Gender and Disarmament Machinery in the
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
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
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.
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.
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.