The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) kicked off its training programme on gender and small arms control in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Organized with the Commission on small arms and light weapons (CNC-ALPC), the training took place from 23rd to 25th November 2020 in Kinshasa. Its primary objective was to ensure the effective integration of a gender-responsive framework in the DRC’s National Action Plan (2018-2022) on small arms and light weapons.
Over the course of three days, more than 60 representatives from government, chiefs of the CNC-ALPC provincial offices, civil society, and staff from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) boosted their know-how on incorporating gender considerations into national and local small arms control efforts. The training, conducted by UNREC, is part of a global project, funded by the European Union, 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.
The proliferation, illicit circulation and misuse of small arms impact women, men, girls and boys differently. Therefore, it is necessary to advance gender-mainstreaming across all small arms control efforts, said Mr. Guillaume Chartrain, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the DRC and Mr. Jean-Pierre Kalombo Tshinkunku, Director of Cabinet of the Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Interior and Customary Affairs in their opening remarks. Both representatives highlighted the steps that the CNC-ALPC has taken in this regard. Women’s participation in small arms control should be boosted to ensure greater equality, representation and inclusion, they stressed.
Ms. Erly Munoz, UNREC’s Project Coordinator in Africa, continued on the topic of inclusion, showcasing opportunities and barriers of women participating in economic, scientific, social, political and civic life in the DRC.
Mr. Anselme Yabouri, UNREC’s Director, addressed small arms control from an operational perspective by explaining each stage of the small arms lifecycle and the distinctive roles that men and women play in this regard. African States, he said, have made strides to accede to and implement regional and global small arms and light weapons instruments and frameworks which provide concrete tools to improve national small arms laws, import/export controls, and stockpile management, amongst others.
MONUSCO’s Gender Affairs Officers, Mr. Agbeko Koffi Sodjinou and Ms. Fatou Keita Guindo, continued by spotlighting the links between gender-based violence and armed conflict. Gender mainstreaming in small arms control is essential, they said, because it “considers the distinct roles played by women, men, young girls and young boys as victims and perpetrators of armed violence and crime, but also as key actors for the prevention of conflict including during the implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) initiatives.”
Linking such DDR processes to community violence reduction (CVR) efforts, Mr. Abba Walupakah, MONUSCO DDR/RR representative, discussed various CVR initiatives and efforts to reintegrate ex-combatants in the DRC and how these require the integration of gender-sensitive measures. For example, by conducting consultations with women organisations and groups to gather their perspectives in the design of community violence reduction projects. Another vital aspect to bear in mind for DDR activities, said Ms. Henny Slegh, Founder of the Living Peace Institute (an NGO affiliated with Promundo), is to address triggers of Intimate Partner Violence during family reintegration programmes, especially in areas affected by conflict and small arms proliferation.
Connecting the disarmament and women, peace and security agendas, Commissaire Principal Patrick Kombe Katambwe, Secretary Permanent of the CNC-ALPC, outlined the progress made towards implementing the DRC’s action plan on small arms control (2018-2022). Ms. Annita Kenda, National Focal Point on Women Peace and Security, followed with an update on the national action plan on Resolution 1325 (2019-2022). A number of challenges hamper the implementation process, she said. This includes a lack of information on the fight against small arms proliferation, the upsurge in gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and in conflict-settings, the low number of women in decision-making bodies, and insufficient resources because the national action plan is not aligned with the country’s budget.
On the final day of the training, participants covered the issue of small arms risk education. Mr. Gregoire de Nantes of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), lead a lively discussion on how to make trainings on weapons and ammunition management (WAM) for national security officers more gender responsive. Ways to accomplish this would be to include mandatory sessions on human rights violations, gender inequalities, and the risk factors associated with sexual violence facilitated by small arms.
Men and boys need to become more involved in the fight against gender-based violence and as promoters of gender equality, said the representatives of DRC’s chapter of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) in their presentation, pointing to the efforts undertaken in this regard by the MenEngage Alliance, as well as to community sensitization efforts on the risks of small arms as part of the Vision Gram International initiative.
Participants then took to reviewing the DRC’s national action plans on small arms control and on women, peace and security. They came up with concrete recommendations about how small arms control and efforts to curb the illicit circulation of small arms could be made more gender-sensitive, paying particular attention to ways to ensure the engagement of women and girls in such efforts.
The CNC-ALPC and the Ministry of Gender would benefit from greater collaboration and to jointly develop gender-responsive approaches to arms control, participants found. Additionally, national authorities should develop monitoring tools which will help to further integrate gender dimensions in small arms control. The collection of gender disaggregated data would greatly help in this regard which would provide evidence-based information for analysis and policy action. Finally, the participants urged the government to strengthen its efforts to combat sexual violence and to scale up services, including socioeconomic reintegration support, for displaced women and those returning to their communities after conflict.
The recommendations provide the baseline for the second phase of the programme in 2021, which aims to support the CNC-ALPC in developing gender-sensitive monitoring and reporting mechanisms of its national action plan.
The conduct of the training followed the government’s COVID-19 protocols.