“I am proud to be the first woman appointed to this position”, Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), stated to the CD on 14 August 2019.
With her recent appointment, disarmament affairs at the UN are for the first time in history led by four women: Tatiana Valovaya (Secretary-General of the CD), Izumi Nakamitsu (Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs), Anja Kaspersen (Director of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs), and Renata Dwan (Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research).
More women in leadership positions in this field could pave the way for more gender balance in disarmament fora – which have traditionally been largely male-dominated. As highlighted in UNIDIR’s recent report ‘Still behind the curve’, women remain seriously underrepresented at United Nations disarmament meetings, and at any given intergovernmental meeting on disarmament, only one quarter of the participants are likely to be women and close to half of all delegations are likely to include no women at all. Despite some progress, “it is still possible to attend a session of the Conference on Disarmament, where dozens of State representatives take the floor, and not hear a single woman speak”.
In his 2018 Agenda for Disarmament, the Secretary-General expressed concern that the continued marginalization of women in these discussions was a loss for all and called for the full and equal participation of women in all decision-making processes related to disarmament and international security. “Women”, Tatiana Valovaya noted, can bring a different outlook and experience to disarmament-related discussions”. This is particularly relevant as women and men are disproportionately affected by issues related to weapons of mass destruction, small arms, light weapons or landmines.
Gender balance in disarmament is long overdue. There is no doubt that the leadership of these four female top officials will contribute to raising women’s voices in those fora - a first step towards gender-responsive disarmament.
From left to right: Renata Dwan (Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research), Izumi Nakamitsu (Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs), Tatiana Valovaya (Secretary-General of the CD), Anja Kaspersen (Director of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs), and Radha Day, Senior Political Affairs Officer, Office for Disarmament Affairs, Secretary of the Conference on Disarmament. 26 August 2019. Photo credits: UN Photo/ Jean Marc Ferré.
- IGC Gender & Disarmament Resource Pack for multilateral practitioners
- IGC and ControlArms Factsheet on Gender in the Arms Trade Treaty
- IGC Disarmament Impact Group
Photo credits: UN Photo / Violaine Martin.