On 15 October, a panel discussion on promoting gender-responsive disarmament and security was held on the side of the First
Committee in New York.
The discussion was organized by the International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group, which was launched in Geneva last month. The group is led by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of Ireland and Namibia.
The panel featured five experts on disarmament and international security. Ambassador Michael Garrey of Ireland and Dr Renata Dawn of UNIDIR served as chairs.
The speakers focused mainly on strategies for implementing the UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda. In the Agenda, the Secretary-General calls for equal, full and effective participation of women in all decision-making processes relating to disarmament and international security.
UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu opened the discussion by underscoring the importance of meaningful participation. Women can be instrumental in facilitating peace but are “chronically” underrepresented in negotiations.
“We need to address it because we need to make progress in disarmament,” the High Representative explained.
Paivi Kannisto, Chief of Peace and Security at UN Women, spoke about her office’s work in South Sudan. She identified how less than 5% of all aid went towards gender-related initiatives in 2017 and called for stronger engagement with local women.
The next speaker was Ambassador Pennelope Beckles of Trinidad and Tobago. Ambassador Beckles noted that Trinidad and Tobago have tabled a biennial resolution on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control every year since 2010. This year provides an opportunity to strengthen its text.
Deputy Permanent Representative of Namibia Linda Scott recalled the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women’s positive impact on gender mainstreaming. She encouraged states to continue this success by developing action plans for implementing Resolution 1325.
“Let us be mindful of the commitments we’ve made,” Ms Scott said. “When women are present at the negotiating table and are part of the solution, that becomes a lasting solution.”
The final speaker was Mavic Cabrera Balleza. Ms Balleza is the Chief Executive Officer of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, which brings together over 40 civil society groups. She asked states to challenge discriminatory norms and create feminist foreign policies.
Following the statements, event attendees were given the opportunity to voice their thoughts. The room heard from representatives of Jamaica, Sweden, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Thailand and Lebanon. Representatives of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Arms Control Coalition also spoke.
Ambassador Amal Mudallali of Lebanon asked the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs what steps could be taken to improve women’s representation in disarmament negotiations. The High Representative replied that the UN must take a comprehensive approach with clear targets. Benchmarks, timeframes and incentives should all be utilized.
Ambassador Garrey wrapped up the discussion by thanking participants for their contributions. He was hopeful the conversation would continue at future events.
“We have made a small but significant start.”
Drafted by Victoria Brownlee
Photographs by Ruben Nicolin