Deep Dive Recap: Small Arms and Light Weapons and the Gender Perspective

  • 22 Sep. 2022 -
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  • Last updated: 25 Oct. 2022 11:54

On the 22nd September 2022, the NATO International Military Staff (IMS) GENAD Office hosted their monthly Deep Dive Session focusing on the relationship between the Gender Perspective and Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). This session explored the role of gender mainstreaming to fill information gaps and address current challenges in small arms control work, ammunition management and demining.

Subject matter expertise was provided by Mr. Callum Watson, the Gender Coordinator at the Small Arms Survey, Dr. Jovana Carapic, a Programme Manager for the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining – Ammunition Management Advisory Team (AMAT), and Ms. Maysa Hajjaj, the Gender and Diversity Advisor for the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining – Gender and Mine Action Programme (GPAM).

Men and Masculinities

Mr. Watson first outlined the key components of the gender perspective in the work at Small Arms Survey. He explained the highly gendered nature of statistics for global firearms related deaths and violence and the need for disaggregated data. In 2020, 76% of victims of violent deaths by firearms were men, mainly young men, where in some contexts they are the leading cause of death. Before possessing this type of disaggregated data, the broader picture may not have incorporated men as vulnerable when discussing SALW. As well though, Mr. Watson highlighted that men are also the majority of perpetrators noting that “firearms-related violence is often directly related to male gender roles”. This is partly due to the fact that men take on the majority of combat roles in the armed forces, and also take on high-risk roles in the police, gendarmerie and border patrol. Sometimes this is voluntary but not always. He further explained how these gendered roles, bias and expectations, varying by location, context time and culture could drive violence in different ways and create lack of trust in authorities and law enforcement. When organisations like NATO partner with other countries therefore, it’s important to address discrimination in the security sector and to highlight the importance of responding to the different security needs of women, men, girls, and boys in the population as part of building trust with the civilian population and maintaining a monopoly on the use of force.

Ammunition and Arms Management

Following that discussion, Dr. Carapic discussed the progress and challenges in ammunition and arms management, highlighting the work and engagement of GICHD-AMAT and several other organizations working on the issue area. She explained the need for strengthening security through cooperation, information sharing and partnerships towards practical and sustainable technical assistance in ammunition management. When it comes to gender and ammunition management, Dr. Carapic demonstrated the gaps in data and analysis, explaining the need for further consideration of gender perspectives and implications with respect to through-life ammunition management, in order to address the different negative impacts of accidental explosions on women, men, girls and boys and their livelihoods. For example, in 2020 with the disaggregated data of 15 cases, the gender causalities of accidental explosions were 10% female, 50% children, and 40% male.  This helps us understand who is impacted the most. Dr. Carapic highlighted the recent work commissioned by the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs pertaining to gender and life-cycle management of ammunition, highlighting concrete means for including gender consideration in ammunition planning, procurement, stockpile management and disposal. In addition, and apart from emphasising a need for greater inclusion of women in the ammunition management trade – which is a broader security sector reform issue -- when it comes to ammunition management, she emphasised that gender perspective plays a key role when it improves the safety, security and effectiveness of operations.

WPS, Disarmament and Mine Action

Finally, Ms. Hajjaj called attention to the relevance of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda for disarmament and mine action and UNSCR directive “for all parties to ensure that mine clearance and mine awareness programmes take into account the special needs of women and girls”. In particular, she discussed the need for cooperation and dialogue to improve norms and standards. This includes cooperation on the ground and the need for mine action organisations to interact with communities to fill gaps on vital and life-saving information. She explained how gender and diversity specific roles and responsibilities may determine what information women, girls, boys and men often hold in regards to contamination, land ownership, land use and the priorities and needs of their communities. One of the ways NATO can ensure that they provide a secure environment with proper safeguarding is to integrate a gender perspective to understand the specific and unique mobility patterns which affect their exposure to risk. For example, in South Sudan: women and girls are often involved in fetching water and agricultural tasks so will have knowledge of very specific geographical areas. Adolescent boys are engaged in herding which often happens further from the villages, again meaning that they have knowledge of areas that others in their community do not.

In summary, integrating the gender perspective can improve safeguarding practices and contribute to developing a secure environment. The WPS agenda and UNSCR 1325 relevance to work in SALW further highlights the need to integrate gender perspectives in order to develop a secure environment that accounts for the different needs and contributions of women, girls, boys and men.