that space is “militarized but not weaponized.”
In January of this year, armed drones owned by Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group, killed several Yemeni government officials. This was the first time, as far as we know, that a nonstate group had successfully deployed a drone to carry out a precision-targeted operation. In September, the Houthis, with alleged support from Iran, were suspected in the attack on the world’s largest oil-processing facility in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International (AI) released a report, The Hidden US War in Somalia: Civilian Casualties from Air Strikes in Lower Shabelle. According to this report, which explored five incidents, at least 14 civilians had been killed by airstrikes from both manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones).
The next year will be critical in the attempt to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons—and the outlook is hardly promising. The global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime, already at the breaking point, will certainly face various overlapping challenges.
Here are some focal points that Project Ploughshares will be following closely:
On June 20, Global Affairs Canada released its Report on Exports of Military Goods – 2018. Analysis of this report reveals several worrying trends: an increase in the number of exported weapons systems, a willingness to export such systems to serial human-rights abusers, and persistent gaps in reporting transparency.
Conditions in immigration detention centres in the United States have sparked significant attention around the world in the last few months. But many Canadians are unaware of our own country’s immigration detention system. Thousands of people are detained every year in Canada—8,355 in fiscal year (FY) 2017-2018, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.
If space governance is going to crack under the strain, it could do so sooner rather than later. Yet, all hope is not lost. The chorus of voices, of both state and nonstate actors, is getting louder, demanding that the space community stop merely talking about problems and start fixing them.
As prices drop, more surveillance and analysis technologies, developed for military use in active war zones, will become available in domestic situations. At the moment, most use is in the United States. But that could change—soon.
By Murtadha Faraj Published in The Ploughshares Monitor Volume 40 Issue 3 Autumn 2019 The decades-old hostility between the United States and Iran escalated when U.S. President Donald Trump decided to unilaterally withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) and reimpose sanctions on Iran in May 2018. Iraq has political, economic, and security ties …