On 10 and 11 March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR conducted a national consultation workshop with the aim of reviewing the country’s National Action Plans relevant to gender responsive small arms control, supported by the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD).
The event in Vangvieng was attended by twenty-five participants, representing key institutions and governmental agencies. Experts from UNRCPD and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) joined the event via Zoom. Opening remarks were provided by Mr. Tsutomu Kono, Senior Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and Ms. Moukdavanh Sisoulith, Deputy Director General, International Organizations Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR.
Experts Ms. Ida Scarpino (UNRCPD), Ms. Elli Kytomaki (UNRCPD), and Ms. Hana Salama (UNIDIR) then delivered presentations on the normative frameworks and guidelines on small arms control (including the UN Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC), the rationale and the objectives of gender mainstreaming small arms control, and ways in which the Women, Peace and Security agenda converges with preventing violence against women and children, laying the groundwork for the ensuing consultation series. In addition, Ms. Salama shared key findings from two recent UNIDIR studies, namely Connecting the Dots and Women managing weapons.
Next, representatives of the Ministry of Public Security and the Women Union presented the National Plan of Action on Prevention and Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children (2021-2025) and a draft law on arms and explosive devices, which had been identified for review.
Participants and experts identified the following key issues that the review of the relevant frameworks should aim to address, namely: a) improve the collection of sex and age disaggregated data with a view to better understanding the gender dynamics underlying (armed) gender-based violence, as well as other issues pertaining to the illicit flows of small arms; b) harmonize legislation on gender-related issues, such as intimate-partner violence or other forms of domestic violence with those related to small arms, with a view to establishing security vetting and background checks; c) enhance gender equality in the security and defense sector and increase women’s participation in highly technical roles, such weapons and ammunition management, including by reforming the recruitment process and training systems; and d) formalize a coordination mechanism across relevant national authorities that could develop a comprehensive and inclusive policy on small arms control.
On the second day, the participants conducted two series of consultations. A first round focused on reviewing relevant national plans, policies, and legislation in order to identify areas of convergence and entry points for synergies and increased coordination. The second round served as an opportunity for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss with relevant authorities the importance of developing a comprehensive National Action Plan on small arms and light weapons (SALW) and to establish a national coordination mechanism that could draft a series of action points for strengthening the national infrastructure on small arms control.
Both series concluded with the drafting of an outcome document, which are currently being finalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that will serve as refence for further work on gender mainstreaming small arms control in Lao PDR. To support future discussions, UNRCPD is assisting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with preparing translations of two key modules of MOSAIC, one on national coordination mechanisms and one on designing and implementing a National Action Plan.
The national consultation workshop was a result of the recommendations made at the hybrid training on gender mainstreaming small arms control held in Vientiane from 14 to 16 July 2021 Both initiatives are part of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs’ global project in support of gender mainstreamed policies, programmes and actions in the fight against small arms and light weapons (SALW) trafficking and misuse, in line with the Women, Peace and Security agenda, funded by the European Union.
 The following institutions were represented: Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Laos’s Women Union, National Assembly.