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In Disarmament Negotiations, Women Matter

Years ago, when I was working at a restaurant, a man came in, saw that a WNBA game was on, and requested that the television channel be changed. “Women’s sports? Come on,” he groaned, “I’m sure we can find a real game on there somewhere.” In disbelief, I could only look at him. Weren’t the athletes on the screen making baskets left and right? Wasn’t the sweat, the exertion, the pure passion of it all enough for it to be qualified as a ‘real game’?

Suddenly, it clicked - in many people’s eyes, men are the default. Women are the exception.

On May 25th, the Group of Interested States (GIS) in Practical Disarmament Measures met at the German Embassy to discuss recommendations for the upcoming Programme of Action (PoA) Review Conference in 2018. The PoA, an international agreement created in 2001, provides a range of measures for states to take in order to combat the misuse and proliferation of small arms. However, when it comes to gender-sensitivity, the PoA currently falls short. Women are only mentioned once within the text, simply categorized as a vulnerable population alongside children and the elderly. This is a problem.

Women make up roughly half of the global population, yet they are disproportionately affected by small arms violence (whether it be physical, sexual, socioeconomic, etc.) Why, then, aren’t they involved in all levels of disarmament-related decision making? This is where gender mainstreaming comes into play. Coined at the 1995 UN World Conference on Women, it was defined as “a global strategy for promoting gender equality” by “bringing gender issues into the mainstream of society”. In order to achieve this, each organization presented key recommendations. Allison Pytlak, from Reaching Critical Will, proposed that the best way to implement the PoA is by building into National Action Plans and uniting arms- and gender-based organizations at a local level. Raluca Muresan, of Control Arms, lamented the scarcity of gender-desegregated data and encouraged a more thorough style of data collection and analysis. Throughout the discussion, all panelists kept emphasizing one recommendation - include women as equal stakeholders in policymaking, programming, and budgeting of disarmament activities. After all, as Tak Mashiko explained on behalf of the UNODA’s Patrick McCarthy, “Women and men have an equal role to play in addressing problems of illicit trade and misuse of small arms and light weapons (SALW).”

If the recommendations are approved, women would be treated within the PoA as more than just victims. Furthermore, there would be profound implications for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the fifth - "Gender Equality" - and the sixteenth - “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions”. This is why the Review Conference is so important; it is one of the most important forums through which the entire membership of the UN can be called upon to address gender-sensitive needs and experiences in the disarmament effort.

Keep your eyes on the summer of 2018 when the GIS hands over that list of recommendations - let’s hope they make a slam dunk.

Learn more about the Programme of Action here:…/convarms/…/programme-of-action/


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