Women, Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control

Monday, March 7, 2011

On 7th March, 2011 the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) held a seminar on the occasion of the
2011 International Women's Day. Discussions centred on the 2010 General Assembly resolution 65/69, “Women, disarmament,
non-proliferat ion and arms control,” which focuses on the inclusion of women in disarmament efforts. This was the first resolution to be adopted by the UN General Assembly's First Committee on Disarmament and International Security that has focused on this subject. The seminar, chaired by the Secretary General of WILPF, Ms. Madeleine Rees, addressed the impact of disarmament and arms control on human rights from a gender perspective. International experts and grassroots activists drew out
the linkages between gender and disarmament in a panel of women's rights and disarmament activists from Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Pakistan, and the United Kingdom (UK).

The presentations and subsequent discussion revealed that disarmament is not only about the removal of weapons themselves, but it is also about tackling the militarisation of people and societies. Disarmament needs to be addressed from multiple angles, combining local, national, regional, and international levels as well as including both men and women in the processes. To not include women and their experiences of war in all levels of conflict resolution and peace building can, in the long run, legitimise gender-based violence and violations of women's rights and can undermine sustainable development, peace, and security. Militarisation and weaponisation are both part of conflict as well as root causes and outcomes of war. From the statements given during the seminar, it is clear that proliferation and the patriarchal militarisation of societies have a direct effect on women's lives and survival.

Adilia Caravaca, international board member of WILPF, spoke about the current situation in Costa Rica, where the of increased US military presence has an impact on the ‘culture of peace' and women. Annie Matundu Mbambi, President of WILPF DRC, spoke on the proliferation of small arms, the inclusion of women in disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) processes, and how UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security (UNSCR1325) can be implemented in the DRC. Sameena Nazir, from the Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA) in Pakistan, addressed the present militarisation and internal insecurity in Pakistan and the impact on women and women's movements. Rebecca Johnson, vice chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and executive director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, spoke on women's movements in the UK in relation to nuclear weapons and gave an overview on the UK's arms sale around the world.

Together, the panelists illuminated that ending open warfare and signing peace agreements is only one step towards peace. A war has also cultural and social effects. While as Ms. Caravaca explained how the culture of peace is deeply rooted in the Costa Ricans identity, Ms. Nazir explained how the current violence in Pakistan is a direct result of the proliferation of weapons and the persistent militarisation of Pakistani society. Militarisation, conflict, and insecurity increase violence, especially violence towards women. Post-war reconciliation and rebuilding efforts, including disarmament, must take these issues into account to tailor interventions so that they do not harm women. The approach used in post-conflict and conflict settings must therefore use the available resolutions so that no single group is left out and so the community is dealt with as a whole. As Maria Butler, director of WILPF's PeaceWomen project stated, “It is not about making war safe for women, or having more women peace keepers or more women with guns. It is about challenging violence and ending conflict.”

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