A global convoy starts out on its journey

3 October 2005

1325 is a real watershed - and the proverbial bandgwagon that we started, has turned into a global convoy. This doesn't mean that the resolution is being implemented everywhere and in all its aspects. But it means that in the last 5 years, we have collectively succeeded in raising sufficient awareness and support for the idea of women's inclusion.  At the UN, only this year they have started to run workshops for their own staff on the implications of the resolution. The system, like any other bureaucracy, is such that personnel often are not aware of developments and the 'business as usual' syndrome persists. But there is slow and catalytic change coming.

We all get frustrated with the slow pace of change and the resistance, but at times it is important to pause and put things into context. If 1325 were implemented fully, we would see a global sea change in every aspect of peace and conflict.  When we demand women's inclusion, we are in effect demanding a radical change in the way peace is negotiated. When we demand gender perspectives in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR), we are questioning the most basic premises of the DDR process. Often we are asking people - decent, professional, committed people - to rethink their way of work after 20 years of doing it the same way. We are saying “hey you're not quite doing things the right way..."  It takes more than a meeting to shift mindsets and reconfigure policies and programmes. We have to be aware of the contradictions that arise - for example, what do we say to peacekeepers who may be at risk of death (or shot)  for protecting their female colleagues from being raped.  Now - we say we want more women peacekeepers for many many reasons, all of which are right and good. But we have to acknowledge this reality too. We have to acknowledge the complexity of the situation and respond appropriately.
In saying this, I'm not being an apologist for international inertia. I think too often it is plain arrogance that gets in the way. But I am saying that as a community, we have to understand the challenges  - both at the macro level, but also very much at the micro level.  In our advocacy, we have to be clear about the solutions we are offering, making sure that they are realistic and doable - and perhaps most important of all - catalytic.      
In aiming for a Security Council resolution, we recognised that if we have an international policy framework - we can then use it to build on the work being done by women, and demand change.  Our advocacy approach was always collaborative and positive - and the message we gave to the policy community was clear - "peacemaking and building  is complex, you need all the help you can get... women are agents of positive change - you should support their work." In some ways it was so simple and obvious that countries that sat on the fence to begin with (including of course some of the permanant reps at the Security Council) immediately climbed on board, once they saw how much support it was getting.  
Just looking around the world, there is no doubt that 1325 has been a catalyst for change. But the challenge we face now is how do we hold governments and the UN accountable - hold their feet to the proverbial fire - in a way that combines the strength of different approaches. In other words we need to consider how to join the 'soft and cooperative' approach, with a more assertive 'naming and shaming' approach. Most important of all, we need to keep engaging and combining the call for change through support and collaboration with insiders and outsiders.  As women we tend to shy away from politics (and this is all politics in many ways) - but we can't expect change, if we don't step into the ring. In these 5 years, we have come far in complementary efforts in civil society, the UN and governments - but we need to strengthen and expand it.
The next 5 years for me are about mainstreaming the spirit and goals of 1325 into all aspects of peace and security work - and into the consciousness of those people - men and women (we still need to really work on women!) - who address peace and security work in different sectors - academia, the media, national and international politics and global civil society. Finally, 1325 was and remains a means to an ends - the ends of improving women's lives - protecting them, supporting them. Regardless of what we achieve internationally, it will never match the work being done on the ground by the likes of Visaka Dharmadasa and Mu Sochua, and so many many other women. For me personally, it will always be a privelege to be involved in this work.

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