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WILPF statement to the Conference on Disarmament on International Women's Day 2004

Madame President and distinguished Members of the CD,

We first would like to thank you for officially acknowledging the relationship of civil society to the CD. We welcome the decision taken on February 12 of this year as a first step upon which further engagement can be built.

Throughout the war-plagued history of civilization, leaders and decision-makers have been operating within a framework of "national security." Most actions taken on the international stage are based on the preservation of national security. How successful has this framework been? Since the end of the Second World War, there has not been more than a week without some conflict somewhere on the planet. During the fifty years of the Cold War, the world has witnessed the bloody embodiment of "national security" during which 315 armed conflicts took more than 27 million lives wounding 100 million others. At the heart of the Cold War lay the notion of nuclear deterrence.

While the Cold War ended more than ten years ago, the nuclear threat has reached another climax. We risk losing the positive gains made in previous years as the Nuclear Weapon States reinforce their arsenals, conduct experimental high-level missile tests, research new types of nuclear weapons, and more and more Non-Nuclear Weapon States look to the nuclear option as a way of preserving "national security."

How did we miss the opportunity for nuclear disarmament that the end of the Cold War offered us? How is it that the global nuclear stockpiles are not diminishing irreversibly? How is it that, despite the promise made in 2000 at the NPT Review Conference to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security policy, we continue to find nuclear weapons at the core of security strategy documents?

You must ask yourselves: Whose security do nuclear weapons guarantee?

More than three years have elapsed since the Security Council adopted the historic resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Three years onward and we do not want to utilize another International Women's Day statement to discuss why and how women are affected differently. Instead, we want to demonstrate how a gender analysis can facilitate nuclear disarmament talks. We call for the transition from a national security framework (which has failed) to a human security framework.

A gender perspective does not mean simply counting the number of women and men at the conference table, (although an increase in women decision-makers in this Forum as in all others would be one way to ensure a gender perspective). Rather, as the action plan of the Department for Disarmament Affairs states, "Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies, or programs in all areas and at all levels."

The CD has not yet incorporated the DDA action plan. The action plan is not only relevant to the work of the Conference on Disarmament, it will enhance this body's efficacy.

The DDA gender plan, launched during last year's unsuccessful UN Disarmament Commission's meeting, is itself situated in a human security framework. The plan recognizes that "Gender analysis begins with people, their experiences and their lives, rather than with notions of state security." The plan works on the assumption that a shift towards a framework based on human security must begin with disarmament. If we are to realize the promise stated in Article 26 of the Charter to regulate armaments toward the least diversion of global resources, we must challenge the current notion of national security. As the action plan states, "disarmament and gender analysis offer critical approaches to the concept of national security grounded in military superiority and the threat of the use of force." A gender perspective will enable nation states to move away from a narrow military view of security to a universal notion of human security.

Four years into this century we continue to witness major wars among States and within States on nearly every continent on the planet.

The only way to ensure that no human being, acting on behalf of a State, a group, or individually, will ever use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction is by their verifiable, transparent, and irreversible elimination. This fact is incontrovertible. Protection of people from mass destruction is only possible by eliminating the weapons that are capable of doing that! This has been, and will always remain, the only way to security. It is within this human security framework that the root causes of terrorism can be properly addressed.

The cornerstone of the disarmament regime, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, stands at its most crucial juncture in its history. The world has watched itself backslide on key advancements made at the 2000 Review Conference. Drastic positive measures are needed to ensure the longevity of the NPT. With the third NPT PrepCom fast approaching, all States Parties to the NPT and the peoples they represent are greatly dependant on the work of this Conference on Disarmament.

The CD and the NPT share many of the same issues. If the CD were able to make substantive progress on some of them, such as Negative Security Assurances, the positive effect on the NPT would reverberate throughout the international disarmament regime. The CD has the responsibility to demonstrate the vitality of the international disarmament regime as a way of strengthening the NPT review process.

One way to start to demonstrate this would be to officially adopt the Five Ambassadors' proposal NOW and work in line with it. There are no obstacles to begin negotiations on an Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty (FMCT). If certain key States still have not formulated a position on an FMCT, the participants of this seminar urge you to go ahead without them. Work on this treaty must begin as soon as possible, so that any production of fissile material becomes as inconceivable as a return to full-scale nuclear testing is today.

Those States that have demonstrated their commitment to the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space must continue to hold informal discussions within the CD, the Secretariat, in the world's capitals and elsewhere. If negotiations in the CD are not yet possible due to the positions of certain States, dialogue must continue to move forward. It is important to continue to draw public and media attention to the imminent threat to space. If this generation fails to save future generations from a militarized outer space, it will be the biggest failure of humankind since the unleashing of the atomic bomb.

Distinguished delegates,

We know that it is somewhat unfair to claim that "the CD has not done any work." We know that, while no progress on negotiations have moved forward in eight years, that all of you are working hard to come up with the right words, the right bargains, the right compromises to move this stalemated body toward a substantive program of work. But something is not working. All of the words spoken in this room, all of the speeches delivered on this floor over the past eight years have brought us no closer to security.

We offer you today a new way of thinking, a new framework in which to devise your strategies and craft your positions. Not one human being in the world will be less secure once you have managed to negotiate an FMCT. What a responsibility and privilege you have, to be charged with the responsibility and ability to protect the lives of every person on the planet! And it really is within your power. By starting work on that treaty now, you will be taking one critical step toward the safety and security of every single human being on earth.

This is what we offer you as non-governmental organizations: expertise, dedication, and a reminder of the humanity common to us all. We are not here to criticize and blame the delegates for the continued spectre of nuclear war; we are here to speak to you as individuals, as human beings, all fighting the fight for the survival of the human race, free from the threat of nuclear terror and free from the heavy burden all weapons of war. As Ben Okri, a Nigerian poet and winner of the Booker Prize wrote, "The real war always has been to keep alive the light of civilization, everywhere. It is to keep culture and art at the forefront of our national and international endeavors. The end of the world begins not with the barbarians at the gate, but with the barbarians at the highest levels of the State. All the States in the world. We need a new kind of sustained and passionate and enlightened action in the world of the arts and the spirit."

Let us commence this new kind of sustained and passionate and enlightened action on this 2004 International Women's Day.

Thank you.

The organizations that collaborated on this statement include:
Femmes Africa Solidarité
International Council of Jewish Women
International Peace Bureau
NGO Working Group on Peace (Geneva)
Quaker United Nations Office at Geneva
Women's Federation for World Peace International
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom