All departments of the United Nations have been mandated to make every effort to integrate gender perspectives into all of their policies and programmes. In carrying out these mandates, the Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA) has a double challenge, which is really a single goal: facilitating progress on disarmament through the incorporation of a gender perspective in all of its substantive tasks. This article discusses one of the measures the department has undertaken to meet this challenge.
With its re-establishment as a department in 1998, DDA began the process of incorporating a gender perspective in all of its substantive areas of work. The first steps to that end were taken when the department invited the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women and her colleagues to brief the DDA staff on all aspects of the question and, in particular, to explain the meaning of the term ‘gender mainstreaming' within the context of disarmament.
The collaboration between the Office of the Special Adviser and DDA led to the preparation and publication of Gender Perspectives on Disarmament: Briefing Notes in 2001.1 These were six short, thematic briefing papers, covering such topics as gender perspectives on weapons of mass destruction, small arms, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR). The Briefing Notes described the important connections between gender and disarmament in an accessible way and presented a non-conventional perspective on the complex and politically sensitive fields of security, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. While the disarmament issues remained the same, looking at their gender dimensions cast them in a new light and, the department felt, could help to suggest effective and sustainable solutions to peace and security issues.
The DDA Gender Action Plan (hereafter Action Plan) is an outgrowth of the Briefing Notes and other DDA efforts to integrate gender perspectives in the global process of disarmament, as well as to integrate disarmament into contemporary efforts on behalf of gender equality. The Action Plan owes its existence to an extensive corpus of mandates, legislative and non-legislative, including internal United Nations policies. These include the 1999 DDA Vision Statement2 that affirmed DDA's commitment to advance equal opportunities for men and women while promoting gender perspectives on disarmament, the recommendation of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services3 that the department should consider developing a forward-oriented plan of action on gender and disarmament, Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security,4 and the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action.