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Cancun 2015: Let’s Begin

9 September 2015

Cancun 1On 24-27 August 2015 the first Conference of States Parties (CSP1) of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) took place in Cancun, Mexico. WILPF monitored its discussions and developments, which can be found in more detail in the daily ATT Monitor produced by WILPF’s disarmament programme, Reaching Critical Will (RCW).

Getting in the mood

The RCW team joined forces with WILPF members coming from our Sections in Cameroon, Colombia, Spain, and Sweden for a brainstorming session on the weekend before the conference. On Saturday, the RCW team and the four WILPF Sections went through the history of ATT negotiations, reviewed the text of the Treaty, compared the differences in obligations for importing, exporting, and transit states, and discussed the possible implications of the Treaty for advancing towards peace, disarmament, and demilitarisation. We also brainstormed how best to use the ATT in the four Sections for their advocacy for peace.
On Sunday we joined the rest of the civil society attending the conference to discuss what issues would be most important for CSP1 and how civil society planned to keep states on their toes.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

During CSP1 many issues left pending in the last preparatory meeting in Geneva were tackled. Apart from the very time-consuming decision on the future location of the Secretariat, many other important decisions needed to be taken in Cancun.

States needed to take fundamental decisions concerning the rules of procedures, financing, and transparency. All these issues will have a great impact on the implementation of the Treaty and on its effectiveness in reducing human suffering as it is envisioned in the preamble. In particular, matters of transparency and reporting are crucial and can either enhance or hinder compliance with and implementation of the Treaty.

Cancun 2
Photo Credit: Sofia Tuvestad


Pick and choose

Unfortunately, the provisional reporting templates that were developed before CSP1 are problematic. It was good that states only “took note of” these provisional templates rather than adopting them. Concerned states and most of civil society think the provisional templates are inadequate to provide effective reporting, as they provide states with the option to not to report on arms transfers in case of concerns linked to ‘‘commercial sensitivity’’ or “national security” without providing any explanation of why they decided not to disclose this information. Additionally, states are not required to disclose their reports to the public. In other words, civil society and international and regional organisations will not be able to access key information to define trends and future challenges for the Treaty’s implementation or in the arms trade.

Only the beginning

Overall, many decisions were taken in Cancun, but we should not forget that this is just the beginning of a long process of implementation, rich of challenges in which civil society can and must play a fundamental role.

To read up on the ATT process and WIPLF’s role in the negotiations, be sure to have a look here. You can find all documents and statements of the conference as well as our daily analysis and reporting on the Reaching Critical Will website.

Also have a look at our latest publication on gender-based violence and the ATT.


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

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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