Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, IANWGE
Women's Empowerment
in the Context of Human Security
(7-8 December, 1999, ESCAP, Bangkok, Thailand) 

Final Communiqué

Women's Empowerment in the Context of Human Security

From 7 to 8 December 1999, the third annual joint workshop of the United Nations Inter-Agency Committee on Women and Gender Equality and the OECD-DAC Working Party on Gender Equality met at ESCAP in Bangkok. The meeting focused on Women's Empowerment in the Context of Human Security. The meeting brought together participants from a broad range of UN organizations and representatives of DAC member countries and the World Bank.

Building on the two previous joint workshops - addressing Gender Mainstreaming (Geneva 1997) and the Rights-based Approach to Gender Equality (Rome 1998) - and in the context of the Twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly to review the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the discussions focused on concrete actions to promote the inter-linked issues of women's empowerment, gender equality and human security.

Enough to eat, a home, health, education, freedom from violence, safety during natural and man-made disasters, democracy, good governance and respect for human rights are all basic elements of human security. The evolving concept of human security also includes:

  • shifting the emphasis from the security of states to the security of people;
  • re-emphasizing the obligations of states to ensure the security of their citizens;
  • recognizing the ways in which problems cross borders and boundaries;
  • recognizing the importance of non-state actors;
  • requiring accountability for violations of human rights and humanitarian law;
  • acknowledging the need for multi-faceted responses to human security issues in times of peace and conflict, including conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction.

One missing element, however, in human security discussions has been an understanding of the fundamental differences and inequalities between women's and men's security. In order to address gender equality goals and objectives effectively, there are five specific and inter-related issues that need to be incorporated into the discussion of human security:

  • Violence against women and girls
  • Gender inequalities in control over resources
  • Gender inequalities in power and decision-making
  • Women's human rights
  • Women (and men) as actors, not victims

Participants stressed that while threats to women's human security during times of war represent grave dangers, even in times of peace, millions of women and girls daily confront threats to their security in both the public and private sphere. United Nations organs and bodies concerned with peace and conflict resolution should be encouraged to take a broader view of human security to include gender equality. Workshop participants emphasized that good governance is a prerequisite for promoting security for both the individual and the state, and that a vision of good governance incorporates the full citizenship of women.

During the course of the workshop, participants emphasized that gender mainstreaming strategies pursued in human security interventions should be designed to promote women's empowerment. Participants stressed the inter-linkages between freedom from fear and freedom from want. For human security to encompass empowerment and rights, it is critical to consider three stages: survival, security and autonomy.

Given gaps in gender awareness of both policy and practice, the following actions were recommended in order to promote women's empowerment in the context of human security:

At the policy level

  • Incorporate gender-sensitive legislation and adherence to CEDAW in policy discussions and actions.
  • Build on experience in facilitating policy dialogue that benefits from the interaction of NGOs and other actors in civil society with governments to promote women's leadership.
  • Establish effective accountability mechanisms for gender equality through more consistent documentation and dissemination of experiences and collection of data disaggregated by sex to influence policy formulation and operational activities.
  • Recognize the leadership and innovative role that women are taking in conflict resolution and peace-building and support and incorporate these efforts in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction.
At the level of practice
  • Create an enabling environment that supports women's empowerment and provides resources to organizations, including NGOs, that are actively involved in this process.
  • Facilitate capacity development and improve legal literacy to ensure more effective use of the CEDAW mechanism and its Optional Protocol.
  • Ensure women's participation and full gender mainstreaming in mandates and missions related to peace promotion and post conflict reconstruction.
  • Ensure that all reporting to intergovernmental bodies on peace building, peacekeeping and reconstruction gives consistent attention to gender equality.
  • Work to create a common database of materials relevant to gender equality and human security, including lessons learned, good practice, guidelines, terms of reference, training materials, research results and codes of conduct.

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