Women and Peace: a DPA Priority
Expanding the role of women in making and building peace has been an expressed goal of the United Nations for more than decade.
Women’s right to be represented on an equal basis as men is not only a given; experts agree that their voice and their participation bring an invaluable ingredient to the peace table, leading to more successful and more lasting resolution of conflict.
Yet progress, however substantial, in realizing the goals of numerous Security Council Resolutions adopted since 2000 on women, peace and security has fallen short of expectations.
This was a key message of a major report on the subject presented in October 2011 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The annual report on issues related to Women, Peace and Security called for a stepped up commitment across the UN system — in areas of prevention, participation, protection, relief and recovery.
That call was echoed by the Security Council and Member States, and has been accompanied by the adoption of a “strategic framework” with measurable indicators and targets to be achieved in the next decade.
For the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), responding to this challenge will mean redoubling efforts already underway both to increase women’s presence at the peace table and to inject a greater focus in its work on the gender dimensions of conflict and its resolution.
The Department can build on important advances in recent years.
The launch in 2010, with UN Women, of a three-year joint-strategy to more effectively support women’s participation and address gender issues in peace processes, marked an important commitment at the strategic level. DPA is now working closely with UN Women to advance the key objectives of the strategy: to identify and prepare qualified female mediators, to increase the availability and quality of gender expertise in mediation processes, and to enhance women’s participation in peace processes.
“I would like to acknowledge and thank the Department of Political Affairs for its collaboration on gender and mediation,” UN Women chief Michele Bachelet, told the Security Council in presenting the Secretary-General’s report in October.
The Department’s Standby Team of Mediation Experts, an increasingly valued pool of advice for UN peace envoys, was expanded in March 2011 to include, for the first time, a full time expert on gender and mediation. Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, a leading non-governmental authority on women and peace process, was selected for this key position on the team. She had the opportunity to provide advice on gender issues in UN mediation and peace-building efforts in countries including Somalia and Libya.
Similarly, the Department has steadily increased the percentage of women on its regular roster of mediation experts. Women now constitute more than a third of the roster and the number is climbing — a fact which should lead to increased placement of women in UN-led or UN-supported negotiations. Many of these newly-rostered experts have specific expertise on gender and mediation.
DPA has made its guidance for mediators more gender relevant and finalized specific guidance on how to address conflict-related sexual violence in ceasefires and peace agreements. A high-level launch was planned for March 2012. This mediation guidance is a milestone for the United Nations that will provide mediators and their staff with normative principles and concrete strategies for addressing conflict-related sexual violence in a peace process. The guidance benefited from material created during a 2009 UN Inter-Agency High-Level Colloquium: “Conflict Related Sexual Violence and Peace Negotiations: Implementing Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008)”, led by UNIFEM (now UN Women). The guidance was developed with support from the UN Action Network against Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, chaired by Ms. Margot Wallström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. DPA is working with the same office on developing early warning indicators and enhancing monitoring and reporting by DPA Special Political Missions on conflict-related sexual violence.
DPA-led political missions are increasingly incorporating gender aspects in their work. With support from DPA and UN Women, for example, the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) has developed a plan of action to better include women in the mediation and reconciliation processes in Somalia. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has also strongly emphasized the empowerment and political representation of women in the new Libya. Many political mission chiefs have become active participants in Open Days carried out annually since 2010 to bring them into dialogue with local women peacemakers.
Increased training on women, peace and security is being provided to mediators and their staff. The United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) last year initiated two mediation trainings for 30 senior West African women, as part of its regional SCR 1325 Action Plan, facilitated by UN Women in close cooperation with DPA. DPA is also increasing the training of its own staff both at headquarters and the field on how to incorporate a gender dimension into conflict analysis, preventive diplomacy and mediation.
While continuing to build its own capacities in this area, DPA has also taken on a key responsibility to promote, track and report on the indicators for progress. These include the naming by 2014 of a first woman lead mediator in a UN-brokered peace process. This has proven an elusive goal despite the notable increase in recent years of women heads and deputy chiefs of UN political and peacekeeping missions in the field — positions that frequently involve “good offices” and mediation.
The targets also include calls for more frequent consultations between peace envoys and civil society, including women’s groups, an increased presence of gender-relevant provisions in negotiated peace agreements, and further efforts to achieve a greater representation of women in the mediating teams of the parties to conflicts.