The European Union and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in partnership with the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) organized an event entitled “Supporting gender mainstreamed policies, programmes and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, in line with the Women, Peace and Security agenda” on Friday, 30 October 2020.
Over 90 people joined the virtual event which took place in the margins of the First Committee meetings and the open debate on Women, Peace and Security in the Security Council, which marked the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325).
Women’s “unique experiences are crucial in peacebuilding and peacekeeping processes and there is no real peace and security without them”, said Mr. Michal Adamowicz from the European External Action Service, who moderated the event, in his opening remarks. The adoption of the landmark UNSCR 1325 twenty years ago signalled a turning point in the way the international community approaches peace and security, he told the audience, adding that the European Union strongly supports the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) framework as a means to achieving gender equality.
Highlighting the connection between the global commitments on gender and the need for practical action on arms control, UNODA introduced its flagship project ‘Supporting gender mainstreamed policies, programmes and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, in line with the Women, Peace and Security agenda’, funded by the European Union. Ms. Katja Boettcher, who manages the project, highlighted some of the opportunities and key challenges. The lack of sex and age-disaggregated small arms control data; she said, is one such difficulty. Additionally, Ms. Boettcher suggested, there is a need for more champions – both men and women – to address the nexus between gender and small arms. The COVID-19 pandemic, finally, is another barrier to progress. Worryingly, violence against women and girls, including by use of small arms and light weapons, has heightened during lockdowns that were effected in various parts of the world in response to the pandemic. It is vital, she concluded, that national authorities around the globe effectively integrate small arms control measures in their response frameworks.
Subsequently, other speakers joined the conversation to illustrate the various initiatives that are currently under way in Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, carried out by UNODA’s regional centres.
Ms. Ida Scarpino, from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific(UNRCPD), discussed the regional and sub-regional workshops on “Gun Violence and Illicit SALW-Control from a Gender Perspective”, which brought together government officials, members of parliament and civil society representatives from 17 states in Asia-Pacific. A concrete and publicly available result of these series of workshops, she said, was a Compendium of activities, findings and outcomes, which was published earlier this year.
Ms. Mumtaz Begum Mughal, Director of Programmes at Aurat Foundation Islamabad, and a participant at two of UNRCPD’s workshops, reflected on her work empowering women on issues related to arms control, which includes meeting with women leaders to raise awareness on gun violence and illicit small arms trafficking. In efforts to mitigate the impact of gun violence, the organisation also advocates for amendments to firearm legislation, she concluded.
Next, Ms. Erly Munoz presented the trainings for national small arms commissions that United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) has organised, detailing a recent workshop on gender-responsive small arms control in the Central African Republic. The national small arms commission identified national priorities during the training exercise, she said, which will form the basis for a follow-up activity in 2021, including the undertaking of a gender-analysis of small arms control policies and programmes and the establishment of a committee between the small arms commission and the Ministry for the Promotion of Women. The next training is scheduled to take place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in mid-November, Ms. Munoz concluded.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, efforts to link small arms legislation to the elimination of violence against women have been undertaken, followed Ms. Amanda Cowl of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC).The speaker spotlighted the centre’s Specialized Course on Firearms Investigations from a Gender Perspective (FIGP), which recently launched virtually in Argentina and Costa Rica.
The course provided judges, prosecutors, forensic experts and specialized police personnel in Argentina with new valuable inputs to their daily work, said Ms. Alejandra Otamendi from the Women’s Office, at the National Supreme Court of Justice in Argentina, who supplemented her remarks with data on the correlation of femicides and gun violence in Argentina, as well as how her country implements registrations for arms licensing.
On behalf of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), UNODA’s civil society partner for the project, Ms. Natalie Goldring outlined how her organisation promotes civil society engagement in gender-mainstreaming and small arms control. These activities take place at the grass-root level, she said, complementing the work of UNODA’s regional centres. Everyone can act and speak out against gender-based violence, Ms. Goldring said, for example by joining this year’s #16days of activism against gender-based violence campaign, which kicks off on 25 November.
The recording of the meeting can be watched here.