10 September 2012

WOMEN COUNT: Women and the RevCon on UNPoA

by Jasmin Nario-Galace, IANSA Women's Network

A total of 141 States sent representatives to the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects in New York on 27 August–7  September 2012. 

Eighty-one (81) or 57.44% of the States had women in their delegations. The number of women delegates, though, paled in comparison to the number of men delegates. There were only 149 women out of 642 state delegates: 23.20%. It is good to note, though, that there has been a slight increase on women’s participation in meetings related to arms control. At the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) of the PoA Review Conference in New York on 19–23 March 2012, 21.5% of the participants were women. At the ATT PrepCom in February, 20% of participants were women.  

Delegations with a good number of women delegates—those who had 50% women in their delegation or more—were Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Iceland, Jamaica, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Madagascar, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Serbia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Zambia.

Based on the list of participants circulated on 6 September, the following states did not have women in their delegations: Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, DPRK, Denmark, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Grenada, Holy See, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Libya, Liechtenstein, Mali, Malta, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Togo, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

We note though, that even if some states did not have women in their delegations, some of them had actively suggested the inclusion of gender language in the document. The conference saw several states ardently calling for gender mainstreaming for the effective implementation of the UNPoA.

On the other hand, non-state delegations had 12 women participants. That was 46.15% of the total. Of these non-state entities, only Palestine and the League of Arab states had no women delegates.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 urges Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional, and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention of conflict and for work related to the building of peace. The Review Conference would have been an opportunity for women to have a say on how states have performed in its goal of reducing human suffering caused by the illicit trade in small arms and how they could do better. 

As of this writing, two paragraphs of the proposed document are responsive to the UNSCRS on Women, Peace and Security. One is paragraph 11 of the declaration, which expresses grave concern about the negative impact of the illicit trade of SALW on women, children, youth, and the elderly and calls for improved understanding of the different concerns and needs of these groups. It underscores the need for further integration of the role of women into efforts to combat and eradicate the illicit trade in SALW.

Paragraph 8 of the UNPoA implementation plan indicates the need to facilitate the participation and representation of women in small arms policymaking, taking into account relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly. It also indicates the need to explore means to eliminate the negative impact of the illicit trade in SALW on women.

Several delegations expressed a wish that the language on women’s participation could have been stronger, and many others lamented that language on gender mainstreaming or a gender perspective was omitted. The language provided does at least provide recognition of some of the important issues related to women, peace, and security, which can be built upon in the future.

The last Review Conference failed to produce an outcome document. Ambassador Joy Ogwu of Nigeria and Chair of the Conference expressed hope that the “culture of failure” that has seemed to characterize disarmament meetings in the past will not persist in this Review Conference. Indeed, it’s time to cut the chain.

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