On 25 October 2019, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in partnership with Small Arms Survey hosted a side event on gender-responsive small arms control – sponsored by the European Union and Canada in New York in the margin of First Committee and ahead of the annual open debate in the Security Council on Women, Peace and Security (WPS).
This event served as a cross-cutting discussion on gender-sensitive arms control and on the specific tools available to practitioners for developing more gender-responsive and evidence-based small arms policies and programming, in line with international commitments and guidance.
The panel was chaired by Ms. Anne Kemppainen from the European External Action Service, who opened the discussion by emphasizing the role of gender norms in shaping societal perceptions of small arms. She noted that gender norms are being mainstreamed across policy discussions and reports, but that there is an urgent need to move from commitment to implementation. She identified this as a major priority for the EU.
Ms. Nekwaya Iileka from Namibia highlighted her country’s work in the WPS Focal Points Network, which Namibia chairs in 2019 with a strong focus on arms control and disarmament. Speaking on the linkages between the WPS framework established under Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and arms control she highlighted the progress made at the 2019 WPS Focal Points Network meeting held in April in Namibia on linking the implementation of the two agendas. Ms. Iileka concluded by emphasizing that equal and effective participation of women in all decision-making processes is crucial to achieving sustainable peace and security and called for improved national and regional coordination, and increased resource and research financing.
Ms. Mia Schöb launched the publication, “A Practical Guide to Gender-Responsive Small Arms Control” – developed by Small Arms Survey under the Gender Lens for Arms Control Support and Sustainability (GLASS) project, with funding from Canada. The handbook provides guidance to small arms practitioners in integrating gender analysis through an incremental approach, in an effort to support progress ranging from gender-sensitive to gender-transformative. Ms. Schöb highlighted the need for intersectional and holistic approaches, which rely on “asking the right questions during programme design and implementation.” Ms. Schöb concluded her remarks by underlining that gender is implicated across the small arms life cycle and emphasized the need to make monitoring and evaluation processes more gender-responsive.
Ms. Katja Boettcher from UNODA presented on the global guidance provided in the Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium, MOSAIC. She underscored that international commitments adopted at Programme of Action (PoA) on small arms meetings demonstrate the consensus in the international community to undertake gender-responsive small arms control, but that the implementation rate at the national level remains low. She highlighted the work undertaken as part of the EU funded project on gender and small arms control in support of national and regional implementation efforts and underlined the commitment of UNODA to synchronize implementation efforts between the small arms and the WPS agendas.
Ms. Armelle Tsafack from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Cameroon stressed that “it is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern wars.” She described the current situation in Cameroon and the response mechanisms which have been developed in response to the ongoing crisis, including on border security between Cameroon and Nigeria and the creation of an early warning mechanism for women (with a free call number), as well as nonviolent communication and social media advocacy training. She underscored the need for gender conflict analysis as an essential tool to understanding the root causes of conflict and providing a platform for victims to speak. She concluded by stating that disarmament consultations remain hampered by low representation of women, and that a lack of reliable data, expertise and financial resource available to women’s civil society organizations continues to inhibit progress on gender-responsive disarmament and arms control activities.
Text and photos by Tanvir Deol