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Linking the Arms Control and Women Peace and Security Agendas

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Speaker: Speaker: The Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja (check against delivery)

New York

I am delighted that Australia has the opportunity to join the UN Office of Disarmament, the International Action Network on Small Arms Women's Network and the Global Alliance on Armed Violence in hosting this event.

I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Cora Weiss, moderator and UN representative of the International Peace Bureau; Daniel Prins, Chair of UN Office of Disarmament Affairs; Jasmin Nario-Galace, National Coordinator, Women in Engaged in Action on 1325, Philippines; and Ray Acheson, Director, Reaching Critical Will, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Strengthening links between the arms control and women, peace and security agendas was a key feature of Australia's work during our term on the UN Security Council from 2013-14. Australia worked closely with other Security Council members to advance gender equality as a crosscutting issue in all areas of the Council's mandate.

These are conversations and advocacy that we are keen to continue. It is critical that these agendas intersect closely to build peace which is equitably experienced among women, men, boys and girls.

Connecting these agendas also provides an opportunity to address harmful gender norms which sustain the use of weapons, gun cultures and militant masculinities linked to the perpetuation of violence, including gender based violence. We are fortunate to have Daniel and Ray respectively providing some reflections on the role of young men as primary perpetrators of armed violence and the gendered impacts of the arms trade.

In this milestone year of the 15th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, renewed international cooperation on women, peace and security issues is a particular focus for all of us. Resolution 1325 was history-making, recognising for the first time the crucial role of women in peacemaking, peacebuilding and conflict prevention.

Six more resolutions in this space have strengthened international commitments to respond to women's needs in fragile, conflict and post-conflict situations, and to promote their participation in peace processes and their protection in conflict situations.

In recent years, the Women Peace and Security agenda and arms control and disarmament have become increasingly connected within international norms and agreements.

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a prime example. As a longstanding supporter of the treaty, it was a particular honour for Australia that we were President of the Security Council on the occasion of the Treaty's adoption in 2013.

The ATT is the first treaty to recognise the link between violence against women and the international arms trade. It is the first international instrument to include violence against women as a component of a risk assessment. It requires states parties to take into account the risk of small arms being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of violence against women before authorising their export. This is landmark recognition that acts of violence against women in conflict-affected areas are often facilitated by the irresponsible and unregulated transfer of arms.

It is an operative part of the treaty. If implemented robustly, it will have a real impact on the arms trade and will save lives.

Australia has been actively engaged in promoting the effective implementation of the ATT. Many states will have to strengthen their national export and import control systems. Australia is contributing funds to a number of programs worldwide that support implementation of the treaty, including UNSCAR, the UN Trust Facility to Support Cooperation on Arms Regulation.

A second important advance in linking the Women, Peace and Security and arms control agendas is the 2013 UN Security Council Resolution 2117 on Small Arms and Light Weapons. It recognises the particular needs of women and children in armed conflict and urges states to ensure full and effective participation of women in decision-making on these issues.

These same concerns underpin CEDAW's General Recommendation No. 30 of 2013, on Women in Conflict Prevention, Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations. The recommendation exhorts states to effectively regulate arms trade in order to prevent their use to commit or facilitate serious acts of violence against women.

Significant progress has been made. We must ensure that ongoing advances in linking these two agendas are effective and mutually reinforcing. This year's High Level Review and Global Study on Resolution 1325 will provide an opportunity to link arms control measures to the future direction of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

However, the real challenge lies in implementation and in maintaining progress.

We are privileged to have Jasmin with us to present on lessons from the ground in implementing the WPS agenda and controlling small arms, a case study from the Philippines in the practical application of international commitments.

On a national level, Australia's commitment to Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security agenda is affirmed through the Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012-2018.

The National Action Plan provides a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda. It commits Australia to specific actions to ensure a gender perspective is considered in peace and security processes both domestically and overseas. It also commits the Government to report every two years to the Federal Parliament on the progress of this work. The 2014 progress report demonstrated that we are tracking well against our responsibilities.

The National Action Plan was the result of extensive national consultations between government departments and agencies and the Australian public, including representatives from civil society and non-government organisations. These conversations, and the strategies and actions arising from them, are critical to the effective implementation of these two agendas at the national level.

But before I give the floor to our panellists, it's my pleasure to introduce our moderator, Cora Weiss. Ms Weiss has had an illustrious career devoted to advancing civil rights, human rights, women's rights and peace. She is former president of the International Peace Bureau and now serves as its UN representative. Ms Weiss was among the drafters of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security and is an active advocate for its full implementation.

Please welcome Ms Weiss.

Last Updated: 23 July 2015
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