October is always a busy time in the disarmament community, as governments and civil society organisations convene in New York for the annual First Committee of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, taking place from 8 October – 9 November.

Expectations and key issues

A key expectation for 2018 from WILPF, as well as a core group of governments and other civil society actors  is an improvement in the gender-sensitivity of some resolutions. Their overall lack of any gender perspective has been a long-standing weakness that does not reflect the reality of the differentiated impacts of many weapons on women and men — but does reflect the status quo of women’s participation in disarmament and arms control, at any level and by extension, our ability to input and contribute to those processes. While strengthening the language of resolutions is not a substitute for action on the ground, it will constitute a big step forward in advancing a gender perspective in disarmament and is the first such time that a coordinated initiative such as this has taken place.

There are numerous First Committee resolutions relating to nuclear weapons and in 2017, the negotiations and voting demonstrated the extent of frustration that non-nuclear weapon states have with the complete lack of progress on disarmament from those countries that possess the weapons.

Given that these countries continue to invest billions of dollars into the so-called modernisation of their nuclear arsenals and related infrastructure, while they continue to reject the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), there will again be tension around nuclear resolutions. Despite the opposition of these countries, new countries are constantly joining the Treaty. At a high-level ceremony in New York on 26 September nine new countries signed the TPNW and four others ratified it.

The 2018 First Committee will also likely see a decision taken on how to progress discussions at the UN on developing norms of state behaviour in cyber space. On the margins of the main meeting, WILPF hopes that informal discussion will progress on subjects like armed drones and use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Progress would bring us closer to articulating policy responses to prevent further humanitarian suffering from these weapons.

Want to follow along?

WILPF has been monitoring and reporting on the First Committee for two decades – and this year you can again count on us.

With contributions from a number of civil society organisations and experts, we will be publishing our popular weekly First Committee Monitor that summarises and analyses statements being delivered as well as side events, of which there are many.

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