GP Insights # 280, 7 March 2020
2020 marks the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the historical United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on 'women, peace and security'. It was the first to recognize the importance of women in the peacebuilding process and served as the launchpad to increase women's participation and incorporate gender perspectives in all UN peace and security efforts.
Since its adoption, women have increasingly become a part of the UN peacekeeping operations, acting as role models in the local environment, inspiring other women and girls in often male-dominated societies to push and advocate for their own rights and for participation in peace processes.
What is the background?
Since the second half of the twentieth century, several major global conferences and policy frameworks including the UN Convention on the 'Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women' championed the cause of advancing the rights of women and girls. In 1995, during the Fourth World Conference on Women, the 'Beijing Declaration' was signed, which pointed to key objectives to promote the role of women in peace-making.
The persistent lobbying efforts of the 'Coalition on Women and International Peace and Security' led to the genesis of the UNSC Resolution 1325 on 31 October 2000 which formally acknowledged the changing nature of warfare that increasingly targets civilians, especially women who are excluded from participation in peace processes. It officially addresses the vulnerability of women and girls during conflict and war and recognizes the critical role of women in peacebuilding efforts. It affirmed that peace and security efforts could become more sustainable if women were made equal partners in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
The Resolution 1325 has four basic pillars: First- Increased participation of women at all levels of decision-making including in peace operations, as police, soldiers and as UN Secretary-General's special representatives. Second- Specific protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence, including during emergencies and in refugee camps. Third- Strategies for prevention of violence against women by the prosecution for violations of international and national law along with supporting peace initiatives of local women. Fourth- Relief and recovery measures addressing crises through a gendered lens especially considering needs of women while designing refugee camps.
Resolution 1325 set the ball rolling for a series of resolutions addressing specific concerns regarding the protection of women and girls during the conflict, and their participation in decision-making processes, the latest being SCR 2242 passed in 2015 marking the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and highlighting the role of women in countering violent extremism. The UN Secretary-General has appointed a 'Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict' ensuring that women are at all levels of senior leadership.
Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of conflicts and global security threats, including that of climate change. Often women are trapped in battle lines; many become victims of sexual violence and rape that is used as a weapon of war even in post-conflict times by peacekeepers. This highlights the need for more women peacekeepers who can also act as role models giving hope to the younger generations.
What does it mean?
Today, twenty-five years after the Beijing Declaration and twenty years after the UNSCR 1325, women continue to be underrepresented, comprising under 10 per cent of peace negotiators and under 4 per cent of signatories to peace agreements. The recent US-Taliban peace deal did not involve even a single provision dealing with women which indicates a widening gap between the rhetoric and implementation.
Many peace agreements still omit a gender perspective on peacekeeping operations. Femicide in Latin America is becoming increasingly evident. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is gaining prominence and a biased AI whose algorithms mirror unconscious prejudices like facial-recognition programs which generate more false-positive identifications for women reveal that the cybersecurity sector lacks gender parity. While some problems are solved, newer ones are surfacing.
The real success of UNSCR 1325 depends on the effective implementation by member states through their National Action Plans (NAP) and other strategies. The growth of Indigenous movements for women rights, especially in regions like Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, bear witness to the fact that a revolution has indeed started, global efforts are not wasted, and UNSCR 1325 is bearing fruits.
This women's day we focus on the newly evolved femininity, mixed with challenge and pride that enables women to play an increasingly crucial role in UN peacekeeping operations - conducting patrols, providing technical training, serving as naval officers, gunners, pilots, doctors, advisors etc. There have been rising demands worldwide for feminist foreign policies placing women's rights as their prime goal, for example, Sweden. The effect may not have accelerated at the pace women expect, but the change in perspective is definitely there. In order to achieve SDG 5- gender equality which is no longer an optional luxury, in the words of António Guterres "the international community and world leaders must do more than just make speeches about women and actually invest in women as equal stakeholders in mediation, peacebuilding and peacekeeping activities."