The Duck of Minerva

Men in Disarmament Push for Inclusion of Women’s Voices as CCW Process on Autonomous Weapons Moves Forward

19 May 2014

The CCW Expert’s Conference on Autonomous Weapons ended yesterday with a draft report from the Chair (France) that set the stage for further discussions in November. For the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a continued discussion had been the primary objective at this stage, so this is good news for campaigners. NGOs were pleased with the inclusion in the document of the term “meaningful human control” as a principle around which to evaluate all weapons systems. Sarah Knuckey has more. The official report from the global coalition is here. A round-up of social media coverage by the coalition is on Spotify.

killerrobotsgenderYet as several commentators noted earlier, a procedural downside of the conference was the absence of women’s voices (as well as a discussion that was gendered in a number of other ways). In the wake of the conference, British NGO has responded to this by announcing today that its male staff-members will henceforth boycott any speaking events in disarmament where women are not included on panels:

We believe that the practice of selecting only men to speak on panels in global policymaking forums is unjust. It excludes the voices of women and other gender identities from such events, running counter to UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which commits to inclusion of women in discussions on peace and security. Global policymaking efforts on peace and security – including disarmament, arms control and the protection of civilians – must include people of a diversity of gender identities.

In response to the all-male expert selection at the CCW last week, women involved in the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots gathered to discuss ways to advance the participation and visibility of women in meetings on disarmament, peace and security. One suggestion from this group was that men should refuse to participate in all-male panels at meetings within this field. When invited to speak, men should ask whether one or more women will be speaking on the panel and indicate that they will only participate if women are included. Men should also send names of women working in the sector to the panel organisers, including the list mentioned above.

As part of this effort, Article 36 is compiling a list of people working in the field of peace and security – particularly disarmament, arms control and the protection of civilians – who benefit from their male gender and have committed not to speak on panels that include only men. We invite all policymakers, advocates, activists and campaigners active in global policymaking on peace and security who identify as men to join this effort by sending an email to with your name and primary affiliation.

This initiative seeks to stand alongside and complement other policies aimed at reducing gender discrimination – and all types of discrimination – in global policymaking and more broadly.

Matthew Bolton, who joined the men of Article36 in signing up for this boycott, has more on the issue of gender representation as well as the gendered nature of the CCW debate at his blog Political Minefields. I support this intiative as it is a clear example of productive norm-setting within policy communities, the kind of simple yet effective strategy that often gets overlooked. So I hope readers will share this information and encourage men you know in disarmament to do the same.

I would also add that this idea would be a great one to follow in academia as well. Disarmament communities are not the only ones that suffer from diversity problems and women are not the only under-represented group. As a white woman receiving invitations at this time of year to ISA panels, for example, I hereby pledge to always ask organizers if they have minority, international or junior participants on the panel before agreeing to participate, and to actively identify such scholars whose names I can put forth in my stead if necessary.