GA: Gender in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation

9/25/2012 // Today Mr. Espen Barth Eide, Minister of Foreign Affairs, gave the following statement at the High-Level Meeting on the importance of gender in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.

Dear friends,
First of all, I want to thank Trinidad and Tobago for this timely initiative, and for tabling the resolution on women’s role in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation in 2010. Ten years after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325, the General Assembly finally addressed the issue. It was long overdue.

Resolution 1325 has influenced our thinking, our norms and our attitudes in fundamental ways, but there are still huge gaps in its implementation on the ground. The realm of hard politics and security is far from being gender-sensitive.

While we have seen progress in some areas, the gender perspective has been largely absent from disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation processes.

A stronger gender approach to disarmament could give much needed momentum to the multilateral processes that have largely become irrelevant. Not only do we need a stronger gender perspective. We also need to take the humanitarian dimension into account. If we look at the disarmament processes in which women and civil society played vital roles, new and successful approaches were found. The processes leading to the Mine Ban Convention and to the Convention on Cluster munitions were successful because women and civil society were actively participating and driving the processes forward. And because of the recognition that humanitarian costs outweigh the possible military utility of these weapons.

The next step must be to take into account the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. That is why Norway will hold a conference on this subject in Oslo next spring.

In partnering with organizations on the ground, we emphasize the gender perspective. Programmes that take into account the different needs and priorities of men, women, girls and boys, and that adjust their work accordingly; simply tend to be more effective. And after all, it is the effectiveness on the ground that is the real measure of success.

This field based approach is why we support efforts to improve living conditions of women and girls affected by armed violence. And it is why we try to strengthen women’s participation in humanitarian disarmament processes, and to integrate gender perspectives in projects on land mines, cluster munitions and the control of small arms.

Our partners in the field, such as the Norwegian People’s Aid and Action on Armed Violence, point to the added value of having both men and women in mine clearance programmes. Further, in projects working with cultural perceptions, we see women being able to actually change and affect attitudes and behavior on weapon use and violence. 

Women living in conflict and war-torn societies are often disproportionally affected by armed gender-based violence. Their perspectives must be included in international instruments such as an Arms Trade Treaty and the UN Progamme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons for it to be truly relevant.

Norway is a strong defender of women’s participation in preventing and resolving conflicts. It is a matter of basic human rights and democratic principles. But it is also a better way to build peace. Women’s participation in peace processes can lead to broader and stronger local ownership and more comprehensive agreements.

Still, when we take a look at peace and reconciliation processes around the world, women are few and far between. It is the warring parties that are trusted, not only to end the war, but to build the peace. There are too many examples of weak peace agreements and faltering disarmament processes. There are too many instances where the war may have ended, but where women continue to suffer from gender-based and sexual violence, intensified by a high number of guns and arms in their communities. Emboldened by weapons and power, former combatants continue to rape and violate girls and women with impunity. This has far-reaching implications for efforts to build peace, security and development.

We need new momentum and new approaches on disarmament, arms-control and non-proliferation. Let’s listen to the women and civil society. Let’s listen to those who live with the consequences of conflict and violence every day, they just might have the solutions we need.

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