WILPF Advocacy Documents


HRC35: Statement on Human Rights Concerns Must Come Ahead of Profit in the Arms Trade

Arm Transfers | Disarmament | Explosive Weapons | Extraterritorial Obligations | Gender-Based Violence | Human Rights Defenders | Militarisation | Women’s Human Rights
14 June 2017
Document type:
Body submitted to:
Human Rights Council

Statement made at the UN Human Rights Council 35th session (6 to 23 June 2017) during General Debate under items 2 and 3[1]

States parties to the Arms Trade Treaty are obliged to address the gendered impact of arms transfers.

WILPF has been consistently drawing attention to human rights violations connected to arms transfers. We therefore welcome the increasing attention that the Council has been giving to this issue. Action by human rights bodies adds an extra layer of accountability beyond the Arms Trade Treaty and reinforces that human rights concerns must come ahead of profit in the arms trade. We particularly welcome the High Commissioner’s report on the “Impact of arms transfers on the enjoyment of human rights”,[2] which reviews relevant international and regional legal frameworks, including guidance that exists on this subject from different human rights mechanisms.

In this report, the UN High Commissioner highlights the many ways in which arms, and the arms trade, contribute to gender-based violence. It is very clear in outlining the role that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has played and can continue to play, in raising reminding states parties of their human rights obligations relating to arms transfers.[3] The Committee has recommended, among other things, that States parties address the gendered impact of international transfers of arms, especially small and illicit arms, including through the ratification and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty.

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) requires states parties to undertake a mandatory assessment of the risk of arms being used to commit or facilitate gender-based violence before authorizing any arms transfers. It is important to underscore that the risk assessments assess just that – the risk that arms in question the risk that the arms in question will be used in any of the ways prohibited by the Treaty. It is not necessary to establish the direct presence of a transferred item as having been used in a specific act in order to prevent future transfers of the same item. If the risk alone is high enough, the transfer must be denied. The UN High Commissioner’s report puts forward a range of suggested elements for states and other stakeholders to use when assessing the relationship between arms transfers and human rights – which is an obligation under international law.

We urge the Council to fulfill its mandate to prevent human rights violations and act on the recommendations in this report. The Council should support a preventative approach aimed at stopping arms transfers where there is a risk that those arms will be used for serious violations or abuses of human rights, including gender-based violence. In particular, it should recommend that states conduct rigorous and transparent gender risk assessments prior to any authorization of arms sales or transfers and deny such authorization when there is a risk that they would be used to commit or facilitate acts of gender based violence.


[1] The version read during the session was shorter than the present version

[2] UN Index A/HRC/35/8, 3 May 2017. Report requested by the Human Rights Council with Resolution 32/12, 1 July 2016.

[3] See, for example, paragraph 12 and 32 of the OHCHR report referring to CEDAW General Recommendation 30, paragraphs 32 and 29, respectively. And paragraph 33 of the report providing a summary of recommendations made in concluding observations on Switzerland (CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/4-5), Netherlands (CEDAW/C/NLD/CO/6), Germany (CEDAW/C/DEU/CO/7-8), France (CEDAW/C/FRA/CO/7-8), Sweden (CEDAW/C/SWE/CO/7).

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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