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Gender and Disarmament Machinery in the WMDC Report
Statement delivered by Jennifer Nordstrom
on October 17, 2006
Project Manager, Reaching Critical Will Project
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Reaching Critical Will, the nuclear disarmament project of WILPF, follows the UN Disarmament Machinery closely and reports on it to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and civil society around the world. We contributed to the disarmament machinery section of the civil society response to the WMDC, and as a representative of the oldest women's peace organization in the world, we also contributed to the gender section.

Gender and Disarmament

This is what the Blix Commission has to say about gender:

In particular, women's organizations have often played a vital role--from the Hague peace conferences of the 19th century to the present time. The role of women in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security was recognized by the Security Council in Resolution 1325 (2000). Women have rightly observed that armament policies and the use of armed force have often been influenced by misguided ideas about masculinity and strength. An understanding of and emancipation from this traditional perspective might help to remove some of the hurdles on the road to disarmament and nonproliferation. (Weapons of Terror, 160)

This passage, and the background paper on gender commissioned by the WMDC recognize that misguided notions about masculinity and strength have affected national weapons and security policies. The WMDC should be applauded for this, because although gender has been recognized as relevant in other peace and security areas, including in Security Council Resolution 1325 and in disarming small arms and light weapons, the WMD weapons arena has been slower to acknowledge its influence.

Understanding the ways gender and ideas about masculinity and femininity affect political decisions will not only help to remove obstacles to disarmament as the WMD Commission notes above, it will also help to package disarmament as feasible, desirable and politically palatable. By recognizing the social context in which policies are developed, and acknowledging that disarmament and cooperative security are being coded as feminine and thereby devalued, we can deconstruct misguided notions about masculinity and strength, and create a more attractive alternative. More in-depth discussion of these issues can be found in the background paper, and in our review. RCW will also be co-hosting a discussion on Gender and Disarmament on Monday, October 23 in Conference Room A, at which the author of the background paper, Dr. Carol Cohn, will be speaking about the gender and WMD. Rebecca Peters will be discussing gender and SALW.

Disarmament Machinery

The WMD Commission recommends that the CD be able to adopt its programme of work by a 2/3 majority. We agree with this, but it is a bit tricky to implement. The CD takes all decisions by consensus, including adopting its programme of work and amending its rules of procedure. As it stands, the CD needs consensus to not take procedural decisions by consensus.

However, the CD should be able to agree (by consensus) on its Programme of Work in 2007. Civil society expects this. The makings of a compromise agreement are here, and the CD could adopt a programme of work if a couple member states moved to the middle just a little bit. Of course this means everyone would have to compromise, not just one side.

We saw the 2006 CD hold substantive discussions for the entire year on all issues, and the sky did not fall. No one's core national security interests were compromised. Rather, the discussion built confidence and proved that the CD can in fact work on these issues to members' benefit.

For these reasons, we believe the CD should be able to agree on a PoW at the beginning of the 2007 session, especially if the alternative is to create the a similar compromise informally. The 2006 CD showed us that the CD can “just do it”. Nothing is stopping the CD from laying out a timetable for the year, allocating time for the different issues. Member states can choose to participate in the discussions or not. The 2007 timetable must give more time to the issues, must be much more in-depth, and must allow space to begin negotiations. Some of the 2006 was pre-negotations. 2007 must go further.

Member states of course need to work to find the right balance of time for all the issues, but not at the expense of not dealing with ANY of them. Some of the of the 2006 CD's discussions were more in-depth than others. RCW created a table quantifying the time spent on, participation in, and expertise contributed to each of the issues in 2006.

Non-Proliferation Treaty

The WMDC recommends establishing a secretariat for the NPT, and in his speech yesterday, Blix said this was a modest and common-sense proposal, which is true, but it also would be extremely useful.

We believe that a secretariat should not only deal with administration, but also have a mechanism for reviewing compliance with the treaty. This may be what the Commission is alluding to when it says the secretariat would have the ability to call emergency meetings in between Preparatory Committees and Review Conferences. The States Party to the treaty should be responsible for making political decisions about compliance with it, more so than the unrepresentative Security Council or the technical IAEA.