Fostering Gender-Responsive Small Arms Control: Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific Region on the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

March 6th, 2024

On 15 February, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) in Kathmandu, in partnership with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), organized an online regional briefing on the implementation of international commitments on gender-responsive arms control.

Ahead of the Fourth Review Conference of the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the Tenth Conference of State Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the online regional briefing served as a forum for sharing best practices from the Asia-Pacific region. Participants also had the opportunity to exchange ideas on action to ensure that gender-related topics remain a priority in multilateral arms control discussions.

The event, part of UNRCPD’s regional project in support of the UN PoA, was funded by the European Union and UNIDIR’s 2024 Regional Briefing Series on Gender in the UN PoA and the ATT,  drew over sixty participants, including government officials, civil society representatives and officials from relevant UN agencies. The following Asia-Pacific countries were represented: Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vanuatu, Yemen. Stakeholders from other regions also took part in the event.

Mr. Deepayan Basu Ray, Director of UNRCPD

 In his opening remarks, Mr. Deepayan Basu Ray, Director of UNRCPD, emphasized the multifaceted challenges that the proliferation and misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) pose across the globe, and in the region specifically. These challenges are not gender-neutral, he said, but had distinct and differentiated impacts on women and men, boys and girls.  He noted that women are often at greater risk for intimate partner violence, with cultural norms frequently associating firearm possession and use with expressions of toxic masculinity. Fostering gender-responsive approaches to arms control help address the root causes of violence, contribute to the effective implementation of key global instruments, and ultimately contribute to peace and security, he concluded.

Ms. Ida Scarpino, Political Officer at UNRCPD

Ms. Ida Scarpino, Political Affairs Officer at UNRCPD, briefed participants on the PoA’s gender progressive language and commitments[CG1] [IS2] , underscoring the progress made to date and challenges in their implementation.

Ms. Hana Salama, Researcher of the Gender and Disarmament Programme at UNIDIR

Ms. Hana Salama,Researcher with the Gender and Disarmament Programme at UNIDIR, provided guidance on the interconnection between SALW and Gender-Based Violence (GBV), focusing in particular on the implementation of Article 7.4 of the ATT.  She underlined that the ATT represented a landmark being the first legally binding instrument to include such a dedicated provision on preventing GBV. However, the limited collection of data poses a significant challenge for effectively applying the risk mitigation measures as outlined in Article 7.4. Ms. Salama added. She provided recommendations to address these obstacles, such as enhancing cooperation among national agencies engaged in GBV prevention, implementing Women, Peace, and Security initiatives, imposing export controls, as well as putting in place measure to promote gender equality. 

Ms. Athikarn Bell Dilogwathana, Permanent Mission of Thailand to Geneva

Ms. Athikarn Bell Dilogwathana of the Permanent Mission of Thailand to Geneva, underlined Thailand’s commitment to achieving gender equality in the realm of arms control. Thailand’s bottom-up approach, such as promoting STEM education among young women, she said, had yielded multiple positive outcomes,  and had resulted in a majority of women occupying decision-making roles in the field of disarmament.

Mr. Christopher Asa,Director General, Social Policy & Governance, Department of Prime Minister & National Executive Council (NEC), Papua New Guinea.

Mr. Christopher Asa, Director General, Social Policy & Governance, Department of Prime Minister & National Executive Council (NEC) of Papua New Guinea (PNG) briefed participants on the negative impact of illicit trade and proliferation of SALW in PNG. Women are, he noted, disproportionally affected by armed violence, particularly in the context of tribal confrontations. Mr. Asa emphasized that PNG had prioritized integrated efforts, such as the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to GBV, which aims to ensure the protection of women and create safer communities, while also addressing gun violence.

Mr. Pedro li Soria, Senior Adviser, Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crime, the Government of the Philippines.

Mr. Pedro Li Soria, Senior Adviser in the Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crime of the Philippines, introduced the Philippines’ ‘Whole-of-Nation Approach’ which, he said, was aimed at strengthening gender-responsive initiatives to combat SALW proliferation. He noted that this approach systematically integrates gender-responsive strategies into firearms regulation and assessment criteria,  and was aligned with international norms and standards. Special legislation recognizing women’s rights and safeguarding against all forms of abuse, coupled with gender sensitivity training and capacity-building initiatives had played pivotal roles in fostering synergies between national action plans on SALW and complementary agendas such as Women, Peace, and Security. Consequently, he concluded, these efforts had led to a reduction in firearms-related crimes and an improvement in reporting mechanisms and access to support services.

Major Ms. Apaiksha Uppal, Armament Training Officer from India

Gender equality stands as both a moral imperative and a strategic operational principle within India’s defense and security sector, said Major Ms. ApaikshaUppal, an Armament Training Officer in the Indian army. Major Uppal described the Indian army’s gender policy and underscored the Government’s growing dedication to enhancing women’s roles, particularly as pertained to the army’s technically advanced and prestigious positions. She underlined the unique contribution of women in the armed forces, highlighting their capacity to foster trust within both military and civilian communities and to lead by example. 

Ms. Purna Shova Chitrakar, Coordinator of Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal

Ms. Purna Shova Chitrakar, Coordinator of the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal, proposed a comprehensive framework for integrating gender considerations into small arms control, highlighting three key elements. First, she underscored the importance of understanding the differentiated impact of small arms use and misuse on women, girls, boys and men and various communities. Second, she emphasized the necessity for robust rehabilitation efforts by governments and other stakeholders to support individuals affected by violence. Finally, she called attention to the critical aspects relating to access to economic reintegration. Ms. Chitrakar also stressed that it is vital for women to participate in and lead small arms control and arms regulation initiatives, thereby enhancing efforts to combat gender-based violence.

Mainstreaming gender considerations into small arms control efforts is an integral part of global, regional, and national commitments to arms control and gender equality.  Participants agreed that this mode of approach also serves to mitigate the risk of perpetuating existing inequalities and patterns of discrimination through gender-blind policies and programmes.

For further information, please contact Ms. Ida Scarpino, Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, via email at