As travelling in the Asia-Pacific region remains challenging in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) adapted a planned national training on gender and small arms control for government officials from Papua New Guinea into a webinar series. The four-part series, conducted in partnership with the Office of Prime Minister and National Executive Council (NEC) of Papua New Guinea, was held on 23, 24 and 30 September and 1 October.
The webinars covered the topic of gender mainstreaming small arms control at the policy, legislative and operational levels. They drew twenty government officials (10 women and 10 men), representing the following agencies: the Office of Prime Minister and NEC, the Office of the Security Coordination and Assessment (OSCA), the Law and Order Branch, the Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender Based Violence prevention, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Department for Community Development and Religion, the Office for the Development of Women, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary – Directorate for Family and Sexual Violence. Mr. Tweedy Malagian, founder of civil society organisation Seeds for Peace and member of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) attended the series to share local experiences on gun violence prevention in Papua New Guinea.
Opening the first webinar, H.E. Ambassador Jernej Videtic of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Papua New Guinea noted that armed violence and its gendered impacts is of particular concern in the Pacific, adding that the EU continues to support the integration of gender-related global commitments on small arms control intro regional, national and local practices. His speech was followed by the opening remarks of Mr. Christopher Asa, Director General, Social Policy & Governance Department of Prime Minister & NEC, who also serves as the National Focal Point on the UN Programme of Action on small arms (PoA) and Mr. Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of UNRCPD.
The presence of small arms as an enabler of gender-based violence (GBV) featured prominently in the first two webinars, reflecting the urgency of this issue in Papua New Guinea. Participants engaged in discussions, led by Ms. Ida Scarpino, UNRCPD Regional Project Coordinator, about the synergies between small arms and light weapons (SALW) control and key domestic frameworks such as GBV prevention and community safe programmes. Participants discussed and examined relevant normative frameworks such as the National Strategy to prevent and respond to GBV (2016-2025) and the Spotlight Initiative, whose pillars and activities were presented by Ms. Emma Anere from the UN Women Country Office.
During the second webinar participants engaged in a role-play exercise describing a case of GBV committed with a small arm which showed the circumstances and chain of events with the objective to identify entry points to prevent such crime and convict possible perpetrators. This was followed by a fruitful discussion on (armed) GBV and potential loopholes in legislative frameworks and coordination mechanisms, such as the lack of checks for criminal background or other GBV indicators for those applying for a firearms licence, and deficiencies in information sharing among law enforcement institutions to report and convict cases of GBV. Mr. Steven Paniu from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Office and Mr. Tweedy Malagian from Seeds For Peace provided data on GBV and shared testimonies on the implications of gun violence and the role of toxic masculinities perpetuating the problem.
The third webinar focused on strengthening Papua New Guinea’s national legal framework to address GBV and the enabling role of small arms. Mr. Dragan Bozanic, from the United Nations Development Programme – The South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNDP/SEESAC) shared his experience working with National Commissions on SALW in South Eastern and Eastern Europe to promote the collection of sex-and-age disaggregated data in SALW control and reviewing SALW related legislation to include reference to GBV. The presentation led to a productive discussion on a series of practical recommendations for amending Papua New Guinea’s Firearms Act 1996. One such recommendation made reference to the importance of having a National Coordination Mechanism on SALW control to promote effective reforms and measures. Ms. Amelie Namuroy from the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) elaborated further on national coordination mechanisms and the inclusion of key stakeholders, focusing on the role of civil society and the importance of the full and equal participation of women in small arms control at global level.
During the fourth webinar, participants and experts discussed how to operationalize the issue of gender and small arms control. Mr. Alistair Gee from the Centre for Armed Violence Reduction (CAVR) presented current technical assistance programmes on SALW control in Papua New Guinea and possible entry points for gender-responsiveness. He noted available tools and programmes that countries can use to improve their operational capacity in small arms control, with a focus on the Arms Tracker initiative.
The series concluded with an exercise aimed at identifying action points and a series of recommendations to enhance SALW control in Papua New Guinea from a gender perspective, which will be further considered at a forthcoming follow-up activity. The list of recommendations included, among others, measures aimed at improving the regulatory framework on SALW control and the development of broader community safety programmes and disarmament education initiatives in the lead up to Papua New Guinea’s elections next year.
The webinar series was part of a global project in support of 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.