Integrating gender-responsive actions into small arms control measures: A review of progress made by Burundi, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone

December 21st, 2023

On 11 December, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) launched the first webinar in a series on “Taking stock of gender-responsive actions into small arms control measures.”    The webinar, organized in support of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA), was attended by officials of Burundi, Cameroon and Sierra Leone, [MC1] who have taken part in the project’s implementation.

The[MC1]  purpose of the webinar was to take stock of progress made and best practices in adopting and implementing gender sensitive initiatives in arms control and disarmament in the three participating countries and was organized with funding by the European Union.  The webinar afforded the opportunity to hold frank discussions on the challenges faced in advancing the integration of small arms control and gender equality and women, peace and security efforts.

Representatives of Burundi, Cameroon and Sierra Leone shared progress made in implementing gender sensitive initiatives in Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) management, including through the adoption and implementation of national plan of actions on 1325 and SALW, in their respective countries. In Burundi, the adoption of a gender quota to increase women’s representation and participation in decision-making processes relating to arms control initiatives was, according to participants, instrumental in advancing gender mainstreaming and in combatting the proliferation of SALW. Similarly, Sierra Leone had taken a number of steps to ensure effective gender mainstreaming in the defense and security sector. Burundi, Cameroon and Sierra Leone also carried out a series of capacity building programs to advance and integrate gender sensitive initiatives. The three countries have adopted an inclusive approach, working closely with civil society organizations (CSOs), women and youth groups, local authorities, and communities to raise awareness.

Burundian police officer delivering a presentation on gender mainstreaming in Security and Sector Reform in Burundi,
UNREC workshop in Burundi, July 2022

Despite these efforts, the widespread proliferation of SALW, the limited integration of gender considerations into broader arms control policies, the inadequate financial and technical resources to conduct large-scale capacity-building and awareness-raising activities and the absence of effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, were identified by participants as key challenges.

 Attendees also indicated that the participation of women and youth in the elaboration of legal frameworks and policies, such as National action Plans on SALW, was essential to making progress in this area.  They stressed that sustained awareness-raising campaigns on gender and SALW targeting policymakers, including Members of Parliament and stakeholders in the defense and security sectors, would also be key.  In addition, effective support for the integration of women into the defense and security sector, along with continued capacity building programs, including for women on SALW, were key to advancing WPS efforts and the fight against illicit trafficking of SALW, they said.

Burundi, Cameroon and Sierra Leone requested enhanced support from UNREC and other international partners to help in multiple areas including, advocacy, capacity building, arms stockpile management, inclusion of women and youth in combatting the trafficking of SALW,  and the effective implementation of gender quotas

UNREC workshop on Gender and SALW in Cameroon, June 2021

Burundi, Cameroon and Sierra Leone, along with the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali, took part as beneficiary States in Phase I of the PoA project (2019 -2022) in support of gender mainstreaming in small arms control. A new project,  also funded by the European Union, is operational through 2025 and will focus on supporting States in the implementation  of the commitments contained in the Programme of Action (PoA) on SALW, including by strengthening their capacity  to establish and foster gender responsive SALW control policies and programs. The project seeks to enhance the effectiveness of small arms control and gender responsive initiatives, as well as promote women and youth participation in arms control initiatives and decision-making processes. As part of the project, a set of activities to be implemented by UNODA’s regional center in Africa (UNREC), is slated for 2023-2025 and will be comprised of trainings, workshops, meetings and webinars.