First Committee side event on gender-responsive small arms control: lessons from national implementation

November 11th, 2022

On 25 October 2022, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) hosted a virtual side event entitled ‘Gender-responsive Small Arms Control: Lessons from National Implementation’ on the margins of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee. The event was sponsored by the European Union as part of the global project in support of gender mainstreamed policies, programmes and actions in the fight against small arms trafficking and misuse, in line with the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

Ms. Claudia Garcia Guiza, Political Affairs Officer at UNODA’s Conventional Arms Branch, moderated the interactive panel discussion. She emphasized the importance of the EU’s assistance under the global project, through which UNODA’s regional centres have been supporting the operationalization of gender mainstreaming of small arms control at the regional and national levels, working closely with national authorities in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Michal Karczmarz, Chair of COARM (Working Group on Conventional Arms Export), Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Arms Export Control at the European External Action Service (EEAS) noted that more women have become involved in leadership and decision-making positions, thanks in part to the efforts of UNODA and all parties involved in the implementation of the EU Council Decision 2018/2011, which he recognized as a major achievement. The WPS Agenda, he said, remains an essential framework to respond to gender issues which can impede women’s equal participation in both public and private life. He further stressed that the diversion of small arms and light weapons and ammunition continues to contribute to instability and violence in many places across the globe. As such, he reiterated that the EU remains committed to supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment and will continue to support gender mainstreaming policies and actions in combating the trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW), in line with the WPS Agenda. Finally, he called for commitment from all partners, Member States, organizations and civil societies to continue joint efforts in this regard.

Ms. Alejandra Otamendi, representative of the Women’s Office at the Argentina’s Supreme Court of Justice, briefed the participants on Argentina’s ongoing efforts in the area of gender-based small arms control, particularly with regards to preventing feminicides with firearms, which, together with organized crime, were on the rise. She stressed how collecting statistical data on judicial cases of gender-based violence against women in a National Femicide Registry, as well as adopting a multilateral approach by working with small arms control organizations and engaging in inter-regional and regional activities, are vital elements to establishing an evidence-base and raising awareness of the link between firearms and gender-based violence. Regional and inter-regional cooperation, the speaker noted, was especially important to effectively implement Argentina’s framework and policies on the issue, as well as to strengthen relevant institutions and train professionals on gender issues, also welcoming UNLIREC’s efforts in this regard. Such efforts promoted additional protective measures, such as the confiscation of weapons from men who have been previously reported for gender-based or domestic violence. She concluded by noting that the Women’s Office remains committed to coordinating with UNLIREC, UNODA, UNIDIR, and other UN agencies to train members of the judiciary who are responsible for conducting criminal investigations of cases of gender-based violence cases that involve firearms, as well as collaborating in other projects that promote gender perspectives in all dimensions of small arms control.

Next, Ms. Indira Gohiwar Aryal, counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Nepal, stressed Nepal’s efforts to achieve the meaningful participation of women in small arms, peace and security decision-making processes. She outlined Nepal’s perspective on gender inclusion and small arms control, as well as the ways in which illicit arms negatively impact human rights, development, and peace. The speaker said that the meaningful participation of women in all sectors is indispensable to sustaining peace and fostering economic and social development, noting that the number of women in Nepal’s security forces, parliament, and in public services has been increasing. In terms of promoting efforts to mainstream gender in the areas of arms control and disarmament, Ms. Aryal mentioned that Nepal’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security can be seen as the framework for continuing to advance gender accountability in gun control and strengthening women’s participation in small arms control. She welcomed the contribution of civil societies, media and UN organisations and entities, including workshops conducted by UNRCPD in November 2021 and April 2022, which have provided substantive input and expertise. Looking ahead, the speaker suggested that a talent pool of women experts could enhance the presence of women in stockpile management offices, thereby enabling greater gender equity in this line of work.

Colonel (Rtd) Binneh K. Conteh, Deputy Commissioner Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms (SLeNCSA), discussed Sierra Leone’s approach to identifying challenges, opportunities and lessons learned from the implementation of gender-responsive small arms control in both his country and in the region. The speaker mentioned UNREC’s workshop conducted in Sierra Leone in 2021 and subsequent efforts to implement the key lessons from that training. For example, Sierra Leone is in the process of developing a national action plan for small arms control that is gender-sensitive and in line with all relevant international instruments. Additionally, he emphasized the government’s commitment to ensuring the full participation of women as active agents, including in security roles and in arms and ammunition management, in strategic and operational positions. With regards to small arms control, the speaker suggested the National Commission could benefit from the creation of a department that deals specifically with the proliferation of illicit SALW and their gendered impact.

Additionally, Ms. Folade Mutota, Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD), and Coordinator of the Caribbean Coalition for Development and the Reduction of Armed Violence (CDRAV), emphasized three main points: first, strategic partnerships between government actors and civil society organisations are key to achieving positive results, particularly with organizations based in affected communities. Second, successful cooperation and quality service delivery is in large part dependent on access to information, which can help inform decision making. Third, trust and commitment are vital elements of all actors’ joint pursuit to combat illicit small arms as well as gender-based violence. The speaker pointed to progress on gender-responsive arms control that was made through advocacy work,  gender-sensitive research and building partnerships with decision-making authorities, which resulted in improved public policy. However, much work remains to be done, as evidenced by the recent increase in attacks on women in public and private space, as well as high levels of SALW trafficking. She mentioned several steps that can contribute to reversing these trends, including by gaining a better understanding of the organised networks that support violence and illicit arms trafficking, better data collection on gun-related domestic violence, and adequately documenting such cases. She concluded by stressing the need to align research with policy and programmatic decisions on gender-responsive small arms control and reiterated her commitment in this regard.  

Participants also watched a video by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), created with the support of the global project, which calls for all voices to be heard to unite against gun violence and create a safer world, and for the equal participation of men and women, especially from communities affected by gun violence, in all disarmament and security decision-making processes.

The event concluded with a brief discussion between the panelists and the audience on the way forward in support of national and regional policies and actions to gender mainstreaming small arms control, including with regards to new and emerging trends, achievements, and available materials to further this shared goal.

A video recording of the side-event is available here.