Thirty-three participants, among government officials, security and defence forces, and civil society, attended the three-day training from 21 to 23 June on gender mainstreaming small arms control in Dhaka, Bangladesh, organized by the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD).
The training, which is part of the EU-funded global project on gender and small arms control, consisted of a two-day programme on gender mainstreaming small arms control, and a concluding session on National Coordination Mechanism (NCM) and National Action Plan (NAP) on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). Various key government ministries dealing with security and defence affairs, justice and law, gender equality, youth and education took part in the training, as well as national forces and para-military agencies. The audience also included two civil society organizations currently working with the government for the implementation of the 2019-2023 NAP on Women, Peace and Security, namely Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha and Bangladesh Mahila Parishad.
The training was opened with the remarks of the Acting Director of UNRCPD, Ms. Soo Hyun Kim, the Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Bangladesh, Mr. Charles Whiteley, and the United Nations Resident Coordinator ad interim. for Bangladesh, Mr. Bardan Jung Rana. All speakers highlighted how the use, misuse and proliferation of small arms intersect with socio-economic factors, exacerbate further violence derived from inequalities, poverty, crime, extremism and pose a threat to the national and regional stability. In the lead up to the Eighth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UN PoA), the speakers also called for the synchronization of small arms control policies and programmes with the implementation of global agendas, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The government of Bangladesh played a pioneering role in adopting the landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in 2000, in the capacity of non-permanent member of the Security Council, was highlighted in the opening remarks.
On day one, participants were introduced to the concept and terminologies on gender and small arms control, the relevant normative framework and gender analysis as the building block for gender responsive policies, legislations and programmes. Mr. Dragan Bozanic, Gender and Research Project Specialist at the South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC), presented on the importance of collecting sex and age disaggregated data in small arms control context and share the pioneering work of UNDP-SEESAC in the Balkans on gender mainstreaming small arms control. The presentations were followed by exercises and discussions on existing data on small arms and gender issues in Bangladesh and ways to improve data collection and information sharing among relevant institutions.
On day two, Ms. Shrabana Datta, Knowledge Management and Monitoring Analyst at UN Women Bangladesh, opened the discussion with a presentation on the scale and root causes of Violence Against Women (VAW) and current efforts at the national level. “Violence against women and girls is deeply rooted in gender inequality. It is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women”, said Ms. Datta. Next, Ms. Tania Sharmin, focal point for the Women Peace and Security programme, explained how addressing VAW is a core objective of the current NAP on WPS, through the development of a series of initiatives aimed at preventing radicalization, violent extremism, countering misogyny and hate speech. The discussion was complemented by a presentation and a focused discussion on the linkages between VAW, toxic masculinity and the presence of small arms, led by Mr. Bozanic. “The link between manhood and guns is established early on and strengthened through social and cultural activities: games, role models and joining male dominated groups and organizations. Addressing these dynamics and integrating small arms control in programmes and policies against VAW, are powerful tools to prevent violence”, said Mr. Bozanic. The synchronization between small arms related laws and policies with VAW programmes and normative framework was explored further following the presentation on the firearms licensing system in Bangladesh, delivered by Mr. Shahe Alid Mainul Amin, Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The discussion on the WPS process in Bangladesh continued with a session on women’s participation and gender quality in the field of security and particularly small arms control, which benefited from the contribution of the civil society and their testimony as women-led organizations implementing key activities of the WPS NAP.
Withing the aim to draft action points and translate the recommendations of the training sessions into practice, UNRCPD and UNDP-SEESAC led an exercise on reviewing the current NAP on WPS and identifying entry points for small arms control and increased synergy between VAW related initiatives and small arms control policies and laws.
On day three, Ms. Ida Scarpino, Regional Project Coordinator on Gender and SALW at UNRCPD, delivered a presentation on National Coordination Mechanism (NCM) and National Action Plan (NAP) on SALW, and available guidelines, namely the Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC). Mr. Bozanic shared the experience from the SEESAC region, “integrating a gender perspective in the work of the National Commission on SALW in the Western Balkans jurisdictions helped unpack pre-existing human dynamics driving the use, misuse and proliferation of small arms and led to more effective policies and operations”.
The day concluded with a MOSAIC-based exercise on the development of a NAP on SALW. The exercise culminated with the drafting of a model NAP matrix outlining operational objectives, targeted activities, lead agency for the different functional areas of SALW control (policy and law, supply side control, demand reduction, victim assistance, crosscutting issues and special programmes).
The three-day training on gender mainstreaming small arms control in Dhaka benefited from the support of the UN Resident Coordinator Office in Bangladesh, which also facilitated side meetings between the UNRCPD project team and relevant UN agencies, such as UNDP, UN Women, UNODC, civil society and the Academia. The side meetings provided UNRCPD with an opportunity to discuss how small arms control fit into national sustainable development frameworks and collect relevant information for the design of the training sessions.