This paper examines the relevance of gender for the effective implementation of the 2001 UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA). It provides suggested textual changes for consideration in the process of reviewing the text in 2006. The paper is intended to assist both small arms practitioners who are currently implementing the PoA and practitioners in development and conflict contexts to enhance effectiveness of their work through gender-aware analysis and practices. It is specifically aimed at policy makers (including UN General Assembly 1st committee members) as they discuss new agreements that will complement the current PoA and potentially revise the text in 2006.
It is important to recognise that gender means more than focusing on women as victims. Indeed men are the main direct victims and perpetrators of small arms violence. The definition of gender in this paper includes men and boys as well as women and girls. The paper identifies a number of key issues that make gender relevant in the context of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and the PoA:
- 90% of those killed by SALW are men;
- Women are often the survivors of SALW violence and experience the longer lasting impacts of SALW as carers and providers;
- Women and girls are also combatants;
- Women and girls are actively involved in weapon collection initiatives.
As a result there is a need to look at the diverse roles of men, women, boys and girls and how their different experiences of security can directly impact on SALW control measures and mechanisms. Gender is important for understanding the human factors involved in the control and prevention of the illicit trade in SALW.
It is important to recognise that the PoA will not be successful unless gender is taken into account in all aspects of implementation. Further, if the text of the PoA is revised in 2006 its effective implementation will be greatly assisted by incorporating key gender considerations, where relevant, into the new text.
The paper provides recommendations for gender inclusive approaches to implementing the PoA, including:
- The need for a more systematic approach to documenting gender-disaggregated qualitative and quantitative data for SALW, identifying:
in order to develop the appropriate national level policy response.
- The promotion of strong systematised gun laws at the national level that link to the security sector enforcement.
- The need to recognise and support the important and often under resourced work of civil society groups, paying explicit attention to gender inclusiveness.
- The need to be explicit about the importance of involving a broad cross section of interest groups ensuring that both men and women are represented and consulted - noting that the role of women’s groups in local disarmament initiatives and decisionmaking at other levels is often overlooked.
- The importance of broad definitions for combatants in DDR programmes - to include combatant associates or informal logisticians such as women and girls, who are often used as informers, sex slaves and cooks and boys who are often used as porters. These groups are as difficult to reintegrate into former host communities as direct combatants.
The paper highlights the inconsistency of UN small arms policy with existing UN and international policies on gender, peace and security. It emphasises that numerous precedents have been set over the past decade, which endorse and recommend the importance of integrating gender in terms of the active roles of men, women, boys and girls as well as integrating gender specific protection needs into all policy and practice. The paper identifies specific entry points within the PoA where effectiveness can be improved by integrating gender considerations into the text and pursuant implementation.
In conclusion, the paper illustrates that by taking a more gender inclusive approach to the implementation of the PoA its impact will be significantly enhanced. Further, by taking into account the gender entry points identified in the last section of this paper, the revision process in 2006 will contribute towards the enhancement of the PoA and significantly assist the global move against the illicit trade in SALW, greatly decreasing the violent impact of SALW at the community level.