"Women, Peace and Security: Women Managing Conflict"

"The United Nations has learned the hard way that peace and security depends on rapid response to early indications of conflict.  We know that conflict prevention requires imaginative strategies.  We know that conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-building calls for creative and flexible approaches.  In all these areas, we have seen examples of women playing an important role -- not least in my own continent, Africa.  And yet the potential contribution of women to peace and security remains severely under-valued.  Women are still grossly under-represented at the decision-making level, from conflict prevention to conflict resolution to post-conflict reconciliation."

 (statement by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council on 24 October 2000)

 Introduction

Under the theme “Women, Peace and Security: Women Managing Conflict? this year’s International Women’s Day observance will focus on the international community’s commitment to addressing the devastating impact of armed conflict on women, their critical role in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building, and the need to ensure full and equitable participation of women in peace processes.  This commitment was significantly strengthened by the adoption on 31 October 2000 of Security Council resolution 1325 (S/RES/1325), which urged an enhanced role for women in preventing conflict, promoting peace, and assisting in post-conflict reconstruction and the incorporation of a gender perspective into United Nations operations.  For the first time in the history of the United Nations, the Security Council devoted an entire session to a debate on women’s experiences in conflict and post-conflict situations and their contributions to peace.  

The adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 marked another milestone in the process of elevating women’s role in peace and security to a high political agenda.  That process began with the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995 and continued with the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration and the Namibia Plan of Action on Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Multidimensional Peace Support Operations in May 2000, and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: Gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century" (Beijing + 5) in June 2000. 

Discussions at this year's observance of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2001 are crucial as they will bring greater attention to the identification of areas of concern and ways of overcoming obstacles to the participation of women in peace processes.  The Day will also provide an opportunity to further discuss the implementation of international commitments at the local, national and international levels.  

International action on women, peace and security

The issue of women’s participation in peace processes has been addressed in various international commitments since the mid-1990s. The Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 (A/conf.177/20/rev.1) was particularly important in this regard. This document emphasized the importance of gender equality for effective and sustainable peace-building and peacekeeping efforts and outlined a series of concrete actions that governments, the international community and civil society should take to implement the recommendations of the conference. Since then, new initiatives at local, national and international levels have emerged to advance the agenda for building women’s leadership for peace.  Within the United Nations system, the Beijing Platform for Action has been instrumental in promoting the development of new initiatives to enhance women’s participation in peacemaking and continues to guide efforts in ensuring that women’s contributions to peace processes are accorded a prominent place on the international peace and security agenda. 

The Windhoek Declaration and the Namibia Plan of Action on Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Multidimensional Peace Support Operations (A/55/138), both adopted in May 2000, have won acclamation among those fighting for women’s rights to participate in all stages of the peace process. The Windhoek Declaration affirmed that women had been denied their full role in multidimensional peace support operations and outlined, in the Plan of Action, practical ways in which the United Nations system and Member States could promote women’s active involvement in peace missions. These international actions, together with the convening of the General Assembly’s twenty-third special session entitled "Women 2000: Gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century (Beijing + 5), constitute important steps along the way to considering the United Nations peace operations from the point of view of both women and men.  

Following the open discussion in the Security Council on "Women, peace and security" on 24 and 25 October 2000, in which 40 member States made strong statements supporting the mainstreaming of gender perspectives into peace processes, the Council, under the presidency of Namibia, adopted resolution 1325 (2000). The resolution provides a framework for a much needed focus on the millions of women living in crisis and armed conflict and recognizes their potential contributions to the resolution of conflict and their participation in peace-building. 

"The fundamental human right to have and to enjoy equality is a given.  It was emphasized by the Beijing Conference and reaffirmed again in the Beijing + 5 outcome document and even more so at the Millennium Declaration.  There can be no peace without gender equality and no development without both peace and equality.  Without the equal and fair participation of women in decision-making positions in the United Nations and also in Member States, as well as in this central organ of the United Nations, we will never achieve the vision outlined in the United Nations Charter."

(from the statement by Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, to the UN Security Council on 24 October 2000)

 In its deliberations on the adoption of resolution 1325, the Security Council emphasized that armed conflicts have eroded the hard-won socio-economic and political gains women have made in recent decades. The Council also acknowledged that during conflicts, women are at risk because combatants routinely flout the international human rights and humanitarian standards that guarantee their protection. Furthermore, it was agreed that women have an important role to play as equal actors with men in peace negotiations, in preventive action and post-conflict peace-building, and are already particularly active in peace movements at the grassroots level, cultivating peace within their communities. At an informal meeting on Women, Peace and Security held prior to the Security Council deliberations on 24 October 2000, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) stressed to the members of the Council that the absence of women at the peace negotiating table remains a serious concern.  

UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000)

The 18-point resolution provides various operational mandates which have implications for both individual Member States and the United Nations system:  

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Increase representation of women in decision-making for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict and peace processes (para.1);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Increase participation of women at decision-making levels in conflict resolution and peace processes (para.2);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Increase appointment of women as special representatives and envoys (para.3);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Expand the role of women in field-based operations as military observers, civilian police, human rights and humanitarian personnel (para.4);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Incorporate gender perspectives into peacekeeping operations and ensure that field operations include a gender component (para.5);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Provide training guidelines and materials on the rights and needs of women to Member States and incorporate gender perspectives into national training programmes (para.6);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Increase voluntary financial, technical and logistical support from Member States for gender-sensitive training efforts (para.7);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Adopt a gender perspective in negotiation and implementation of peace agreements, including attention to the special needs of women and girls, support local women’s peace initiatives, and ensure protection and respect for the human rights of women and girls (para.8);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Ensure respect for international law applicable to the rights and protection of women and girls (para.9);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Adopt special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence (para.10);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      End impunity and prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including those related to sexual and other violence against women and girls (para.11);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Ensure respect for the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements and take into account the particular needs of women and girls (para.12);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Consider the different needs of female and male ex-combatants and the needs of their dependants in disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) initiatives (para.13);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Give consideration to the potential impact on civilians, and the special needs of women and girls, and appropriate humanitarian exemptions, in measures adopted under Article 41 of the Charter of the United Nations (para.14);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Ensure that Security Council missions take gender considerations and rights of women into account, including through consultation with local and international women’s groups (para.15);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Invite the Secretary-General to carry out a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace-building and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution and submit a report to the Security Council (para.16);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      Request the Secretary-General to include in his reporting to the Security Council progress on gender mainstreaming throughout peacekeeping missions (para.17);

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      The Security Council remains actively seized of the matter (para.18).

 An Action Plan on the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000)

         In order to ensure collaboration and coordination throughout the United Nations system in the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), the Interagency Committee on Women and Gender Equality, chaired by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, established a Taskforce on Women, Peace and Security.  The Taskforce, which is comprised of representatives from 15 United Nations entities, has met several times since October 2000, and is in the process of developing an Action Plan on the implementation of the Council resolution.  

        The invitation to the Secretary-General to carry out a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace-building and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution in the Security Council resolution (paragraph 16) provides a particularly important opportunity to deepen the understanding of gender perspectives in peace processes. The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women has been tasked with the coordination of the preparation of the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council in close collaboration with relevant parts of the United Nations system. The active involvement of the Secretariat will be critical for ensuring identification of clear priorities and recommendations for action throughout the United Nations system.      

The challenge ahead

      Despite progress since the mid-1990s, at the national level there remains a paucity of women in peace negotiations and a lack of firm commitment on the part of some political decision-makers to mainstream gender and women’s perspectives in peace processes. This is demonstrated in the low level of women’s participation in the military and civilian police components of United Nations peace missions to which national governments contribute. Similarly, at the international level, the absence of women Special Representatives of the Secretary-General or Special Envoys is an example of the lack of women at senior levels in peacemaking and peacekeeping. Since 1948, there have only been three women heads of missions in United Nations peacekeeping missions.   

Even though the international commitments since the mid-1990s have been breakthroughs in promoting women’s participation in peace processes, implementing these commitments will be a challenging task.   

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      At the local level it will be important to integrate women effectively into the peace process and ensure local “ownership?of the processes.  Women’s groups should participate in all stages of  peace negotiations, in planning for the future, in rebuilding and in formulating preventive strategies to avoid future conflict.  

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      The work of NGOs, both national and international, remains crucial to the implementation of international agreements on women and peace. For example, the ongoing work of NGOs in the development of gender specific data and early warning indicators, and the collection of sex-disaggregated data will contribute to a better understanding of the impact of conflict on different sectors of society.  

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      At the international level, the United Nations system continues to support and encourage women’s involvement in peacekeeping and peace-building activities.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has encouraged Member States to increase the number of women assigned to United Nations peacekeeping missions. Two peacekeeping operations have established gender units in Kosovo and East Timor in order to provide gender inputs into all their activities. Moreover, a gender training package is being developed for the military and police in the field.   

?span style="font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal">      In addition to DPKO, a number of other main actors of the United Nations system are  involved in promoting women’s participation and gender perspectives in their activities. They include the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women within the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (OSAGI/DESA), the Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS).  UNDP and UNIFEM are also assisting women in capacity-building for leadership and governance.

 Conclusions

       Protecting women from conflicts and violence will remain a priority for the international community. Equally important will be the emphasis on the role of women as leaders in peace-building processes. Ensuring that both women and men are involved in all aspects of peace support operations, and at all levels, is essential for the success of these operations. Without equal and fair participation of women in decision-making positions in the United Nations and in Member States, women will not achieve the role envisioned for them in the United Nations Charter. This was stated by the United Nations Secretary-General before the Security Council on 24 October 2000, when he recalled that "the Charter tells us that the Organization was created to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. It also proclaims the equal rights of men and women. We must live up to both challenges or we shall not succeed fully in either". 

       Even though issues relating to women in armed conflict are receiving attention at the highest levels, much more needs to be done for this to translate into concrete action on the ground. Necessary measures cannot be implemented without the commitment of Governments to provide resources. Furthermore, consultation with local NGOs and civil society groups, including women’s groups and networks, and fostering their active participation, is important.  These groups and networks can play important advocacy and monitoring roles. It will also be critical to ensure regular and systematic monitoring and reporting on gender mainstreaming in peace support operations, including by the Security Council itself.  In the final analysis, ensuring women’s equal participation at the peace table requires political will, effective partnerships and the adoption of multiple strategies.  

      The efforts made by the international community since the mid-1990s are encouraging as they provide strengthened mandates for ensuring the security of women living in conflict areas, enabling their participation at the peace negotiating table and supporting gender mainstreaming in peace support operations. Promoting the implementation of these mandates at this year’s observance of International Women’s Day is, therefore, of critical importance.

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