United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs

by Zach Wall [ Mine Action Information Center ]

UNODA logo

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs is the global community’s chief authority on the issues of weapons reduction. Among its responsibilities UNODA acts as the U.N. Secretary-General’s liaison in fulfilling the obligations established by both the Ottawa Convention1 and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.2 The Office for Disarmament Affairs’ Geneva branch oversees these activities and is responsible—in accordance with the Ottawa Convention—for collecting Article 7 reports, maintaining the list of Article 8 experts and organizing meetings of States Parties, as well as organizing meetings pertaining to the CCW.3

Headquartered in New York, and with one branch in Geneva, UNODA also operates regional centers in Africa, South America and Asia.

Gender and Disarmament

For the last decade, the UNODA has been committed to the incorporation of gender dimensions into its work. A 1997 letter to all heads of departments by the U.N. Secretary-General stated that the process of gender mainstreaming is “the responsibility of us all and not just gender experts or isolated units,” and called specifically for reports on gender dimensions in all respective areas of work, along with policy recommendations and concrete strategies for gender mainstreaming.5 Following this directive and a series of other mandates set forth by the United Nations, UNODA published Briefing Notes on Gender Perspectives on Disarmament in 2001, which was followed by a gender mainstreaming action plan two years later.

Briefing Notes on Gender Perspectives on Disarmament, published in collaboration with the Office of the Special Adviser of Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, assesses the relevance of gender dimensions in disarmament issues and identifies strategic implications for promoting gender equality and disarmament.5 In a speech he gave on 14 March 2001, then Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala said of this collaborative effort: “For too many years, the two noble causes of disarmament and gender equality have been pursued on separate but parallel tracks.”6

In 2003, the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs released its Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan, which synthesized the research compiled for the Briefing Noteswith strategies for effective implementation of gender mainstreaming in the field. The Action Plan’s purpose was “to facilitate progress on disarmament … through the integration of gender insights into disarmaments debates, decision-making and actions, and through more equitable participation by women in decision-making.” It also identified four sub-goals:

  1. To examine the linkages between gender equality and disarmament promotion;
  2. To enhance departmental capacity to incorporate gender perspectives into its work;
  3. To advocate the importance of gender perspectives on disarmament; and,
  4. To reach out to gender equality activists, women’s organizations and others to engage in the continuing dialogue on disarmament issues.7

Former Under-Secretary-General Nobuyasu Abe reflected on the department’s accomplishments during the “Panel on Women, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Preventing War,” which was hosted by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in May 2004. Abe noted that the implementation of the Action Plan had been met with initial success, and that evidence of the UNODA’s gender mainstreaming efforts was apparent in its activities worldwide.8

International Women’s Day Disarmament Seminar. In March 2008, UNODA–Geneva Director Tim Caughley spoke on behalf of UNODA during the International Women’s Day Disarmament Seminar “At what cost? Resolution 1325, Wars, Weapons & Conflict.” The annual conference, organized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, highlights the issues of women’s empowerment and gender equality through weapons reduction, peace and sustainable development. The focus of the 2008 seminar was the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security—the first of its kind to specifically examine the impact of armed conflict on women and, in turn, women’s efforts toward conflict resolution.9

In his opening remarks, Caughley reaffirmed the commitment of the UNODA to advancing gender equality, saying that, although there has been significant progress in recent years, “more needs to be done to fully integrate women and gender perspectives into all aspects of security and disarmament work around the globe.”10

Also in March 2008, UNODA in New York co-organized with International Action Network on Small Arms a seminar on women and guns, which was presented as the start of a structural cooperation between UNODA and IANSA on gender issues related to small arms.


The U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs’ commitment to the promotion of the mutual interests of gender equality and disarmament is evident in its weapons-reduction initiatives, from small arms and light weapons to weapons of mass destruction. The Briefing Notes on Gender Perspectives and Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan provide a preliminary framework from which parties with a vested interest in peace can benefit. JMA icon


Wall HeadshotZach Wall has been with The Journal of ERW and Mine Action as an Editorial Assistant since September 2007. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in sociology at James Madison University.


  1. Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. http://www.icbl.org/treaty/text/english. Accessed 12 December 2008.The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, and thus is commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.
  2. Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, Geneva, Switzerland, 10 October 1980. This Convention is also referred to as the CCW or CCCW. http://www.ccwtreaty.com/KeyDocs/ccwtreatytext.htm. Accessed 12 December 2008.
  3. “Disarmament in Geneva.” United Nations Office at Geneva. http://www.unog.ch/80256EE600585943/(httpHomepages)/6A03113D1857348E80256F040067
    . Accessed 11 July 2008.
  4. “UNODA Regional Activities.” U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs http://disarmament.un.org/rdb/. Accessed 11 July 2008.
  5. “Briefing Notes on Gender Perspectives on Disarmament.” U.N. Department for Disarmament Affairs and the Office of the Special Adviser of Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs. 14 March 2001. http://disarmament.un.org/gender.htm. Accessed 25 February 2009.
  6. Dhanapala, Jayantha. “Gender Perspectives on Disarmament.” 14 March, 2001. United Nations, New York. http://www.un.org/disarmament/. Accessed 25 February 2009.
  7. “Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan (Public Version).” U.N. Department for Disarmament Affairs. April 2003. http://disarmament.un.org/gender.htm. Accessed 25 February 2009.
  8. Abe, Nobuyasu. “Women, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Preventing War. Panel Discussion on Women, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Preventing War.” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. United Nations, New York. 4 May 2004. http://www.un.org/disarmament/HomePage/HR/docs/2004/2004May04_UN.pdf. Accessed 25 February 2009.
  9. “International Women's Day Disarmament Seminar Statement and Report.” Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom. http://www.wilpf.int.ch/statements/IWD2008.html. Accessed 11 July 2008.
  10. Caughley, Tim. “At what cost? Resolution 1325, Wars, Weapons & Conflict.” International Women’s Day Disarmament Seminar. Geneva, Switzerland. 5 March 2008. http://www.un.org/disarmament/. Accessed 11 July 2008.

Contact Information

Zach Wall
Editorial Assistant
The Journal of ERW and Mine Action
Mine Action Information Center
Center for International Stabilization and Recovery
James Madison University
E-mail: maic@jmu.edu

Daniël Prins
Chief, Conventional Arms Branch
UN Office for Disarmament Affairs
New York / USA
Tel. +1 212 963 0753