UNODA launches Policy on Gender & Disarmament at event co-hosted with Sweden

June 6th, 2022

On 25 April, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN hosted a discussion on how to activate gender-responsive disarmament in line with the women and peace and security (WPS) agenda. At the hybrid event, moderated by Germán Vega Cortés from UN-Women, UN entities, Member States and civil society discussed how to translate commitments to gender-responsive disarmament into practical steps and measures.

From left to right: Germán Vega Cortés from UN-Women, Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, H. E Dennis Francis, Permanent Representative of Trinidad & Tobago to the UN and H. E. Anna Karin Eneström, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN

In her opening remarks, H. E. Anna Karin Eneström, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN shared lessons from Sweden’s feminist foreign policy and reaffirmed Sweden’s commitment to promoting a gender perspective in all multilateral disarmament fora. From the panel, H. E Dennis Francis, Permanent Representative of Trinidad & Tobago to the UN spoke about the landmark UN General Assembly resolution 65/69 on Women, Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, which had been introduced by his country in 2010 to challenge the international disarmament community to achieve women’s equal, full and effective participation in all disarmament and security decision-making. Next to speak was Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs who announced UNODA’s updated Gender Policy, which lays out the actions and approaches to gender and intersectionality in disarmament for the next five years.

UNODA’s Gender Policy 2021-2025 aims to contribute to placing people-centered approaches and gender equality at the center of disarmament.

Representatives of Australia, Austria, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico, Indonesia, Argentina and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) added to the panel discussion by providing views on strengthening gender perspectives as integral parts of disarmament and arms control.

The event took place in hybrid format at the Swedish Mission to the UN with about 150 participants online.

Equal participation and leadership

Panelists welcomed the increasing incorporation of language on gender equality into disarmament and arms control treaties and resolutions. Ambassador Eneström stressed that progress for gender equality is particularly slow in this field and can only be accelerated through Member States’ own practices at the institutional level. The Canadian representative noted that during this year’s First Committee meeting, Canada will only co-sponsor resolutions that recognize gender perspectives and also pledged to sending gender-balanced delegations to all multilateral meetings where possible.

To attain and keep gender balance in disarmament, Ambassador Francis of Trinidad & Tobago suggested the establishment of a substantive talent pool of women policy-makers and practitioners to achieve gender parity in disarmament by 2030 in line with SDG5. High Representative Nakamitsu highlighted that UNODA promotes gender parity through collecting and publishing disaggregated data from disarmament meetings. In this regard, some cited positive progress in the cyber security field where initiatives like “the Women in Cyber Fellowship” led to concrete results and the recent Open-Ended Working Group on cybersecurity approached parity with 43 percent of statements made by women.

Many participants agreed that quantitative measures for correcting gender gaps should always be combined with efforts for an inclusive environment. Several speakers also raised the importance of taking an intersectional approach to gender equality, and consider age, ethnicity, disabilities and other factor that create multiple discrimination. IANSA underlined the need for accounting for the full spectrum of gender, including non-binary people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.

Ambassador Eneström spoke about women’s underrepresentation in decision-making and reiterated Sweden’s support for gender-reponsive disarmament

The gendered impact of weapons

Many States are committed to not only the equal, full and effective participation of women and men in disarmament, but also to addressing the gendered impact of weapons. These perspectives are generally more progressed in the area of small arms and light weapons, including through efforts to prevent gender-based violence. Participants called for increased efforts in closing evidence gaps on the impact in other areas, especially regarding weapons of mass destruction. Ambassador Eneström raised that gender perspectives should be addressed  in the context of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) which is one of the stepping stones in the Stockholm Initiative to achieve a successful outcome of the Treaty’s Tenth Review Conference in August 2022. Similarly, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) first meeting of States Parties in June presents an opportunity to operationalize its language on age- and gender-sensitive victim assistance, High Representative Nakamitsu added.

Representatives of Argentina, Austria, Canada, Malaysia and  IANSA

Gender roles and disarmament  

Participants also explored how pervasive gender stereotypes related to weapons and disarmament reinforce militaristic approaches to international peace and security, which a gender perspective can be helpful in disrupting. Ms. Nakamitsu said that putting humans at the center of security, instead of a focus on militarization, is a smart approach if we want to tackle arms races and the other challenges that the world is facing. The discussants also cautioned that gender does not relate only to women and girls; IANSA highlighted how men and boys account for the majority of violent deaths and enforced recruitment to armed groups simply on the basis of their gender. Moreover, masculinities, i.e. qualities or attributes that are regarded as characteristic of men, are of particular importance in disarmament.

The Swedish mission to the UN posted on social media about the event. Key recommendations for gender-responsive disarmament are to: combine gender mainstreaming with equal participation, build partnerships for human-centered security, and enhance intersectionality.

WPS synergies and partnerships

Participants agreed that moving from commitment to practice on gender-responsive disarmament, required close and continued collaboration between governments, the UN, civil society and the public and private spheres. To make further progress, Ms. Nakamitsu called for adequate and predictable funding to integrate gender into disarmament processes. Other participants suggested there is a need for better age- and sex-disaggregated data collection, gender analysis, research, and dedicated gender expertise. Additionally, the Secretary-General has called for, closer partnerships between those working on implementing the women, peace and security agenda and disarmament agendas in order to reach common objectives and for investing in human over solely military security. Later in the week, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and UN Women’s Executive Director Ms. Sima Bahous met to discuss these areas of collaboration.

Watch the recording of the event on YouTube.