In light of the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, Friends of Europe and the Brussels International Center brought together the power of local knowledge from those working in the field and the policy expertise from international institutions to explore different pathways and political alternatives for a transformative Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.
Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in peace and security. It also underlines that structural violence against women and girls is intrinsically linked to violent conflict, making it clear that special measures must be taken to protect women and girls from gender-based violence.
Twenty years on, many of the WPS agenda’s provisions remain little more than pious intentions. Although the inclusion of women in peace and security has improved in the past two decades, there is still a lot to do.
“We have structures, we have policies, we have action plans, political outspoken very strong commitment in all existing organisations […] but we also know that policy frameworks in place are not making necessarily the things happen where we would like them to happen: in conflict and post-conflict settings” Charlotte Isaksson, Senior Gender Advisor at the EEAS 26:54
The general sense among participants was that there have been many positive developments since the adoption of UNSCR 1325. 20 years ago, there was a lack of awareness of the need of applying gender perspectives to peace and security and leaders did not see need for having a gender advisor. Nowadays, it is seen as a requirement that most acknowledge as essential. Moreover, institutions have finally addressed the issue of sexual violence in conflict, a topic that was once considered taboo. However, now that the policies and tools are there, they need to be used and implemented effectively so that they reach those they were designed for.
“What is missing is leadership, accountability and funding for this agenda to happen” Paivi Kannisto, Chief of the Peace and Security Section at UN Women 52:06
The implementation of the WPS agenda is a matter of political will and budget allocation. It is essential to hold governments and institutions accountable for their promises so that they provide direct support to the WPS agenda via funding.
One illustrative example is the unfolding of the implementation of Colombian peace agreement. Rosa Emilia Salamanca argues that this agreement is considered one of the most inclusive agreements because women organisations in Colombia took the WPS agenda and made it theirs. They fought relentlessly to ensure that women were included in the entire peace process and that the agreement included gender provisions. However, due to a lack of political will and resources, the agreement has yet to move from good intentions to implemented reality.
“Women have been asking to change and move forward with the idea of another kind of perception of security. […] Security means health security and security from violence against women that has raised in a very incredible way in this pandemic.” Rosa Emilia Salamanca, Director at Corporación de investigación y acción social y económica (CIASE) 06:30
The implementation of the WPS agenda is not only about inclusion but also about tackling the socioeconomic issues that disproportionately affect women, making them more vulnerable to poverty and sexual and gender-based violence. The focus should be on improving security for women so that they can become active participants. Protection and participation are equally important – you can’t have one without the other. “Improving local security will enable greater gender equality, therefore promoting women’s role in conflict resolution” said Ilot Muthaka during his closing remarks.
“It is time for actors in different levels to be aware of the problems that people are facing in conflict areas. They have no one to talk on behalf of them […] All the things we are talking most of the time is not really representing the voices of women who are affected by sexual violence and rape in conflict” Ilot Muthaka, International Programme Manager for Ghana and Liberia at the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) 16:36
More work needs to be done to effectively close the gap between local and international institutions, and ensure that local voices are listened to. Charlotte Isaksson argued that the initiatives and current measures must be continuously re-evaluated to review who has a voice, what their role is, and how effective their participation should be. Citizens in conflict and post-conflict settings must be given a stronger voice. They will require reforms “higher up in the pyramid”. Institutions need to find a balance between symbolic activities and activities that directly affect people in conflict-affected areas in a positive way.
“If you want to count numbers, you just get numbers. Equality is about putting policies into practices and programmes and making sure that the voices are heard; and just because you increase the number of women that doesn’t automatically happen.” Clare Hutchinson, NATO Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security 34:15
Leaders need to understand that inclusion is not only about numbers; a gender lens should be applied to all aspects of peace and security. There is an overemphasis on counting numbers – this alone will not lead to success. WPS has to cut across all aspects of peace and security, including cyber, counterterrorism, defence investment, defence planning, etc. The WPS agenda is not a matter that affects only women; it impacts everyone’s security.
The full debate can be watched here:
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted twenty years ago, reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building and peacekeeping. It also underlines that structural violence against women and girls is conducive to violent conflict and the need for special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence. Twenty years on, many of the WPS agenda’s provisions remain little more than pious intentions. At the local level women peacebuilders work relentlessly to maintain and achieve peace and security, however, only 13% of negotiators, 3% of mediators and 4% of signatories in major peace processes at national and international levels between 1992 and 2018 were women. Less than 20% of such agreements included gender-sensitive provisions or demands for gender equality. Recent initiatives like the Syrian and Yemeni Women Advisory Boards have been accused of tokenism and keeping women at the side-lines of the process instead of effectively including them. As the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic engulfs us across continents, bringing with it new security challenges, the WPS agenda stands at a critical juncture. The agenda has the capacity to bring about social transformation, but questions remain as to whether it can unleash its potential to impact global peace and security .
- Are the UN, the EU, NATO and other organisations doing enough to implement the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS)?
- Despite the failings in enforcing Resolution 1325, have there been other significant innovations in international peace and security processes in the last two decades?
- How can the WPS agenda address gendered aspects of security challenges arising from the COVID-19 crisis?
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Rosa Emilia Salamanca
Director at Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE)
Muthaka Ilot Alphonse
International Programme Manager for Ghana and Liberia at the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU)
Senior Gender Expert at the European External Action Service (EEAS)
NATO Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security
Chief of Peace and Security Section at UN Women
Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for emerging security challenges at NATO
Elena Saenz Feehan
Programme Manager for Peace, Security and Defence and member of the WIIS (Women In International Security) Steering Committee
Clare Hutchinson is the high-level focal point on all aspects of NATO’s contribution to the WPS agenda, facilitating the coordination and consistency of NATO’s policies and activities while taking forward the implementation of the NATO/EAPC Policy and Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Prior to her current position, Hutchinson worked as a Senior Gender Advisor with the United Nations for over a decade where she was instrumental in setting the strategic development of Women, Peace and Security for the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping in New York, Kosovo and Lebanon.
Muthaka Ilot Alphonse is a gender activist with over 20 years of experience working with African regional networks on development and localised initiatives focusing on gender equality promotion, sexual and gender-based violence, peacebuilding, masculinities and children’s rights. He was one of the first experts to work directly on the issue of masculinities within the security sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was involved in the investigation of the ‘Kavumu trial’, a landmark case where 11 Congolese militia members were convicted of the murder and rape of 43 girls.
Charlotte Isaksson is a gender and security expert who has worked on WPS-related issues in a range of national and international positions. She has served as Gender Advisor within the Directorate of Operations at the Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters and within Allied Command Operations, NATO at SHAPE in Belgium. In her current position at the EEAS, she contributes to the political processes and dialogues within areas such as security, trade, and human rights to ensure consistency with the EU’s policy on gender equality and women, peace and security.
Rosa Emilia Salamanca is a life-long peace activist who has dedicated herself to strengthening the participation of women and civil society in Colombian peace and decision-making processes. She is one of the founders of the Colombian National Women’s Network, coordinates the Women Peace and Security Collective, and is a member of COALICION 1325, a group advocating for a Colombian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. She has played an integral role in Colombian peace processes, including in the signing of what has been called one of the most gender-inclusive peace agreements in history.
Paivi Kannisto has over twenty years of experience working on issues related to development cooperation, economics and management, and gender equality in both Europe and Africa. She previously served as gender advisor for the Finland Ministry of Foreign Affairs, counselling on issues such as women, peace and security, along with the gender-climate, gender-trade and gender-development nexuses. She has also closely worked on environmental issues, focusing on climate change and biodiversity in relation to developing countries.
Elena is a Programme Manager at Friends of Europe’s Peace, Security and Defence team. She is also member of the Steering Committee at Women In International Security (WIIS) Brussels. Prior to joining Friends of Europe, she worked at Peace Brigades International UK assisting in the protection of human rights defenders, organisations and communities at risk. Elena holds an MA in International Conflict studies from King’s College London University, and a BA in Political and Administration Sciences from Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona.
Retiring from NATO in September 2018 after 38 years at the organisation, Jamie Shea has occupied a number of senior positions at NATO across a wide range of areas, including external relations, press and media, and policy planning. As NATO’s spokesperson, he was the face of the Alliance during the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts. He later worked as the Director of Policy Planning in the private office of former Secretary General Rasmussen during the preparation of NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept. Shea is also a regular lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs.
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