Security Sector Challenges and Women’s Participation

20 Dec

Global Action recently had the opportunity to co-organize a meeting of Andean region governments on combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALWs). The conference covered many aspects of the illicit trade from regional cooperation and information exchange to the current status of implementation of the UN Programme of Action on small arms (UNPoA). Representatives of Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia engaged in an open and honest discussion about how to strengthen regional security and eliminate illicit weapons wreaking havoc on communities.

As Global Action is accustomed to doing, a women, peace and security lens was integrated into the conversation to push forward a  more robust human security agenda that is adequately inclusive of both women and men. At a macro-policy level, the links between a strong security sector and inclusive participation in political processes, peace negotiations, and other forms of civic engagement in helping to keep the peace are inarguable.  It is essential that the security sector is sufficiently robust to enable active and meaningful participation from all constituencies, including women, without fear or intimidation. The linkages between effective security sector reform and women’s participation, in particular, is a key component to a robust human security agenda that can prevent and well as address conflict in all forms. Furthermore, not only is it theoretically important to include the skills and talents of all citizens, such inclusion also practically contributes to the well being of the society.

In practice, the proliferation of illicit small arms continues to facilitate grave community-based crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence as well as other forms of domestic abuse which are often committed at gunpoint. The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons is not a stand-alone issue to be addressed in isolation, but surely facilitates other trafficking and security challenges faced by policymakers, police and the military.

Moreover, it is inaccurate to classify women as solely victims of gun violence perpetrated by men with arms. This approach neglects the active role women have played, and continue to play, in global, regional, and civil-society driven conflict prevention and disarmament initiatives. This narrow approach has also neglected the role women sometimes play as gun users, combatants, and traffickers.

SCR 1325 is proving to be an effective mandate for small arms policy and implementation by encouraging women’s participation in decision-making as well as by identifying specific entry points for gender analysis—such as reform of national security recruitment practices, implementation of small arms initiatives in collaboration with women’s organizations, and policy training and education to increase women’s participation in issues critical to the UN PoA. In order to address the real causes of societal insecurity, it is essential that participation in all peace and disarmament processes are representative of the whole of the population.

-Katherine Prizeman

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