1325: an exciting moment

"If we’ve done as much with as little resources as women have, think what we could do with more. Women are the energy of the future… its up to women to show what women’s leadership in the UN can do." Charlotte Bunch

In the month since UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon issued a call to action asking member states to redouble their commitments to implementing UNSCR 1325, a number of new commitments have been made and National Action Plans announced. In the final week of the tenth anniversary of SCR 1325, there is a sense of guarded optimism in the women’s peace community.

More member states are launching National Action Plans, including Croatia, Estonia, Slovenia, France, Canada , Nepal and Kenya. The European Union is developing local strategies to implement 1325 in a minimum of 60% of its activities in fragile states. All West African states have pledged to have a National Action Plan by year-end. Sierra Leone launched a National Action Plan this summer, and its military is headed by a female Brigadier. Sweden will assign an equal number of women to work in police contingents in peacekeeping operations as there are in the Swedish national police force.

The United States has yet to formally announce any commitments, but Washington is abuzz as a real scramble has begun to catalogue existing efforts and identify opportunities for expanded commitments. The State Department sent a cable to all embassies asking what activities are being undertaken to support women’s protection and participation. This was followed with a similar communication from the Pentagon asking what each of its combatant commands around the world is doing to protect and empower women in conflict. An inter-agency working group on 1325 was formed, consisting of high-level representatives from key agencies in the American foreign policy framework and at the White House. Congressionally, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is said to be writing a report on how the legislative body can support and expand the Administration’s efforts. And finally, the scheduled date for the Security Council’s debate on women, peace and security next week was moved up three days to accommodate a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - increasing the expectation that the Americans are coming prepared to announce some substantive commitments.

UNIFEM, now part of UN Women, continues to be at the centre of efforts to tie the anniversary to action, both internally within the UN system and externally by engaging public support. The agency has launched a public campaign to “Make Women Count for Peace,” featuring a petition for activists to encourage their governments to implement 1325 by prosecuting those who command and/or commit sexual violence and exclude them from armies and police forces after conflict, ensuring that women participate in peace negotiations and all post-conflict decision-making institutions, and increasing the number of women in troops, police forces and civilians within international peacekeeping efforts. The campaign also features a social media component for activists to grow the movement on facebook and twitter.

With the United Nations Development Programme, UNIFEM has supported a global research institute, known as the Institute on Gender Peace and Security (I-GPS), which aims to generate leading, field-based research on women, peace and security, filling an urgent data gap and strengthening research capacities in the global south. There is also a new three-year strategy with the Department of Political Affairs, focusing on increasing the number of lead women mediators and technical experts deployed to conflicts. The agency will ensure coherence and compliance in tracking six comprehensive indicators laid out in the Secretary General’s Report on Women, Peace and Security, and will work with the Peacebuilding Support Office to implement the 7-point agenda in the Secretary General’s Report on Women and Peacebuilding.

In line with the commitment in 1325 to increase the role of civil society in peacebuilding, four UN entities (UNIFEM, UNDP, DPA and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations) launched a report of the outcomes from a series of meetings they jointly hosted this summer in an attempt to bridge the often cavernous gap between the grassroots peace women and the UN tree-tops. Known as the Global Open Days, the meetings opened UN doors to women in 27 conflict and post-conflict countries to hear their recommendations as to how 1325 could better meet their needs. Speaking at a press conference this week, UNIFEM’s Chief Advisor on Governance, Peace and Security, Anne Marie Goetz, said: ‘The Global Open Days… are a joint effort… into which a great deal of hope has been poured. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations already practices this idea of regular encounters between senior UN leadership and women civil society activists in some countries. The idea is to generalize it… The idea is to make sure those senior leaders are introduced to those opinion makers who are women… For a decade we’ve been pushing for this, and it shouldn’t take a formal occasion to encourage women’s voices to be heard... Women’s voices count for peace; they have to be heard.’

And at least on this anniversary, they are being heard, their voices both recorded in the report and featured as speakers at the United Nations this week, at an event in which women peace activists spoke to the highest representatives of the UN, starting with the Secretary-General. Regardless of the country or conflict, women around the world are consistently raising three key recommendations for more responsive implementation of 1325:

Ensure full and substantive participation for women in political debates surrounding their future, including peace talks, elections and donor conferences.

Enable access to justice for crimes committed against women through security sector reform.

Promote economic participation through increased employment, land rights and other forms of economic security for women.

The act of inviting women peace activists in 27 fragile states to dialogue with UN leaders is as laudable as it is unprecedented. The next step is to ensure that these women’s recommendations are taken to heart and that the conversation will become institutionalised, not relegated to once-a-decade occasion.

The case for what needs to be done is being articulated by women at the Global Open Days and the growing body of reports and research is well-documented. There is now a new set of tools available to ensure efficacy, coherence and accountability of those commitments—such as the Secretary General’s seven-point action plan and the 26 global indicators on 1325 implementation. The Security Council has acknowledged that the women, peace and security agenda does have a place in its jurisdiction, putting forth four resolutions on the topic. Last month, in a clear sign of progress, the UN called a meeting exclusively on the rapes in the Congo. As Anne Marie Goetz says, “Four years ago the Council would not have met only to discuss sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC.”

UN Women is expected to provide the leadership that has been lacking to date on 1325, as it is hoped it will have the resources and operational capacity to build coherence, support coordination, and invest in catalytic work on the ground. The question now is whether there will be, in a time of financial insecurity, sufficient political will and resources put behind the new tools available to ensure more effective implementation of 1325. UN Women is now the mother body of 1325, but to date has only secured roughly a third of its $500 million budget, and for many in the community concerned for the future of 1325, this is the key question. Anne Marie Goetz says, “Resources have always been the missing element. Research by UNIFEM shows that less than 6% of post-conflict funding addresses women’s needs. This is a gigantic remaining problem.”

“Promises without resources has been the situation for women in the UN since Beijing 1995,” says Charlotte Bunch who led the successful campaign for the creation of UN Women, “We have a lot of good documents but the amount of resources has not kept pace.’ “I am hopeful for synergy with the tenth anniversary and the founding of UN Women that really gives a chance for more serious attention to the implementation of 1325… just because women make dollars go further, that’s no reason to give us less. If we’ve done as much with as little resources as women have, think what we could do with more. Women are the energy of the future… its up to women to show what women’s leadership in the UN can do. It’s an exciting moment.”

October 26th is the day in which the Security Council will indicate whether it endorses use of the indicators on 1325 to improve its monitoring and tracking of 1325. It will also declare on how it plans to receive, analyse and act upon information on the situation of women in armed conflict. Many observers wonder if it will form a new Working Group on the subject, or whether it will invite regular briefings on progress in operationalizing the indicators. The Council can also announce, possibly, that one of the P5 members will be taking on a leadership role in relation to 1325. These issues are what make this an exciting moment; the Council has the opportunity right now to install monitoring and accountability processes to improve its own knowledge base about 1325 and to take more decisive action to ensure that 1325 is respected in the resolution of conflict and the construction of peace.

 

 

About the author

Lyric Thompson is a writer and women’s rights advocate.  She is Senior Policy Analyst and External Relations Officer at Women for Women International (WfWI), where she spearheads advocacy and outreach efforts around targeted issues affecting women survivors of war. Her writings on global women’s issues have been published in The Hill, Jurist, Monday Developments, and Newsweek.  Her blog, The Dollhouse Dispatch, features news and analysis of domestic and international gender issues, from the human rights of undocumented workers in the United States to violence against women in Afghanistan. 

Prior to joining WfWI, Lyric worked on USAID-funded conflict mitigation and democratic governance projects in Sudan and Serbia for Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI). .