Skip to main content

Areas for Action

Ideas for multilateral fora chairs and practitioners on how to address the gender dimensions of international security affairs


• Adopt agenda item(s) that examine gender perspectives

• Approve mandates for integrating gender perspectives into the substance of the delegates’ work

• Include gender-responsive language in resolutions

• Organize gender briefings related to the substance of their work

• Participate in the activities of the International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group

• Engage with the focal points of the Network of Women, Peace and Security; and

• Support side-events or hold informal meetings on gender on the margins of multilateral meetings


Ideas for heads of delegations and chairs of multilateral meetings on fostering an inclusive institutional culture


• Provide financial and capacity-building support to women delegates, where feasible.

• Include gender criteria in the sponsorship programme for delegations.

• During the review cycle of a given convention, ensure a gender-balanced bureau, featuring both women and men at the highest level.

• Ensure that women and men working with the presidency are equally represented in support functions, such as note-taking.

• Design a communication strategy that is gender-responsive, featuring gender issues in newsletters and other outreach communication documents.

• Tone matters: Demonstrate strong political will from the top by setting the tone early, raising the subject of gender, encouraging increased participation of women, as well as substantive gender analyses.

• Engage in dialogue with delegations that have no or few women to support them in redressing the situation.

• Institute gender-responsive, family-friendly arrangements, avoiding the ‘crowding out’ of women in informal discussions, and avoiding negotiations running over time. If this is not possible, as is sometimes the case in endgame diplomacy, adequate warning should be given of the likelihood ahead of time.

• Promote gender-expert speakers in interviews and media.

• Collect, track and publish sex-disaggregated data and statistics on gender balance in delegations, bodies, and panels.

• Track participation of women speakers and make the data available. UNODA has begun to do this for the debates taking place at UNGA First Committee. A more systematic effort by the secretariats of different conventions would be welcome.

• Institutionalize gender balance on panels and among participants by the setting of guidelines including a checklist for staff on how to achieve gender balance on panels (plan early and focus on expertise).

• Adopt resolutions that encourage higher participation of women. One good example is the biennial resolution on “Women, disarmament, nonproliferation, and arms control”, led by Trinidad and Tobago at the UNGA First Committee.


Ideas on how to encourage gender responsive communication


Profession has no gender. Therefore, avoid portraying certain jobs or roles as being more appropriate for one gender. Instead, portray men and women in diverse roles that challenge gender stereotypes.

For example, while it may seem like a compliment to say women are more cooperative and men are more competitive, these are still stereotypes and can have harmful results.

Fair visibility means that communication does not perpetuate gender stereotypes and allows men and women to be on an equal footing.

For example, a photo that presents men as scientists, doctors, engineers, policeman and women as teachers, nurses, caring for victims does not qualify as fair visibility. To ensure fair visibility, it is important to present a diversity of roles for both women and men.

Language should be adapted to reflect inclusion. It is important to avoid using the terms ‘male’ and ‘female as they reduce people to their reproductive roles. A good practice to correct this is to use ‘man’ and ‘woman’, boy’ and ‘girl,’ even when you need an adjective.

Generic nouns such as mankind, forefathers, and motherly can be replaced with gender-neutral terms like humankind, ancestors, and nurturing.

Chairman or Chairwoman can be replaced with Chairperson; instead of “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” use “Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles”.

Use singular ‘they’ instead of masculine pronouns to express neutrality.

Avoid the ways in which women are often portrayed:

  • as victims (rather than survivors) of gender-based violence;
  • grouped with children, falsely portraying their needs and abilities;
  • as unable to escape poverty and conflict, reducing their perceived agency;
  • as passive beneficiaries, etc.

A good practice would be to show men and women as active participants to development instead of merely passive beneficiaries.

Be mindful of cultural and socio-economic differences that can lead to patronizing statements. Some ways in which women are patronized are:

  • Women are less interested in issues of international security
  • Women need to improve their self-esteem and decide to take on leadership positions.

A corrective practice for this would be to portray women as agents for change, despite structural gender inequalities and in spite of their gender.


These ideas are inspired by the Gender & Disarmament Resource Pack, the Gender - Responsive Assembly Toolkit, and Let’s speak gender.