A glaring omission: Landmark UN Resolution 1325 on women and peace makes no reference to small arms and light weapons

Maribel Gonzales Conventional Weapons

Maribel Gonzales

The Ploughshares Monitor Spring 2012 Volume 33 Issue 1

United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, unanimously adopted in 2000, was a turning point in how the international community addresses the security and rights of women during conflict, in the time leading up to conflict, and in post-conflict situations. Its underlying premise is that women build peace. The participation and perspectives of women improve the chances of achieving durable, sustainable peace.

UNSCR 1325 calls for:

  • Increasing participation of women at all levels of decision-making related to peace processes (i.e., the prevention and resolution of conflict, peace negotiations, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance, and post-conflict peacebuilding);
  • Protecting women’s and girls’ human rights and protecting them from sexual and gender-based violence; and
  • Integrating gender sensitive perspectives into all UN peace and security efforts.

UNSCR 1325 also acknowledges the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on civilians, especially women and children, who are increasingly targeted by combatants and armed parties.

As required under the UN Charter, all Member States automatically adopted UNSCR 1325. Since 2000, national governments and UN agencies and departments have been joined by civil society organizations (CSOs), especially disarmament and women’s groups, in working to advance its implementation. What has been done?

The 2004 UN Secretary-General’s Report on Women, Peace and Security called for all Member States to develop National Action Plans (NAPs) to implement the resolution. To date 34 countries, including Canada, have approved NAPs and several others are drafting plans.

The UN Security Council subsequently adopted three follow-up resolutions (see p. 3). In response to UNSCR 1889, in 2010 civil society, technical experts, Member States, and UN entities met in a comprehensive consultative process. The result was a set of performance indicators to monitor and measure the impact of UNSCR 1325.

Despite being lauded as a landmark, UNSCR 1325 contains a glaring omission: while landmines are mentioned, there is not a single reference to small arms and light weapons (SALW). Small arms proliferation threatens the successful implementation of UNSCR 1325.  An IANSA paper marking 1325’s tenth anniversary states:

The gendered nature of armed conflict and SALW use makes it logical and, indeed, imperative that the danger from guns must be included in any consideration of women’s security and any action to control SALW proliferation and use must consider and involve women (Dehesa & Masters 2010, p.12).

In his 2010 Report on Women, Peace and Security the UN Secretary-General concluded that overall implementation of UNSCR 1325 remains slow. A gap remains between policy rhetoric and concrete initiatives. Awareness and understanding of UNSCR 1325 by governments, UN personnel, and CSOs need to be improved (ICAN & MIT 2010).

Comprehensive public education campaigns on UNSCR 1325 are clearly still needed. Beyond this, systematically highlighting the inherent links between the goals of 1325 and small arms control can help Member States to translate UNSCR 1325 into concrete policies and strategic actions. This year two UN initiatives—the negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Review Conference for the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms (UN PoA)—present significant opportunities to make explicit the inherent links between peace and security and the presence and use of guns.

While there is still work to be done, the field of SALW control already has a substantial body of experience and evidence, including model legislation, best practices, and training programs. The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) has developed a conceptual framework to link the implementation of UNSCR 1325 with thinking and action on SALW, focusing on the concepts of prevention, protection, and participation. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF 2011) has passed a resolution calling for NAPs to have an increased focus on the prevention of conflict, including regulation of the arms trade and disarmament, to fully remedy violations of women’s human rights in conflict. WILPF has also engaged in NAP processes in several countries.

At the national level, the NAPs provide policy guidance. More important, the preparation of action plans provides opportunities to identify priorities, develop strategies and specific initiatives, allocate resources, determine responsibilities and timeframes, and decide how implementation will be monitored and measured.

Canada and 1325
Canada prides itself on being “one of the countries leading the way towards an international agenda on women and conflict” (DFAIT 2011). Canada was on the Security Council when UNSCR 1325 was adopted. It also chairs the international Friends of Women, Peace and Security Group. And Canada was an early proponent of the UN PoA.

Canada’s Action Plan for the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (C-NAP) was adopted in 2010, six years after the UN Secretary-General’s call went out. C-NAP employs a whole-of-government approach in relation to all phases of peace operations, fragile states, and conflict-affected situations. Given Canada’s involvement in peace operations, this is a particularly significant initiative. C-NAP covers UN-led peace operations as well as those led or co-led by such organizations as NATO and the African Union. With an end-date of March 31, 2016 and a mid-term review, C-NAP includes a set of performance indicators to monitor plan implementation. Most of these are taken directly from the set recommended in the 2010 report by the UN Secretary-General.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s Stabilization and Reconstruction Taskforce (START) will coordinate the government-wide response, collect data, and compile an annual report. However, C-NAP does not have a dedicated budget. Resources for activities in support of the national plan will be drawn from the respective regular budgets of the Departments and agencies involved.

Barely a year after the adoption of C-NAP, it is difficult (and perhaps premature) to decide how well the plan will meet its performance targets. The first progress report is not expected to be released until this autumn. Some potential concerns can perhaps be addressed as the first annual progress report is prepared:

  • Clear timelines are missing.
  • A mechanism for tracking the activities and resources directed to the C-NAP needs to be made transparent, especially given the intergovernmental approach to implementation and the number of government departments and agencies involved.
  • Although the plan welcomes civil society participation, no mechanisms exist to facilitate ongoing CSO input.
  • Funding to NGOs and women’s groups involved in peace and security issues appears to be shrinking, while preference is given to funding multilateral organizations.
  • On a more fundamental level, while the plans of several nations acknowledge the central role that small arms proliferation plays in armed conflicts, C-NAP does not.

Canada’s stated desire to be a leader on UNSCR 1325 is welcome. Later this year Canada will have the opportunity to demonstrate that leadership through energetic political support for linking the control and reduction of small arms and light weapons to women’s security in the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in July and the Review Conference of the UN PoA in August.

Dehesa, Cynthia & Sarah Masters. 2010. Joined-up thinking: International measures for women’s security. IANSA.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. 2011. Women, Peace and Security.

International Civil Society Action Network & Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies. 2010. What Women Say: Participation and UNSCR 1325.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. 2011. Resolution on National Action Plans, August.

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