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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 55, March 2001

Gender Perspectives on Disarmament: Speech by Jayantha Dhanapala

'Gender Perspectives on Disarmament', speech by Jayantha Dhanapala, UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Seminar to launch the publication of "Gender Perspectives on Disarmament", co-sponsored by the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs and The Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, New York, March 14, 2001.

"Before starting, I would like to give special thanks to Angela King, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, for co-sponsoring this event. I am pleased to work with her and her staff in launching our new publication on gender perspectives on disarmament. ... Today's meeting is significant in that it marks not just the launching of a publication - but even more importantly, the inauguration of a process. Our meeting today marks a new beginning, not a one-time event. For too many years, the two noble causes of disarmament and gender equality have been pursued on separate but parallel tracks. ...

The two-track approach has succeeded largely through the advantages of specialisation: the communities who work on disarmament and on gender issues have each developed over time their own sources of information, expertise, and constituencies of support. ... This is all quite understandable and should be recognised as a proper division of labour in addressing a robust international agenda of global issues. Yet are these communities really so different? Surely not in their fundamental goals. Neither the United Nations nor its individual member states regards disarmament, for example, as an end in itself. Instead, disarmament seeks to advance the cause of international peace and security - people-based security first and foremost - and in so doing it frees enormous human and economic resources for more productive uses in society. ...

It is also important to note that we work within a shared tradition of international law, a tradition that obliges states to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants in the conduct of armed conflicts. Literally all the efforts throughout the history of the United Nations to abolish weapons of mass destruction...have rested heavily upon this basic tenet, the very same legal principle that seeks to protect women and children in war. We stand together, in short, in defence of the rule of law. ...

Another common link between disarmament and gender issues is more architectural in nature. It concerns the fact that both involve collaborative efforts throughout the UN system. The Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues is no more an island in the UN system than is the Department for Disarmament Affairs. ... The challenge we share is...to integrate our efforts, to forge a holistic common cause, by building on the foundations we share. We seek as much to integrate gender perspectives into the global process of disarmament as we seek to integrate disarmament into contemporary efforts on behalf of gender equality. Viewed in a broader perspective, our common cause is mainstream to both gender and disarmament - to serve all the peoples of the United Nations. ...

The six Briefing Notes we are releasing today represent six steps forward in this collective effort. ... The first two Briefing Notes describe the specific linkages between gender perspectives and weapons of mass destruction and document the long history of women's efforts on behalf of peace and disarmament. As time goes by, it is easy to lose track of past accomplishments, like the fact that ten women have received the Nobel Peace Prize. Incidentally, two of these - Jane Adams and Emily Greene Balch - were co-founders in 1915 of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, an organization that is represented here today by Felicity Hill.

The third Note addresses gender perspectives on small arms issues - a tremendously important subject, given the utter devastation that small arms have caused among civilian communities around the world and also given the fact that the issue is ripe for action in the world community. ... A fourth Note examines efforts in the field of 'disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration' (DDR) - the United Nations uses such tools to assist the often-difficult transition from the end of armed conflicts to a stable peace. In its Declaration issued after its Millennium Summit last September, the Security Council stressed the 'critical importance' of DDR and emphasized that such efforts should be integrated into the mandates of peacekeeping operations. A month later, the Council adopted Resolution 1325, which encouraged DDR planners to consider the different needs of female and male ex-combatants and to take into account the needs of their dependents. The fifth Note addressed Landmines - these are weapons that are on their way to being abolished worldwide, given their brutal and indiscriminate effects on innocent civilians. ... The sixth and last Note...addresses the linkages between disarmament, development and gender perspectives. Armed conflicts not only kill soldiers and civilians, but also can ruin national economies and set back development goals for decades. ..."

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.