From 23 October to 3 November, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), in collaboration with the Austrian Ministry of Defence and the Ammunition Management Advisory Team (AMAT), conducted the first-ever UN SaferGuard Training for Women Ammunition Technical Experts on the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG). Eleven women working in technical ammunition management roles in their national military and security forces participated in the two-week international training which was held in Wiener Neustadt, Austria.
The training provided an opportunity for women ammunition experts to strengthen their knowledge on a wide range of technical ammunition management topics, including how to prevent ammunition diversion and unplanned explosions at munition sites. They increased their understanding of the International Ammunition Technical Guidelines and familiarized themselves with the UN SaferGuard Self-assessment tools, applying their new knowledge in a practical exercise which entailed assessing an Ammunition Storage Site and Explosive Store House. Participants also examined the issue of gender equality and discussed how to identify gender bias; how gender can influence access to resources, choice and opportunities; and how the barriers that women face in ammunition management can be overcome.
The importance of providing international training opportunities for women in this field cannot be overstated as women continue to be significantly underrepresented in ammunition management, especially in technical roles. Women face various barriers in their professional life, ranging from gender stereotypes and gender norms that often privilege men in this field, to discriminatory attitudes and policies and unequal access to training. This training course affords women technical experts the opportunity to strengthen their knowledge and skills, advancing their career in the sector of ammunition management and building their international professional network.
On the margins of the UN SaferGuard Training, UNODA organized a roundtable discussion [AF1] on through-life conventional ammunition management. The women technical experts and Vienna-based organizations, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Wassenaar Arrangement Secretariat examined important areas of through-life conventional ammunition management, including transfer controls, criminal justice responses and investigations into illicit ammunition trafficking and regional approaches. This provided an opportunity for the training participants to gain insights into the whole cycle of through-life conventional ammunition management.
The training provided a space for women ammunition experts to exchange information on gender-related issues and forge new connections with their peers. Participants in the meeting have become members of the WoMA-Network, which seeks to promote gender equality and diversity in the field of ammunition management, as well as to raise the visibility of women in technical roles in the context of international events, meetings and discussions. Participants indicated they would continue to exchange information through this international and geographically diverse network and hoped to benefit from future exchanges of information on major policy developments, new guidance materials and relevant events, as well as from mentoring and capacity-building opportunities.
UNODA continues to be committed to strengthening gender mainstreaming and the participation of women in through-life conventional ammunition management, as called for by the Global Framework for Through-life Conventional Ammunition Management which was recently adopted by the First Committee of the General Assembly. In keeping with the Global Framework, and with the support of the Austrian Ministry of Defence and the Ammunition Management Advisory Team, UNODA will conduct the UN SaferGuard training course for women experts on an annual basis in coming years.