All Women Team from UNODA discusses securing arms and ammunition to save lives

June 8th, 2018
Katja Flueckiger, Katherine Prizeman and Nora Allgaier

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) recently organized a Brown Bag meeting on ‘Securing Arms and Ammunition-Saving Lives’, highlighting UNODA’s work on physical security and stockpile management (PSSM). Part of the UNODA Women’s Informal Network, the presentation featured an all-female team, Katherine Prizeman, Nora Allgaier, and Katja Flueckiger, all of whom support effective weapons and ammunition management.

The  meeting highlighted the availability of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG) and the corresponding UN SaferGuard Programme, which oversees their dissemination.

At the request of the General Assembly, the IATG were developed in 2011 with the UN SaferGuard Programme established as the corresponding knowledge management platform. The IATG consist of 12 volumes covering life-cycle management of ammunition from storage to transport to destruction. Understanding that there is diversity in exposure to the concepts, users of the IATG can opt for implementing the guidelines’ basic, intermediate, or advanced levels, making these ammunition guidelines relevant regardless of implementation capacity. The guidelines address the dual risks of preventing unintended explosions of depots and diversion of material to the illicit market.

Katherine and Nora both work as desk officers in the Conventional Arms Branch, liaising closely with UN entities, international and regional organizations and States in rolling out the IATG to interested parties. In response to the challenges in working with Member States and NGOs on ammunition management, Katherine said that, “ammunition management is a sensitive issue and represents a critical component of national security, which makes the provision of assistance a delicate and sometimes challenging undertaking.”

The event also covered the issue of physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) of weapons and ammunition, which essentially addresses how weapons and ammunition are stored safely and securely. Katja, who is a desk officer in the Regional Disarmament Branch, highlighted key challenges and priorities related to PSSM, including to allow for sufficient time to train staff and experts, to ensure that there is enough national institutional capacity to effectively comply with standards and guidelines, to maintain coordination among the multitude of PSSM actors, and to address the safe and secure storage and handling of weapons and ammunition that are held by private security companies.

UNODA assists in PSSM through its three UN Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament, in Togo, Peru: and Nepal. The Centres organise workshops, legal and technical assistance and outreach activities on effective weapons and ammunition management. Katja stressed that assistance in the field of PSSM encompasses not just the construction or rehabilitation of weapons and ammunition storage sites but a variety of other areas, such as reviews of current legislation, strengthening institutional oversight, capacity-building, and introduction of new technologies to assist with inventory management.

Arms control and particularly weapons and ammunition management remains a highly male dominated area of work. It is important that the United Nations promotes the participation and advancement of women in this field to change this reality. Involving more women brings new perspectives and solutions to the table and leads to more inclusive, effective and sustainable results in our effort to create a safer and more secure world.

Drafted by Colleen Bromberger and Holly McCall