Gender refers to the roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a society, at a given time, considers appropriate or as a ‘norm’ for women and men and girls and boys, as well as non-binary or gender-fluid persons.
Gender norms are socially constructed differences—as opposed to biological differences (sex)—and they function as social rules of behaviour, setting out what is desirable and possible to do as a male or female in a given context.
In most societies, gender norms have resulted in differences and thus, inequalities between women and men in terms of their socially assigned responsibilities, roles, access to and control over resources, and decision-making opportunities.
In arms control and disarmament, a gender analysis (or ‘gender lens’) can be useful to assess how the attributes, opportunities, and relationships associated with a gender identity may affect issues, such as the likelihood of being targeted by weapons systems, prospects of becoming a victim/survivor of armed violence, the ability to access medical attention in the aftermath of armed conflict, and the long-lasting biological and physiological impacts of weapons on individuals.
Gender perspectives have already informed multilateral arms control and disarmament frameworks, including treaties and United Nations General Assembly resolutions. The inclusion of gender-responsive provisions has shed light on the differential impacts of weapons on women, men, girls and boys, and enhanced the ability of the international community to redress gender inequality.
In November 2022, The Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA) was adopted and endorsed by more than 80 States. In its preamble, the Declaration recognizes the importance of collecting data disaggregated by sex and age on civilian harm from the use of EWIPA. In its operative section, the Declaration directs States to “collect, share, and make publicly available disaggregated data on the direct and indirect effects on civilians” and to “adopt a holistic, integrated, gender-sensitive, and non-discriminatory approach" to victim assistance. These provisions are important to enhance the protection of civilians in an armed conflict and to ensure more sustainable relief and recovery efforts.
Want to learn more? Check out UNIDIR’s Factsheet: Gendered Impacts of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas and the Menu of Indicators to Measure the Reverberating Effects on Civilians from the Use of EWIPA.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) contains an obligation for States Parties to provide age- and gender-sensitive victim assistance, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, and to ensure the social and economic inclusion of victims (Article 5). This provision is important as it stipulates equal access to services and resources.
The Lausanne Action Plan (2020-2026) directs States Parties to collect and analyze gender, age and disability disaggregated data in relation to a number of cross-cutting actions, such as surveying and clearance of cluster munition remnants, risk education, victim assistance and the development of laws, policies and programmes. Through these actions, State Parties commit to ensuring that the different needs, vulnerabilities and perspectives of women, girls, boys and men from diverse populations and all ages are considered and inform the implementation of the Convention.
The Second Review Conference of the CCM, held in 2021, decided that the Coordinators on General Status and Operation would act as Gender Focal Points to provide advice to States Parties on gender mainstreaming. In 2022, France and Namibia submitted a working paper outlining Terms of Reference for the CCM Gender Focal Points.
To access the full text of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, click here.
Want to learn more? Check out UNIDIR’s Factsheet on Gender and Diversity in the CCM.
The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) aims to end the causalities and suffering caused by anti-personnel mines through four main objectives: ensuring universal adherence, clearing mined areas, destroying stockpiled mines, and assisting the victims.
During the Fourth Review Conference of the APMBC, in 2019, States Parties agreed on the adoption of the Oslo Action Plan and the Oslo Declaration to ensure the implementation of the convention. The Oslo Action Plan requires countries to mainstream gender considerations in mine action programming, including mine risk education and victim assistance. When reporting on these programmes, States Parties have to present data disaggregated by gender and age.
Additionally, the Fourth Review Conference decided to amend the working methods of the Convention’s Committees. Each of the five Committees will appoint a focal point to provide advice on gender mainstreaming and ensure that the diverse needs and experiences of people in affected communities are taken into account in the implementation of the Oslo Action Plan.
Want to learn more? Check out UNIDIR’s factsheet Gender in the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (2018).
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which came to an effect in 2014, contains a specific provision on gender-based violence (GBV) in its legal framework. Under Article 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), it is illegal to transfer weapons if there is a risk that the weapons will be used to commit or facilitate serious acts of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). In practice, this means that States Parties conducting risk assessment processes for the export and import of weapons have to take into account the legislative and normative factors around GBV in the recipient countries.
In 2019, the Fifth Conference of States Parties to the ATT focused on the Treaty’s gender provisions and adopted a decision encouraging States Parties to take action on gender and GBV, such as collecting gender-disaggregated data within their national crime and health statistics, including gender-disaggregated data on victims of armed violence and conflict, and making this data publicly available. States Parties also decided that the ATT Secretariat should report on overall progress among delegations in achieving gender balance.
To access the full text of the ATT, click here.
Want to learn more? Check out UNIDIR’s Factsheet on Gender and the Arms Trade Treaty.
The UN Programme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects (UN PoA SALW) recognizes the negative impact of the illicit trade in SALW on women.
The Outcome Document of the 2018 Third Review Conference of the UN PoA acknowledged that eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is critical in combating gender-based violence. The document made strides in encouraging the full participation of women in decision-making and implementation of all processes related to the POA; in taking into account the differing impacts of the illicit trade of SALW on women, men, boys and girls; in encouraging gender mainstreaming in policies and programmes designed to combat the illicit trade in SALW; and in encouraging the collection of data disaggregated by gender.
The Outcome Document of the 2022 Eighth Biennial Meeting of States of the UN PoA reiterated the need for the full, equal, meaningful and effective participation of women in the implementation of the PoA and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI). It also encouraged States Parties to collect disaggregated data and to address the differential impact of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons on women, men, girls, and boys in the implementation of both the PoA and the ITI.
To access the text of the UN POA SALW click here.
Over the past five years, a discussion on the gendered impact of nuclear weapons has emerged during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review process. Different studies have underlined that ionizing radiation does not affect men and women equally. While the detonation of one or more nuclear weapons would cause massive death and injury to all, scientific studies show that women and girls have a far higher risk of developing cancer than men or boys. The research has been highlighted by several States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) throughout the past review cycle.
Over the longer term, of those who are exposed to a nuclear explosion, women and girls have a far higher risk of developing cancer than men or boys. The research has been highlighted by some States Parties and the gendered effects of nuclear weapons have been a topic of some national statements and working papers. The Chair’s factual summary from the 2018 Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2020 NPT Review Conference (RevCon) observed that States Parties noted the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on women, and that this issue should be factored into the discussions in the current review cycle.
In addition to gendered impacts, discussions have also highlighted the need to improve women’s participation in this forum. The Chair’s factual summary also observed that “States parties endorsed the fundamental importance of promoting the equal, full and effective participation and leadership of both women and men in nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
The 2019 NPT PrepCom saw an increase in the number of working papers addressing the linkages between the nuclear affairs and gender, with three papers dedicated to this topic:
-Integrating gender perspectives in the implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (submitted by Australia, Canada, Ireland, Namibia, Sweden and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research)
-Improving gender equality in the Non-Proliferation Treaty review process (submitted by Australia, Canada, Ireland, Namibia, Sweden and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research)
-Gender in the Non-Proliferation Treaty: recommendations for the 2020 Review Conference (submitted by Ireland)
Among the recommendations made by the 2019 Chair of the Preparatory Committee was that the 10th Review Conference should “endorse the fundamental importance of promoting the equal, full and effective participation and leadership of both women and men” in the nuclear field, as well as “recognize the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on women and girls”.
Ahead of the Tenth NPT Review Conference, which is expected to take place in 2021, UNIDIR and UNODA hosted a virtual event to discuss the inclusion of gender perspectives in the NPT review process. The webinar “Towards an Equal and Secure Future” took place on 6 April 2021, and the event recording is available here.
In 2022, at the Tenth Review Conference of the NPT, Joint Statement on Gender, Diversity and Inclusion was delivered by Canada on behalf of 67 countries. The statement underscored the importance of full, equal and effective involvement of women in all aspects of the NPT, highlighted that nuclear weapons have different effects on different demographics, and that the intersections of race, gender, economic status, geography, nationality, and other factors must be taken into account as risk-multiplying factors in relation to nuclear weapons. In addition, a working paper on gender mainstreaming in the NPT was submitted by UNIDIR and the governments of Australia, Canada, Colombia, Ireland, Mexico, Namibia, Panama, the Philippines, Spain, and Sweden.
Gender-related topics were reflected in the Draft Final Document of the Tenth Review Conference of the NPT, which contained multiple references to gender issues, especially in relation to women’s meaningful participation and leadership in the NPT implementation and review. However, NPT States Parties failed to achieve consensus and the final document was not adopted.
Want to learn more? Check out UNIDIR’s report Gender, Development and Nuclear Weapons: Shared Goals, Shared Concerns.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) includes a clause mandating States Parties to provide age- and gender-sensitive assistance to individuals under its jurisdiction who are affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support, as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion (Article 6).
The preamble of the Treaty acknowledges that nuclear weapons have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, including as a result of ionizing radiation. It also recognizes the need for the “equal, full and effective participation of both women and men” in promoting peace and security, and the engagement of women in nuclear disarmament.
During the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW, held in Vienna in 2022, a working paper co-sponsored by UNIDIR, Chile, Ireland and Mexico proposed actions to operationalize the gender provisions of the Treaty.
The Vienna Action Plan was adopted by TPNW States Parties in 2022. As part of the Action Plan, States Parties resolved to “integrate gender considerations across the work of the Treaty’s implementation” (Action 39) and “recommend that gender considerations are taken into account across all TPNW-related national policies, programs and projects” (Action 47) . They also agreed to “establish a geographically diverse and gender balanced network of experts to support the goals and TPNW” (Action 34) and to establish a Gender Focal Point to support the implementation of the gender provisions of the Treaty and report on progress made to the 2MSP (Action 48). Additionally, States Parties decided to begin working on guidelines for ensuring age- and gender-sensitive Victim Assistance (Action 49), as well as guidelines for the integration of gender perspectives in international cooperation and assistance (Action 50).
To access the text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, click here.
Want to learn more? Check out UNIDIR’s report Gender, Development and Nuclear Weapons: Shared Goals, Shared Concerns
The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling, and use of biological and toxin weapons. Research has shown the different levels of susceptibility between women and men to some diseases and the different levels of exposure they might be subject to due to caregiving responsibilities in the domestic sphere. Gender roles also impact experiences of social stigma differently, and impacts of post-traumatic stress disorder related to different diseases and outbreaks are also different based on gender.
In the 2022 Ninth Review Conference of the BWC, a working paper on enhancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in the BWC and a language proposal for inclusion in the final document were submitted by Panama. Additionally, UNIDIR and a group of States organized a photo exhibition, which portrayed women professionals from all regions who work in the field of biosecurity.
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and their destruction. Research has shown that sex-and gender-disaggregated data, as well as knowledge of gender perspectives, could improve preparedness in the event of a chemical attack and enhance the effectiveness of international assistance.
At the 2022 Conference of the States Parties, a joint statement on gender equality was delivered by Costa Rica on behalf of a group of States. The statement underscored gender as a cross-cutting issue that should be considered in all aspects of the convention, including the provision of care and assistance to women affected by chemical weapons, among other areas.
At the 2023 Fifth Review Conference of the CWC, a working paper on the importance of advancing gender equality considerations was presented by Canada and co-sponsored by more than 50 States.
UNGA First Committee resolutions have played an instrumental role in acknowledging and addressing the gender equality in international security .
In its 77th Session in 2022, the General Assembly adopted 66 resolutions and decisions proposed by First Committee, of which 20 featured gender-related provisions that call for women’s equal participation, stress the gendered impacts of weapons and armed violence, and/or highlight gender considerations in disarmament efforts.
In 2022, a Joint Statement on Gender was delivered by Ireland on behalf of 67 countries. The statement referred to the differentiated impact of conflict on men, boys, women and girls and how a gender lens allows for more detailed and sustainable solutions to conflict. It also mentioned the underrepresentation of women in arms control and disarmament fora and especially in leadership roles, advocating for targeted actions to reverse this. Finally, it made reference to the pivotal role civil society has in raising awareness on this issue and the importance of continuing to collaborate with these organizations.
Every two years, the General Assembly adopts a resolution specifically focused on promoting “equal opportunities for the representation of women in all decision-making processes with regard to matters related to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, in particular as it relates to the prevention and reduction of armed violence and armed conflict”. Known as Women, Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, the resolution is led by Trinidad and Tobago and was first introduced in 2010. In 2022, the resolution was co-sponsored by 45 States.
Represented below are some key aspects of the resolution:
Ethical Imperatives for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World (A/RES/76/25)
OP3 (c): “Declares that greater attention must be given to the impact of a nuclear weapon detonation on women and the importance of their participation in discussions, decisions and actions on nuclear weapons;”
Compliance with Non-Proliferation, Arms Limitation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (A/RES/76/33)
OP 4: “Calls upon all States to include and empower women, including through capacity-building efforts, as appropriate, as full, equal and meaningful participants in the design and implementation of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control efforts;”
The Arms Trade Treaty (A/RES/76/50)
OP 12: “Recalls the adoption of action-oriented decisions on gender and gender-based violence by the Fifth Conference of States Parties and the fact that States parties agreed to review progress on these two aspects on an ongoing basis, and in that respect encourages States parties and signatory States to ensure the full and equal participation of women and men in pursuing the object and purpose of the Treaty;”
Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (A/RES/76/64)
OP 13: “Underlines the vital role of the full and equal participation of women in decision-making and implementation of the Convention;”
The Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (A/RES/76/232)
OP 12: "Emphasized the need for the equal full and effective participation of women in all decision-making and implementation processes relating to the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument;"
Want to learn more? Check out the Gender & Disarmament Resource Pack by the International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group.
During the 2019 and 2020 meetings of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) on Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, a large number of delegations called attention to potential gendered impacts of ICT-incidents, as well as the global gender gap in access to and use of the internet. Papers submitted to the OEWG proposed that gender equality and the meaningful participation of women should be at the central of international peace and security in cyberspace. New research exploring how gender norms shape specific activities related to cybersecurity was presented in side events and multiple civil society organizations highlighted the importance of gender mainstreaming in cyber policies.
Adopted in March 2021, the OEWG’s final report acknowledged the high level of women’s participation in OEWG sessions as well as the prominence of gender perspectives in its discussions, and underscored the importance of narrowing the “gender digital divide” and of promoting the effective and meaningful participation and leadership of women in decision-making processes. Additionally, the final report proposed that capacity-building efforts should “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, be gender sensitive and inclusive, universal and non-discriminatory”.
In 2020, a second OEWG on ICTs in the context of international security was established by the UN General Assembly, with a mandate set for 2021-2025.
Want to learn more? Check out UNIDIR’s reports Gender Approaches to Cybersecurity (available in Spanish) and System Update: Towards a Women, Peace and Cybersecurity Agenda (available in Spanish).
At the end of 2020, pursuant to UNGA resolution 76/231, an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) was established to make recommendations on possible norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours relating to threats by States to space systems. As part of OEWG discussions, a number of States highlighted the need to ensure geographical, stakeholder, and gender diversity. With regards to gender diversity specifically, some States have underscored the importance of equal participation of women and men and the need to assess the potential differentiated impacts of threats to space systems.
The topic of gender equality and space security was debated in a side event to the second session of the OEWG, in September 2022. Experts and practitioners discussed issues such as women’s participation and leadership in the space industry and diplomacy; mainstreaming gender approaches to space law, norms and standards; and harnessing space technology for sustainable development and gender equality.
Over the past years, a number of States and civil society representatives participating in the meetings of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), convened under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), have expressed concern that algorithm-based weapons like LAWS have the potential to perpetuate or amplify existing social biases, including gender bias.
The topic of gender and AI was debated in a side event during the 2021 sessions of the GGE, where panelists reflected on the significance of gender issues associated with military AI systems’ development and deployment, and considered possible avenues for countering AI bias and mitigating harm.
At the end of 2021 session of the GGE, a draft report was circulated by the Chair, according to which “States should ensure that weapons systems based on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems do not rely on data sets that can perpetuate or amplify unintentional social biases, including gender and racial bias, and that can thus have implications for compliance with international law”. However, the GGE failed to achieve consensus on a final framework on LAWS and the report was not adopted.
Want to learn more? Check out UNIDIR’s report Does Military AI Have Gender? Understanding Bias And Promoting Ethical Approaches To AI Military Systems
In 2021, the General Assembly adopted resolution 76/233 establishing an Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) to elaborate a set of political commitments for a new global framework on through-life ammunition management.
The OEWG completed its work in June 2023, with the approval of a voluntary Global Framework, comprising 15 objectives for safe, secure, sustainable through-life conventional ammunition management. In its preamble, the Global Framework recognizes the role of conventional ammunition in facilitating armed violence, including gender-based violence. Gender considerations were also integrated into specific objectives.
Objective 8 (Supply Chain Transparency) calls attention to the risk of diverted conventional ammunition being used to commit gender-based violence, and the differentiated impacts of diverted conventional ammunition on women, men, girls and boys. Objective 13 (Data Collection and Analysis) encourages the recording of sex and age disaggregated data to allow for an assessment of the role of diverted conventional ammunition in different types of armed violence. Objective 14 (Gender Mainstreaming) is dedicated to the strengthening gender mainstreaming and the full, equal, meaningful and effective participation of women in through-life conventional ammunition management.
Want to learn more? Check out the working paper on Gender Mainstreaming Ammunition Through-Life Management by UNIDIR, Panama, and the Small Arms Survey.