Gender Mainstreaming Disarmament

Introduction I am very appreciative of the opportunity to present some reflections on gender mainstreaming in the area of disarmament. The 189 countries attending the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 endorsed gender mainstreaming as a key strategy for promoting equality between women and men. The United Nations and other international organizations were called upon to implement the strategy in their own work and support the efforts of Member Countries. In 1997 the Economic and Social Council provided concrete guidelines on how the United Nations should work to incorporate gender perspectives in its work programmes (ECOSOC Agreed Conclusions 1997/2). The importance of the gender mainstreaming strategy was reinforced in the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly to follow- up the implementation of the Platform for Action (June 2000). Other intergovernmental bodies and events have also provided important mandates for gender mainstreaming in specific areas of work of the United Nations.

Specific mandates on women/gender and disarmament can be found dating back to the establishment of the goals of equality, development and peace in the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985). A major breakthrough on gender mainstreaming in the area of peace and security was achieved with the Security Council resolution 1325 (October 2000) which clearly states that there is an "urgent need to mainstream a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations". The focus on disarmament is not as strong as might be desired, but the references to mine clearance, the calls for greater representation of women in decision- making levels (paras 1 and 2) and for the adoption of a gender perspective in repatriation, resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction (para 8a), as well as the particular reference to DDR (para 13), are all important for promoting gender mainstreaming in disarmament activities.

Efforts to implement gender mainstreaming in the United Nations Gender mainstreaming is not an end in itself. It is a strategy to achieve the overall goal of equality between women and men. Gender mainstreaming does, however, also 2 bring added-value in terms of supporting the achievement of other development goals - not least because gender mainstreaming ensures that the perspectives of all actors, stakeholders and potential change-agents are brought into the picture. As the term implies, gender mainstreaming involves bringing gender perspectives to the centre of attention in mainstream work - in research, analysis, data collection, legislative change, development of policies and strategies and the planning, implementation and monitoring of activities on the ground, including training. Gender perspectives should be given attention before goals are set, policies developed, strategies and activities decided upon and resources allocated. Gender analysis should be utilized to ensure that the situation of women and men is understood - their contributions, priorities and needs - and that the potential impact of the planned activities on women, respective men, is assessed. Bringing greater attention to gender perspectives should mean that there are significant changes in the way "business" is done. It should not be possible to simply "add" something on women/ gender and continue as usual. The ultimate aim of the gender mainstreaming strategy is to secure the substantial changes in goals, policies, strategies and activities required for the achievement of gender equality. Experience has shown, however, that gender mainstreaming involves a slow process of change, particularly where awareness has to be developed and where considerable changes in attitudes and patterns of behaviour are required.

Within the United Nations serious attempts are being made to implement the gender mainstreaming strategy and some substantial progress has been made. Despite these efforts, there is still a long way to go before gender perspectives are routinely incorporated into all areas of development. A number of critical challenges have been identified. One is the lack of understanding of the basic concepts of gender, gender equality, and gender mainstreaming, in particular the tendency to equate gender mainstreaming with equal opportunities in the United Nations and to see progress as measured simply by increases in numbers of women. Another is the lack of understanding among many professional staff of why and how gender would be relevant to their areas of work. Developing greater understanding of the linkages between gender perspectives and all areas of work of the United Nations is therefore critical. And a third challenge is that - having recognized that there are relevant gender perspectives in the sectors/issues they are dealing with - many staff also lack the capacity to incorporate these gender perspectives into their work.