In 2013, key disarmament events included:
Leading up to the April 2013 adoption of the first ever Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), WILPF’s PeaceWomen and Reaching Critical Will (RCW) engaged in a coordinated campaign to ensure that the prevention of armed gender based violence was legally binding in the treaty. WILPF staff and sections around the world worked hard to gather support from all over the world, and together lobbied governments vigorously throughout the negotiations to ensure that gender perspective was not dropped at the last minute.
On 2 April 2013, the General Assembly adopted the ATT, with a vote of 154 in favor, 3 against, and 23 abstentions. The treaty included a gender provision supported by over 100 governments and hundreds of civil society organisations around the world which prohibits the sale of arms if there is a risk that the weapons could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law. This makes the ATT the first ever treaty that recognizes the link between gender-based violence and the international arms trade.
The final UN negotiating conference failed to adopt the text by consensus on 28 March due to objections from Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Syria. In response, over 100 countries co-sponsored a draft General Assembly resolution calling for the adoption of the treaty's text.
The gender criterion is not as strong as demanded by the 100+ delegations supporting a strengthened provision for preventing Gender Based Violence. This group wanted the criterion to be included in article 7(1). However, the current formulation did improve the extremely weak language in previous drafts.
Article 7(4) mandates exporting states parties explicitly, as part of the risk assessment process, to take into account the risk of the weapons, ammunition, parts, or components used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or violence against women and children. Member States shall not be permitted to authorize the transfer where there is an overriding risk of GBV when it constitutes one of the negative consequences of article 7(1)—i.e. when it is a violation of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, when it undermines peace and security, or when it forms part of transnational organised crime.
Although the treaty is far from perfect, it is a starting point for addressing the human suffering caused by arm transfers. The adoption for the ATT is a success story not only in terms of what the treaty entails but it has become a key catalyst for building momentum and progress around gender and disarmament within other UN mechanisms.
The inclusion of gender based violence in the Arms Trade Treaty made it clear to the international community that disarmament can be a key step in preventing gender based violence; an argument WILPF has been making since our founding in 1915. After this campaign, not only do we have a gender sensitive ATT on our side, but disarmament is emerging as a new theme on the UN agenda on dimensions of peace and security.
WILPF welcomes the adoption of the treaty as a first step towards regulating international transfers of arms. However, our organization cautions that the treaty is not sufficiently robust or comprehensive enough. The risk of legitimizing the international arms trade, especially irresponsible transfers, must be avoided through careful interpretation and implementation. WILPF will continue to advocate for violence prevention including through implementation of the ATT.
Read WILPF disarmament analysis and reports from Reaching Critical Will: