The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) hosted a virtual webinar focusing on bridging Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) and disarmament agendas on 8th September 2020, as a part of the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) Virtual Torino Forum on Sustaining Peace.
Over 65 people attended the webinar, engaging with panelists and participating in interactive exercises. Three panelists shared their perspectives from government, youth champion and civil society and highlighted key aspects of the WPS, YPS and disarmament agendas as well as opportunities for further collaborative efforts between the communities for the shared goal of sustainable peace, before answering questions from the webinar’s participants. The event was moderated by Frida Thomassen, of the UNODA.
Ms. Thomassen briefly introduced the four pillars of the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, “Securing our Common Future”, highlighting the actions for ensuring the full and effective participation of women and empowering young people to be a force for change in disarmament. She also emphasized the role of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs in supporting Member States organizing projects related to both the WPS and YPS agendas, such as the “#Youth 4 Disarmament” initiative, the UN Youth Champions for Disarmament training programme and the project in support of gender mainstreamed policies, such as programs and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse.
Ms. Nekwaya Iileka-Amesu, from the Permanent Mission of Namibia to the United Nations, introduced key aspects of the WPS’s agenda, highlighting the role women can and should play in conflict-prevention, conflict-resolution and peacebuilding, and the necessity to mainstream a gender perspective into all peace processes. In this light, she affirmed the need to determine how the convergence of the WPS, YPS, and disarmament agendas can be harnessed and translated into action on the local, national and regional level for equitable and sustainable peace. In this regard, she outlined a range of actions that can be taken by stakeholders, such as including disarmament in the agenda of WPS meetings and pursuing actions to increase disarmament expertise within WPS communities at all levels.
Ms. Iileka-Amesu concluded by emphasising the importance for all efforts from across the cross-cutting agendas to be in the same direction: towards the shared goal of equitable and sustainable peace.
“Women have a voice, they have power and they have the capacity to be agents of change.
Their voices, their power, and their agency, coupled with a real gender perspective, is critical to better dialogue, better policy and more equitable and sustainable peace deals.”
– Nekwaya Iileka-Amesu, Permanent Mission of Namibia to the United Nations
Ms. Linh Trang Phung, UN Youth Champion for Disarmament, emphasized the role of youth in acting as agents of change in disarmament, utilizing their creativity to come up with innovative, breakthrough solutions. She highlighted youth climate activists such as Bruno Rodríguez and Greta Thunberg as inspirational examples for young people to become more involved and tackle international issues, such as the proliferation of weapons. Through numerous interactive exercises, Ms. Phung engaged the webinar’s participants in a discussion on key facts about disarmament. In closing, she highlighted the efforts of the United Nations “#Youth 4 Disarmament” Initiative in engaging Young People on issues of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, and identified ways for them to participate.
Ms. Folade Mutota, Executive Director of Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD) and Coordinator of Caribbean Coalition for Development and the Reduction of Armed Violence (CDRAV), highlighted the progress made thus far by the WPS and YPS agendas. She stressed the UN Security Council’s recognition of peace as linked to gender equality and women’s leadership, as well as the Security Council’s recognition of the five pillars for integrating Youth in decision making, as significant advancements. “In this present reality, peace has increasingly meant an inclusive political process” she underlined. Ms. Mutota also reaffirmed the necessity to align the agendas. In closing, she reflected on her experiences within Caribbean approaches, noting the successful efforts of civil societies in both providing education on issues to local stakeholders and building mutually beneficial relationships with key decision-makers.
Subsequently, the panelists answered questions from the webinar participants on topics such as the role of activists, ways to strengthen synergy between YPS and disarmament agendas, the potential to make disarmament more inclusive and opportunities for young people to be more involved in disarmament.
To conclude, Ms. Frida Thomassen moderated an interactive exercise with both the webinar participants and panelists, posing the question for discussion; “What do weapons represent to you?”. The responses ranged from symbols of “Fear” or “Threat” to “Power” or “Status”, reflecting the different perceptions that people can have of weapons and how it is impacted by factors such as age, gender, class, disability and where we live.
As Ms. Iileka-Amesu passionately summarized during the webinar’s conclusion, when the WPS, YPS and disarmament agendas all come together for action at the grassroot level and on the individual basis, real progress can continue to be made.
To watch the full session, click here.