Almost ten years ago, the UN resolution 1325 marked a milestone in international efforts to address the marginalisation of women in conflict resolution and peace-building. But implementing this in practice remains a huge challenge to the international community.
It is obvious that we need to work harder with awareness raising, mobilising of resources and engaging a wider range of actors. And we can do more in terms of coordinating our efforts to promote gender equality and empowering women in post-conflict recovery and peace-building processes.
Approaching the ten year review of 1325, there has been progress in some respects. Implementing 1325 has provided a focus for efforts to address gender equality and women’s security in peace processes. By August 2009, some 20 states had published UNSC1325 National Action Plans (NAPS) or equivalent policy documents.
However, the progress is modest compared with what is needed. Wider engagement with women’s rights and security for women and girls, as well as major institutional and attitudinal changes, remains necessary for effective implementation.
For example analyses show that women’s rights in terms of participation and representation in accordance with article 7 of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) are ignored in post-conflict situations. The result is that they have been marginal actors in the 16 peace processes undertaken since 2000. In 5 cases – Somalia (2002), Cote D’Ivoire (2003), Nepal (2006), the Philippines (2007) and the Central African Republic (2008) – no women directly participated as signatories, mediators, witnesses or negotiators.
We development partners can increase our efforts to take on the three major challenges for improved implementation of 1325:
Support initiatives that enable women’s participation in peace processes
Women are chronically under-represented in the security, justice and public sectors. Even where initiatives have been taken (such as ‘quota’ systems or establishing Ministries of Women’s Affairs), senior female representation remains low in important institutions and sectors for peace processes.
To stimulate change, we donors must support effective strategies for enabling women and men to advocate for and directly contribute to 1325. Such strategies need to operate at several levels. For example, groups of elite or well-organised women – often in partnership with male human rights defenders and with some access to decision-makers or international arenas – can manage to overcome the many obstacles, and seek to participate in peace process development and implementation.
In some countries (for example Liberia) awareness of commitments to develop and implement 1325 NAPs has helped concerned groups to mobilise and secure important improvements in laws and programmes. However, the major structural challenges remain.
Supporting public awareness and knowledge of 1325 remains important. The lack of dissemination and awareness raising around 1325, its limited availability in local dialects and the lack of examples and concrete suggestions on how to use the text in advocacy in real situations has been an obstacle. Recently action has been taken to address these problems. For example, the 1325 resolution is now available in over 100 languages and dialects; and there is increasingly wide use of community radio programmes in countries emerging from conflict to raise awareness of 1325 commitments and issues.
Integrate resolution 1325 in the work of relevant international institutions
UNSCR 1325 has been adopted and used by several international and bilateral institutions, but most action remains centred on institutions whose mandates are focused on women or children. 1325 is still inadequately understood and prioritised by most external bilateral and multilateral institutions engaged in peace support processes, including much of the UN itself.
These international institutional weaknesses are partly explained by weak commitment of high-level leadership on the issue, as well as a lack of policy coherence and coordination of actions. Most bilateral agencies and multilateral organisations have yet to seriously mainstream 1325 commitments, or even to provide internal training and monitoring of 1325.
One step forward would be to establish a formal UN mechanism for reviewing and promoting accountability for 1325 implementation.
More coherent strategies are needed. There has been limited mainstreaming of NAPs and 1325 concerns in reform processes in post-conflict situations. There has been progress towards providing GBV and UNSCR 1325-related training for such traditionally male dominated national institutions (the police, the military and other security forces, the judiciary, and also to a large extent social protection structures where these exist). But these still tend to be discrete, limited packages that have not produced sustainable institutional change. Such external efforts can also be undermined when external agencies have yet to address profound gender imbalances in their own staff.
Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that progress has been achieved in some respects. A decade ago, gender equality and women’s empowerment were generally marginalised in post-conflict security-promotion policies and programmes. By 2009, key international policies and guidelines for DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration of ex-combatants); SSR (Security Sector/System Reform), SALW (Small Arms and Light Weapons) control, and community safety and security programmes generally strive to integrate and highlight gender equality issues.
Although these guidelines need further development, these developments have been associated with substantial practical changes in some countries, such as major funded programme elements to address the special needs of women, children and ‘camp followers’ in several recent DDR programmes (such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, and DRC). Overall, however, there remains a big gap between international policy rhetoric and guidelines on the one hand, and actual practice on the other, including or not least at country level.
Coordinate efforts and initiatives
The multiplicity of internal and external actors engaged in post conflict initiatives has raised problems of co-ordination on 1325 and on gender equality issues. Domestic and international instruments and policies often address partly overlapping concerns. Lack of coordination also applies to different organisations working across 1325-related areas. This undermines delivery of coordinated, effective and coherent technical assistance, and it creates operational gaps.
There are some examples of sustained efforts to mainstream and co-ordinate on 1325 issues (for example in Liberia). But monitoring and evaluation mechanisms remain a challenge. There are no standardised indicators across NAPs and this has reduced the opportunities for sharing best practice and lessons learned.
Overall, the challenges of realising 1325 remain much more impressive than the results so far. We can see some progress, but there is much left to do. Let’s work together, even harder, to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s security in post-conflict recovery and peace-building processes.
It is not only a matter of human rights it is the most effective and most sustainable way forward.