Lower income countries are less likely to attend, speak at or hold formal roles in multilateral meetings on disarmament and weapons issues. Where they do attend, they field smaller delegations than richer countries with an equal right to participate. These countries are also less likely to be members of treaties or forums on weapons and disarmament, or to meet their reporting obligations under these instruments. Additionally, low-income countries ratify treaties at a slower rate on average than high-income countries.
Across the board, women are significantly underrepresented in multilateral disarmament forums, making up less than a quarter of country delegates, leading around a fifth of country delegations at meetings, and giving less than a fifth of statements on average.
These findings are from participation data collated and analysed by Article 36 for all the international meetings between 2010 and 2014 of thirteen multilateral forums covering a range of disarmament and weapons issues. These and other patterns of marginalisation must be addressed in order to achieve inclusive and productive processes, including through reframing key issues in disarmament to address a wider range of interests. Mechanisms to address underrepresentation should include initiatives to equalize participation, build capacity and raise the visibility of marginalisation.
Using quantitative data, as well as information from interviews with a range of individuals involved in the multilateral processes studied, this report discusses:
• The significance of unequal representation at multilateral disarmament forums, including the underrepresentation of developing countries;
• How this issue can be situated within broader agendas linking disarmament and development;
• Some key patterns observed in the data with respect to the participation of states, civil society, and women, and how these may be explained.
The report also gives some recommendations on addressing underrepresentation and promoting inclusive and participatory processes, including emerging initiatives (such as current international efforts to prevent civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas).
An appendix on methodology and terms explains in more detail how this research was conducted. This report is part of a project to map and analyse patterns in state and civil society participation at multilateral forums. The forums examined for this study were selected to include processes on specific weapons of mass destruction (the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, international conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, meetings on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and the Chemical Weapons Convention), conventional weapons (the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Arms Trade Treaty, and the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons) as well as forums with mandates covering multiple issues (the UN General Assembly First Committee, the Conference on Disarmament, and the UN Disarmament Commission).
In 2015, Article 36 published discussion papers on the underrepresentation of low-income countries at nuclear disarmament forums,01 and patterns in the underrepresentation of women across the thirteen forums above.