From 25 November to the 10 December 2021, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), in collaboration with other UN entities and civil society partners, participated in the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign to increase awareness, promote advocacy efforts, and share knowledge and innovations to call for the elimination of GBV. Each year, the 16 Days campaign starts on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day.
Throughout the campaign period, UNODA published multiple social media posts daily on Twitter and Instagram in English, French, and Spanish as well as a hand full of social media posts in all six official UN languages, putting the spotlight on how disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control contribute to eliminating GBV and achieving a more secure, peaceful, and sustainable world for everyone.
Launching the campaign with a video message, the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu called for disarmament and arms control to be part of the solution to eliminate GBV, accelerate gender equality and realize the women, peace and security agenda.
- Ms. Shobha Shrestha from Women for Peace and Democracy in Nepal spoke on the Arms Trade Treaty, the first legally binding arms control regime that recognizes the link between the arms trade and GBV.
- Mr. Kassoum Coulibaly, MenEngage Mali, shared his experience of how positive masculinity can transform gender norms and prevent violence against women and girls.
- Ms. Natasa Loizou, National Agency of Controlled Materials in Argentina, explained the government’s work to prevent the use of firearms in femicides.
- Dr. Filippa Lentzos from King’s College London talked about how the consequences of using biological warfare impacts women, men, girls and boys differently.
- Ms. Ashley Casovan of Responsible AI Institute talked about how the responsible use of innovative technology can help prevent GBV in conflict settings.
- Mr. Patrick Karekezi, Youth Champion for Disarmament, called for young people to be given the opportunities to be part of the solution which reverses the idealization of gun culture and violent masculinities.
UNODA’s 16 Days campaign highlighted the Office’s important contribution towards eliminating GBV and brought attention to the many activities, publications, efforts of civil society, and partnerships with stakeholders devoted to gender equality and eliminating violence against women.
This year in particular, UNODA showcased the wide-ranging nature and relevance of its work to the elimination of GBV and conflict-related sexual violence, including: small arms and light weapons control, ammunition management, nuclear, biological and chemical non-proliferation and disarmament, reduction of military spending, peaceful use of emerging technologies, and the importance of youth engagement and inclusive and gender equal participation in all disarmament decision-making processes and at all levels.
For example, one of the days UNODA highlighted its work with young innovators on responsible innovation to consider ways to prevent gender biases in emerging technologies and artificial intelligence.
Throughout the 16 Days of Action campaign, UNODA also highlighted various resources and publications covering the linkages between disarmament and GBV such as UN Sectary-General António Guterres’s report to UN Security Council on Women, Peace, and Security, which follows up on the Secretary-General’s directives to the UN and the five goals for the decade laid out in the reports of the Secretary-General on women and peace and security from 2019 and 2020, paying special attention to the goal of reversing the upward trajectory in global military spending with a view to encouraging greater investment in the social infrastructure and services that buttress human security.
Inspired by this year’s 16 Days Campaign theme ‘Be the Change’, in the latest episode of UNODA’s Disarmament Today Podcast #Youth4Disarmament lead, Soo Hyun Kim, spoke to #Youth4Disarmament member Jok Abraham Thon, founder and director of the Promised Land Primary & Secondary school in Juba, South Sudan, and Gail Prensky, creator, executive producer, and director of The Jüdische Kulturbund Project on their ‘bullets to books’ initiative and discussed how storytelling, education, girls’ empowerment, music, and determination can make a difference in the lives of boys and girls in South Sudan and beyond.
UNODA also highlighted its global flagship project which supports States in their efforts to gender-mainstream small arms control policies and programmes, including activities carried out by its regional centers. One such example is a recently conducted training in Sierra Leone by the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), at which participants joined the 16 Day campaign. Coinciding with International Day of Disabled Persons on 3 December, the Humanity & Inclusion NGO presented during a dedicated session on the need for disability inclusion in armed violence reduction efforts.
UNODA also spotlighted the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean’s (UNLIREC) work in assisting States to build national legislation and policies on small arms control that address violence against women and GBV, such as through training law enforcements and judiciary officials on approaching firearms investigations with a gender perspective.
Another example of UNODA’s regional centres undertaking activities centred around gender-mainstreaming small arms control policies and programmes is the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) in collaboration with Women for Peace and Democracy Nepal and the Government of Nepal hosting a two day national workshop to promote the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and support Nepal’s accession to the treaty. Among other things, participants discussed the relevance of the Treaty in eliminating GBV.
During the 16 Days campaign, United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu supported the International Gender Champion GBV Pledge to #endGBV and say #NoToSexism. As an International Gender Champion herself, the High Representative urged the disarmament community to stand up against all forms of sexism and create inclusive working environment in order to reach our disarmament goals.
Finally, the Office for Disarmament Affairs also launched its gender policy 2021 – 2025, which provides an overarching framework for the Office to facilitate progress on gender-responsive disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation and contribute to gender equality, human rights and the elimination of GBV.
Text drafted by Zainab Rauf Tramboo