Significant progress has been made to include more women in peace and security efforts throughout the United Nations system but “much more can and should be done at all levels,” both at Headquarters and in the field, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report to the Security Council.
“While gender equality is increasingly recognized as a core issue in the maintenance of international peace and security, the role of women in peace processes generally continues to be viewed as a side issue rather than as fundamental to the development of viable democratic institutions and the establishment of sustainable peace,” according to the first annual report assessing progress on an Action Plan to mainstream gender perspectives into the UN’s peace and security efforts.
The report details the myriad efforts throughout the UN system being made to more systematically include women in peace efforts – from designing handbooks and wide capacity building initiatives to the UN Populations Fund’s (UNFPA) provision of rape treatment kits to 20,000 victims in Darfur - but notes there is still far more to be done and recommends a more robust reporting, monitoring and accountability system to advance fuller implementation.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), for instance, now has eight full-time gender advisers on its missions, new deployments the report says is widely regarded as “one of the major capacity-development achievements” contributing to implementing the Action Plan.
At the same time the expertise of the gender advisers was “often underutilized,” in good part because the advisers were appointed at junior levels, “precluding them from access to senior officials,” the report notes.
The same is true of the expertise of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, a pivotal figure in the UN’s gender mainstreaming efforts. “Overall the available gender expertise throughout the system was often excluded from mainstream intra and inter-organizational decisions-making processes,” the report says.
It also calls for a system-wide knowledge and information management system to serve as a repository for good practices and lessons learned to advance the Action Plan.
The Action Plan is designed to implement resolution 1325 (2000) which aims to boost women’s role in conflict prevention, peace-keeping and peace-building operations. The Action Plan was prepared by the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, in close cooperation with the Inter- Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE) and its Task Force on Women, Peace and Security, and draws on contributions received from 39 UN entities.
The report notes that the Action Plan would benefit from strengthened commitment by the UN and member states – becoming more integrated as UN “system-wide strategy” rather than a “compilation of activities” – clearer performance metrics, and from more predictable funding. “Women and peace activities are often considered as an add-on responsibility to peace and security mandates that are expected to be met within existing budgetary resources,” the report said, adding though that “the experience of the United Nations system consistently shows that this expectation is not realistic.”