UNSC resolution on small arms and light weapons relates to women, peace, and security

Abigial Ruane and Maria Butler | PeaceWomen of WILPF
27 September 2013

On 26 September 2013, the UN Security Council adopted its first ever resolution on small arms and light weapons (SALW) with 14 votes in favor and 1 abstention (Russia).

This resolution is part of ongoing work of UN bodies linking disarmament, human rights, and gender, including the passing of a resolution by the Human Rights Council (HRC) on the "Impact of arms transfers on human rights in armed conflicts" (A/HRC/24/L.32/Rev.1), the General Assembly resolution” Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control” (A/RES/67/48), and work by Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) including the forthcoming General Recommendation on Women in Conflict Prevention, Conflict, and Post-Conflict.

Resolution 2117 recognizes the interrelationship between small arms and light weapons, women, peace and security, and human rights. It recognizes the disproportionate impact of SALW on violence against women and girls and how SALW exacerbate sexual and gender-based violence (PP 10). It stresses the importance of integrated approaches to SALW in line with SCR 1325, which recognize women’s rights and provide for women’s full, meaningful, and effective participation (PP 14, OP 12). It urges further measures be taken in facilitating women’s full and meaningful participation and access in all policymaking, planning, and implementation processes, including through consultation with women’s organizations and civil society and regarding disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and well as security sector reform (SSR) processes (OP 12). In addition, it demands that parties to armed conflict comply with international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law obligations (OP 13) and reaffirms the responsibility to protect civilians (PP16). It also urges states to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and encourages capacity building to enable fulfillment of treaty obligations (OP 19).

However, gaps remain in the text: gender was not integrated throughout the resolution but instead is primarily restricted to three paragraphs (PP 10 and 14, and OP 12). Consequently, issues such as sanctions regimes and arms embargoes are addressed without critical gender considerations.

Despite the above analysis and the importance of the discussion of SALW as an international security matter, we must underlined the purpose of SCR 1325 is to prevent conflict and therefore challenge the prolific arms industry. It must be reiterated that the top sellers of arms are represent by the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Globally just six countries export 74% of the world’s weapons: US, Russia, Germany, UK, China and France. The US sells 35% of the global total. The policies of arms exporters are incongruent and contradictory, and often unquestioned.

Indeed, we remind states that there can be no peace and security without women, and that women’s rights are human rights while always challenging the root causes of war and violence.