by Melina Lito, Global Action to Prevent War
As the UN Programme of Action (UNPoA) on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) proceeds to its second day, gender has been one of the recurring themes addressed during the General Exchange of Views. The Netherlands, Norway, Niger, Mexico, South Africa, Tanzania, Sweden, Argentina, CARICOM, MERCOSUR, the European Union, Kenya, Lithuania, Trinidad and Tobago, Luxemburg, Portugal, Kazakhstan, and the United States, have all referenced gender in their statements.
The European Union noted that gender remains one of the persisting barriers to implementation of the UNPoA. Likewise, Portugal identified gender as an area where further developments are required, especially in increasing women’s participation in combating the flow of small arms and light weapons (SALW).
To this end, the Netherlands noted that a gender perspective in the UNPoA is priority and made reference to its National Action Plan based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). Similarly, Germany, noted that the connection between the UNPoA and Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) should be highlighted in this conference’s final outcome documents and called for the increased women’s participation in Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) processes.
Norway turned its attention to the effects of illicit SALW on gender and age, and called for stronger monitoring of armed violence. Norway also called for a stronger gender dimension and inclusion of gender aggregated data in UNPoA implementation. Likewise, Lithuania noted “it is important to take due account of gender and age in the context of small arms. It is crucial in understanding the different ways that men, women, children are affected by armed violence and developing effective solutions.”
Mexico referenced the inclusion of a gender perspective, along with its several other concerns in implementing the UNPoA. In this context, Mexico highlighted that the overall objective of the UNPoA is to reduce SALW-related human suffering and affirmed its commitment to work to achieve this objective. Meanwhile, South Africa called for the integration of the role of women in fighting against SALW and noted that such an objective requires “public awareness- raising efforts at the national levels where they are needed most, not only on integrating the role of women, but on implementing the UNPoA at the respective national levels in its entirety.”
Brazil, speaking on behalf of MERCOSUR, noted that both a gender and age perspective must be integrated in PoA implementation while the United States noted that implementation of the PoA can combat instances of gender-based violence by making access to SALW more difficult, called on actors who are working on DDR to address all needs of society, and referenced women’s key participation as agents who can design and implement policies.
In addition to references by member states, gender concerns were also referenced by Ambassador Joy Ogwu of Nigeria in her opening remarks on Monday, 27 August 2012, where she acknowledged the effects caused by small arms and light weapons, especially in developing or post-conflict societies, including private citizens committing sexual and gender-based violence.
A gender perspective in the UNPoA is important because it is necessary to ensure that gender-specific experiences with SALW are accounted for and to ensure the protection of all survivors of SALW-related violence. The illicit flow of small arms can impact women and girls and men and boys in different ways. As such, we must be aware of the different needs of all members of society when designing effective strategies and mechanisms to eliminate the flow of illicit arms and prevent instances of future violence.
Particular attention must be given to the needs of women, who can often be underrepresented in policy discussions and who are not usually a priority focus in security strategies. In discussions about enacting and implementing measures to combat the illicit flow of arms, it is important to acknowledge the different ways that the illicit flows of arms can affect women, including but not limited to incidents of domestic violence or sexual- and gender-based violence. Likewise, women can be the weapons holders who can use weapons in combat or in self-defense. Finally, women can be active participants in policy-making tables to bring on and implement change; women’s role in peace processes and at the decision-making levels was emphasized in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).
Therefore, as progress on the implementation and strengthening of the UNPoA is evaluated, and as key areas where more work needs to be developed are identified and strategy plans for the cycle period are established, attention on the various gender-related issues must be enhanced, especially in order to highlight women as agents who can bring change.