Democratising disarmament and international security

The First Committee Meeting of the Sixty-Ninth Session of the United Nations General Assembly is taking place at the United Nations in New York where IANSA members are participating including members of the IANSA Women's Network.

IANSA Women have developed a position paper for use at UN level but may also be useful for your own events and advocacy at national and regional levels.

The complete paper is as follows:

Fourteen years after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), it is time, now more than ever, to build on the progress made and firmly secure a seat for women at the negotiating table.
Women must become full-fledged participating members of the arms control and disarmament community, at all levels. Aside from the issue of equal representation, the international community stands to benefit tremendously from their unique perspective and experiences as women -- much like UN peace-keeping operations continuously learn from the positive impact of “women-only” blue helmet battalions.

Research shows that women are more likely to support strong measures to control access to small arms and actually have, to date, played a major role in initiatives aimed at reducing the availability and misuse of weapons around the world. Giving women the space to participate in arms control and disarmament initiatives can help to democratise peace and security, providing opportunities for different perspectives and ideas to be taken into account.

Nevertheless, the UN and civil society are still obliged to explain, to stress, to emphasise, time and again, the benefits of listening to, reading the words, and following the advice, of half of the world’s population.

UN mandates

The UN has long endorsed the strategies of gender mainstreaming and gender balance in its pursuit of gender equality. UN Security Council Resolution 2117 (2013) calls for further measures to facilitate women’s full and meaningful participation in all policy making, planning and implementation processes to combat and eradicate the illicit transfer, destabilising accumulation and misuse of small arms. It also calls for those planning disarmament initiatives to engage with women and provide for their full access to these programmes.

Peace and security are gendered

It is widely recognised that issues around peace and security, including armed violence and small arms, are highly gendered.

The 2011 UN Secretary General’s Report on Small Arms emphasises the gendered nature of armed violence noting the disproportionate involvement of young men in armed attacks and as direct victims. The report also notes the direct and indirect impacts on women, particularly in terms of the consequences of armed violence at the family level.

The presence and availability of guns magnify gender power dynamics because their use and ownership is mainly by men, which in turn reinforces men’s power. This perpetuates the association between masculinity and gun ownership and in turn fuels a cycle of violence. Small arms facilitate gender-based violence which most commonly manifests itself as violence against women.

Different perceptions of security

Men, women, girls and boys have different perceptions of security and of what constitutes a threat to their security. For example, in a study on women’s role in weapons for development projects in Albania, Cambodia and Mali, men justified their possession of weapons by their sense of physical insecurity, with external security threats being the main worry. Women, on the other hand, perceived their family and neighbours as the sources of their insecurity.

These different perceptions of security resulted in differentiated experiences of the weapons collection programmes. Men handed over their weapons when they felt secure and confident in the government.

Women on the other hand did not report a change in their perception of security after the weapons collection programme, saying that the insecurity persists at local and domestic levels after weapons collection took place.

IANSA women insist on the full and equal participation of women in disarmament and international security fora and processes but we also recognise that men and boys need programmes to help them reject armed violence.

Gender-oriented policy, continuously and rigorously implemented, will maximise all efforts.