Gender and Disarmament
There is growing recognition that gender issues play an integral role within all forms of disarmament work. Such recognition was formalized with the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995)1
and Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000),2
which are considered the cornerstones of the women, peace and security edifice.
The following is a brief overview of the underlying themes relating to gender and disarmament outlined succinctly in DDA's Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan launched on 15 April in the course of a panel discussion on the topic.3
They are presented here to give the reader a conceptual foundation on how to consider gender issues in the work of disarmament. The concepts and the practical application of gender's relationship to disarmament are intended to strengthen disarmament and security work. For the sake of clarity, definitions of gender mainstreaming and gender balance are cited. DDA and other offices and organizations dealing with issues of disarmament, non-proliferation and security have begun to incorporate, as appropriate, these perspectives into their plans and activities. An overview of the activities in 2003 of DDA and other offices and organizations is given in annex II to this chapter.
Discussions on gender issues are often confused by competing interpretations or uses of the term `gender', translation difficulties, varying cultural starting points and different expectations.4
ECOSOC, in the 1997 Agreed Conclusions, defined "gender mainstreaming" as: the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women's as well as men's concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.5
"Gender balance," on the other hand, refers to the numbers of women and men in various positions in a specific institution. The term refers to quantitative aspects, i.e., the number of women and men in various positions, and qualitative aspects, i.e., the extent to which women and men have equal career opportunities to serve not only at all levels (for example, through promotion, appointment, training and mentoring), but also in all occupations for which they are qualified. Attention to gender balance prompts consideration of male/female staffing ratios at all levels of an organization.
Gender analysis and mainstreaming
Gender analysis begins with people, their experiences and their lives, rather than with notions of State security. Decisions about weapons - whether to develop, acquire, keep, turn in, or destroy them - do not take place in a vacuum, but in a political, economic, and social context. Men and women experience weapons in a multi-dimensional context, and their decisions about weapons have gender dimensions.
Among the broad recurrent themes in gender and disarmament work is the question of who the players are, and - related to that - how gender identities, relations, inequalities and perceptions have shaped their politics and policies. A gender analysis in disarmament work raises questions such as: Whose experiences, in combat or in the community before, during, and after conflict, are most visible and therefore influential? Who has access to policy- and decision-making? Who has the technical expertise, or access to it, in order to participate in weapons-related policy-making? And why? What are the assumptions and priorities of decision-makers regarding security, peace, self-image and power?
Disarmament work also has meaning only in context, a context largely shaped by perceptions of security. Yet the relationship between security and disarmament is highly subjective. There is, in fact, no consensus that disarmament is an element of security, and many influential players in tDDAy's world rely explicitly and extensively on "armament" for their security. Disarmament, by its very nature, is an implicit critique of such notions of security through threat or use of force. Rather, disarmament goals are consistent with a concept of security based on cooperation and common interests rather than military domination and force projection. In this sense, both disarmament and gender analysis offer critical approaches to the concept of national security grounded in military superiority and the threat or use of force.
Perceptions of security and decisions about weapons take place in relation not only to political (and economic) considerations, but also in a social and human context. Understanding this context, by understanding better how gender plays into notions of security and perceptions of weapons, can help clarify the challenges to and opportunities for disarmament. Thus, understanding the relationships between gender and security, and between gender and weapons, can help further the goals of disarmament.
Adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing: A/CONF.177/20, 17 October 1995 and A/CONF.177/20/Add.1, 27 October 1995.
S/RES/1325 (2000), 31 October.
"Making Disarmament More Effective: Men and Women Working Together", DDA Panel Discussion, 15 April 2003.