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From Nuclear Weapons, to Gender and Beyond: First Committee is Starting

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.

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
4 October 2018

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.

Subscribe to the First Committee Monitor, and follow us on Twitter @RCW_.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

PRESIDENT

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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Demilitarisation

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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