This year’s First Committee will once again address the issue of women and disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation through a resolution tabled by the government of Trinidad and Tobago. This resolution, first introduced and adopted by consensus as resolution 65/69 in 2010, recognizes “the valuable contribution of women to practical disarmament measures carried out at the local, national, regional and subregional levels in the prevention and reduction of armed violence and armed conflict, and in promoting disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.”
Trinidad and Tobago and four other governments (Australia, Finland, Jamaica, and Norway) recently signed a declaration stating that they will strengthen this resolution “with a view to placing the contribution of women high on the international agenda for disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.” The declaration was signed at General Assembly side event on 25 September 2012.
WILPF welcomed the declaration and the commitment to strengthening resolution 65/69. Indeed, the revised resolution should be forward looking and be more comprehensive, more specific, and more action oriented. For example, it could:
- emphasize the need for governments to ensure equitable representation of women at all decision-making levels in national institutions and international delegations which may make or influence policy with regard to matters related to disarmament and arms control;
- urge states to divert human and economic resources currently devoted to armaments to promote gender equality and development including implementation of the Millennium Development Goals;
- encourage the international community, relevant regional and sub-regional organizations and institutions, non-governmental organizations, and research institutes to recognize the association of the possession of weapons and preparedness to use military action with masculinity; and
- call on those states that have not yet generated National Action Plans for implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 to do so including incorporation of disarmament goals and indicators and measures to effectively increase the participation by women at all decision-making levels, particularly in institutions and bodies dealing with security and disarmament.
The gender dimensions to disarmament and the arms trade are widely recognized as consisting of connections between masculinity and the use and proliferation of weapons and the understanding that women are differently and particularly affected by armed gender-based violence.
WILPF, and our members around the world, experience the reality and impacts of armed violence from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Colombia to Pakistan. In the DRC, for example, our members live in a country plagued by protracted armed conflict with high levels of sexual violence perpetrated by armed groups and armed government forces and influenced by a wide range of external actors. As a women’s peace group, WILPF members organize and advocate for disarmament and women’s equal participation in the process of peace building because without the control and reduction of arms, there is no end to war.
Thus we call on all states to move beyond rhetoric during this session of the General Assembly to respond to the realities of those most affected by arms, guns, and militarization. In addition to the resolution on women and disarmament, governments will also have an opportunity to do this through the extension of arms trade treaty (ATT) negotiations.
In the lead up to the ATT negotiating conference in July 2012, WILPF, together with the IANSA Women’s Network, Amnesty International, and over 100 civil society organizations, called for a strong ATT that would help prevent armed gender-based violence. We see this treaty as an historic opportunity to reduce arms and to reduce violence. Specifically on reducing gender-based violence, we support a robust legally-binding criterion that would require states not to allow an international transfer of conventional arms where there is a substantial risk that the arms under consideration are likely to be used to perpetrate or facilitate acts of gender-based violence, including rape and other forms of sexual violence.
A large number of delegations spoke in favour of including gender in the ATT and many supported the inclusion of a robust gender criterion during the July negotiations. However, this support was not reflected in the final text—a text which is flawed for many other substantial reasons.
One of the overarching problems with the final draft treaty text negotiated in July is its failure to address the broader context and consequences of the arms trade. The preamble references the UN Charter’s demand for the least diversion of resources towards arms. However, it then neatly avoids that element by emphasizing that states have the right, for political, security, economic, and commercial interests, to trade in arms. In 1915 WILPF identified with clear prescience the inevitable consequences of the privatisation and commercialisation of the arms trade. Furthermore, in the preamble, reference to human suffering is only to the consequences of the illegal and unregulated trade, as if the profit from the manufacture and sale of weapons, if legal, has no consequence for humanity. There is a last minute recollection of the victims of armed conflict and that women and children are particularly affected. Yet nothing in the treaty’s operative text substantively addresses this.
Regarding the gender dimension of the operational portion of the draft text, Article 4.6b requires each state party to “consider taking feasible measures, including joint actions with other States involved in the transfer, to avoid the arms being used to commit or facilitate gender-based violence or violence against children.” It specifically excludes gender-based violence (GBV) from the mandatory risk assessment process that can result in a transfer denial. Furthermore, the draft does not indicate what measures might be undertaken, nor does it make such measures mandatory.
Without specific obligations, Article 4 will most likely not be used to prevent violence against women or GBV. It does not respond to the urgency and prevalence of such violence with guns. It fails to protect from or prevent armed GBV for the millions of victims and survivors in conflict and non-conflict settings.
Finally, across the corridors of UN Headquarters this October, member states will also mark the annual UN Security Council resolution 1325 open debate in the Security Council (scheduled for 29 October). Disarmament is a UNSCR 1325 issue and delegations should not leave disarmament out of their statements during the open debate. For more on this read: “The Women, Peace and Security Agenda: The two silent ‘Ps’: Proliferation and Profit” by Maria Butler at http://www.peacewomen.org/portal_resources_resource.php?id=1726.
This article was originally published in the First Committee Monitor 2012 No. 1 published on 8 October 2012 by Reaching Critical Will/WILPF.