Raising awareness of gender equality and small arms increases the use of evidence and builds momentum for better policy and programming.
UNDP SEESAC introduced the Gender Coach Program in the Western Balkans in 2017 to offer decision makers the opportunity for peer-to-peer exchange on gender responsive small arms control. Through one-on-one sessions, the program sought “to strengthen the capacities of leaders to integrate the gender perspective in SALW control policymaking.” It created an avenue for personal learning and consultative support over the long term, tailored to the specific questions and needs of each institution, while enabling participants to become leaders in integrating gender within their institutions and operations. The success of the program is reflected in positive feedback from participants and in the substantial inroads for gender responsive small arms control made across the region, including the inclusion of gender in national action plans, and multiple trainings for civil servants.
Focus on raising awareness among the people closest to implementation—often security and justice sector personnel.
Front-line security sector personnel are the ones who implement gender responsive small arms control in the course of their daily work. Building on this insight, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) has created the Specialized Course on Firearms Investigations from a Gender Perspective. Launched virtually in Argentina and Costa Rica, the course provides judges, prosecutors, forensic experts, and specialized police personnel with new insights they can put to use in their daily work to enhance the gender responsive aspects of firearms control in the context of national systems for registration and gun licensing.
Prioritize methodologically rigorous analysis of the gendered impact of armed violence to build an evidence base for effective gender responsive small arms control measures.
The Small Arms Survey, based at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, has become a global reference in methodologically rigorous and reliable data on all aspects of small arms and armed violence. The Survey presents a gendered analysis of violent deaths through its Global Violent Deaths database, while also tracking firearm deaths in conflict and non-conflict settings. The Survey has argued for the importance of “data disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity, victim-perpetrator relationship, and motivation for violence” for monitoring the impact of policies and programs that aim to prevent violence and implement the SDGs.
Accumulating experience and insight on gender and disarmament speeds inspiration and implementation.
Reaching Critical Will created an online resource library called the Gender and Disarmament Database. A one-stop shop for global resources about gender and disarmament, this searchable database provides global actors with easy access to the increasing number of resources available online. Bringing together reports, articles, books and book chapters, policy documents, podcasts, legislation, and UN documents, the database gives users the opportunity to search across gender-relevant aspects of disarmament, such as gender-based violence, gender norms, or gender diversity, and different related topics or types of weapon systems. The Database provides an invaluable resource for accelerating learning on the topic of gender and disarmament.
Targeted training opportunities can help women develop careers as experts in small arms control.
Most experts in small arms control have become specialists through a career in state security services, whether in law enforcement or the military. Fittingly, personnel in state security services are also the main target audience for international training and opportunities to work in the disarmament field. Since women are a minority within the security and defense institutions, few women receive the specialist training that would give them access to these careers. Moreover, women who do serve in the military or law enforcement may not be able to access specialist training opportunities because of the discrimination they face. Recognizing this problem, The Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States (RECSA) began requesting that member states send women candidates for specialist instructor training. In 2019, the first woman to complete the training also became the first female instructor providing Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) training to police and military personnel responsible for munitions storage facilities across the continent.
Recognizing the barriers to participation women may face in the security sector allows for targeted training.
Recognizing the barriers to entry that prevent women working in the security sector from accessing technical training, UNLIREC developed a Women Only Training (WOT) Course based on its Inter-Institutional Course for Combating the Illicit Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives (IITC). Targeting women working in multisectoral security roles from law enforcement to the judiciary, the course aimed to increase national capacities by deepening participants’ knowledge of small arms issues such as identification of firearms, investigation techniques, chain of custody issues, physical security, and stockpile management, all while mainstreaming a gender perspective throughout.
Model legislation for mainstreaming gender responsive small arms control can accelerate implementation of international commitments.
Advances in international norms for disarmament and small arms control are promising, but implementation has often trailed political or legal commitments. One reason for this is the lag in translating international commitments into coherent national laws and standards that will shape domestic violence reduction policies. The complexity of this task can present a hurdle in some contexts, and may be most difficult in those places where implementation is most needed. Africa and Asia, for example, are regions of the world with some of the highest rates of violent death and firearms related homicide, but also the regions with the lowest rates of ATT ratification. Developing model legislation on a regional basis can provide a bridge between international commitments and national law-making processes to speed up implementation. Regional model laws make particular sense, because countries in the same region often face similar challenges related to violence and small arms while also sharing similarities in language and legal regimes. The Government of New Zealand sponsored the development of model legislation to support Pacific countries in implementing the ATT, while CARICOM did the same for its 14 member states.
Regional coordination can spur action and establish minimum standards.
In 2020, sixteen Caribbean states adopted a Roadmap for the implementation of the ‘Caribbean Priority Actions on Addressing Illicit Trafficking of Firearms’ developed in 2019. Composed of four goals, the Roadmap integrates gender throughout. Under Goal 1.2 of the Roadmap, states commit to ensure that firearms legislation, policies, and institutional framework are in place by 2025-2030. This means that states will need to ensure international standards are reflected in national law, including many provisions that promoted gender equality. Action 1.2.3. under target 1.2 of the Roadmap explicitly asks all states to “cross-reference/harmonize firearms legislation with domestic violence prevention legal provisions”.
Broader frameworks for violence prevention create opportunities to commit to action on gender responsive small arms control.
A group of member states, including Canada, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Namibia, and Sweden, as well as the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs, are promoting the role that disarmament can play in accelerating action for the 20th anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in 2020. At a national level, UNSC 1325 National Action Plans (NAPs) are being used to mainstream gender responsive arms control policies. The Philippines committed to new regulations on small arms control in its 1325 NAP for 2010, as the country continued to suffer from high rates of homicide and the easy availability of small arms due to the longstanding conflict that had affected its southern region.168 Countries not directly affected by conflict are also making the same connection. Switzerland, for example, refers to the need for gender responsive small arms control in its own 1325 NAP.
Integrating gender responsive small arms control into cross-sectoral approaches can lead to better outcomes for people and communities.
At the international level, small arms control is also being mainstreamed into broader efforts to tackle GBV. The RESPECT framework, developed by WHO and UN Women, and endorsed by a coalition of international organizations, sets out seven evidence-based strategies for action to prevent and respond to violence against women. The framework underlines the need to reduce the risks to women posed by the availability of weapons (alongside risk factors like drugs and alcohol). INSPIRE – the equivalent framework for ending violence against children – calls for action to limit young people’s access to guns and other weapons. It points to the experience of South Africa, where stricter licensing and reduced circulation of firearms saved nearly 5,000 lives in five cities over a five-year period. Both frameworks provide the basis for integrated approaches that are implemented across sectors and by governments, civil society, and the private sector.
Linking funding decisions on gender responsive programming criteria creates operational incentives to mainstream gender in small arms programming.
In 2019, the United Nations launched the Saving Lives Entity, or SALIENT fund, with the goal of supporting member states to mainstream small arms control within a comprehensive approach to sustainable security and development. SALIENT has committed to spending at least 30 percent of its program funds on gender-related activities, and to projects that identify gender equality as a principal objective, with a Project Gender Marker score of 2. As national authorities and international actors cooperate to prepare joint proposals, these funding criteria will sensitize a broad range of actors to the need for gender responsive small arms control.
Better support for the grassroots can help finance reach the communities in greatest need of better arms control.
The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) is a global movement for the control of small arms that networks civil society organizations with shared aims across the world. Recognizing the importance of supporting grassroots organizations, IANSA introduced a micro-grants program that provides grants of a size that smaller organizations can manage. This has helped groups strengthen their capacity and outreach, for example by creating a website, hosting community events, and building networks for advocacy, all of which create awareness of their work and the need for better gun control.
Focused international leadership on gender responsive arms control draws attention and creates space for political progress.
Namibia played a historic role in launching the Women, Peace and Security agenda, using its chairmanship of the Security Council in 2000 to sponsor UNSC Resolution 1325, which was based on the Windhoek Declaration and the Namibia Plan of Action on Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Multidimensional Peace Support Operations (S/2000/693). More recently, Namibia has integrated small arms control into its own 1325 National Action Plan; co-chaired the International Gender Champions Disarmament Group; used its chairmanship to the WPS Focal Points Network in 2019 to make arms control a sub theme for discussion at the Network meetings;and has also been a founding supporter of GENSAC. Namibia’s focus on promoting gender responsive small arms control has been enhanced by cooperation with other states that also prioritize gender responsive small arms control in their support, including Germany and Canada.
Reporting mechanisms built into existing international commitments can provide transparency and accountability on progress toward small arms control.
SDG 16.4 of Agenda 2030 commits states to “significantly reduce illicit arms flows by 2030” and provides a set of indicators by which states can measures their progress toward achieving this goal. The SDGs also provide an international platform for states to present their progress in the form of the Voluntary National Reviews which can be presented to the high-level political forum held under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council each year to review progress on the SDGs. In 2018, twenty-four countries submitted data on their efforts to stem illicit arms flows as measured under indicator 16.4.2 for the second time, which made it possible to trace both progress and setbacks in efforts to control illicit arms flows.180 As the number of countries reporting over time increases together with coherency in data collection and management, the SDG indicators will present an increasingly powerful way of highlighting results and promoting accountability for promises to act.