On 15 October 2018, the International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group led by Ireland, Namibia and UNIDIR, hosted a side event at the United Nations First Committee in New York entitled Securing our common future: Promoting gender-responsive disarmament and security. The side event provided UN Member States, civil society and other stakeholders with the opportunity to engage on the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, in particular on the Agenda’s call for the “equal, full and effective participation of women in all decision-making processes related to disarmament”. The event was moderated by Ambassador Michael Gaffey, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations in Geneva, and Renata Dwan, Director of UNIDIR. Over 150 participants attended the event, illustrative of great interest in the issue and the #DisarmamentImpactGroup initiative.
Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs delivered a keynote speech, highlighting the importance of raising awareness on the gendered impacts of weapons. She stressed that the consideration of gender perspectives will benefit disarmament as a whole. She also reminded participants that women remain chronically underrepresented in disarmament fora, and called for the implementation with full rigor of the gender provisions in the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament.
Päivi Kannisto, Chief of Peace and Security at UN Women spoke of the differential impact of small arms and light weapons on women, men, girls and boys, and drew on experiences from South Sudan to highlight primary and secondary gendered impacts, including violence, loss of income, impoverishment and discrimination. She also highlighted that aid to conflict areas sees insufficient funding being targeted to address gender issues, and urged a review of funding priorities.
Ambassador Pennelope Beckles, Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago illustrated the experiences of CARICOM States, where the gendered impacts of the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons are evident. Ambassador Beckles also highlighted the importance of civil society in promoting women’s social, political and economic empowerment, including their important role in realising progress in disarmament.
Linda Scott, Deputy Permanent Representative of Namibia spoke of the important role that Namibia played in the adoption of UNSCR 1325. She called on States to implement national action plans on UNSCR 1325, for example by providing services for women affected by gender based violence related to the use of small arms. She highlighted that education on good governance, conflict resolution, mediation and disarmament is essential for ensuring peace and security.
Mavic Cabrera Balleza, CEO of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders spoke of the importance of cooperation among States and civil society, to make disarmament more gender sensitive. She highlighted that lessons can be learned from gender mainstreaming in other policy areas, including from efforts toward the sustainable development goals. She also highlighted that the Arms Trade Treaty is one disarmament fora in which States have the opportunity to make immediate, substantive progress on gender equality.
Following the panel presentation, an active discussion took place among representatives of Member States and civil society, including on the factors impacting women’s participation in disarmament; the links that can be drawn between disarmament and human rights fora; and the UN’s renewed efforts to realising gender parity in its fora and various initiatives, including the Agenda for Disarmament. Overall, the wide and active participation at this event demonstrated the growing momentum for mainstreaming gender perspectives in disarmament fora, and paved the way for future work in this area.