Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs
events have been taking place at the United Nations
- events that should be of great interest to all who
care about gender equality, disarmament, and the surprisingly
close relationship that exists between them.
6 September 2000 - at the opening of the Millenium Assembly,
the largest-ever gathering of heads of state and government
- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed the need
to identify the priorities of the United Nations in
the coming century, and to ensure that these priorities
are reflected in clear and prompt decisions, leading,
in his words, "to real change in people's lives."
Two days later, the Assembly adopted the Millennium
Declaration, which identified freedom, equality, solidarity,
tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility
as the six "fundamental values to be essential
to international relations in the twenty-first century.
to this Declaration, "Men and women have the right
to live their lives and raise their children in dignity,
free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression
or injustice." Adding that "Democratic and
participatory governance based on the will of the people
best assures these rights," the Declaration went
on to stress that "The equal rights and opportunities
of women and men must be assured." Such language
will help to reinforce and re-focus the "equal
rights" themes found in both the Preamble and Purposes
and Principles of the UN Charter itself.
leaders, however, addressed another issue that appears
in the Charter, namely the need for progress on disarmament
and, as Article 26 puts it, the duty to promote the
"least diversion for armaments of the world's human
and economic resources." The Declaration attached
"special significance" to the elimination
of all weapons of mass destruction - particularly nuclear
weapons - the ending of the illicit trafficking in small
arms and light weapons, and new efforts to achieve the
elimination of all anti-personnel landmines. It also
called for efforts to strengthen respect for the rule
of law in international relations and, specifically,
for compliance with arms control and disarmament treaties
as well as human rights and humanitarian laws.
at least in terms of basic priorities, both gender equality
and disarmament fared rather well in the Millennium
Declaration. Some may ask, however, is there a real
connection between these goals? There certainly is,
for the right to coexist as equals goes hand in hand
with the fundamental right to life - a right that is
jeopardized by the very existence of weapons of mass
destruction and by the use of other weaponry known to
produce large numbers of civilian casualties. The Millennium
Declaration clearly recognized the power of ideas whose
times have come - and it elegantly reaffirmed that the
human race has an enormous stake in both gender equality
alone would mark a historic development at the United
Nations. But just a month later, the Security Council
adopted Resolution 1325 - on women, peace, and security.
This resolution - which recognized that women and children
account for the vast majority of the victims of armed
conflict - established some important benchmarks for
assessing whether women are gaining increased opportunities
to serve in decision-making levels at all levels of
governance and in all mechanisms for the prevention,
management, and resolution of conflict. Some might say
it helped to inaugurate a new era of "results-based"
gender equality in the UN system and, one hopes, among
the individual member states as well.
1325 may be a watershed in another respect as well,
for it also encouraged all those who are involved in
the planning for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration
to consider the different needs of female and male ex-combatants
and to take into account the needs of their dependents.
The adoption of this resolution followed a remarkable
statement earlier that year by the President of the
Security Council, on the occasion of International Women's
Day, indicating that "members of the Security Council
recognize that peace is inextricably linked with equality
between women and men."
recently, on 28 October of this year, the Secretary-General
presented his report on Women, Peace and Security
to the Security Council, which is also now considering
another report prepared on this subject by the United
Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). While there
have been both progress and setbacks since the adoption
of Resolution 1325, the very existence of these reports
and the attention they are getting in the Security Council
are themselves signs of progress and a foundation for
new achievements in the years ahead.
global norms are not built in a day, they can surely
be destroyed in a day, especially a day involving a
nuclear war. The return of biological or chemical warfare
- either by nation states or non-state groups - would
mark another retreat for humankind to a darker, less
secure era. To avert these nightmares, advocates of
disarmament must focus their efforts on expanding their
constituencies. I believe that women are without doubt
a potentially powerful and effective voice for disarmament.
They have demonstrated their power by rallying to defeat
atmospheric nuclear testing in the early 1960s - upon
the discovery of strontium-90 and other radioactive
materials in mothers' milk. They have created a tidal
wave of support to eliminate anti-personnel landmines,
a campaign that resulted in yet another woman winning
the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet I am convinced that women
have only just begun to show the strength of their commitment
in the field of disarmament.
women do is extremely important in the field of
international peace and security, and their efforts
will in particular have tremendous effects on the future
of some of the world's most deadly weaponry. Women vote,
they organize, they network even across national borders,
they donate, they investigate, they publish, they win
elections and they write laws. In short, they have the
capacity to do all that is needed to convert the goals
of disarmament and arms control into concrete realities.
women need not support disarmament as an end in itself
- though many do - in order to advance their own agendas.
The success of disarmament helps women in innumerable
ways. It frees resources - totaling over $850 billion
per year today - that can be used to address chronic
social and economic problems. It helps to put a halt
to the destructive effects upon our shared natural environment
from the production of deadly new weapons. It will reduce
the threat of future wars and the dangers they pose
to themselves, their husbands, companions, and families.
It will, through the various verification and control
mechanisms of treaties, even help to reduce significantly
the risk of some of the worst imaginable forms of terrorism,
in particular the risk that terrorists will acquire
weapons of mass destruction.
is therefore absolutely vital for women everywhere to
recognize the common ground that disarmament and gender
equality share in the world today. Together, they are
global public goods whose benefits are shared by all
and monopolized by no one. In the UN system, both are
cross-cutting issues, for what office or department
of the United Nations does not stand to gain by progress
in gender equality or disarmament? When women move forward,
and when disarmament moves forward, the world moves
forward. Unfortunately, the same applies in reverse:
setbacks in these areas impose costs for all.
who work in the United Nations understand quite well
that progress in these fields will take many years.
But we are confident that a combination of moral right
and political might of dedicated leaders among our member
states will ultimately point to brighter days ahead.
Though my Department for Disarmament Affairs is the
smallest department in the United Nations, I am proud
to say that we have done a lot to advance the cause
of gender equality in literally all we do. We are not
doing this alone - it is part of an institution-wide
effort that is incorporated in our official budget and
planning documents. It is a key factor in shaping how
we pick speakers for our symposia, who we invite to
international conferences, how we select members of
expert groups and the Secretary-General's Advisory Board
on Disarmament Matters, who we seek to recruit, and
what we say in our public and private statements. We
are working right now on developing a "Gender Action
Plan" and have hired two professional consultants
to ensure that we are not just, as they say, "talking
the talk, but walking the walk."
encourage you all to watch us progress in this field,
and to support our efforts. Visit our web site and you
will see a useful set of Briefing Notes we compiled
on Gender and Disarmament. Read our statements and you
will find we mean what we say - and we do not intend
to fail either in our commitment to gender equality
or to disarmament.
before she died, Nobel Peace Laureate Emily Greene Balch
wrote a poem she addressed to the "Dear People
of China." The last stanza read as follows:
us be patient with one another,
And even patient with ourselves.
We have a long, long way to go.
So let us hasten along the road,
The road of human tenderness and generosity.
Groping, we may find one another's hands in the dark.
I would like to re-address this message to you and all
who understand that genuine human security will not
be achieved at the point of a gun. Let us continue our