Following its review of Italy’s implementation of the CEDAW Convention on 4 July 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has recommended more stringent regulation of Italy’s arms exports. In its Concluding Observations, adopted at its 67th Session, the Committee expressed concerns regarding Italy’s arms transfers, including to conflict zones, and about the absence of a specific mechanism for gender-based violence risk assessments of such exports. The CEDAW Committee echoed WILPF’s recommendations calling on Italy to harmonise its legislation on exports control in line with its international obligations, including under CEDAW and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and to conduct rigorous and gendered impact assessments of arms transfers before granting export licenses.

WILPF submitted a report ahead of the review highlighting the spike in Italy’s arms transfers in recent years, the absence under Italian law of a specific mechanism to assess the impacts of arms sales on gender-based violence and the problematic role played by the controlling authority, which appears to be more of a “sponsor” of the Italian military industry. Arms transfers from Italy to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, countries that have been involved in the Yemen conflict, were provided as examples of transfers that undermine Italy’s international legal obligations and to illustrate the risks that they pose for the rights and safety of women. We also underlined the opacity of the data provided by the Italian government on arms transfers, which hinders effective parliamentary and civil society oversight over the government’s decisions and grounds to authorise arms transfers.

Elena Cason (WILPF International) and Annalisa Milano (WILPF Italy) at the Informal Lunch Briefing with the CEDAW Committee experts

On 3 July, prior to the Interactive Dialogue between the CEDAW Committee and the Italian delegation, WILPF participated in the Informal Meeting with NGOs and the Informal Lunch Briefing with Committee members. On these occasions, Annalisa Milani of WILPF Italy presented our concerns and recommendations.

During the Interactive Dialogue, the Committee asked the Italian delegation about its timeline for the adoption of laws and policies concerning Italy’s arms trade, particularly mechanisms to analyse the impact of the Government’s arms trade on women’s rights. The Committee also enquired about whether civil society would be included in the preparation of such legislation and whether Government decisions on licences for arms exports would be reviewed taking into account a gender perspective. The Committee also noted that arms exports were not covered in Italy’s National Action Plan to implement UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security, and asked whether any other measures were envisaged to ensure that such exports were compliant with the resolution.

The Italian delegation responded that the granting of arms export licences is subject to strict controls in Italy under the law on export controls, No. 185/90, which aligns national law with international obligations. The Italian representative also explained that national control of arms exports is carried out in close cooperation with other members of the European Union in accordance with EU policy. However, no specific explanation was provided regarding gender-based violence risk assessments carried out in this context. Nor is it clear how despite such stated strict controls the government has authorised transfers to countries involved in the conflict in Yemen, a conflict with devastating humanitarian consequences.

Italy should comply fully with its obligations under CEDAW and the ATT by taking measures to prevent its arms transfers facilitating or exacerbating gender-based violence. In this regard, Italy should implement without delay CEDAW Committee’s recommendations that Italian “legislation regulating arms export control be harmonized with article 7 (4) of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of the European Union” and that the Italian government “integrate a gender dimension into its strategic dialogues with countries purchasing Italian arms and that, before export licences are granted, comprehensive and transparent assessments be conducted of the impact that the misuse of small arms and light weapons has on women, including those living in conflict zones.”[1]

We will continue our advocacy efforts on this topic and monitor progress at national level with WILPF’s section in Italy to ensure that the Committee’s recommendations are duly implemented by the Italian government.

For more information on this issue, read The Impact of Italy’s Arms Transfers on Women – Italy’s Extraterritorial Obligations under CEDAW

For guidance to states on how to incorporate gender-based violence criteria into their risk assessment, see Preventing GBV – Executive Summary

[1] UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Italy, paragraph 20, 21 July 2017, CEDAW/C/ITA/CO/7, available at: