Panellists called for more effective, gender-specific arms control policies at a discussion hosted by the Australian Government in association with the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) Women’s Network, the Global Alliance on Armed Violent (GAAV), and UNODA. The 12 March event, titled ‘Linking the Women Peace and Security (WPS) and Arms Control Agendas’, was held in the margins of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
Ms. Cora Weiss, UN Representative for the International Peace Bureau (IPB), moderated the panel discussion, which featured Ms. Natasha Stott Despoja, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls; Mr. Daniël Prins, Chief of UNODA’s Conventional Arms Branch; Ms. Jasmin Nario-Galace, Executive Director of the Centre for Peace Education; and Ms. Ray Acheson, Director of Reaching Critical Will, WILPF.
A shared understanding of the impact of weapons on women underpinned the discussion. The panellists explained that women are more likely to experience domestic violence and rape and to become the head of household following the death of a spouse in areas where arms are more prevalent.
Ms. Stott Despoja remarked that the international community has made significant progress towards linking the WPS and arms control agendas through initiatives such as Security Council resolution 1325 and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). However, the issue is one that still requires further national and international attention. In this regard, Ms. Nario-Galace suggested that domestic policies, such as the Philippine National Action Plan on WPS, could be improved by engaging duty bearers, clarifying the objectives of the WPS agenda and challenging gender biases.
Ms. Acheson similarly asserted that States should implement the gender-based violence provisions of the ATT through effective and robust policies. She explained that such policies must not perpetuate gender stereotypes that characterise men as violent and expendable, and women as weak and passive. She also raised concerns that young men are often considered ‘legitimate’ drone strike targets, arguing that these men are more likely to be targeted as militants because of their age and sex.
Mr. Prins also focused on the issue of young men and armed violence, suggesting that men’s behaviour is crucial to meaningful discussion about women’s rights. He referred to data that indicates that age and gender are more powerful determinants of armed violence than geography, and that young men are the group most likely to commit armed violence. “For many young, marginalised men, owning a weapon may be linked to power and societal status”, he explained. Mr. Prins argued that, despite the growing body of research substantiating the link between gender and armed violence, not enough attention has been devoted to translating this research into new policies. He highlighted the importance of adopting programmes that remove weapons in the short-term, and that also use education and norm-setting, and provide alternative livelihoods, to promote long-term change.
The event coincided with the 15th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325, which recognises the crucial role of women in peacebuilding, peacekeeping and peacemaking. It was a thoughtful contribution to the ongoing discussion about WPS and arms control.
For more information about the link between gender and disarmament, visit the ‘gender’ page of the UNODA website or click on the images below.
By Sarah McIntosh and Catriona MacGregor, March 2015.