Despite the fact that small arms affect men and women differently, the UN Program of Action on small arms (PoA) contains only one reference to gender, in paragraph 6 of the Preamble in which states express grave concern about the devastating consequences of the illicit trade in small arms for children, “as well as the negative impact on women and the elderly” (UN 2001). Men are not mentioned at all. However, significant progress has been made in changing this incorrect impression at UN small arms meetings. A growing number of states have highlighted the importance of gender considerations, both in addressing armed violence and in creating effective disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) programmes.
Gender advocacy in the field of SALW control has grown tremendously over the past ten years. A wide range of practical information has been generated since 2001 to help policymakers include gender considerations in the PoA. For example, as far back as 2003 a Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan launched by UNODA has underscored the commitment and importance it attaches to addressing the impact of all categories of weapons, including small arms and light weapons, on both men and women.
Since 2001 the women’s movement, through the IANSA Women’s Network, has contributed to expanding knowledge and expertise on small arms control, and the specific impacts of armed violence on women and girls. However a combination of lack of political will to institutionalise and implement gender sensitive policies continue to frustrate women’s efforts. Greater State commitment of resources for promoting gender equality within the UN small arms process is needed.
In recognition of this, and in view of the 4th BMS, 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) and the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (October 2010) The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs Regional Disarmament Branch (UNODA/RDB) and IANSA revised the “Guidelines for gender mainstreaming for the effective implementation of the UN PoA” in order to refocus efforts based on new developments, progress made and lessons learnt in the implementation of the PoA, as well as in the area of gender mainstreaming in peace and security.
The IANSA Women’s Network has released a statement urging States to take a systematic gender-inclusive approach in the implementation of the PoA. An enhanced understanding of gender-specific perceptions of peace and human security are crucial to ensure the full and effective implementation of the PoA. Women and men have an equal right to participate and to be considered in these processes. Gender roles must be encompassed in terms of the diverse impacts of SALW on men, women, boys and girls, and the different points of engagement for positive action.