From July 11 to 14 2022, 45 experts gathered in Bujumbura, Republic of Burundi, to discuss how to integrate gender dimensions into the fight against the proliferation, trafficking and misuse of small arms and light weapons (SALW).
Over the course of two workshops, organised by the National Permanent Commission for the Fight against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (CNAP), in collaboration with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) and the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons (RECSA), the participants discussed ongoing projects and new initiatives, and developed concrete actions on gender-related issues linked to the illicit circulation and impacts of small arms and light weapons.
45 participants from various backgrounds, including the security sector, small arms control, women, peace and security, civil society and gender experts, joined the workshop, which was funded by the European Union. Of the participants, 40 percent were women. The Permanent Secretary in charge of security at the Ministry of the Interior, Community Development and Public Security delivered opening remarks, followed by the President of the CNAP and the Peace and Development Advisor at the United Nations Resident Coordinator Office. They each stressed
the need to strengthen Burundi’s capacity to effectively implement SALW control measures at the national level by integrating gender-sensitive actions. The speakers also highlighted the need to align such measures with efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to account for the devastating effects of illicit small arms and light weapons on the country’s development. The speakers further recognised that Burundi adheres to the various global frameworks that make explicit reference to the consequences of weapons, armed conflict and sexual violence for women and on development and underlined the need of women participating in arms control efforts.
“Advances can be clearly noted since Burundi has been a signatory to the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development since 2007 and has aligned itself with the Oslo commitments on armed violence; both key commitments which resulted in the establishment of the Burundian Observatory of Armed Violence (OVA). The OVA serves as an effective mechanism to measure the impact of disarmament and SALW programmes”, the representative of the Ministry of the Interior, Lieutenant-General of the Police André Ndayambaje highlighted.
The Permanent Secretary of CNAP, General Major of the Police Générose Ngendanganya, recognized as positive the role of the Government to consolidate the integration of gender dimensions through the Ministry of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender. She mentioned the importance of focusing on producing tangible results and provided as good practice examples the National Gender Policy and the five-year National Action Plans on small arms control for this purpose. However, she continued, the problems concerning women, peace and security in Burundi are significant, given that women still have weak economic capacities to realize their potential for participation in peacebuilding and in decision-making bodies and positions. More must be done, she concluded, to recognize and consider the contributions, concerns and diverse needs of women, as well as youth.
The following days involved presentations from a variety of stakeholders. Experts from UN Women covered basic concepts on gender and how it links to SALW control, accompanied by a session by Men Engage Burundi on ways in which the possession, use and misuse of small arms is linked to “masculinities” – the perceived qualities or attributes regarded as characteristics of men.
The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and UNREC shared the floor with the CNAP, RECSA and the Ministry of Gender to present on the overlapping and mutually reinforcing objectives of the international agendas on Women, Peace and Security, the SDGs and youth, as well as on normative frameworks related to firearms legislation and security sector reform. They also provided updates on initiatives that resulted from Burundi’s implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and small arms control.
A dedicated session was provided by the NGO Association nationale des anciens combattants et des handicapés, focusing on initiatives that provide assistance to people with disabilities post-war. The session opened up a fruitful discussion between participants on the relationship between armed violence and its social impacts, allowing ideas to emerge for potential collaborations between the OVA and the Ministry of Defence, which collects information on the status of ex-combatants and war victims.
Each day featured practical exercises, including reviewing Burundi’s National Action Plan (NAP) on small arms control and identifying synergies with its NAP on Women, Peace and Security. During this exercise, participants identified challenges and developed action-oriented recommendations for CNAP and other stakeholders. Recommendations included: increasing the number of women, and women generals especially, in the military; developing inclusive approaches for youth empowerment and engagement; conducting comprehensive analysis of the role of cultural aspects in exacerbating violence, while promoting measures to denounce perpetrators of violence (marital, sexual, domestic); and strengthening cooperation with organizations that delivers assistance to people living with disabilities.
The fourth day was undertaken with technical support from IANSA and RECSA, and attended by 15 experts, including the leadership and focal points of the CNAP, gender focal points of the police and military, parliamentarians, the OVA and civil society representatives. The participants broke into groups to develop a gender-mainstreamed action strategy with concrete proposals on integrating gender-related elements in Burundi’s National Action Plan on SALW control, which is yet to be developed. The final report submitted by the CNAP (in French) is available to download here.
The CNAP is expected to commence drafting the NAP on SALW control in 2023. The gender responsive SALW control action framework developed during the workshops provides a foundation to enable the Commission to comprehensively integrate gender dimensions.
The activities in Burundi were posted on social media and on the website of the Ministry of the Interior, Community Development and Public Safety and covered by radio and national TV.