Gender & Nuclear Weapons

October 27th, 2016
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Gender and Nuclear Weapons

    On Wednesday 18 October 2016, in the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, the Permanent Mission of Ireland in conjunction with the United Nations Institute for Disarmaent Research (UNIDIR) held a side event during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee on “Gender and Nuclear Weapons”. Ms. Patricia O’Brien, the Permanent Representative for the Mission of Ireland to the United Nations in Geneva moderated the panel.

    Ambassador O’Brien started the event by saying that the landscape within the disarmament agenda is shifting, with the previous decades of stagnation being replaced by a real desire for change. She saidthat Member States are beginning to move away from siloed interests to tackle one of the most pressing global challenges of our time. Ms. O’Brien said she agreed that the linking of disarmament with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) was important, and all progress towards the SDG targets in 2030 relies on a safe international environment. She affirmed her view that the link between disarmament and development has never been clearer, including in the field of gender equality and peace. Ms. O’Brien concluded by saying that Ireland has approached the issue of gender and disarmament in accordance with of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security, and supports greater female representation in disarmament bodies.

    Dr. John Borrie, Chief of Research at UNIDIR said that the basis for the joint study between UNIDIR and the International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI) was to examine the relationship between nuclear weapons and gender, how and why they are connected to each other and to the global agenda. Dr. Borrie said that the gender perspective was useful in understanding the impact, discourse and actors dealing with nuclear weapons. He noted that there was a male-dominated approach to disarmament in comparison with other policy areas such as sustainable development.. Dr. Borrie said that a gender lens is needed when reviewing disarmament due to the different biological effects as well as the social, economic and psychological dimensions of nuclear weapon detonations. The gender imbalance across multilateral disarmament forums is a factor limiting the progress in nuclear disarmament. Dr. Borrie also argued that the Gender, Development and Nuclear Weapons study highlight that men continued to be over-represented across all regions in disarmament with women only representing 26.5% of participants in disarmament meetings in 2015.

    H.E. Mr. Caleb Otto, Permanent Representative of Palau to the United Nationsspoke on the important role of women within Palau, and the importance of their input in ensuring Palau’s constitution on the non-use nuclear weapons. Amb. Otto referred to theincreasing role that women need to play in disarmament, building upon the experiences of Palau women who have suffered from the consequences of nuclear detonations in neighbouring Japan. He noted the need and the costs associated with implementing the SDG’s and highlighted how counterproductive it is to spend trillions of dollars by nuclear weapons states in modernizing their arsenals. He directly challenged Member States to continue to push for reform.

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(From Left to Right) Ms. Jackie O’Halloran, (Deputy Director of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation for the Permanent Mission of Ireland); Dr. John Borrie, (Chief of Research, UNIDIR); Ms. Patricia O’Brien, (Permanent Representative for the Mission of Ireland to the United Nations in Geneva); H.E. Dr. Ambassador Caleb Otto, (Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Palau to the United Nations) and Magnus Hellgren, (Deputy Director General at the Department for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation for the Mission of Sweden).

    Mr. Hellgren, the Deputy Director General at the Department for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation in Sweden spoke of his country’s efforts to strengthen the gender aspects of Sweden’s foreign policy through five basic pillars: achieving gender equality through therule of law and human rights; combating gender based sexual violence in both peace and conflict; promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights; economically empowering women for overall development and growth; integrating feminist perspectives in promoting sustainable development and tackling climate change. He saidthat alongside these five pillars, there are “three R’s” in the feminist foreign policy toolkit: rights, representation and resources. There is also the need for a reality check when reviewing the lack of progress in gender and disarmament discourse. Member States need to do more to help national and multilateral security through encouraging equal representation. This will encourage change in the disarmament environment.

    The final speaker was Ms. O’Halloran, the Deputy Director of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, for Ireland. She thanked Amb. Otto for promoting disarmament, and stressed the need for more research and action in promoting equal representation in disarmament forums on a national, regional and multilateral level. She highlighted the important role that Ireland has played and will continue to promote in the field of disarmament. In order to educate and promote disarmament, Ms. O’Halloran emphasised the need to scrutinise the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapon and build upon the work of the Open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament (2016).


Drafted by Edward Hainsworth